It’s almost impossible to predict where your journey to becoming a data-informed in-house legal team will take your legal team and the business. It’s venturing into the unknown, the unplanned, and the unpredictable, as yet we can say with some certainty that what’s ahead is going to revolutionize the legal sector.
So, what does the future look like when legal department data is at the core of future corporate business decisions?
Ultimately, we want to be thinking about how we use what we do in legal as a sword? How do we stop being defensive, and how do we start being proactive? The future is going to be an interesting time. We’re going to have so much data, we’re going to understand so much more about our business as data, that we’re going to be able to manipulate our future in certain ways.
Because of the data legal captures, the business is going to be more proactive, more insight-enabled, with data being able to strategically influence the direction of the business.
Not only that, but legal is going to become the heart of the business, integrating with other departments and the wider organization. This integration will also involve working with other point solutions within the business ecosystem, so departments are seamlessly interacting within the Legal Workspace.
Once legal departments have begun the journey to being data-informed and are moving towards a more predictive way of working, what do they have to look forward to?
Imagine a time where AI is working with the intake from the business. In natural language AI understands what the intent of the intake is, what the request is, and can figure out that the piece of work was already done six months ago and here it is, removing the need for the legal team to manage the task. Alternatively, AI could determine that this kind of work hasn’t been encountered before, and therefore needs ‘Steve’ to work on it, as it fits his expertise and he currently has the capacity to deal with the task.
Legal teams will no longer have to deal with the simple task of managing intake.
Then there’s contracts.
In the future, AI-powered reviewing of all contracts will be possible. It’s likely that you have a repository of hundreds, maybe thousands of contracts, sitting somewhere – perhaps in paper-form filed diligently in a storeroom. An alternative is having data stored in SharePoint somewhere, where you’re able to point a tool at the content and have it understand what the risks and opportunities are that exist within those contracts, opening a path to act on them.
Or imagine AI being able to go through your contracts and pull out information on where they’re weak, and know how to leverage that weakness as a business advantage.
Potentially all of this is going to be possible at some point, so let’s start thinking about it now.
Getting to the final stage of the journey
The final step of the journey to being a data-informed team is the prescriptive step. To arrive at this stage, you need a platform that supports you on the journey to becoming a data-informed, in-house legal team. This holistic platform is the cornerstone of everything you do, and the data it captures holds value and provides evidence on how to progress forward.
Once we’re able to build out the technology that’s able to ingest vast quantities of structured legal data, that’s able to learn from that data, that’s ultimately able to drive some form of intelligence out of it, then that’s when we’ll be able to progress to quality AI for the legal industry.
It might be a five-year journey, it might be a ten-year journey, but it’s kind of inevitable that once you start gathering data at volume, AI becomes a more realistic goal.
As a legal department, it’s your responsibility to capture the data, embarking on a journey to use it in more sophisticated ways that will ultimately impact your business success.
The path of continuous improvement
You never stop improving. You never reach a point where you say we’ve got enough leads, we’ve got enough customers, and we’re making enough sales that are all moving through the pipeline fast enough.
That time will never come.
Progress is about having a continuous improvement initiative in play, and then making sure you have the data – that the right things are being measured along the way and the right people are looking at the right metrics.
When this happens, you’ll find the evidence you need to incite change, make progress, and promote better ways of working.
Perhaps you’re trying to speed up turnaround times for specific work or contract types? Or working on incrementally, matter type by matter type, getting the business to self-serve so work coming into the legal team is narrower, reducing the need to react to every intake request, and freeing up the time for legal to work proactively on higher-value issues.
Continuous improvement means adjusting to the ever-changing landscape of the legal industry. When you have data, and when you have a system of record, it opens up a world of possibilities to improve your legal team’s working environment – its culture, its ethos, and its functioning.
Catering for a future of data
Data tells the stories that change the course of what’s possible. Without data, the stories remain untold.
The stories of the in-house legal department need to be heard – by the legal team itself, the other departments within the business, by the C-suite and by the wider industry.
But you have to know your audience at all times, right? There are always going to be different stakeholders you want to tell a story to, that either ask to see something or you want to tell something because it’s relevant.
What matters is that you have the data there to support and create the story.
Whatever story you want to tell, accessing the relevant data points needs to be seamless, and a simple process that’s efficient in both time and effort.
A common approach when setting out to build legal dashboards is to determine what the dashboard looks like, what the graphs and charts are to look like and reverse engineer from there. For example, I want to present four graphs, so I’m going to build a system that generates the data for four graphs.
But what if, in the future, I change my mind, and want five graphs, or ten graphs? By creating a system that captures data for just four graphs, I’ve limited the capability of what’s possible, and need to start the whole process again to capture the data for a different number of graphs.
My philosophy is that it’s best to cater to more possibilities and opportunities, right from the start. Put a system in place that captures all the data and that’s watching the activity, so that at any point in time in the future you can tell one of hundreds of thousands of stories, because the data points are already there.
By mixing and matching the data points in different ways you can tell different stories.
And it’s these stories that influence whoever is listening – others in the legal team, the C-suite, the wider business, the industry or the legal sector – and educate them about your team and the business it supports.
You influence others by using data to tell your story.
Circling back, our first article established the fact that a system of record is key to set up your team and your business for data-informed success. We then examined the signs you may observe that indicate your team is ready to embark on its own data journey, and how to make the all-important first move. Next, we looked at how a data-informed legal team behaves and what it looks like in action. The value of momentum and leading change within your own legal team was the next part of the journey, followed by this last article which looks at how your newly-found knowledge can be shared to propel the business and legal sector in a new direction that embraces data as a necessary tool of the business.
While we’ve reached the end of this thought leadership series, it’s likely to be just the beginning of your organization’s journey to becoming data-informed. Depending on where you’re at, taking the next step to move legal to the heart of the business is now a bit closer, and hopefully, I’ve given you some idea of the opportunities that lie ahead so you can start on the journey to make them a reality.
Join some of our LawVu customers and see how they’re adopting a holistic platform approach to transform their ways of working.