Digital Transformation in Corporate Legal Operations

by | Feb 17, 2021 | eDiscovery, Miscellaneous

Organizations need to stay in front of changes in technology and Legal Operations is the discipline for assisting in-house legal personnel to attain greater efficiency.

This legal function has existed as long as in-house legal teams have been around. Only in the last decade has this discipline burgeoned into large professional enterprises devoted to assisting companies in improving their investments in their legal teams, partners, and technologies. It may be said the overall goal of operations is to free up lawyers to focus on the law; liberating lawyers from non-legal work and administrative concerns, and see the real worth of legal operations.

So how can a legal operations team streamline a legal department? On the financial side, there are vital things to be done. They can negotiate and watch over various fee arrangements and manage vendors. Billing technology should be based on an e-billing system. Data instantly available works out much better than reams of paper, spreadsheets, and the like. Thanks to the late emergence of oceans of data, the legal department is no longer a sacred cow. Data, as such, was sparser in earlier times. Nowadays the demand for better for more and better data and the tools to analyze different types of data is intense and growing daily.

When The Earth Moved

Legal departments using the Internet and Artificial Intelligence technology have expanded dramatically in the last decade. This expansion has exploded, triggered by the worldwide pandemic. The pandemic did not cause the tidal rush to greater use of Artificial Intelligence and cloud technology. However, the pandemic did have a catalytic effect.

Throughout the world, many firms and organizations were forced to use remote personnel. The changes wrought by this development are becoming permanent. Law firms are obliged to make use of the things learned in a remote, cloud-based milieu. AI will not replace attorneys. That is a negative fantasy. AI will, however, give attorneys a firmer grasp of an organization’s legal portfolio. This will enable lawyers to develop more comprehensive litigation, arguments, and plans.

Cloud-based tools allow for close collaboration among employees in remote situations. Data provided this way are often very different than the usual email. For example, casual conversations that are normally inaccessible can happen over Zoom or similar collaboration and meeting tools. Firms must establish rules for information governance and data security throughout the digital transformation. This is especially important in a cloud environment with rapid-fire changes and revisions.

Needful Things

Expanded data analytics points out things to be added and/or improved in the Legal Department. Litigation Support with the help of certified Litigation Support specialists is indispensable. Partners such as LDM Global can provide the experience of technology and process for use in eDiscovery, investigations, and other connected fields. These professionals can assist attorneys with complex litigation and investigations. They create and maintain databases, oversee documents and records, and prepare for trial. They frequently operate as management, overseeing technology staff, paralegals, and document management groups.

The Big Step

Generally speaking, most lawyers are conservative. Conservative in the sense that they are reluctant to “jump on the bandwagon” of every new fad that comes along. They may fear errors in operations decisions will make them look bad. Delegation is always the most difficult impediment. Pitching these new ideas to the General Counsel should include all best facts and all data. The case is about cost savings and efficiency that pays for itself and then some. The goal of an operations team is to take non-legal matters away from lawyers so lawyers can spend their time on legal challenges.

Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is the integration of digital technology into every portion of a business. Often this means turning away from long-established practices and experimenting with new practices that are not yet clearly established. Organizations may find themselves continually challenging the status quo. What parts of the department really need to change? What steps need to be taken and will it be worth the effort? To experiment, to rethink old ways of doing things, perhaps to fail, and then, what? The term “transformation” may be too intimidating to some, but the whole world is being transformed through digital technology. The transformation begins with the recognition of a problem, an evolving crisis, and a search for the opportunities therein.

There is no quick and easy way to achieve the success of a transformation. This change involves more than a technology upgrade or the deployment of Artificial Intelligence to existing workflows. One must be clear about defining goals and the means of achieving them. Spell out the plans and intentions with exactness.

In addition, another word comes to mind: Resilience. The pandemic has shown how a company’s operations can change overnight. Unpredictability is now an inseparable part of planning and forecasting. Transition changes must be durable, flexible, and built to last. Each crisis is not entirely foreseen, no new development is danger-free.

Technical expertise in new leading executives has come to be expected. Transformation requires a balance between leadership and independence, giving employees in remote situations freedom and adaptability in pursuit of goals. The introduction of digital technology into every area of a business will essentially change the operation of the business, with the legal team cross-checking across departments and business units. It will bring about a profound cultural change that obliges organizations to lose their fear of failure, to challenge the way things are, and above all to experiment.

Catching Up

While Industry experiences great progress through automation, the law tends to lag. Many law firms presently are committed to “billable hours” and teams fully occupied. Lawyers may feel their work is too complicated to be automated. There is a dearth of tools available that would satisfy the needs of law firms or legal departments. Automating may not be feasible for every area, but a respectable part of legal tasks can be standardized and thus automated.

The aim is not necessarily to automate all aspects of a legal operation. It is enough to achieve efficiencies wherever they can be found. Areas of law more susceptible to the automating process would be 1) Defined rules and processes,2) Uncomplicated logic 3) Questions that occur frequently, and 4)Minimal fact-finding. The best approach to upgrading and automating is to start “small”. Focus on tasks that occur often and add new layers judiciously. Automating legal work enables firms, corporations, and organizations to achieve significant gains in efficiency, productivity, and accuracy.

The future of the legal profession will depend on 21st-century lawyers who can meet the requirements of organizations and persons for low-cost legal services provided electronically. Lawyers will be assisted by well-trained machines with the ability to draft documents and even predict the outcome of disputes. The legal sector is experiencing the digitalization that other areas of the economy have already experienced.

Conor Looney is also an advisor to the Electronic Discovery Reference Model’s (EDRM) Global Advisory Council.
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