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3 legal technologies that are revolutionising in-house departments

28 / 04 / 2017
3 legal technologies that are revolutionising in-house...Technology investment is a key priority for in-house legal teams, with departments keen to improve efficiency and the impact of their work. 

Last year, Eversheds and Winmark research showed that 87 per cent of in-house lawyers wanted innovative systems to help them better store and retrieve information, while 61 per cent hoped automation would save time. 

How can technology help in-house departments?

A 2016 Law Society report, titled The Future of Legal Services, noted that technology is one of the biggest drivers of change across the industry, with platforms helping businesses in five key ways: 
  • Idea creation for new models of organisation and process innovation;
  • Support changes to consumer decision-making and purchasing behaviours;
  • Generate work around new technology laws, such as cyber security and data protection;
  • Reduce costs via artificial intelligence systems;
  • Enable suppliers to streamline commodity and procedural work.
"In-house teams need to free up the highly trained individuals within their teams to focus on work of strategic value and, increasingly, to focus on providing business advice," said managing partner at Eversheds Lee Ranson. 

"The digital innovations offered by legal services providers can be instrumental in driving efficiencies to achieve this."

But what legal technology platforms offer the biggest benefits and potential for in-house departments? Let's take a closer look at tech platforms within the sector. 

1. Legal research AI 

Research can be an incredibly time-consuming task for lawyers; the American Bar Association estimated lawyers with less than ten years' experience spend 28 per cent of their time on these activities. 

However, as businesses look to cut their legal costs, in-house departments must find ways of reducing the amount of time they spend on research. Platforms such as IBM Watson and ROSS are designed to fulfil this need. 

IBM Watson is a supercomputer that relies on artificial intelligence and analytical software to answer questions. It powers ROSS, dubbed the world's first artificially intelligent attorney, which is able to sift through a billion text documents in just seconds to answer lawyers' questions. The platform is also able to learn how to improve over time based on past performance, revolutionising the way in which legal departments approach research. 

2. Cloud computing 

Cloud computing adoption has reached record heights in the UK, with Cloud Industry Forum data showing that 84 per cent of businesses use these services. Nearly four out of five cloud users utilise two or more different platforms. 

However, legal firms have traditionally been slow to move into the cloud due to security reasons. An InsideLegal survey found that 55 per cent of law firms cited the threat of hackers and other cyber criminals to client data as the most compelling reason to avoid such systems. It is likely this attitude carries across into in-house departments. 

Nevertheless, many lawyers understand the benefits that cloud computing can bring. Seventy-one per cent listed disaster recovery and business continuity as the top benefit, while 51 and 35 per cent said flexibility and cost savings, respectively. 

3. Matter management solutions 

Enterprise software is common across many industries, enabling businesses to track various operations, including human resources, inventories, supply chains and customer relationships. 

A matter management solution is enterprise software specifically designed for corporate legal matters. The larger an in-house legal department becomes, the more difficult it is to have oversight over document management, budgeting and billing, reporting and external counsel interactions. 

Knowing what legal matters are currently outstanding, who is working on them and which resources are being used is crucial for optimising performance. Matter management software centralises this information and delivers key insights into in-house processes, enabling lawyers to avoid manual tasks and free themselves up for value-generating activities. 

Are lawyers tech-savvy enough? 

Technology can be a great way to improve the performance of in-house legal departments. However, even the most innovative systems are only as good as the people using them, which is why businesses need tech-savvy lawyers who can leverage maximum functionality out of new investments. 

The Eversheds and Winmark study found that one-third of general counsel are concerned their teams lack IT skills, while 51 per cent said they doubted their own procurement abilities when buying new technologies.

"If law firms can provide digital services that genuinely add value to in-house lawyers, not only will it help strengthen client relationships but it will also help those firms build the case for investment in their own digital technologies and training," said Charlotte Walker-Osborn, head of Eversheds' global telecommunications, media and technology sector.

Both in-house departments and lawyers may need to examine their current readiness for digital change within the industry and potentially brush up on their knowledge and skills to take full advantage of innovation. 

Our 2017 Market Report combines our review of the prevailing conditions in the in-house legal recruitment market together with the results of our latest employer survey.

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