Technology is transforming the legal industry. The pandemic has accelerated this change by forcing firms and organizations to find new ways to move business forward. In a 2020 Altman Weil “Law Firms in Transition survey,” 53.6% of law firms reported that they are replacing human resources with technology. Contract review technology such as automated contract markup uses AI to instantaneously markup contracts according to your playbook, just like a lawyer would. 

Digital transformation of the legal industry comes with its challenges. These include securing employee buy-in, ensuring clean data sets, and consistent processes. Technology alone doesn’t solve all problems. Ensuring a successful digital transformation requires law firms and law departments to focus on people, process, and technology – in that order.

Put People First

Digital transformation involves first understanding your people dynamics. Every organization has its own unique culture and way of engaging with its staff and attorneys. Implementing a holistic plan for digital transformation requires looking at your problems, understanding how your people function, and then identifying a working solution to bring about change.

Top-down solutions may be tempting at first but are not effective in the long run. Bottom-up solutions will yield the best results. New processes and technology are frequently met with resistance because people may feel like change is being forced upon them, and their voices are unheard. If people feel that their voices are being heard, they will be more open to disrupting their familiar way of doing things.

Staff and attorneys must be part of the idea-generation process and engaged in change while also having a stake and sense of input. They must feel that they are in control of the processes and technology, not that the processes and technology control them.

Enthusiastic early adopters at your firm can help make a case for new processes and technology. They can demonstrate that new processes and technology allow them to accomplish their jobs more efficiently, and their colleagues will notice and mirror that attitude.

Develop the Right Processes

While it’s essential to have people internally supportive of change and improvement, you must also have well-identified processes and clean data sets. Without these two working in tandem, you will merely be speeding up a flawed or broken process. One of the first things we ask about a potential client at BlackBoiler is their contract review process. Having a process ensures successful standardization and optimal use of the chosen technology. For example, if you negotiate the same type of contract in ten different ways, using technology will not help you achieve the efficiency benefits and ROI you’re seeking. It is essential to build out those internal processes first.

Before the pandemic, organizations took one of three approaches to defining and reimagining their processes. In the first category were those organizations who mapped their internal processes and procedures to understand how to proceed with their digital transformation. The second category were those who defined what they wanted to solve, clearly understood what metrics to measure, and solved those problems. Lastly, some firms and companies explored options and tried to understand what process improvements were possible but were not ready to leap into change. With the pandemic, these categories have all shifted to a new need to identify and solve specific problems. It is necessary to understand where the issues lie and understand where the current gaps exist.

You may discover that a well-defined process may not exist in many cases. That is why it is essential to map out your organization’s processes to ensure that departments and individuals follow the same steps, regardless of their function, role, or geographic location. If not, you will have ten different ways of negotiating a contract or ten different interpretations of the same playbook.

ROI for your Technology

You must focus on getting the people plus process part right so that the technology can pay for itself.

Measuring ROI lies with data. By tracking and analyzing data, you can develop metrics that help identify a new technology’s usefulness and value. It is also essential to regularly check how the technology is working and whether it is meeting expectations. This may seem cumbersome, especially when considering the logistical considerations of working remotely. But with planning and building into your implementation plans, you can ensure it gets done. 

Digital transformation involves considering more than the product itself. You need to research the provider to ensure that the provider will adapt and expand their offerings to keep pace with your future needs. Evaluate whether the tool, function, or company should be part of a bigger platform or suite of tools that will help across a life cycle of a litigation or a transaction. 

There is a lot of talk about how AI-powered tools might affect the legal workforce—and which of those tools might be worth getting behind. The best use case has arrived. For example, AI-powered contract review tools that edit contracts like a lawyer can automate as much as 70% of human contract review time. This kind of ROI offers relief to companies pressed to keep business moving forward while fulfilling the challenging mandate of cost-cutting and eliminating redundancies.

Conclusion

COVID accelerated the pace of change across the legal industry while also adding to a new set of challenges. Times of stress require exceptional focus and vision but are precisely the right times where it’s the most difficult to think strategically. But by working with your people, creating and strengthening processes, and identifying the ROI of new technology, you can create a digital transformation that positions you for success, no matter how the future looks.