So what did I learn about legal ops and legal tech from the various presenters? Let me count the ways – okay I counted, there are 5:
- Things are getting serious
Most large corporates and many smaller ones are now starting to think seriously about legal operations. People are being allocated dedicated legal ops roles (or 50/50 roles) as there has been a realisation that without this lawyers will never get to the legal operations stuff at the side of their desks. As a result strategic projects now have a chance of getting completed. Some presenters had worked miracles in a relatively short space of time by getting buy in from the top and also support from within the organisation to get things done (it seems to help if you work for a tech company). Others had laboured for over a decade for their (equally impressive) results.
- Winning hearts & minds by helping others
Legal operations are more valued when they get results across more than one business function. If legal make themselves more efficient, no one other than the CFO really cares BUT use contract lifecycle management to improve the sales or procurement process and you can quickly become a corporate hero. There is definitely merit in moving the spotlight away from just benefitting the legal team.
- What's your problem?
We had several conversations with legal tech vendors who are increasingly sophisticated. All that investment by them during the last couple of years is really paying off. There are several platforms now which cover all core legal team requirements especially around contracts and legal front door but the debate still goes on as to whether you need a series of point solutions or one platform that can do it all. There are merits to both approaches and to an extent it really depends on the level of operational maturity your organisation has. What is clear is that before you attend a demo of anything new and shiny you should carefully consider what your requirements are (ie what problems you are trying to solve) and categorise them into must haves, nice to haves and ones for later. Also consider what integrations may be necessary.
- We need to talk about data….
We've all known for a while that by analysing the data you have, you will undoubtedly make better decisions but still around 85% of in-house teams have not seriously started their data journey. Like most things in legal ops you should start simple and build out - Look at what data you already have and how this is organised, consider what additional data your team should collect and more importantly work out what you are going to do with it before you inconvenience others. There were examples of people using excel spreadsheets to report upwards but also an increasing use of tech platforms to automatically collect and show data. Certainly all tech platforms now should offer this capability as a matter of course. Those that don’t will be called out before too long.
- Sharing is Caring
My biggest takeaway from the conference was just how collaborative the attendees were and how keen they were to share their stories and make recommendations. No one is pretending that they have the perfect blueprint and people were prepared to share their failures (it’s only a mistake if you don’t learn from it) or the nuances to their successes. There is an honest candour in the world of legal ops peer to peer sharing and I felt very privileged to be welcomed into the circle.