In-House Departments Lead Legal Innovation

These days, in-house departments are playing an increasingly critical role in legal innovation. Because they’re on the front lines of the business world, with the closest proximity to real pain points, many are increasingly open-minded in adopting new technologies to address old problems. I recently shared my observations with Legal 500. Here are the top three.

The Business Pressures For In-House Lawyers Are Real

Legal departments are increasingly asked to do more with less. In response, they have increasingly figured out the importance of using twenty-first-century tools to get results. So, it’s not surprising that the adoption of tools and innovation has been led predominantly by in-house lawyers. The pressures in-house are higher than anywhere else.

When we work with our in-house clients, they have often already adopted newer, more sophisticated tools to improve their ability to make smarter decisions and work better and more efficiently. They already know first-hand how technology improves their personal lives and the professional lives of their colleagues, and they are increasingly curious about how it could make their lives easier in the legal department. We also have a new generation of lawyers who cannot imagine practicing law without technology because they have grown up with technology everywhere, in all aspects of their lives. Combined with the pressures of businesses, these factors have lead to open-mindedness to new technology, even if accompanied by caution.

Exploring And Adopting New Tech Strategically Is A Must

A good place to start is with pain points. You need to identify where the vulnerabilities and weak spots are in your department or business. Then look for solutions or processes that have been developed or are being developed. You then need to become a beta tester. This means not only seeing a demo but actually trying it out. And don’t just try one thing, try at least a couple, because: (i) you will learn a lot about what is available in terms of solutions; and (ii) you will gain a different view of the problem you have.

By the time you’re done beta-testing and thinking about your challenges ahead, you will find a selection of possible solutions to address those challenges. That allows you to: (i) do what you’re trained to do and focus on solving complex problems; (ii) have an impact on your business and enjoy the future influence it brings in shaping opportunities down the road; and (iii) impact relationships not just within your organization, but in the market as a whole.

You then need to become a beta tester. This means not only seeing a demo but actually trying out the technology and sharing that solution outside your organization. Members of the legal community can learn from you and come to view you as a leader and an authority in the field.

Technology Will Transform The Legal Practice For The Better

Email changed communication and replaced writing letters. Did it reduce the volume of our communications? No, it has increased them because it has made communicating easier. Technology does not decrease the need for legal advice but opens up new possibilities and allows providing legal advice to be more efficient.

Gain Confidence In Your Briefs By Using This New Legal Research Tool

How often have you submitted a brief and wondered what might be missing? Make those days a thing of the past.

Yes, the fears around technology are understandable. By using bigger, better tools, there will be even more important, strategic decisions for us to make to further maximize our impact. Technology presents opportunities for us to have a greater impact and engage in more exciting work that we enjoy doing together.

Let technology be your friend. If you are thoughtful in how you make use of it, technology will transform your practice. But it is a process and one that requires constant testing, communication, and, yes, some risk-taking. Don’t let fear get in the way.

Part of Olga V. Mack’s series of Above the Law articles.

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