According to the latest survey by publisher Freie Fachinformationen, law firms and legal departments consider Legal-Tech to be a great advantage in realizing optimization potentials. According to the survey respondents, however, this potential is hindered by a lack of IT know-how – considered the biggest challenge in dealing with digitization and the introduction of modern legal tech systems. Of course, systems for automated document analysis as well as software for the intelligent generation of documents are increasingly being used. These new tools, however, are changing workflows – even radically if used consistently – and can only take effect if everyone involved in a company is aware of their use and actively supports it. This requires new methodological skills and possibly even changes in the organization. What may seem troublesome at first, will pay off in the short term.
Any new software that is to be used throughout a company requires organizational effort in both the planning and implementation phases. Only if, for example, the selection of workflow software already takes into account whether internal technical interfaces fit the software and which skills employees need to operate the software, can the introduction be successful. The introduction of software solutions that also affect or support legal departments‘ workflows is particularly complex. Introducing software for document analysis or automation, new research tools and also a better integration of external data sources requires thorough technical knowledge, IT skills as well as knowledge of the company organization if the introduction, implementation and daily use is to be successful. Mistakes often occur in this respect as the interaction between a legal department’s substantive and economic objectives, the functional requirements and requirements of other company members as well as the software’s technological possibilities are not adequately taken into account or communicated internally to future users. In addition, changes in operational tasks, roles and often also in the self-image of the various departments caused by the introduction of the software must be taken into account in order to successfully shoulder the digitization of legal work processes throughout the company.
New working methods change organizations profoundly – Example: publishing industry
The digitization of the publishing industry has shown how important this new operational know-how is: Since the mid-1990s, it has taken the publishing world around 20 years to fully grasp the impact of digitization on all areas of value creation and then to gradually implement it in products, structure and organization. The first half of this transformation process can be described as learning by doing. Publishers and their employees have thrown themselves into digitization without knowledge of its requirements, opportunities and risks. In this first, unsorted phase, they have lost quite a bit of ground – both in terms of their business models and the sustainability of their investments in software and digital products. It was only in the second phase, starting around 2005, that many media companies began to allow new job descriptions, working methods and team structures in all sectors. Driven by agile methods and inspired by the mindset of software development, these teams have since helped to introduce digital tools into traditional publishing businesses and to open up the possibility (and eyes) for companies to develop new, digital business models. Product managers who understand software development and digital business models, analysts who extract value from data, or agile project managers are all employees without whom successful digital media products are no longer conceivable today.
If companies are now dealing with the question of whether, when and how Legal Tech solutions can be used in the company, managing directors and legal advisors are well advised to learn from the mistakes made by publishers and to turn their attention to the topic of legal operations management.
New workflows in legal departments – Interface know-how is essential
Legal Operations Management – understood as a company-wide task and method to control all relevant issues related to the digitization of legal work – significantly increases the probability of success of digitization in the legal sector. Just as the publishing industry needs the comprehensive view of a content management team, the digitization of legal tasks and services requires the skills and view of experts for the interaction between commercial requirements, legal specifications, technical possibilities and the complexity of implementation. Understanding these interrelationships extending beyond domain boundaries is the central know-how of the Legal Operations team.
Successful digitization of legal departments and law firms requires people and working methods that understand the fundamental requirements and demands of all parties involved and are experts in setting up company-wide digital systems. Fundamental technical issues such as the structure and security requirements of corporate IT must be understood and transformed, new KPIs must be coordinated with management as well as training concepts developed for legal departments and relevant stakeholders in other areas.
Training concepts and standards must be developed
This way of thinking and working as well as corresponding experts are still quite rare in the German market compared to the USA. The development of a legal operations department is something new in Germany and the understanding of the structure, benefits and goals of the role of a legal operations manager is not yet sufficiently harmonized to allow standardized role models and organizational structures to develop.
However, a lot is happening emanating from the Anglo-American market. The Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) is one of the first legal operations organizations to offer a series of webinars and podcasts to help members learn the basics of legal operations management. In Germany, the Legal Operations Conference, organized and supported by JUVE, recently took place (as a virtual event) for the first time. The Stanford Legal Design Lab conducts intensive research on methods and concepts relating to the interface between people, technology and law. After all, the establishment of a market-wide harmonized understanding and, as a consequence, corresponding training and further education is necessary to meet the growing demand for legal operations experts.
Enablers and translators between different worlds
These experts – whether lawyers or employees with other educational backgrounds – can achieve considerable improvements in effectiveness and efficiency regarding the interaction of legal departments with other company departments. Just as product managers in journalistic teams ensure that their team understands the importance of Search Engine Optimization for content sales, legal operations managers can make a significant contribution to the internal understanding of opportunities offered by the digital market and at the same time support concrete, software-based simplification of work processes. If a company invests in legal operations management and – led by their legal operations managers – in intelligent software at the same time, companies can successfully master the challenge of „legal technology“.
An example of such a software solution is veins. As a powerful Deep Legal Tech system, the software digitizes work and decision-making processes related to the creation, protection, management and exploitation of intellectual property assets. As a comprehensive legal management and business development tool for intellectual property, veins can be implemented in the shortest possible time, even without previous legal knowledge or complex onboarding projects. veins unfolds its full potential when the company already has basic digital skills and the connection – with the help of a Legal Operations team – to internal processes and knowledge pools operates seamlessly.
We will gladly discuss with you personally how this can look like in concrete terms.