General Counsel’s Guide to Legal Technology Adoption - ContractWorks
Contract Management Software
In the current landscape, where 80% of business models are at risk, the imperative need for transformation and adaptation to meet modern world requirements becomes apparent.
Business leaders demand that legal departments assume a strategic role in ESG efforts, cultivate positive reputations, and fulfill customer expectations for efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and technology integration.
Failing to embrace innovation means forfeiting opportunities for enhanced efficiency, customer service, and security. It is crucial for legal teams to break free from siloed practices and overwhelming routine tasks that hinder innovation, as a non-innovative legal department can pose greater obstacles to a company's growth than external operations.
Surprisingly, only 19% of in-house legal teams are adequately prepared to support digital initiatives, as highlighted by Gartner's research.
The hidden cost of inaction
Businesses that hesitate to invest in technology and embrace change are potentially missing out on the benefits of innovation in a disruptive world. Ignoring innovation means ignoring innovative clients, who will seek out partners that are better aligned with their technology needs. This can create a cycle of missed opportunities and hindered growth.
Legacy operations, workflow bottlenecks, and outdated tech tools are just some of the things you may be struggling with if you don’t innovate. Let’s explore the hidden cost of falling behind on digital transformation.
Inability to keep up with competition. 52% of Fortune 500 companies have folded within the last 15 years because of their lack of an innovation mindset.
Losing out on top talent. In the UK, 49% of workers say they will quit their job if their work technology isn’t up to standard.
Reduced productivity. Over 50% of corporate legal attorneys said they’re exhausted of struggling to manage their workloads, according to Gartner.
Ineffective decision-making and risk management. According to a survey, the top-3 reasons preventing lawyers from performing their duties effectively are insufficient resources and personnel (38.37%), tedious administrative duties (36.9%), and the need to monitor documents and versions (34.9%).
Areas to innovate
Legal is being pressured from within the organization to increase productivity and expand the focus areas – while operating the same or with fewer resources. Today legal departments have to become business partners, take part in building an organization’s strategy, and undertake new responsibilities.
This requires a re-evaluation of processes, identification of appropriate technology, and a clear demonstration of the value that in-house legal provides to the organization.
In the legal sector, these areas can benefit greatly from digital transformation:
In-house teams performance. Many legal teams are too attached to their outdated systems to embrace change, especially if those systems are implemented company-wide. But updating or moving away from legacy systems that cannot scale with your company’s growth can greatly enhance the way legal operations are executed. For instance, adopting CLM software instead of using Word documents has already allowed companies to streamline routine processes – and make contracting more efficient, secure, and fast.
Cultural change. As of the last few years, legal technology has become the cost of doing business – and generating new revenue. Transforming legal culture and adopting a habit of inclusive innovation is critical for building a department where the right resources at the right level are doing the right work, instead of filling in administrative work that adds no value. On top of that, your team members want to gain competitive advantage in the marketplace as much as your business does, and learning new technologies helps them become better and more strategic professionals.
Cross-department collaboration. No lawyer would ever say “You know what would really alleviate my career? Another NDA!” As departments are moving from siloed operations, technology empowers legal teams to safely delegate low-risk tasks such as simple contracting to other departments, to unload their own backlogs and speed up other teams’ operations. At the same time, technology provides a level of quality control that saves lawyers from the need to get involved in these tasks, knowing that the process is error-proof by design.
Legal team availability. According to the 2023 ELR report, 7 in 10 colleagues admit to waiting days or weeks for Legal to reply to a service request or inquiry. With remote work being commonplace, legal needs technologies for effective prioritization and communication on the requests in addition to emails or slack messages. This will increase the transparency of legal work, help track requests, improve Legal’s responsiveness, and prevent chaos and risks sprouting from other teams bypassing Legal due to lack of response.
Contract management. Digitizing the contract lifecycle allows legal teams to streamline their workflows, automate repetitive low-value tasks, efficiently draft, redline, and approve agreements, check them for errors and risks, keep track of and prepare for renewal dates, and have a consolidated repository that allows access to stakeholders to have access to contract data at any time and from any location.
Customer engagement. No matter where you are, at the office or at home, both internal and external clients expect a personalized, instant, and proficient digital experience – and legal tech helps serve the business more efficiently. Digitizing communications, document transfer, billing, and contract signing will surely give legal teams a necessary boost.
The workplace has changed and it is not going back, so the future of legal operations lies in the strategic integration of technology. Innovation is no longer about simply reducing costs. Its main goal is building trust across the organization, and fostering efficiency within the legal department.
To set the teams on course for enhanced productivity, streamlined processes, improved client service, and business growth, organizations need to orchestrate the technology adoption by breaking it into smaller actionable steps.
Steps and tactics for successful legal tech adoption
Legal departments are under pressure to do more with less. Without reassessing processes and adopting technology to efficiently manage available resources it becomes nearly impossible for Legal to demonstrate their value. Digitalization benefits contract management, billing, time-tracking, remote work, case and matter management. Embracing digital transformation enables better service, trust, and value, but many companies are yet to adapt.
To effectively implement technology, it is crucial to communicate to your team why you need it and how it will impact them personally – making it clear that it is essential to have a more adaptable and efficient way of operating. Let’s look closer at the steps to take.
Define your needs
To start with, you must determine the legal objectives and then choose a suitable technology that aligns with those goals. To do that, consult the end users and gather their feedback first.
The process of change management and implementation should be people-focused because people are self-focused in how things will impact them. By incorporating diverse viewpoints and experiences, you can better understand the requirements and customize the chosen technology accordingly.
At this point, identifying internal champions from the legal department who can collaborate with vendors and internal clients can facilitate the adoption of changes.
Make sure everyone is on the same page
Once you know the team’s needs, you can choose the technology to help them better meet their goals. You’ll have to conduct research, compare vendors, and pitch them to the stakeholders.
