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The pace of change in legal tech, from the GC’s perspective

The pace of change in legal tech

From the GC’s perspective

Many general counsel find the pace of change of legal tech overwhelming. What is your advice on how they can stay on top of this?  

I would recommend focussing on your own priorities, not the legaltech market as a whole! Set out well-defined priorities for improvement in your legal department and focus on that. While the market may feel like it is moving at pace around you, a lot of this is noise – the core functionality on offer really isn’t moving as fast – and investigating everything at once doesn’t help you deliver what you need, today.

Nurture a small change management skillset to manage your own priorities and reduce operational risk, and plan to understand and implement your priorities in depth, which won’t be everything at once. For example, if your immediate focus is on putting in place a developing legal self-service capability, contract review workflow, or e-Signatures, these alone are relatively sizeable projects which could keep you busy for a year or more. For everything not on your immediate list, perhaps keep an eye out for themes in conferences or legal media to understand the big trends, but I wouldn’t worry about missing out – the technology will still be there when your priorities match.

What is driving the move from single purpose point solutions to platforms, and what can we expect next in this space?

See this from the customer side: the legal market currently forces the customers to do all the hard work to select and implement solutions (e.g. a system of record, plus machine learning term extraction, plus e-Signature), and string them together to achieve their desired outcomes (contract review!). Demand for platforms has therefore been driven by two themes: frustration at the limitations of disconnected point solutions to achieve the sort of connected, efficient end to end processes customers want, and the advances in available platforms which wrap together features previously only available as point solutions (i.e. offering a 1-stop shop).

The ‘what next’ is interesting. This is a commoditisation/innovation story reinforced by the evolution of the wider market. As platforms solidify around a common set of ‘market-fit’ functionality, customers currently bespoking point solutions to their environment should be able to rely more on commonly understood, packaged processes, which will drive further innovation and demand for new products and services – which in turn will support the continued evolution of the service provider market. Perhaps a genuine application store for legal work will emerge, tied into a more mature, productised legal services market; or the ability to connect live data from across the enterprise, reportable via platforms, will drive innovative risk management tools with embedded automation and prediction capabilities.

We’ve had the Cloud, we’ve had AI solutions; in your opinion, what is the next big thing when it comes to legal tech?  

These have a way to go yet, as the overall adoption of both cloud and ‘AI’ based solutions is still depressingly low in Legal due to a mix of understandable factors such as client data handling concerns, or lack of sufficient investment vis-à-vis the rest of the enterprise.

We can guess at many of the trends which are in their infancy now; for example, technology meeting users where they are by providing multiple ways to interact with applications – as an industry we’ve just about engaged with ‘mobile’ (phones, tablets); perhaps further down the road this will expand along consumer lines to voice-activated user interfaces (e.g. ‘give me an update on X contract’). Connected, structured live data plugged in to more sophisticated prediction algorithms has potential to provide personalised recommendations for tasks, ‘things you might need to know’, etc – for example MS Outlook already does this to a degree. 

There are huge challenges we’ll need to overcome, such as data privacy: much of this functionality presumes you will allow your data to be ‘connected’. Structuring of the data itself is another major issue: the legal market from a data consistency perspective is something of a dog’s dinner, but all technology to some degree relies on data being structured and well understood.

Who has been the biggest influence in your career?

When working in corporate strategy and implementation in a prior career, my manager at the time taught me many valuable lessons – such as understanding that a feeling of true ‘ownership’ of delivery or a problem is key to achieving the best outcomes; that the people we engage with in business are not robots but people with personalities, incentives, and needs; that the best managers want their team members to outgrow them; or that having fun makes hard work that much more worthwhile!