Updated: Dec 8, 2020
Having dabbled with technology for years, the legal sector is seeing some real traction with utilizing automation to drive efficiency, ranging from managing contracts, documents and knowledge more effectively to tracking matters and cases. And that is only the tip of the iceberg, according to the Head of Technology and Transformation at Konexo, Babar Hayat. “One area of automation that is having a real impact isrobotic process automation,” he says. “Over the next year or so I think we’ll see organizations using robots to augment some of the manually intensive work that people are doing. I think we’ll see other areas like data analytics come into play too, which will drive efficiency and identify insights and opportunities.”
This may seem hard to digest in an industry not known for its early adoption of technology. However, investment in legal tech tipped $1bn last year as law firms sought to gain the kind of competitive advantages promised by the smart use of technology. This situation has been exacerbated by the outbreak of COVID-19. “Teams are having to deal with a lot more work for less,”says Babar. “Budgets are constrained and there are headcount freezes for many organizations. As a result, it’s not possible to achieve the same quality with the volume and complexity of work that the teams are faced with. In response, organizations have accelerated their thinking about the use of technology.”
The benefits of accelerating the process of digital transformation are obvious: by combining technology with process and people – and data it allows you to capture – you can not only make your organization much more efficient, you can find new business insights and opportunities. “The legal industry generates a huge amount of data from its CRM systems, case/matter management systems, contract systems and financial systems,” says Babar.
“We can connect and visualize this data to fundamentally transform how a team or a business operates by following the data - where is the volume by region, team, division, work type? Where is the noise? Then we can identify whether we need to tweak processes or types of technologies that can augment work people are doing. For example, we can identify opportunities for automation to complete some of these highly manual and repetitive tasks and leave the higher value more complex tasks to teams".
On the other end of the spectrum you’ve got predictive analytics – where you can connect your internal and external data to predict future outcomes. Litigation is an interesting example, where you can use the outcome of previous cases to inform future case strategy or to get smarter on managing spend across your panel firms. In a buoyant marketplace welcoming new entrants seemingly every day, it can be extremely difficult to “cut through the noise” and work out which technology is best for your organization. Should you build it yourself or buy in the expertise? How do you future proof? “It’s a huge risk,” says Babar.
“Some technologies require a huge investment, both in terms of budget and people’s time. But they don’t actually fix the problems that the business was hoping to solve, leading to poor adoption. That’s why I’m a firm believer that you must start with the problem first and take a technology agnostic approach, using best of breed technologies and evolving over time.”
Knocking on the Legal Front Door
A Legal Front Door is a more structured way for your business users to make requests of your legal teams.
A good example of how to do this in practice comes via the KonexoHub. We combine the best of breed tools across the entire marketplace – not just legal - to tackle different types of issues and workflows. For example, we have created a Legal Front Door, in conjunction with our Legal Managed Services. “A Legal Front Door is a more structured way for your business users to make requests of your legal teams,” explains Babar. “Previously you’d have a business user writing an email or picking up the phone and saying, ‘can you help me do something?’ The Legal Front Door allows you to capture first time all the information you need to successfully complete a request. It then determines where that request should be routed to. NDA requests, for example, are very repeatable, routine types of work that the legal team sometimes get bombarded with. Through KonexoHub, the business user can service that request themselves via a document automation capability."
“Alternatively for more complex requests or those that require legal input, the requests can be sent to the right legal team in the right region with the right skills whether that’s in-house legal teams, your panel firms or an alternative legal service provider. All requests are tracked in a case management system, providing both the business user and the legal team with visibility on progress."
A platform for success
As the market matures further, we expect to see more convergence of technology, with companies adopting a platform approach, rather than building point solutions to solve specific issues. This will make your strategy in terms of buying in or building your own solutions even more important. So what is the best way to tackle it? “Before you go down the route of investing in lots of technology, you need to benchmark where you are today,” says Babar. “Not everyone is at the same level in terms of their digital transformation strategy, so benchmarking where you are today is the first step in all of this.”
“The mistake that many organizations make is going out and looking for a technology solution, without necessarily knowing what the problem or challenge is they’re trying to solve. Fundamentally, it comes back to: what are your business objectives? What are you actually trying to solve? And then building a solution around solving those challenges, not getting in the technology and asking what you can do with it. Often those types of projects fail. You should almost ignore the technology to begin with. Technology is only ever part of the answer.”
Practical steps for accelerating your digital transformation
Once you’ve worked out what your business issues are, you should always start small - beginning with those that are highly manual and repetitive, proving the value and impact of the change. It could be as simple as a central repositor for your contracts or use of electronic signatures where appropriate. The other crucial hing is capturing data as you tackle these challenges to determine what type of process change or technology you might need to adopt in the future. It is also worthwhile considering the existing technology within your organization and whether any of this can be leveraged for the benefit of the legal team.
For example, most organizations have purchased Microsoft technologies which can help tackle some in-house legal team issues. We have used apps like Microsoft Forms, Microsoft Flow, Sharepoint and Power BI as a way to build a simple intake case management and reporting solution. As you start looking at more complex workflows, that’s where looking externally at what technology exists comes into play.
Contributed by Babar Hayat