Legal Tech's In-House Challenge: Finding Its Place Among Enterprise Solutions


14 December 2020

Instead of relying on legal tech, some legal departments are looking to reuse or embrace enterprise-level solutions that are already deployed within their organizations. Still, there remain some legal department tasks that agnostic tech just can't crack.

While corporate law departments may be using technology, they aren’t necessarily gravitating toward solutions designed specifically with the legal vertical in mind. Instead, in-house attorneys may be leveraging enterprise-level tools that bridge multiple departments and help to enable smoother company-wide workflows.

So what exactly are departments repurposing? Catherine Moynihan, executive director of Association of Corporate Counsel legal operations, pointed to enterprise technologies such as service intake tools, contract templates and collaboration platforms as areas where a legal-specific approach is not required. “I think what we’re seeing emerge is that legal departments are as much as possible leveraging enterprise technology or existing technologies on the internal side,” she said. And the benefits aren’t necessarily limited to just cost savings. For example, Moynihan pointed out that maintaining a continuity of solutions across department lines can also make it simpler to share documents or complete other projects with colleagues outside of the in-house team. “It’s much easier when everyone is using the same tool for that,” she said.

The growing cybersecurity threat faced by many organizations around the globe as well as privacy concerns can also make introducing any new product into an existing corporate ecosystem a time-consuming affair. Nathan Cemenska, director of legal operations and industry insights at Wolters Kluwer’s ELM Solutions, indicated that those concerns may further encourage legal departments to make use of an enterprise solution from their company’s existing repertoire. “It’s already been vetted for security and functionality,” he said.
It also may help that the providers of enterprise level solutions are starting to target the legal market specifically. Zach Abramowitz, a consultant in the legal technology space, noted that enterprise-level providers such as the project management tool and cloud-computing platform ServiceNow have dedicated pages on their site for legal teams. “[They've] figured out, ‘Hey listen, we’ve marketed to the entire company already. Why don’t we see what we can do for legal?,’” he said. It might be too early to tell whether that gamble will successfully appeal to legal departments, but it could be worth a shot. “I think that that’s just really savvy on the part of some of the enterprise providers, to be aware of tailoring that might be needed for that particular [legal] function and provide it. … I think we’ll probably see more of that,” Moynihan at ACC said.

However, law departments likely won’t be cutting legal specific technology entirely out of the loop anytime soon. For instance, Moynihan expects for solutions such as RFP tools to continue playing a key role in navigating relationships with outside counsel.

“That whole external interface really might be the area where legal specific tools are going to remain the most relevant,” she said.

There also are tools built around items like matter spend or e-billing that are likely to remain a necessity for legal departments but potentially have little utility elsewhere in the organization—which could give legal tech providers operating in those areas an edge. Cemenska at Wolters Kluwer ELM Solutions said he doubts whether many enterprise-level vendors want to get into e-billing, for example.

“The reality is that companies like Microsoft are typically really not interested in whatever problems the legal department is having,” he said.


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