Ready to adopt legal tech?
Most of our lives are influenced by automation without our knowledge. The concept of automation, on the other hand, is not new – one of the earliest examples was car manufacturers developing mechanized processes to meet rising demand.
Nowadays, automation has enhanced our interactions with businesses. When you contact the support team for any product or service, you first communicate with a chatbot before speaking with a real person. Instead of scheduling the same video calls every week at work, you automate the process so that the calls repeat every week.
And, while this automated world appears to affect everything we do, there are some industries that have been slow to adopt technology that could help them. For example, in a startup, finance teams have digitized their processes to eliminate paper, and people and talent teams use applicant tracking systems to move candidates through the hiring funnel… But what about legal teams? I’m still having trouble with Word and email.
Why is this the case? What prevents startup lawyers from making the same decisions as their colleagues? We investigate three major reasons for legal’s reluctance to adopt legal technology.
And, while the automated world appears to affect everything we do, some industries have been slow to adopt technology that could benefit them. In a startup, for example, finance teams have digitized their processes to eliminate paper, while people and talent teams use applicant tracking systems to move candidates through the hiring funnel… What about legal teams, though? Word and email are still giving me problems.
What is the reason for this? What keeps startup attorneys from making the same decisions as their colleagues? We investigate three major reasons for the legal profession’s reluctance to embrace legal technology.
1. Obtaining business support
At a startup, the primary focus is on growth; anything that does not provide an immediate benefit to the bottom line is put on the back burner. Legal teams can struggle to get business buy-in for technology that helps them work faster – and because legal teams aren’t traditionally data-driven, putting together a business case for legal tech isn’t always easy. For legal teams, “doing more with less” has evolved from a buzzword to a mission statement, and shifting that mindset can be difficult.
The solution is simple enough: lawyers must change the narrative around why they purchase legal technology in order to gain the business’s support. Instead of focusing on how it will make the function more efficient, lawyers should focus on how it will help them enable commercial areas of the business.
If you’re trying to gain support for a contract automation platform, for example, emphasize how an automated process will help sales teams handle routine contracts like non-disclosure agreements and order forms more quickly. This will result in more customers and closed deals in less time.
“For legal teams, ‘doing more with less’ has evolved from a buzzword to a mission statement, and shifting that mindset can be difficult.”
2. Workloads vs time
The amount of work involved in a tech implementation project from start to finish is the first thing that comes to mind. In a startup, the legal team typically consists of one or two lawyers who serve a rapidly expanding commercial team.
When you’re part of a small legal team, you have to balance several high-priority tasks at once – and legal tech isn’t at the top of the priority list. Lawyers prefer to stay where they are, use the systems that are already in place, and plan for automation at a later date.
The first thing that comes to mind is the quantity of effort involved in a tech implementation project from start to finish. A startup’s legal team is often comprised of one or two lawyers who service a quickly increasing commercial team.
When you’re part of a small legal team, you have to juggle multiple high-priority activities at once – and legal tech isn’t always at the top of the list. Law firm marketing strategy would rather stay where they are, use the mechanisms that are already in place, and plan for automation afterward.
3. Spoilt for choice
With so many legal technology suppliers available, it’s easy for lawyers to become overwhelmed. This plethora of options, along with buzzword approaches that fail to define the problem that tech solutions are attempting to tackle, makes it difficult for legal teams to grasp what they’re truly purchasing.
Platforms that assist with digital contracting, for example, solve a variety of issues – but if you don’t know the difference between contract management and contract automation, finding a solution that fits your specific needs is much more difficult.
They would prefer to continue with the processes that already exist, no matter how manual and time-consuming those systems are, then take the risk and deploy legal technology that no one uses.
To overcome this obstacle, follow these simple steps:
- Understand the problem that legal is attempting to solve: what is the primary goal of the technology you’re attempting to implement? How do you see this technology assisting legal professionals and enabling others in the industry?
- Do your homework: talk to people in your network and look into solutions that are already having an impact in your industry. Consider the competition for each platform and how the features fit into your list of priorities – is an electronic signature software a must-have or a nice-to-have feature in your contracts platform, for example?
- You should avoid jargon: It’s so easy to be influenced by buzzwords, but these phrases usually don’t align with legal requirements, or the problem the customer is solving. Look for a salesperson who provides a no-nonsense overview of what they do, and how they can help you.
There are many misconceptions about legal technology, and the nature of both lawyers and the industry as a whole means that change is slow. But, in the long run, being able to overcome the challenges of tech adoption will benefit the legal team greatly, allowing them to become strategic, value-add business partners as their startup grows.