In association with Denovo: For the legal operations professional, there are three areas to focus on to maximise technology and make things better for legal

Back in November 2019 we launched CaseLoad. This was a new vision of how legal software could make a difference to legal operations, which we knew was considered a largely non-fee-earning, undefined role.

This was pre-pandemic, but law firm leaders, legal departments and the wider legal community were already feeling pressure do things more efficiently and effectively. The financial constraints forced legal professionals to rethink how they were doing business.

As we reflect on the past year and a half, we think about how circumstances inspired leaders from all industries to rethink how they work. This includes turning to technology to address problems in ways they never had before. Even in a change-resistant field like legal, the economics become undeniable at some point. Now more than ever, legal departments are ripe for disruption.

First responders

When the pandemic hit, businesses responded in many different ways. Some made the mistake of getting rid of (furloughing) their legal operations teams, whereas others invested further. Now, as we see signs of recovery, businesses are hiring faster. The drive to succeed is undeniable and legal operations lie at the heart of how successful a law firm can become.

Not only is the legal operations field itself growing, so is its fuelling of legal technology. In the first half of 2021 alone, venture capital and private equity firms invested heavily in legal software companies. Take Smokeball in the US an example: it has just raised $30 million in a private funding round. It’s clear we’re at the cusp of massive transformation. This moment is loaded with possibility as everything is up for discussion. The question is, “What’s next?”

Step up

Because of the pandemic, there’s no more denying the need for digital transformation. As the legal industry looks at this opportunity for renovation, legal operations professionals will lead the change. At its core, that discipline is all about making things better. Now is the time we step up and make things better not only for law firms but businesses as a whole.

But the answer to making things better isn’t in technology alone. The reality is, technology won’t solve everything. So, for the legal operations professional, there are three areas we must focus on moving forward to maximise technology and make things better for legal.

1. Adoption

We’ll likely face an uphill battle when it comes to adopting technology in the legal world, because legal is based on tradition and precedent. So, it’s not necessarily a lack of belief in technology, but more a desire to stick with the status quo. To increase adoption, legal operations professionals should consider two principles. First, the technology should make things markedly easier and better than the old way. Secondly, if you don’t involve everyone, it won’t work. The tools you implement need to be as intuitive as possible. We need to focus on adoption, because without it you are missing out on the valuable data these tools can offer.

2. Process improvement

Technology is only as good as the processes already in place. Now is the time to start rethinking processes. For example, litigation is a notoriously difficult process with a lot of risk – it’s rigid, time-consuming, introduces friction and delays. To truly solve the problem of litigation we must start thinking about dealing with matters differently. Because if all we do is apply technology to an already broken process, we’ll just exacerbate the problem.

But if you begin thinking about litigation matters differently, you can truly unlock the power of technology. When you collect data differently and have the system force your next move, things can start to move quickly, and you end up in a position of strength during the negotiation with the other side. Legal operations can take this line of thinking elsewhere and begin to show the real impact of legal technology.

3. Community

Something that can be lacking is a sense of community within the legal world. Real transformational change requires people learning from each other, sharing information, and solving problems together. That is how you create new standards and best practices – that is how we’re going to fix what is really broken about legal operations in many organisations. True change for legal will come by the power of our community.

In times of pressure and restraint, like we’ve seen the past year and a half, companies are forced to rethink their priorities and processes. We’ve learned new ways of doing things. More importantly, we’ve learned to be okay asking questions and rethinking how we do what we do. For legal operations, and legal as a whole, now is the time to see true transformation in our industry. The opportunities are endless, from contracting to data and more. Legal can become a business partner rather than a cost centre, and I believe legal operations professionals will lead the way.

If you are a legal operator or someone working in the legal profession and would like to speak to Steven to get free, no obligation advice, please email info@denovobi.com or call us on 0141 331 5290. To learn more about Denovo, visit www.denovobi.com.

The Author

Steven Hill is operations director with Denovo

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