Disrupting the law: will technology supercharge the traditional operating model?
Disruption. Disruption. Disruption. As a former General Counsel (GC), there were two feelings I least enjoyed, surprises and disruption (and jet lag, but that’s three, so let’s just stick with the first two). As stewards of good corporate governance, architects of compliance frameworks and part of the order of risk management, the last thing I needed was to be told that my operating model was under pressure. Who has time to evaluate technology and reconsider fundamental principles that underpin the operating model when resources are stretched, major projects and key initiatives are mounting and the current model isn’t broken – or is it?
By 2016, tax and finance functions had successfully incorporated technology to automate certain activity, reduce waste and become more efficient. At this time and after speaking with other GCs in Europe and the US about challenges facing the GC, it seemed that the legal department may be one of the final areas where perhaps technology would not make a big impact. Somewhere where traditional lawyering would outweigh the benefits of a bot. After all, how could technology really help a GC obtain and maintain ‘trusted advisor’ status with the leadership team when that came down to good judgment and relationship building?
Then came the last two years. Legal tech had not just emerged; it was now targeting in-house legal operations. In parallel, the in-house operating model was evolving quickly and the emergence of new roles, such as Legal Operations Manager are evidence of that.
As the world of legal tech and the noise around disruption became more powerful forces, inaction and a ‘set and forget’ legal strategy have become untenable. But the alternative may feel like elective surgery! Where do you start when you’re proud of a team, their commitment and the overall performance of the function you lead? Sure, everyone can improve, but does that really warrant jumping onto the operating table and plugging new and relatively untested technology into the ecosystem, often on a point problem or point product basis, without much certainty that it will deliver meaningful business outcomes?
The challenge to the in-house legal community is now clear.
Demystify legal tech noise, evaluate real options and determine where people, process and technology can combine to supercharge the legal function and meet the expectation of ‘doing more with less’. This will result in legal departments commencing a journey of transformation. Many have already taken the first bold steps.