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Six ways legal technology can solve in-house pain

Life as in-house counsel has many benefits. Working closely with internal clients, building an understanding of the business, operating with greater autonomy, developing a sense of acceptable risk. But any in-house counsel knows that those upsides come with a unique set of frustrations to be managed on a daily basis.

A survey in 2017 shows that there is a huge opportunity for corporate counsel to tackle those frustrations with legal technology. Only 21% of respondents reported having e-contracts, and only 5% use intelligent contract software. 17% use no technology whatsoever. With pressure on budgets, it’s imperative to build a compelling business case for adopting legal tech.

Fortunately, that’s an increasingly easy task. Ultimately, legal technology makes in-house lawyers more available to tackle strategic issues and build the strong, embedded relationships that allow them to add tangible value to the business. At Lexico, we do this by standardising the drafting and review process, but there are a number of ways that technology can help more broadly. Here’s six of them.

1. Demystifying matter management

Few in-house teams have access to the kind of legal matter management software commonly used by private firms. Which means corporate counsel are reduced to picking through an unintelligible mess of folders, sub-folders and poorly named documents in the shared drive or dispersed inboxes. Over time, delays, miscommunication and repetition of work compound. This operational complexity results in frustration and sub-par results for lawyers and clients alike.

New legal technologies offer many approaches to improving this situation. Unifying a team’s output, seamlessly implementing improvements, enabling effortless document accessibility: in place of complexity, software solutions provide consistency.

2. Empowering DIY clients

You do your best to train your internal clients on the importance of seeking legal input, but there will always be one. They’ve seen it before, they know the words, nothing to it

In-house legal advisers: technology and efficiency, Info Track (2017)

– right? Never mind the time it often takes to unpick all that well-meant effort

It’s important to empower internal clients while ensuring that legal teams are still kept in the loop. This is where legal technology shines – from automating document creation, to project and spending management, as well as analytics and many others. Internal clients can directly engage and interact with matters, while the lawyer can concentrate on higher-value advice. Sounds like a win-win.

3. Dealing with last-minute merchants

Your day is planned out, your to-do list prioritised to perfection. And then.
Whether straightforward or complex, urgent requests are always a hassle. And in a corporate context, there’s little patience for perfecting documentation when KPIs are in contention.

Almost a third of contracts only come to legal for review when the negotiation process is already underway. With the right document, workflow management, research and outsourcing tools, you’ll be much better placed to manage and exceed the expectations of your internal clients.

4. Capturing otherwise hidden risks

“Legal takes too long. This is just a run-of-the-mill thing. It isn’t that important. The counterparty won’t change its terms anyway.”

Even if legal review processes are well-implemented, it’s hard to avoid the occasional document flying under the radar – and the significant risks that can accompany documents finalised without legal review.

Over 10% of contracts only come to legal at the end of negotiation – or after deal completion. Making legal more available for quick turnaround enhances the chances of identifying risks that would otherwise go unnoticed – and even if negotiation isn’t possible, allows for active risk management. Quicker document preparation, better meeting set up, more effective external support: all ways legal technology can improve responsiveness, reel in clients and reign in risks.

5. Streamlining flow work

Repetitive, straightforward flow work is a reality of many in-house legal roles. Every business has its fair share of typical transactions, many of which are strategically insignificant. Even where you have implemented preferred precedents for standard transactions, the legal team will still be bombarded by slightly-out-of-the-ordinary, yet still basic, documentation.

Reviewing your 1000th confidentiality agreement is not only tedious, it detracts from more sophisticated work. Systems that can automate review, identify potential problems, or suggest your own team’s preferred wording? Lifesavers.

6. Clearing out the inbox

How is your inbox looking today? Actually, no, don’t answer that – but wouldn’t it be nice to clear out some of those red flags?

Using legal tech to burn through low-value work, and better manage more challenging matters, frees up time to build better relationships with the business. Leverage technology to manage email, efficiently interact with your team and clients, automate documents, searches and legal research, and outsource to external providers and watch the red flags disappear.

Looks like you’ll have time for that coffee with your client after all.

Nick is the founder of Lexico, a software platform tailored for smarter, faster legal drafting and review.