Legaltech or Legalweek: An Emphasis on Crossfunction Collaboration
Despite the amusing challenge conference organizers and attendees faced playing “guess the hashtag,” it was clear that Legalweek18’s expanded focus is beginning to take hold, even if the branding had a few hiccups. There was considerable synergy between five individual events – from LegalCIO to LegalMarketing – in terms of content, but each functional conference still had its own distinct feel.
Looking at cybersecurity from the unique perspective of CIOs, marketers, and lawyers does have its merits, but I suspect that the lines between the groups will blur as we move forward. In fact, at many sessions, there was an underlying emphasis on crossfunction collaboration rather than rigid lines of responsibilities - so we may see continued evolution in Legalweek’s strategy over the next year or two.
A Fundamental Shift in How Legal Business is Done
It was not surprising to hear a constant drumbeat on pain points. The legal industry is going through a fundamental and game-changing shift, with internal legal operations teams now expected to prove ROI like any other business unit and law firms facing disruption from the Big Four and alternate service providers (ASPs). These changes have some worried. When you couple that with a number of technology solutions at their disposal to solve these new challenges, attendees had more questions than answers.
But they came to learn, and learn they did. The sessions were a well thought out mix of topics that all built off of each other. A session on GDPR nicely followed several sessions on protecting data. Cybersecurity was discussed at both the societal and practical levels. Applications of artificial intelligence and machine learning were held up as examples of how the industry is addressing the growing needs for greater efficiency, accuracy, and discoverability.
Across sessions, there was discussion about the many roadblocks we face in our work. We heard a panel of distinguished judges discussing the nascent ESI (Electronically Stored Information) and eDiscovery challenges companies and courts are facing while, at the same time, courts are experiencing some of the highest vacancy rates in history. Corporate legal departments and law firms both pointed to a lack of clear understanding of the resources and responsibilities they had to address things like security and ROI and complex guidelines and regulations.
Perhaps the biggest indicator of the changes going on in this industry came when a speaker from a major law firm remarked that more than 25% of the firm’s business now come from alternative fee arrangements (AFAs), while litigation was down to roughly the same amount. This typifies the change being experienced in every role and in every type of organization represented at the conference. It shows that everything is up for grabs. We all must approach our roles with fresh thinking, because every element of the legal industry is facing disruption on a scale we have not seen before.
Change is the New Normal; Embrace It
This is not a doomsday prediction - it’s a fact. Those whose companies are savvy enough to embrace it will be the ones to drive that change in their favor.
Of course, there are a number of areas to focus on and ways to start embracing change, whether its people, process, or technology. In my own organization, we are constantly assessing our ELM tools and solutions to meet these demands. We ask ourselves how can add more value to client relationships, outside of revenue. The answer lies in continued collaboration with partners and customers to develop solutions and strategies together, rather than focusing only on our own goals.
Something I’m very proud of is how much we invest in R&D at Wolters Kluwers. It means what clients tell us in beta and design programs and in user groups and roadmap planning sessions can become a reality faster than ever. It also means clients can quickly capitalize on the ever-changing legal landscape. It’s an investment we are happy to make, but it is a sharp difference in the way software has been sold to the legal space in the past.
Legal Professionals Demand a Better Customer Experience
One area that wasn’t front and center but was echoed by many was customer experience, so I wanted to elaborate on exactly how the complex can become simple. ELM tools by nature can be complex, yet GCs, lawyers, paralegals – the people that must rely on them – do not have the time nor the inclination to become software experts. And why should they?
The tools they use every day must be so well-designed and intuitive that users never even give them a second thought. Data and reporting must, eventually, be as easy to access as Alexa or Siri. This is the legal industry’s challenge as we move ahead - getting complex information into the hands of all who need it in a way that is secure, easily accessible, and compatible with the way everyone in the department works. By getting this right, teams can not only work smarter, but quickly apply data to make better business decisions.
We are up for that challenge, alongside the panelists, speakers, and attendees this week. Are you?
To help in your mission for legal operations excellence, download this whitepaper: The Call for Innovation in the Law Department