3 ways legal leaders can make more time for tomorrow

Digitising routine legal tasks saves 20% of your team's time

The last few years have seen many businesses fast-track their digital transformation in order to serve their customers and employees. This rapid digital adoption across workplaces has demonstrated the benefits that come from using digital solutions: faster processes, collaboration despite distance, and flexibility for remote workers. 

But if you work in a risk-averse business sector, you’d be forgiven for feeling like the digital revolution hasn’t yet materialised in your day-to-day workload. 

In a survey by Ernst and Young (EY), 64% of senior legal practitioners say the legal space hasn’t benefitted from digital innovations as much as other functions. 

To help their organisations deliver greater value and provide better experiences, legal leaders should consider modernising their systems and processes. 

All of this empowers legal leaders to spend less time on manual paperwork and more time on impactful, value-adding tasks and forward-planning, enabling them to become trusted advisors for their organisations. 

Here are three ways legal leaders can stay future-ready for tomorrow —and save time today. 

1. Start with changing your mindset

Some legal professionals tend to employ an “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” mantra when it comes to technology. They think the way they have been working and serving clients is good enough or in line with client expectations. But, along with the tension between investment pressures and service demands, there are many reasons why lawyers and legal professionals need to take a fresh look at what clients want and start thinking differently about technology.

Lawyers tend to be openly wary about the potential risks of new tech. Not only does this ignore the security credentials and efficiency benefits of many solutions, as well as the ability to customise them for compliance purposes, but it ignores that paper-based processes may increase your risk exposure in some ways. Paper processes lack the visibility and clear audit trail provided by most digital workflows. 

According to our research, 47% of law departments process more than 1,000 agreements every month. With such a huge volume of agreements to manage, it’s no surprise that almost half (49%) of legal departments say they have difficulty maintaining security and confidentiality, while 44% experience risk from the inability to proactively detect problematic language.

Risk is a poor reason to delay technology implementation (or refuse it completely), and those who wait to implement new digital ways of working could be gambling with their competitive edge and their ability to keep and attract talent. A change in mindset requires a top-down recognition of these risks. 

2. Identify your most critical needs to improve efficiency 

In the legal sector, a lot of technology information and solutions gets thrown at you and it’s hard to know which tools are legitimately useful. Some are super shiny on the front end but don’t do what they say on the label. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

Legal leaders have a unique and important role to play within any organisation.

As a legal team, you should be trusted advisors, helping leadership to plan for the future. Instead, many legal teams are stuck in the day-to-day minutiae, such as creating, managing, organising and following up on contracts and agreements.

This is crucial work, but it’s labour-intensive and time-consuming. And it means that legal leaders don’t have time to step into bigger, more strategic roles and increase their impact across the organisation.

To cut through the noise, start with your most obvious bottlenecks or employee pain points. EY found 67% of legal functions are devoting 20% of their time to low-value tasks and routine compliance. Is this true for your organisation and, if so, what’s driving it? From there, you can map out how a digital solution would help and why a specific product is a good fit for those needs.

For instance, contract management is fertile ground for inefficiencies, with over one-third of all major agreements still using manual processes. Cloud-enabled contract management digitises and streamlines processes. What used to take days or weeks to complete, now takes hours or even minutes. Before implementation, these workflow processes were drawn-out rituals with back-and-forth emails, but it’s now possible to auto-generate a one-page consent form that guides the customer to specific areas for signing.

With the right tool to manage contracts and agreements end-to-end, legal teams can create standardised processes with pre-set workflows, approved templates and clause libraries, all of which help to ensure consistency and compliance at scale. 

It is a huge advantage to have the ability to monitor agreement processes from any location, empowering you to flag problems early and keep transactions moving forward despite physical distancing requirements. It also helps reduce some of your biggest bottlenecks, which means you can focus on proactive and strategic tasks instead of chasing paper or emailing for approvals.

3. Establish digital champions

Understanding what’s at stake and narrowing your priorities are important first steps, but you also need to find team members who can act as ambassadors for change and digital efficiency. There are usually early adopters hungry for the convenience of digital tools. Identify who they are and enlist them to bring others on board.

These digital champions are crucial partners from start to finish. They provide on-the-ground feedback about inefficiencies and potential product solutions, as well as communicating the benefits to the wider team before, during and after implementation.

It’s not just about bringing people on-side. Change management can be a major hurdle even if your team is enthusiastic about the change. A good digital champion can encourage adoption while helping everyone get the most out of the solution. 

UK law firm Womble Bond Dickinson, received overwhelmingly positive feedback from both employees and clients—electronic signatures are reducing contract turnaround times, improving the customer experience, and increasing efficiency; enabling lawyers to focus on important work rather than wasting time tracking, chasing and manually completing documents. 

Docusign eSignature has now been adopted by almost all WBD teams—enabling employees to gain control over the signing process by eliminating the need for scanning, printing and posting. 88% of contracts signed via Docusign are now signed in less than 24 hours, and 66% of them signed in less than an hour. It used to take a minimum of 2 days to obtain “wet ink” signatures and sometimes up to a week.   

Talking about digital change is easy, but making it happen can be hard, especially since most legal teams are already spread pretty thin. But with regulatory environments becoming more complex, increasing pressure to invest, and digital trends showing no signs of slowing down, the legal sector has reached a stage where it’s time to think seriously about technology as a priority. 

Legal function leads should not only ask themselves whether or not their processes are currently broken, but also how they can future-proof their ways of working to help them stay resilient and competitive.  

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