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Technically challenged

Businesses have been talking, planning and implementing strategies to offer new services, transform their business models, manage costs and increase efficiencies through digital transformation for quite some time – Deloitte also produces an ongoing series of insights dedicated to the topic. The exponential growth in data, coupled with increases in computer capability to process such data volumes and continual advances in technology such as AI, means the job is never quite done.

The robots are coming (but it’s a good thing)

Business leaders have already identified the value of digitalisation–helping their teams become more efficient, enabling differentiation in products and services, and even creating new business propositions.

They consider technology, data, systems architecture and talent strategies for successful transformation in the context of their organisational strategies. They also harness advanced analytics and statistical forecasting to support process transformation and look to synchronise governance across their different operational locations.

Legal connections

Many legal departments have largely been left out of this wave of technology transformation, because automation is traditionally applied to structured data and repetitive processes, while the legal function revolves around unstructured data—primarily documents—that reside outside of structured databases.

Solving the challenge of unstructured data has brought the legal industry to an inflection point. For the first time, many labour-intensive, repetitive legal department tasks can now be performed by computers instead of humans. Legal executives should be able to take advantage of analytics and AI to free up legal department resources so they can perform more value-added work, such as advising the business on strategic and directional matters.

Analytics and AI capabilities can also help address legal and regulatory risk in the organisation because data is no longer stored inconsistently and endlessly. And, because all data is centrally housed, companies can now apply information governance for cybersecurity, data loss prevention and regulatory risk management purposes.

Time to reboot

Full-scale digitalisation does not happen overnight, but the sooner the general counsel (GC) gets involved in the organisation’s digital transformation strategy, the better. That way, the GC can make efforts to ensure that the legal technology employed can integrate with other organisational technology such as ERP systems and should a cloud-first strategy be favoured, steps can be taken to align the legal technology. Digital transformation can be daunting, so breaking it down into simple steps may be helpful:

  1. Understand the roadmap the organisation wishes to implement and where the legal department fits;
  2. Identify the processes that can be outsourced or automated, to free up highly qualified lawyers for more valuable work. These processes may include:
    a. Self-service of routine requests
    b. Routine contract generation
    c. Legal resource allocation and activity management
    d. Contract management (connect the platform via application programming interfaces so that the GC has visibility of contracts across the organisation)
    e. Legal risk management
  3. Seek advice from legal technology specialists to identify and implement the most effective and efficient systems, aligned with the organisations’ business and technology roadmaps. This will increasingly involve tailoring existing enterprise technology investments for application to the legal function.
  4. Centralise and automate processing of outside counsel billing (a system to review/approval bills based on specific rules and thresholds) including employing AI to analyse overcharge situations. Employ analytics and AI tools to the rich data in legal management platforms to manage resources and plan future demand;
  5. Based on the analytical insights, revisit priority processes for further refinement, outsourcing or automation.