Legal tech is a space that’s constantly changing and evolving. With new players and solutions regularly popping up.
Sometimes it can be difficult to even know where to begin when it comes to legal tech. As Emma Norman (Senior Legal Counsel, Invesco) said on our podcast, legal tech can be a “maze and a minefield”. How can you find the right solution for you? What exactly are other legal teams doing? Are there ways for you to better utilise your existing tech stack?
We’re taking a look back at some of our recent interviews with the in-house legal community to explore how they are using legal tech (or even just tech!). Because as Alex O’Connell (Head of Legal, FeverTree) shared, it’s exciting that tech can be used to find “better ways to work, better ways for people to interact with each other.”
[Related content: Watch ‘How to feel less overwhelmed with legal tech’ featuring Norton Rose Fulbright’s Head of Legal Operations Consulting, Stephanie Hamon]
Read on to learn how the legal tech is being used by the in-house community, with insights from the legal teams at Treatwell, Medigold Health, Megaport, Who Gives a Crap, FeverTree, Trainline, Invesco, Moneybox, and more.
Implementing a legal tech solution
With so much buzz around legal tech, there’s such a risk of falling in love with exciting looking solutions and working backwards from there. But many in-house lawyers who have been on this journey wish, in retrospect, that they had started by rigorously mapping their processes to figure out what needs addressing. And then trying to adapt with technology already used by the company, or even just improving existing ways of working.
When it comes to experimentation, Kate Sherburn has some experience. When she started at Who Gives A Crap in Australia, she was “the legal team” and it stayed that way for quite some time. However, the business was doubling in size each year, and – as much as she wished she could – Kate couldn’t double herself with it.
She shared with us some of the innovations she introduced to increase her capacity. These included quick (ish) wins like contract templates, matter intake, or a contract register – so colleagues didn’t waste time finding where contracts were, or miss key dates.
If you’ve been through this stage and then concluded that you do need to invest in tech, Emma Norman (Senior Legal Counsel, Invesco) would offer the following advice: “Start small and think of the use case.”
Looking at more ambitious tech projects, often at the top of the list for in-house legal is setting up a contract management system. But our community meetups and messaging hub is frequently filled with anxiety about making the wrong choice, fears of vendor over-promise, and concerns about implementation timescales or costs.
Seb Goldsmith, General Counsel at Medigold Health, said: “It all depends on what the return on investment is.” He spoke to us recently about his experience implementing a well-known contract management system. Seb describes the great success of the platform, including how it has allowed for them to create a self-serve culture by turning contract templates into conditional templates.
“Now we can fire through the agreements that we have with clients, the sales team can run that themselves, it goes to the commercial team to review and goes off for execution and sits in a repository where we now have all of the metadata.”
Similarly, Megaport’s Senior Legal Counsel, Mel Scott, shared the journey they’d been on with technology over the last year. Mel tells us how working for a technology company like Megaport has the benefit that “technologies are baked into everything that we do.” Whilst they had not implemented a ‘legal tech’ solution as such before last year, the Megaport legal team had initially been repurposing existing technology within the business to make processes more efficient. For contract management they were repurposing a platform usually used for IT department ticketing. Mel told us how this process had worked pretty well initially.
However, it didn’t quite fulfil all the requirements of the legal team – especially contract repository and the ability to harvest meaningful data. This is why they decided to take this process to the next level, and went through an extensive journey to implement a contract management solution (Ironclad) last year. The journey of finding and implementing a solution like Ironclad involved a lot of change management, Mel told us. Giving her the chance to brush up on skills like stakeholder management and engagement, corporate communications, and storytelling.
The reality for leaner legal teams
When it comes to implementing a legal tech solution like this, it doesn’t seem as straightforward as simply finding the right solution. There is a lot of work that needs to be done to get people onboard. This is something highlighted by Seb. For him, implementing a tech solution like this was a steep learning curve for a sole counsel without legal ops support. It took almost nine months for Seb to fully implement their contract management solution at Medigold, due to his lack of capacity alongside his normal workload.
“I can totally see now how you have an entire industry of legal ops, who come and do it for you,” Seb says small medium-sized enterprises don’t often have that kind of capital to spend on legal operations. “It was hard enough for me to convince people that I should have a job here!” he laughs.
Alex O’Connell, Head of Legal at Fever-Tree, also echoes Seb’s sentiments on legal tech for smaller legal teams. He shared on the podcast how everything he reads about large legal teams trying to optimise processes and figure out legal ops feels at odds with his reality in a leaner team – especially at a company that isn’t very tech-focused.
The legal tech world has lots of great things going on but, for Alex, the solutions don’t work for every legal team or budget. He describes how the out of the box solutions which can be the only affordable option for smaller legal teams, would only fix half the needs. Alex believes there might be some consolidation across the market where use cases for clients like him would be clearer.
This idea of clarity around the use case is championed by Invesco’s Senior Legal Counsel, Emma Norman, who says “Think of the use case – what is the problem you’re trying to solve? Don’t just buy the shiny new solution.”
Perhaps being crystal clear on the problems and areas you’re trying to solve is even more important when it comes to legal teams with fewer resources and smaller budgets. It also seems like our community is emphasising the effort that goes into implementing a legal tech solution such as contract management software. If you can’t bring someone on to manage the project, then be prepared for a lot of project management and stakeholder engagement to be added to your workload.
Using tech that you’ve already got
So, we come full circle. As Alex said, legal tech isn’t always accessible for every legal team. So what can you do? You haven’t got the budget for a shiny legal tech solution, but your team is swamped with requests and work. How can you make things more efficient with what you’ve already got?
It seems like a lot of the in-house community are working with tools and tech that exist within their business already to optimise their workflows. As Emma Haywood, Associate General Counsel at Babylon Health says: “There are no real big bang tech solutions that changed my life.”
However, here are some of the ways that in-house legal teams are leveraging the tech that their businesses already use:
- Ben Miller-Bridgland (Senior In-House Counsel, Moneybox) says that the instant messaging tool Slack can be used to easily loop Legal into the conversation, without stopping to think if it’s appropriate. However, these tools can also lead to expectations of instant responses, which, as Ben notes, isn’t always possible with technical queries.
- Treatwell’s legal team combined Slack and Asana, which were already being used within the business, to create a process which organised legal requests. [Note: Paul Doran has now left Treatwell and is Senior Legal Counsel – Tech at Trainline] They told us how this process was a lot smoother, effectively killed their email inbox, and made it feel like their “workload is halved.” [Want to see this “home made” system in action? Watch the full video.]
- Emma Haywood notes that Google Docs is a useful tool for collaboration, and cuts out the time of going back and forth with amendments to documents.
- Trainline’s General Counsel, James Hanratty, told us how their legal team uses a wiki – a core knowledge-sharing portal – where the business can find relevant information.
As the Databricks legal team said, legal tech solutions can be very specific so it depends on what you want to solve. For them as a legal team, it’s about helping the business find the right answers. They believe this is the same across the business. As Ben Eastham says, “Every department is trying to get their message out there and collaborate.” If this is the case, do you really need legal tech, or do you just need tech?
P.S. If you’re like Ben Miller-Bridgland and learning to adapt to Google Suite after “a decade worth of learning Word shortcuts”, or struggling to even master Microsoft Office then why not go back to basics? We’ve got a series of bite-sized videos with hacks for lawyers on Microsoft Office and Google Suite.