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Brian McGovern

How to “Future-Proof” Your Legal Tech Stack

By Brian McGovern

Reading Time: 4 minutes

By Brian McGovern

It used to be that there were good – though not existential – business reasons to create a technology roadmap for the legal department. When developing such a roadmap, one criterion upon which legal operations evaluated legal tech products, in addition to their ROI performance, was their ability to deliver value for an extended duration. Still, developing a technology roadmap hardly seemed like a life-or-death concern. That was pre-COVID-19.  

Today, organizations find themselves with urgent, immediate reasons to put that roadmap in place. 

Why? Because technology is, of course, one of the three pillars of operational success, alongside people and process.  And people and processes have been disrupted during this pandemic. How the legal department/organization’s technology behaves in this new normal will either sustain or pose a risk to business continuity. Therefore, the legal tech stack’s ability to help support business continuity during periods of profound disruption is required. The legal ops team must build a legal tech stack that enables the legal department and the organization to adjust to predictable and unanticipated disruptions. 

When building a legal tech stack capable of delivering both bottom-line business value and resilience over the long term, keep these best practices in mind.

Avoid being reactive

It’s not easy: At a time like this, it’s very tempting to make technology decisions based on the immediate demands placed upon your department and organization. 

Last year, a study by Hyperion Global Partners found that 39% of tech investment decisions were strategic, with an eye on long-term value, and guided by understanding the need to integrate technology with operational requirements.  However, 35% of tech investment decisions were reactive, spurred by the arrival of new versions of legacy software, shiny new technologies, or other “perfunctory factors” like changes in the technology market. 

I’d suggest that 2020 legal tech stack purchase decisions run the risk of being very reactive due to the pandemic’s challenges, including most if not all employees working from home.  Rather than merely adopting “quick fixes,” though, you need to consider whether or not a solution has the flexibility and scalability to deliver value beyond the immediate circumstances.   

Put a data strategy in place first

According to bestselling author Bernard Marr

“Data is revolutionizing the way we all do business. Every business is now a data business and needs a robust Data Strategy. However, less than 0.5% of all data is ever analyzed and used, offering huge potential for organizations when trying to leverage this key strategic asset.” 

Legal departments possess a staggering amount of data. Still, it may be silo’ed or located in disparate locations – from emails to matter files to personal databases – so putting it to use can be difficult.  It’s crucial to develop a comprehensive data strategy that aligns with business objectives, resulting in meaningful legal metrics to drive better decision-making, better outcomes, and maximum business value.

Your legal tech stack should support that strategy and be built around collecting, managing, analyzing, and reporting the correct data to execute it. Don’t make a technology investment unless it supports that strategy.  The tail shouldn’t wag the dog, but that’s what’s happening if the technologies you’ve deployed are dictating your data strategy.  A lousy tech investment decision made because there was no data strategy in place can hang over your head – and drag on your KPIs – for a long time to come.

Accelerate your power to pivot

No matter how sophisticated a company’s tech stack may seem, it has to support efficient and agile processes to sustain business continuity during “normal” times and crises.  

Therefore, process automation must be a cornerstone technology for a legal tech stack.  It empowers legal ops teams to quickly and easily design, build, and deploy processes that are incredibly cost-effective and error-free, which are essential benefits even during “normalcy.” When disruptions strike, its ability to help you pivot immediately to implement new processes to cope with sudden impacts can be critical.   

For example: Some of the processes that were developed and deployed by providers and users during the early weeks of COVID-19 included workflows for vetting legal vendor continuity, tracking health checks, obtaining onsite visit request approvals, even for remote work management.

This ability to quickly react to a global pandemic’s challenges illustrates the day-to-day value of process automation to a legal tech stack.  Starting, you can address high-volume, immediate-need tasks. Your success in streamlining them builds your case for automating more and more processes, even outside of the legal department, which means “Legal” can lead the way toward organization-wide agility and resilience.  Another benefit?  To your internal reputation.  As Jeff Marple, Innovation Director for Liberty Mutual Insurance told us:

“Legal wasn’t originally a process or tech-forward organization within Liberty Mutual. Now we have developed several internal client-facing workflows that our clients just love, and that has changed the reputation.  Legal now leads the organization with process automation deployments.”

Drive legal staff adoption

A key measure of long term success for any legal tech stack?  Immediate and ongoing legal staff adoption.  So find ways to get users excited about the business value these new tools offer: 

  • Improve client service by decreasing response times and client frustration
  • Improve legal department efficiency and performance
  • Reduce menial and mundane work, and increase time for substantive work 

What’s also important?  Who you involve in your initial adoption efforts.  Focus on people who will be impacted by new technology who represent different functional areas; target people who are always coming up with new ideas and are passionate about operational improvement.

To convert those who may be reluctant, here’s a tactic suggested by George Grawe, SVP and Deputy Chief Counsel at Allstate and a longtime pioneer in driving legal process innovation:

“(People) will say they have a more efficient way to do things…you need to get in the trenches with folks to see how they do their job. If you can find a way to have the technology complement the way they do their work, they become your change champions.”

By co-opting adopters who are enthusiastic about the technology, you’ll be able to manage early adoption issues better and make steady progress in improving the stack over time.  By enlisting them, you’re building a core of legal tech evangelists who’ll help you drive even broader adoption and make your tech stack “future-proof” in a very fundamental way: By making it invaluable to the entire organization.

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Brian McGovern is General Manager, Workflow Solutions at Mitratech, and led one of the largest global enterprise legal management software implementations ever at a global insurance provider. At Mitratech, he’s obsessed with helping clients navigate selecting and implementing legal technology so they can drive meaningful value that positively impacts their business.