How Important is Digital Transformation to the Legal Sector ?
10 December 2020
Due in part to an unprecedented series of tech disruptions and global shocks, digital transformation needs to take hold in the legal industry – now more than ever before.
Sure, the term is mentioned quite often these days. It may even seem like a no-brainer. After all, the world has already ‘gone digital,’ by and large. Instead of the manual processing of paperwork, for instance, cloud technology, artificial intelligence, and other digitally-based solutions ‘make the world go round.’ Important documents, where possible, are created and stored in digital formats. Or, if they are analog – or paper-based – to begin with, they are digitized for easier storage, retrieval, and use in the future.
Digital transformation doesn’t merely mean ‘going paperless,’ though. It’s a term that’s used to describe shifts, however seismic, with the application and use of digital technology in every aspect of society, particularly commercial. Segments touched by it include government, education, mass communication, and – perhaps less obviously – legal.
While this digital transformation unfolds before our eyes, pressure on general counsels and legal teams will surely mount. It becomes especially important whenever they are tasked by CEOs to find ways to do ‘more for less’ or evolve their end of the business. And it becomes critical when they must work from home (WFH) during times of crisis.
Digitization Makes Perfect Sense in Contract Management
I’ve often said that ‘contracts are the lifeblood of modern businesses’. So, it stands to reason that organizations function far better when contract generation and management are fully optimized.
Legal technology, in the form of contract lifecycle management (CLM) systems, allows lawyers to serve clients quicker and even expand services to whole new markets. That is because they can access contracts and related documents wherever and whenever they want. Just think about a centralized smart repository, AI analytics, and so on. Think fully digital documents that are signed, sent, edited, and redlined much more easily and effectively, compared to any traditional method.
These all represent a step up for today’s legal departments and firms – and an invitation to the proverbial party.
Fear of Technological Change
There is no question that digital has taken over the business world, transforming it across various bastions of resistance. And one of those bastions has been our legal profession and industry.
Until very recently, corporate legal teams far too often focused on the risks associated with new technologies and digitization altogether. Instead of looking at the enormous upsides of making such technological leaps forward.
There was the fear of technology transforming their regular functions. After all, the legal profession has been decidedly linear. After entering the legal industry lawyers work hard to reach the apex of their careers and simply don’t want their professions to change rather suddenly.
Within corporate legal teams and law firms, there is concern over adopting business processes too quickly, and having to develop new mindsets – and sets of skills along with them.
General counsels and other legal professionals may also fret that when digital transformation is introduced to their workplace, legal tech will replace their jobs altogether or, at least, completely transform them to the point that they are no longer familiar.
So lawyers may not have appreciated the true value of legal tech, in particular, and have been slow to adapt to – and capitalize on – such technology, as a result.
Nevertheless, we are now on the cusp of a ‘legal digital transformation’.
Time to Embrace Legal Digital Transformation
At this point in time, technology really isn’t going anywhere but upward.
In fact, global spending on digital transformation technologies and services will increase by 17 percent per year between 2019 and 2023, according to IDC. AI-powered CLM software, for example, has improved legal teams’ efficiency and effectiveness, and allowed them to focus on other crucial tasks.
Still, digital transformation is much more than platforms and data. “The human element is paramount at all levels”: the flexibility of entire operations and the optimization of end-to-end customer experience. In effect, they can lead to an expanded customer base and brand-new revenue source. And whereas technology enables companies’ digital transformation, the later enables new business paradigms.
Take a recent study conducted by the Altimeter Group, for instance. It highlights the top-five performance-oriented benefits of digital transformation: lift in customer engagement (75 percent), improved customer satisfaction(63 percent), higher digital traffic (53 percent), increased lead generation (49 percent),and greater conversions (46 percent). All told, it reveals how it increases productivity and helps companies to enhance overall customer experience.
Yet, applying technology thoughtfully, rather than randomly and hurriedly, is absolutely key. This means prioritizing an incremental transformation, which allows for corrective measures to be taken, instead of a ‘big-bang transformation,’ which has a higher risk of failure. The former can foster whole movements toward digital. The latter scenario may create work environments in which employees switch platforms too often, too quickly, not to mention ‘multiple versions of truth.’
In this light, it’s equally important to find the right partner – someone who will walk you through your current digital state and future objectives; show you every individual step of a CLM implementation process, for example; and, most of all, remain right by your side throughout your digital transformation journey.
More specifically, they can provide a consultative framework revealing your existing digital state, including an assessment and scorecard; define your ideal outcomes, and determine how to measure your success through key performance indicators (KPIs) and other metrics; and create an overall blueprint of how to get from your current state to all of the desired and necessary outcomes. In other words, it’s seldom simply about acquiring a specific piece of software.
Change on the Horizon
Ultimately, the legal industry stands to benefit enormously from digital transformation, just as others have in recent years. It’s essential to companies’ continued success, particularly during periods of crisis.
Legal professionals must learn to adapt to these new technologies – those having the potential to vastly improve everyday legal functions. Of course, technology is no panacea, as stated above. It’s merely a facilitator of the change process, not a sole agent. It works exceptionally well for organizations only if its leaders have an eye on changing the mindset of its members – the very company culture, itself – together with day-to-day organizational processes. They need to pursue and promote lifelong learning and constant professional development. That’s combined with seeking out proven expertise before they even decide what digital tools to employ and how exactly to use them.
Remember the saying by Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu: “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Now, take yours by asking how important legal digital transformation is to you.
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