How In-House Legal Departments are Driving Change in Legal Tech

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For a long time, I have witnessed how frustrating and time-consuming working on word documents and excel spreadsheets can be. Fiddling around with formatting and tediously reviewing documents on systems that crash. These are problems which have prevented lawyers from focusing on complex legal problems, collaborating with stakeholders and demonstrating the value that they provide to a company. The legal landscape has changed over the past 8 years from lawyers relying heavily on paralegals and trainees to spend hours tediously searching through documents to now working with law firms helping them to produce legal tech.

There has been a surge in legal tech particularly with in-house legal teams. Lawyers and software developers are coming up with solutions to make legal work more efficient by being able to provide real statistics showing companies the value that in-house legal teams provide and can drive change to key processes. These include document reviewing, drafting, research, tracking legal spend, analysing metrics, producing reports and self-service approaches to low risk processes such as non-disclosure agreements.

Keeping hard copy documents and manually recording matters is a huge burden for an in-house team particularly in a company that is trying to reduce its carbon footprint. That’s where matter management software comes in giving in-house teams an easy to use and quick way of tracking matters, dragging across emails, increasing transparency within the team and obtaining feedback from the company improving the legal team’s profile and visibility to the rest of the company.

Approaches to contract management were previously inconsistent with manual and time consuming processes implemented forcing staff to wade through pages of forms to be completed before obtaining approval for a contract. The use of AI has improved this process cutting down costs and improving the turn around time for reviewing a contract. The AI generates amendments and inserts comments into the contract based on information that is inputted into the system by the lawyer. This is useful for the lower risk commercial contracts that usually take up days to be reviewed. Paralegals or trainees can then undertake a review of the document without having to sift through pages, focusing on the information that has been flagged by the AI.

The legal industry is experiencing rapid change and COVID-19 has set the pace for innovative legal tech at a much faster rate with more demanding clients in a competitive market looking for lawyers who can help find solutions to their problems in a remote working environment. This change has accelerated the need for legal tech and the need for the legal industry to keep up with current trends and developments in technology. The surge in legal tech will no doubt cause a shift in the skill set required for lawyers and potentially affect the profitability of firms and the resource intake of in-house legal departments with legal tech giving the client more control such as software that drafts court forms and less need for in-house teams to employ staff to carry out administrative tasks proving to be more a cost-effective.

However, there are of course security concerns over storing personal data although over time legal tech will become more sophisticated to ensure compliance with data protection and information security. This will no doubt force firms and in-house legal teams to find new creative ways to stand out to its clients and presents an opportunity for junior lawyers to make their mark in their legal career by being at the forefront of innovation.

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