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A three-step plan to building your legal technology roadmap

Image Credit: REUTERS/Thomas White

Forward-thinking corporate legal departments often credit a purposeful use of technology as being a critical factor in increasing efficiency, reducing risk, and being more effective. Leveraging legal technology in a purposeful, strategic way not only helps legal teams work smarter but also helps them demonstrate value to the wider organisation.

A recent report from Thompson Reuters sets out how using a Legal Technology Roadmap can help you to improve your department’s efficiency and effectiveness. A legal technology roadmap is best defined as a plan that identifies the specifics on how technology can support the legal business strategy and priorities over a period of time, typically three years. Through such a process, you’ll more clearly understand what technology you have, what you need, and how to get the best results from it.

Many corporate legal departments acknowledge the benefits that legal technology can bring, particularly in times of uncertainty. A recent survey by Acritas, part of Thomson Reuters, backs up these findings. Respondents to the 2021 State of the Corporate Law Department survey indicated that organisations that had embraced technology were better prepared to handle challenges arising out of COVID-19. Innovative law departments found themselves better equipped to manage workload surges, enable a fully remote workforce, and minimise risk in the midst of changing regulations and pandemic-related requirements.

Although there is a strong appreciation for the importance and benefits of legal technology, in-house barriers to adoption still remain. For many organisations, adopting new legal technologies can be perplexing. However, adopting a legal technology roadmap can assist in addressing your department’s priorities in a strategic way, ensuring that the benefits gained are lasting.

Typically, technology roadmaps outline the specifics on how technology can address legal department strategic needs and priorities over a three-year period.  But how do you begin to build a roadmap?

1. Identify your priorities and challenges

Firstly, map out the key strategic priorities for your legal department. In The Future Boardroom: Business strategy powered by legal, research from Acritas found that since the outbreak of COVID-19, legal department priorities centred largely around the following:

  • Improving functional effectiveness
  • Increasing efficiency
  • Safeguarding the company

Many companies often press their legal departments to do more with less, without compromising on quality. Workloads and demands for legal services are increasing, while resources are not. Of course, each organisation and each corporate department is different, so work with your team and other stakeholders who regularly interact with legal to identify the biggest pain points and challenges.

2. Map your current processes

Once you have identified your strategic priorities and challenges, it’s time to analyse your current processes and determine how they can be improved, both through process optimisation and smart use of technology. Remember, too, that technology is merely an enabler, not a solution in its own right. Technology applied to bad or inefficient processes results in a digitally bad or inefficient process.

Taking a more rounded approach can be highly effective. Working with key stakeholders, start by listing out current systems and processes used by the legal department and identify the legal team’s responsibilities and most common business requests. Look specifically at processes and tasks that are high-cost, difficult, time-consuming, high-volume, low-value and/or repetitive. Identifying these means identifying where process re-engineering or new technology may be required.

As you go deeper and map processes that may indicate a need for new technology, it is critical that you record benchmarking metrics so that you can better and more accurately define your requirements and measure success along the way.

3. Plan for implementation and/or procure a solution

Your roadmap does not always have to lead to the addition of new technology. Some systems and processes may need to be updated or optimised through simple business changes or even by leveraging technology already in use in the law department.

If you do decide that new technology is required, work closely with your IT and procurement teams to choose a solution that addresses your most pressing problems and challenges. As with any digital transformation project, start with the smaller, more manageable issues to deliver quick wins and build momentum for future success. Anchor any business case that you build in outcomes by demonstrating how your chosen technology solution will help deliver value to the organisation. Choose technologies that can affect the bottom line by delivering cost savings as well as freeing up time for legal to spend on matters that add true value to the organisation. Be sure to report these savings procured and then re-allocate to procure additional technologies or resources for the next priority on your roadmap.

With a legal technology roadmap in place, your legal department is able to address specific challenges and act strategically. By mapping your priorities and aligning them with technology and process improvement initiatives, your legal department will not only ultimately work more effectively and efficiently but will also demonstrate its true significant value to the wider business.

Download your copy of ‘How to develop a legal technology roadmap’.

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