But before all of that, you need to ensure you’re effectively communicating the solution's value to your team. People may be opposed to the innovation, so be ready to convince them of its merits. Is the new technology going to help them serve their clients better? Will it help reduce time on administrative tasks? Will it help them grow as experts?
Find what resonates with each team member, and capitalize on it.
Perform a current systems analysis
Upgrading or introducing new technology comes with compatibility risks. Review current technology systems thoroughly before deploying something new to prevent conflicts or integration issues.
Not all technology is being used across the organization, so first you need to survey other teams that share similar tasks (e.g., are involved in contract management) on the technology they use. It is possible that the necessary system might already exist in your company, and scaling it to meet other teams’ needs is more cost-effective than purchasing new software.
Next, ensure that current systems can effectively integrate with new technology to prevent redundancies, costly build times, and budget overruns.
Create a data management plan
You must ensure all data management activities, from collection to collaboration, work seamlessly. Identify which data will be imported into your new system and what integrations are necessary for your new technology. Your company can avoid issues with incompatible, missing, or duplicated data with a data management strategy.
Develop a training approach from day one
Some vendors offer training as part of your technology purchase. Determine who will participate in the training sessions and champion change across the organization. Those people will be responsible for knowledge sharing and teaching other team members.
To simplify the training process, you should choose custom solutions that mimic your existing workflows or allow you to iterate change. This will make it easier to master the new system and encourage your teams to adopt it.
Although this list is far from exhaustive, these steps will ensure the success of new technology implementation. You need to proactively anticipate and tackle implementation challenges while securing user buy-in and commitment. If not, the software risks becoming ‘shelfware’. Let's further discuss what you need to encourage system adoption.
5 elements defining the success of technology implementation
The last thing you want is to waste resources building a system your teams refuse to use. It’s important to plan for a successful technology adoption early on. The following four elements are key to ensuring the successful adoption of technology.
Team buy-in is crucial for gaining agreement and commitment from a group to support and adopt a new idea, process, or software. It involves creating a shared understanding of the benefits, addressing concerns, and obtaining active participation. Without team buy-in, implementing changes can be challenging and lead to resistance and failure.
To secure buy-in, it's important to have a roadmap and strategic vision necessary to communicate the value the new software brings, such as improved efficiency, cost savings, collaboration, and competitiveness. Legal teams also play a vital role in training non-legal teams on software usage to ensure comfort and understanding.
Successful onboarding is crucial in the innovation process, requiring alignment between companies and tech providers. Dedicated client-side employees and onboarding specialists facilitate integration and communication. Creating specialized roles like Head of Innovation or Chief Innovation Officer can drive tech developments and significantly impact technology adoption.
When vetting software vendors, look for partners that you can trust. Legal technology is rarely a one-year investment, and as you are entering a long-term relationship with them, it is vital that they share your pain points and view them as their own. Not only should they help you make a case and promote technology – they need to support you in managing change across the organization.
Reliable tech service providers should offer 24/7 support to help users transition smoothly. Also, in-house onboarding specialists play a crucial role in establishing effective communication channels and identifying employees who need additional attention or training, providing valuable feedback to the provider. Proactive user education is essential, with concise video tutorials and, if possible, on-site training sessions being highly appreciated approaches.
Smooth integration with existing software is crucial for employees to embrace new technology. Legacy systems can pose challenges when integrating advanced technology, hindering favorable adoption. Implementing access management platforms can bridge the login gap between legacy on-premises applications and new legal tech, easing the integration process. When adopting legal tech, it is important to find a reliable technology provider that can align advanced legal tech with legal expertise and client expectations.
No implementation is perfect from day one – as it is impossible to account for every dynamic workflow or scenario. The more sophisticated your initial requirements are, the longer it will take you and the vendor to set the processes up.
Instead, use the Minimum Viable Product approach. Phase your changes, prioritize them, and iterate incrementally. In doing so, you will validate your software ROI hypotheses, and help identify if the software meets your expectations. You should never hesitate to sunset the software that does not perform as expected, and it is best that you learn this before spending 3+ months on implementation, and committing to an expensive contract.
Fundamental questions to prepare for the transition
Before jumping head-first into the digital world, you need to understand where to start, how to move, what to leave behind, and what to adopt first. To help you better grasp the implications of the transition you are about to undergo, and plan accordingly, ask yourself these 14 questions:
What is the problem we are trying to solve and how will we measure the success of solving it?
Which processes will be affected by the transformation? In which areas can we make our operations better, and more efficient?
In which order shall these processes be updated?
Which data will be migrated?
What will be done to legacy data?
Which technologies will we need?
What does our success roadmap look like?
Who will be involved in the transformation process?
Who will be responsible for making final decisions?
What can go wrong in the transformation process?
What do we need to do to avoid these risks?
How quickly do we want to transform our operations?
What is our hypothesis around the legal tech implementation success?
What is the projected ROI of technology adoption?
By addressing these questions, you lay the groundwork for successful technology adoption. With a well-defined roadmap, clear decision-making, and a proactive approach to managing risks, your organization will navigate change with confidence.
Digitizing contract management
In today’s world, legal technology is the cost of running a business. Stay inert and stick to legacy processes – and you compromise your legal department’s productivity and efficiency. This, in turn, translates into lost opportunities and hampers company’s growth.
To succeed in the competitive and digital-first landscape you need software vendors who’d serve as long-term partners, and will help you support, scale, and promote change within the organization.
Automating contract management is the fastest and the easiest way to balance workload within the legal department and direct your team’s effort at strategic, high-value and high-risk work. Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) systems with quick implementation, fast time-to-value, and scalable packages, such as ContractWorks, are best suited to make the transition with minimal risk and friction.