The benefits of closer collaboration within Legal Tech

The benefits of closer collaboration within Legal Tech

Legal communities often talk of their desire to achieve collaborative working. The aim is to bring together legal, technical and product specialists with different mindsets, backgrounds and experience, to help boost innovation, increase understanding and ultimately build better product solutions.

At the latest London Law Expo, Karen Waldron and Dani Mccormick shared how LexisNexis has moved towards new collaborative working practices and culture. They outlined LexisNexis learnings which could help you to reach this goal.

Creating the right culture and environment to enable collaboration

Achieving a collaborative way of working is more than just throwing together a variety of people in a room and hoping something great comes out of it. Instead, a wider cultural change is vital in attaining the benefits of closer collaboration.

Cultural change is difficult and takes time. But, as LexisNexis discovered, it’s worth it.

Three key building blocks of business collaboration

On its journey, LexisNexis identified three key building blocks that allow collaboration to flourish in business:

Physical environment

In order to bring your teams together, one of the easiest things to do is change your physical environment. Though it is not the be all and end all, it is a start.

LexisNexis recently made the move to locally based development teams, creating a shared environment for them to work – the ‘Tech Hub’. This space has bought together technology, product, delivery and user experience teams. Crucially, these development teams work alongside the legal content experts in LexisPSL. By bringing the teams together it has enabled them to work on common goals in a cross-functional approach.

Creating a new environment not only allows the space, facilities and means to employ agile and service design practices, but also enables continuous learning through discussion and experimentation.

Benefits seen by LexisNexis included:

  • moving from silo based work to more cross functional teams
  • having more optimal communication, quicker product development and getting a better understanding of customer needs
  • moving from a waterfall to agile working practice.  This led to the constant daily flow of information that informed continuous development decisions

Measuring success

Another key to successful collaboration is to focus your business on tracking measurable outcomes rather than solely the delivery of products, or technological features.

By doing this, you are minimising the potential for tunnel vision, potentially looking at the wrong solutions. It opens up space for teams to do what is best for a project and be more creative in how they achieve an outcome, creating more innovative results.

Business and investment planning

Annual budgeting and reliance on lengthy business cases to approve investments can be limiting. Pressure on creating up front traditional business cases can also result in temptation and expectation to double down on specific deliverables that have been approved to meet the business case projections.  Often market needs have moved on or the proposed solution evolved.

LexisNexis realised that this approach needed to change.  By understanding the problem to be solved, the outcome expected by solving it and what that outcome will deliver for the business has allowed teams to experiment with a range of options and pivot or stop if that idea fails.

Why is the move to collaboration so beneficial?

Collaboration equals a well-rounded business. By gathering your teams together, you can get inputs from diverse mindsets, experiences and expertise.

In LexisNexis’ case, it has helped to ensure prototype products are quickly built. For example, LexisNexis legal and technical experts worked together to create an innovative Q&A prototype solution based on Halsburys Laws of England. The combination of legal and technical expertise allowed for rapid increases in the accuracy of the prototype.  Constant communication meant the team were able to understand, learn and implement changes quickly.

Diverse experience also provides the opportunity to challenge, clarify, and employ a wider range of techniques to solving a common problem. The focus on outcomes and the ability to shift focus or pivot in direction means that the team can experiment and learn together.

Key takeaways

Waldron and Mccormick shared some of the lessons LexisNexis has learned in their journey so far on improving collaborative working practices. These lessons can be applied for any business, helping increase collaboration to achieve better outcomes or quicker innovation:

  • Simply moving the furniture isn’t enough, but it is a good start. Moving to a new open plan space without attempting wider cultural change, doesn’t automatically deliver collaboration. However, for LexisNexis, it made a huge difference.  I facilitated the time and space for teams to collaborate on a continuous basis. It is very difficult to achieve true collaboration with colleagues who rarely spend time together or who rely on pre-arranged meetings to share expertise. The ability to constantly share views with colleagues from different functional areas sitting alongside each other should not be underestimated.
  • All cultural change is difficult…and creating the right environment and culture takes time.  Patience is key, as it is likely you will not get it right first time, so celebrate good practices and successful outcomes. Mindsets can be the hardest to change. Focusing on encouraging empathy both with colleagues and customers, experimentation, testing against outcomes and not being afraid to fail can really help. Being patient, coaching and guiding employees through this change helps it to become established behaviour.
  • Focus on expertise rather than role. It is only human in a time of change and uncertainty to fall back into the perceived comfort and certainty of job roles. This can create tension. However, for collaboration to yield the best outcomes, expertise is more important than role. Fundamentally, it is not about whose job it is, instead it is about a team collectively thinking ‘what can I bring to solving this problem’—whether that is legal expertise, technical expertise or the discipline and objectivity of product and design thinking
  • People > Process> Tech. This is primarily about how people work together, providing them with flexible enough processes to do so effectively.  The technology will follow. It is vital to approach it in this order, as technology on top of bad process and without people with the correct mindset will not lead to good outcomes.
  • Outcomes are better than deliverables. Focusing on, rather than mandating, specific outcomes permits teams to be flexible in reaching better solutions. Encouraging more time together discussing problems before rushing to solutions, will ensure you are getting maximum value from collaboration. Everyone has a part to play. Tech colleagues will bring an additional view or alternative angle. Product can focus on ensuring clarity of the problem articulated and the desired outcome. Legal colleagues can help explain context of the problem and encourage empathy for the user of your service. 

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About the author:

Hannah is one of the Future of Law blog’s digital and technical editors. She graduated from Northumbria University with a degree in History and Politics and previously freelanced for News UK, before working as a senior news editor for LexisNexis.