Towards a More Powerful Legal Architecture
By Lisa Konie, Senior Director of Legal Operations, Adobe
Standardizing Legal Platforms
What we have been seeing is a demand for a legal architecture or platform. Instead of isolated, siloed, applications, the legal industry is asking for, and slowly getting functional platforms that solve for more than one problem. For instance, you will have a solution that provides matter management, billing management, IP asset management and even document management as a solution. Previously, these would have been at least 3 separate solutions. Similarly, with electronic signatures, we see progress with integration into contract management solutions so that the end to end contracting process is seamless from initiation, to electronic signature to document storage.
Issues Holding the Legal Industry’s Software Commitment
I think the driver is fundamentally a technology issue, with cost savings as a benefit as opposed to cost driving the behavior. We need standardization because the rate of change with software is so different than even 5 years ago. With all of the movement to the cloud, software application providers are updating and upgrading their software solutions at drastically quicker cadences. What used to be 18 month product cycles, are now improved to weeks. As a result, law firms and companies cannot afford to have highly customized software solutions because they are inefficient and costly to manage and end up being outdated and behind the latest releases.
Trends Impacting the Industry
Legal organizations are being tasked with operating like a business. Showing returns on investments. I think it is the convergence of some of these trends such as big data, social media, mobile, cloud, IoT will have the biggest impact and allow legal departments to run more effectively and efficiently, and like a business as our CFOs are requiring. The mobile or digital experience combined with big data and artificial intelligence will bring about an amount of change that many of us can’t even grasp. By using AI to understand things like contracting trends, litigation trends, spending or behaviors in engaging counsel, we will take efficiency and effectiveness to new levels. People work remotely, anywhere, at anytime; we share documents and transact business electronically, we aren’t tethered to past models or ways of doing business. These are all forcing mechanisms that are bringing about change.
"What we have been seeing is a demand for a legal architecture or platform"
Small Piece of Suggestion for the Vendors
It will sound trite, but vendors need to understand their customers. They need to really listen to their needs, their pain points. For instance, many firms and companies are embracing the reality of alternative fee arrangements. I can’t tolerate an e-billing solution provider that doesn’t understand and appreciate the need for features and automation involving AFAs. Or consider the trends we discussed earlier, big data is the key. Vendors need to embrace this and offer robust reporting and analytics functionalities. Similarly, we talked about legal platforms - solutions that allow for contract management, billing management, matter management, case management, knowledge management as a single, united platform where data is shared and not rekeyed. Vendors that are listening to their customers are getting ahead and getting business. Vendors need to understand that we talk to each other. We hold application specific user groups where we get together and talk about the software solutions—what’s working and what’s not. We are collectively trying to put weight behind feature requests and other changes.
To Gain a Competitive Edge
First and foremost, I have learned that I can only begin with thoroughly understanding my organization’s needs. Do I need a repository for contracts, or do I need a solution that can intelligently and dynamically build contracts? Once I understand the needs, I then ask myself whether we are limiting ourselves, or whether we can scale with the model and needs in mind? Understanding where I am and where I need to go is important. I also want to know what other organizations are doing, so benchmarking with peers is critical. I want to learn from their mistakes and pass along any lessons learned. While my organization might be competitive with another company from a business perspective, the legal industry is still a service industry and I don’t see myself in competition with my peers. Instead, we are looking to collaborate and collectively move the needle.