Episode 2 of 5

Act – taking the first step

Reading time: 4 minutes

Welcome to the second article in this Thought Leadership series. In the first article, I talked about how establishing one system of record is the way to set up your team and business for success. Now you’ve arrived at the starting point, the second part of our series is about being aware of your progress on the path towards becoming a data-informed in-house legal department, and then developing a strategic roadmap that suits you, your team, and your business.

Where are you on your journey?

When looking at legal through the lens of predictive (or prescriptive) analytics maturity, in-house legal departments are generally working from a place of hindsight. That is, looking back at what has previously happened. To facilitate this, data can sometimes be gathered manually and used to generate static reports. It’s the same place other business departments were decades ago, yet they’ve come a bit further since compared with their legal counterparts.

The next step is insight, where real-time data sets are available for use in strategic business decisions. This is the phase that most legal teams are working towards currently, albeit in a somewhat haphazard way. Our mission is to convince you that this stage is achievable, that there’s a clear “playbook” for reaching this, and that from a data perspective this is just the beginning.

Beyond that is the foresight stage, which essentially means that you have enough historical data, that you know based on the current state what will most likely happen next. By definition, in an industry such as legal that has very little in the way of structured datasets, this will take time.

The ultimate goal is the prescriptive phase/amplified intelligence and automation phase. This is where your data can not only see the future but bend or focus it (think “Minority report” but for legal teams), in order to proactively contribute to the important strategic decisions being made within your organization.

So now you know where you’re heading, how do you get there?

When there are questions, but no easy answers

Often situations will arise that amplify a lack of preparation for the inevitable. For the in-house legal team, this realization can come in the form of a request to preserve and hold documents for a litigation case, a query from the C-suite to provide evidence on the legal department’s activities, or after spending hours on monthly reporting that really should be a lot more efficient.

It’s during these times that many will start looking at alternatives to the way things have always been done.

Many of your peers are taking stock of where they’re at, and looking at investing even more in the years to come. Many have already started their journey.

There are likely to be signs already present in your legal department, signs that you can identify with, and start to see where it’s possible to make some innovative changes.

The inability of the legal leadership team to answer questions – its own and from others in the wider business – is one of the key signs that moving towards a data-informed department is a smart idea. The lack of readily available data means a continued struggle to understand where the legal team is being pushed and pulled, and in what direction, and data provides the evidence of this.

The point of purchasing a solution

Gartner estimates that by 2025 legal departments will have a threefold increase from 2020 on technology spend, rising to approximately 12% of in-house budgets.

So there’s a lot of investing happening across the legal sector.

Gartner also says that legal departments are expanding the use of technology to support workflows and meet productivity demands. Critical to a legal department’s success is the development of a comprehensive, multiyear technology strategy that adapts to the changing environment and technology advancements.

Purchasing a legal technology solution is another sign you’re on the road to better days, yet if you’re starting to encounter issues with it, then the journey’s going to be a long one.

Perhaps the software is a point solution, working in its own silo and ineffective in dealing with more than one type of legal work. Or, perhaps implementation is too lengthy, bringing up ongoing problems to solve.

Usually, these situations follow a decision to purchase based on an acute need at a specific point in time. But soon there is the uncomfortable realization that as a legal department you’ve invested a whole lot of money, time, and effort in the situation, and yet the technology chosen still neglects to solve all of the problems.

Solving the biggest problem of the day just doesn’t work

Think about your biggest pain point. Was it the same pain point as yesterday, last week, or four months ago? Will the same issue be present again in 6 months?

It’s a common approach to invest only in the biggest problem of the day, the most immediate issue which is causing undue inefficiencies, frustration, and stress.

Think along the lines of choosing a contract solution that’s just for contracts, a billing solution that’s just for billing, or a matters solution that’s just for matters.

There’s little regard to tying one acute need to the next acute need, and then finding the platform solution to underpin it and tie it together.

Investing in a particular point solution to solve a problem, just because that specific problem was the biggest issue at whatever time of the day you decided to go after a legal tech only delivers a short-sighted result.

After the initial problem goes away or is addressed, there are still all the other problems remaining underneath and alongside the original issue. And there’s no way to holistically understand the next best step. You’ve still got the problem that the rest of the business is looking at the legal department, shaking their finger, and asking ‘why are we still in this situation in 2021’? Unfortunately, all this money has been spent on delivering a solution that hasn’t solved the problem that you thought it would.

Making the first move

The very first step is to have a system of record.

Making long term strategic decisions about what your team should be focused on in the absence of data, would be madness, right? Any transformation, any change program, needs to be based around a system of record that’s gathering data about what’s happening every day in your legal team, and turn that into data so you can make your decisions.

Whether we’re talking about embarking on a legal department transformation or implementing a legal tech solution, the same approach applies – both need to be underpinned by a very simple system of record that will start gathering your data. Working from a holistic platform, such as a Legal Workspace, means the data captured is from all areas of the legal team’s work, including matters, contracts, and billing.

Once you have that very first basic preliminary data set, you can start making good decisions about where you’re heading next – which is one step closer to becoming a data-informed legal team. In the next article, I’ll discuss how to engage with data to enhance your ways of working and communicating with the wider business.