Faster, better, cheaper are the new imperatives for in-house legal teams as corporate budgets shrink and advanced technologies break new ground. Instead of spending hideously expensive hours fine-tuning litigation-proof contracts, companies are tasking legal to come up with standardized approaches that deliver greater efficiencies from more accessible services. Just like other industries, established firms and startups are turning to legal technology for some of the answers.
“Every industry is taking the high-volume, lower value work and giving it to outside experts who can complete it faster to save the company money,” said Kai Jacob, Global Vice President of Legal Information Management at SAP. “This is about to disrupt the legal industry, where it will create problems for traditional law firms, and create new opportunities for in-house departments to obtain the same services at a lower cost.”
Using advanced technologies powered by the cloud, lawyers and their clients have access to information that was once the purview of a privileged few. Dierk Schindler, Head of Legal & Deal Management for EMEA and Global Legal Shared Services at NetApp, goes so far as to call some legal processes commoditized. “If you have a structured approach in the same situations over and over, you can reuse opinions and answers in emails and contracts,” he said. “Thousands of legal tech startups are building lightweight apps that remove barriers and deliver easy-to-use legal tools.”
As innovations like shared services for repetitive legal processes accelerate work by making information more readily available, the outcomes go far beyond job losses for lawyers and others. In-house legal departments are looking at a dramatic repositioning.
“Business managers are realizing that legal departments can be run better, but it’s not just about introducing technology. Lawyers have to take a holistic approach towards their world that includes people and processes,” said Schindler.
Gaining much more than efficiencies
Legal tech solutions are tearing down the barriers between business and legal information, changing the role of lawyers.
“When you have a better understanding of your contracts, you also gain insights about your customers. This creates business relevance for lawyers in a totally new way,” said Jacob.
Jacob and Schindler are two co-instructors of an openSAP Thought Leader MOOC entitled, “Liquid Legal: Transforming an Industry,” that’s based in part, on their work with lawyers and other practitioners. The MOOC will provide in-house legal professionals – lawyers, paralegals, administrators – with an understanding of disruption across the legal profession, and how they can meet the resultant new business and cultural expectations. In addition to video lectures and an online forum to exchange ideas, participants will explore an early demo of SAP S/4HANA for legal content. Jacob said the course may also be interesting for people in other departments such as IT or operations, to gain a better understanding of the opportunities for collaborative wins with the digitalized legal team.
Protect the investment but make business possible
Legal tech is forcing a major mindset shift among lawyers. Longtime win-lose attitudes that have focused on armoring the company against worse case scenarios are no longer enough. Protection is still very important, but so is not impeding business.
“Lawyers have to become more business-minded with a win-win approach that there are two contractual parties that want to work together for positive outcomes,” said Schindler. “They have to learn how to collaborate more with the business, overcoming their traditional lone wolf training.”
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