Choosing software

This article was originally published in Legaltech News.

We’ve talked about measuring what matters and key characteristics of a high-functioning legal operations team, but how does legal software fit into your organization’s larger business strategy? The right software can help your legal operations team achieve maximum efficiency so they can spend less time on day-to-day tasks and more time driving true business value.

But what exactly is “the right software”? The answer will be different for every organization. Each corporation has its own goals, and no two legal operations departments are alike. Legal operations teams come in different sizes and have their own unique workloads. Choosing the right software to match a team’s specific needs can mean the difference between a well-oiled machine and one that’s just spinning its wheels.

However, with a number of options on the market, there are a few common denominators that define ‘world-class’ legal operations software. Here are two to look for:

Work With Vendors Willing to Make You Their Partner

Legal operations software is an investment, and to ensure you are able to leverage the software for maximum value, your vendor needs to be all in—not just during the sales process and implementation, but throughout the lifecycle of the solution. Work with vendors who see you as a partner, not a customer. At the start, look for solution providers that have demonstrated a robust understanding of your business processes and are willing to collaborate with you to configure their software to fit your needs. Your solution should be defined to fit your organization’s style, not the other way around. Additionally, this will reduce the time it takes to integrate the technology into the business.

Make sure the vendor gives you the opportunity to get involved in the design process and/or software testing to ensure that it actually works as you expected it would. The software should ideally minimize movement between systems and truly integrate into not only existing workflows, but other tools. For example, if you’re a Microsoft Office shop, make sure you know whether the proposed software integrates with that solution. If possible, look for a tool that requires very little (if any) adjustment to use and integrate.

Once you are up and running, there should be a strong vendor support structure, including training specialists and named account managers to address any questions you may have. There should also be client user groups and focus groups that let you provide input into product roadmaps and the chance to network with other clients to share best practices. Best in class vendors understand these engagements help optimize the experience and make life better for everybody.

Find the Right Balance Between Features and Usability

Legal operations teams wear a number of hats, spanning multiple departments—these teams don’t need their jobs complicated by overly-complex software. There is a delicate balance between essential features and ease of use.

The technology should be easy to navigate, so users can quickly access the core features they need to do their jobs in an efficient manner. Users should intuitively know where to go and what features to use to accomplish their tasks. Those steps should be minimal and clearly marked so that users spend less time trying to figure out what to do, and more time getting their work done. After all, if your legal operations software complicates your business more than it helps, then it’s not doing its job.

You can help by keeping things simple. Before purchasing the software, create a short list of requirements that are essential to your team’s success. Focus on software that highlights those features above all else, preemptively reducing extraneous noise. As with most things, legal operations software should follow the Goldilocks principle: an effective tool strikes a balance between too little or too many features.

The right legal technology for your organization might be hard to find and, ultimately, whichever solution you decide on should be the system that best fits your particular situation. But overall, your vendor should be a partner committed to your success, and your technology should ensure your operations run smoothly and doesn’t leave your team spinning its wheels.

About The Author

Nathan Cemenska

Nathan Cemenska, JD/MBA, is the Director of Legal Operations and Industry Insights at Wolters Kluwer's ELM Solutions. He previously worked in management consultancy helping GCs improve law department performance and has prior experience as a legal operations business analyst.

In past lives, Nathan owned and operated a small law firm and wrote two books about election law. He holds degrees from Northwestern University, Ohio State University, and Cleveland State University.