It’s been a year of milestones for the legal operations profession. More legal departments are prioritizing the legal operations role and function, adding head count in this area and supporting legal operations professionals with buy-in for their key initiatives. More, technology modernization within the legal department has sped up substantially over the last year, with legal operations often as a driving force behind the roll-out of new tools and processes.
In recent years, chief legal officers and general counsel have come under increasing pressure to reduce costs, add more business value and measure their overall spend and effectiveness. That legal operations initiatives have gained greater emphasis and value within the law department is a positive sign of progress in this endeavor, and teams are beginning to reap some of the rewards of their investments into people, processes and technology. But through our conversations and engagements with in-house counsel, our team at FTI Technology understood there were still gaps between the legal ops vision and execution. To better understand those gaps, as well as the areas where corporations were experiencing traction, we partnered with the Blickstein Group to survey more than 50 in-house legal professionals about their priorities, activities and challenges along the path toward transformation.
The report, Law Department Operations Technology Survey: The Journey to Modernization, confirmed many of the trends we’ve been seeing in the market. Namely, the extent to which most in-house teams continue to struggle with change management. When asked what aspects of technology modernization are the most challenging, 78% of respondents named training and adoption and 58% pointed to implementation and integration, far exceeding other challenges listed. In addition to acknowledging these challenges, the majority of respondents (70%) feel that they aren’t equipped to fix them on their own and expressed intentions to seek outside expertise to ensure returns on their technology investments can be fully realized.
There are a lot of variables that can cause a technology implementation to fall short, from missteps in the selection process to a lack of proper road mapping, company culture or general resistance to change. In the report, my colleague Angela Eavy sums the issue up saying, “Critical to the success of any technology deployment is the execution of proper workflows, sufficient training for all users and flexibility throughout the change management process. It’s also necessary to continually assess and evaluate the use of the technology to ensure it meets the needs of the team and makes their jobs easier.”
I agree with this perspective, and from what I’ve seen during my time working in an in-house legal department and as a consultant to law firms and corporate clients, the key to success often lies in the planning. Change is difficult for even the most adaptable organizations, but with an actionable roadmap that accounts for common roadblocks and the organization’s specific change management needs teams can achieve a much higher rate of success in the implementation and adoption phases of the technology roll-out.
Aside from issues with deploying and refreshing systems, the survey revealed additional key findings including:
- More than 70% are currently implementing or updating core tools including e-billing, spend management, matter management and document management.
- Legal spend analysis and reporting have emerged as priorities for in-house legal teams, with 72% of respondents ranking these as key technology modernization activities.
- In addition to legal spend analysis, business process and workflow automation was rated as a technology transformation
- Efficiency and ease of use ranked highest as the core elements used to define technology effectiveness.
- Despite the proven efficiencies offered by AI and technology assisted review (“TAR”), use of these technologies remains light within corporate legal departments, with nearly 80% of respondents indicating they use TAR in less than 30% of matters, and more than half saying they don’t use it in 10% of matters.
Additional insights from our survey, with analysis from Brad Blickstein and legal operations experts within FTI Technology, are available in the full report, Law Department Operations Technology Survey: The Journey to Modernization.
The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of FTI Consulting, its management, its subsidiaries, its affiliates, or its other professionals.