The trends impacting corporate counsel and how tech can help

We know that corporate counsel has gone through some big changes in the 10 years since the financial crash. Here Lloyd Ellison looks at how some of these changes have played out and suggests how technology can help lawyers respond and achieve ‘more with less’.

A clear change that everyone talks about is in how work is apportioned. In-house lawyers aren’t giving nearly as much work away to external firms as they did in the past. Corporate counsel is now expected to keep hold of the most complex, business critical matters. External counsel is still used but noticeably less often. And for the really routine corporate volume work there are now offshore providers who will do the job much more cost effectively.

Technology is responding to these changes in a number of ways. One is by simply enabling in-house counsel to keep better track of who is dealing with what matters.

Alongside that comes the power to analyse outcomes, duration and spend, and subsequently allocate matters more cost effectively. It’s a matter of giving the right work to the right resource. A tool that optimises task management can be very useful for this.

The next iteration is a tool that can then report on activity and effectiveness. This gives the legal team a way to demonstrate its value to the business – something that historically was never a consideration, but is increasingly becoming more important.


Providing the business with legal services

The usefulness of generating reports which prove legal’s value to a business is becoming more important as in-house teams grow. Another way that technology can aid in-house lawyers is by helping them provide the business with legal services.

One way is by using technology to help the legal team answer routine queries. It’s already happening that FAQs or Q&As are posted on an internal legal portal so that the business can quickly and easily find out about things like the impact of a regulatory change or some routine tax information. This use of tech can save the legal time valuable time but also has the effect of making legal seem more visible, accessible and useful to the business.

The next step will be to make the technology more interactive and responsive. For example by introducing a search function so users can ask their own questions and be taken directly to the right information.

People are also envisaging how technology could go beyond dispensing information to actually playing a role in ensuring that legal advice is heeded. It’s not hard to see how this could be applied in compliance, for instance. Legal advice could be embedded in digital processes and systems which either generate alerts when advice isn’t being abided by or even ‘forces’ adherence with the advice that’s been programmed.

Making change happen

In a preceding post, I outlined how it is that cloud computing is bringing legal software within easy reach of in-house legal teams. However, the roadblock to in-house counsel’s early adoption of technology could lie in the willingness to embrace change but is noticeable that an increasing proportion of lawyers want to know how technology can help them.

For those who’re interested in what technology can offer, my first piece of advice is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. A first step should be to take the time to look and see what’s out there and look at trusted technology platforms that can be tailored but also offer a lot of core functionality ‘out of the box’. Many of these platforms are innovating at pace, putting you at the leading edge rather than the bleeding edge of the curve.

Next it’s probable that you will have to make some kind of business case to get the funds to introduce technology. At this point get the experts – the legal technology solution providers and peers – to help. They’ll happily supply you with the data and case studies which demonstrate the impact that the introduction of such technology can have.

A ‘foundation’ platform and a good starting point, which will quickly have a big beneficial impact is an email and document management solution. Today’s modern cloud computing technology has the capacity to make legal teams more efficient and more valued by the business.


About the author

Lloyd Ellison joined Tikit in February 2013 and he has an excellent knowledge of software, IT services, network and communication technologies. His experience stretches across many client sectors. Lloyd has enjoyed working closely with many Professional Services firms, UK FTSE 100 and Global 500 clients over the last decade.