By Tim Rollins
There aren't many things in life that almost everyone agrees on, and that almost always holds true in the legal profession as well. But in a recent survey of in-house legal professionals, one statement came about as close to universal as anything we've seen in a long time.
In-house counsel need legal technology to do their job effectively.
Exterro and the Association of Corporate Counsel recently conducted a survey of 250 in-house counsel and legal operations professionals across 18 countries, representing companies from under $100 million to over $1 billion a year in revenue, and the results were nearly unanimous. Under 3% of respondents said legal technology was "not needed" compared to five years ago, while 63% said it was must have and 34% said it was nice to have.
This statistic, which is one of dozens compiled and reviewed in the 2021 Legal Technology Report for In-House Counsel, is notable for how clear-cut it is. While legal operations professionals were strongest in their assessment of legal technology as a must-have, the other disciplines of professionals in the survey largely agreed with the point. But there are other ways to look at the data that make the case of legal technology even more compelling.
The more mature the legal organization, the more technology is required.
Professionals participating in the survey were requested to self-assess the maturity of their organization's legal processes on a five-point scale, from ad hoc (1) through optimized (5). (The other points on the scale were defined, structured, and managed.) As organizations progressed in their journey from immature to mature processes, they were increasingly likely to define technology as a must-have. Where 42% of respondents with ad hoc processes viewed tech as mandatory (still a sizable proportion!), fully 90% of organizations with optimized legal processes see legal technology as a requirement.
It's fairly clear that organizations at lower levels of maturity, particularly those with ad hoc processes, don't know what they don't know. If they were more mature in how they handled legal operations, they would know they need technology to do so efficiently.
Mature organizations continue to invest more in legal technology.
The emphasis on technology isn't an idle preference of mature organizations, either. It's actionable. One might think that at some point or another, organizations with optimized processes would have accumulated all the legal technology they need to do their jobs. They might lean back, put up their feet, and be proud that they had built a complete legal technology stack.
But that's not the case. In fact, optimized organizations with more legal technology are more likely to invest more than less mature organizations. Only 22% of organizations at level 1 of the 5-point maturity scale reported being definitely or assessing further legal technology purchases in the next year, while almost two-thirds (63%) of organizations at level 5 of the scale were definitely or actively assessing additional technology purchases in the next 12 months.
Simply put, if you're using legal technology effectively, you'll see the value it holds and invest in more. After all, it's unlikely that legal departments are going to have less to do anytime in the near future!
Unified platforms can solve the biggest challenges of complex tech stacks.
Of course legal departments cannot build endlessly complex technology stacks and expect their operations to remain streamlined. Users can only master so many tools. . Some technologies can be integrated, but not all. When software doesn't talk to each other, exchanges of data between multiple platforms can slow down processes and introduce the possibility of human error. And some software offerings aren't well-designed or easy to use.
All of these issues show up in the report's look at technology challenges. And almost all of them can be resolved by investing in a unified technology platform. Point tools often offer effective solutions to specific problems, but for large legal teams with a variety of disciplines and concerns from e-discovery to data privacy regulations, internal investigations, and matter management, a software suite that can handle multiple use cases may be a wiser investment.
Download the 2021 Legal Technology Report for In-House Counsel today to dig deeper into these and other key takeaways today!