In this day and age few General Counsel would imagine managing the legal affairs of their employer without the aid of technology. However, legal operations inside public and private sector organisations remain largely manual, costly and inefficient due to the poor adoption of technology solutions to support their work.
It is not the fault of in-house legal teams in many cases. It is actually a failing of the large enterprise software vendors, who have for many years, assumed that the needs and requirements for in-house legal teams were the same as those for large commercial law firms. The clear feedback that we have received at Dolphin Software, is that they are not.
There are a number of key technology solutions that General Counsel in both the public and private sector need to consider and evaluate for their organisations. These are:
- Document and Records Management
- Legal Matter Management
- Contract Lifecycle Management
- Time recording/billing (if you are considering implementing a cross-charging regime)
- eDiscovery/Litigation Support systems
Looking strategically about how technology solutions can support the legal operations of an organisation, it is important to consider the needs and requirements of the legal function itself, but also how this strategy is going to impact the rest of the business.
There are a number of routes that IT and Legal teams can go down. They can …
- select best-of-breed vendors in each category
- select a single vendor solution or technology platform that can span several core solution areas, while complying to corporate standards on IT infrastructure
- attempt to develop their own in-house solutions (If you select this route, be aware of the hidden costs in building your own solution. Management time required to design the solution, the cost of development, support and providing enhancements and updates are only some factors that can end up costing more than a Commercial Off-the-shelf solution).
Then there is the issue of the wider picture. One critical error that Legal teams often make is the limited belief that solutions like eDiscovery or Contract Management systems are only to be used by legal specialists. There are many other key stakeholder groups, in the contracting process, for instance, who could benefit from access to contract documents and management information.
In this age of regulation and risk management, the legal department is rapidly becoming the guardian of key technology solutions for the enterprise. The General Counsel and the CIO need to work together in ensuring that the solutions that they evaluate and implement are the best and most effective for their business.