Technology: the benefits, risks, trends and metrics to track – an interview with Mark Yacano, global practice leader in managed legal services at Major, Lindsey & Africa

Technology: the benefits, risks, trends and metrics to track – an interview with Mark Yacano, global practice leader in managed legal services at Major, Lindsey & Africa

Mark Yacano, global practice leader in managed legal services at global legal recruiting and advisory firm, Major, Lindsey & Africa, discusses the use of technology in legal departments following the recent publication of The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) and MLA 2019 Global Legal Department Benchmarking Report.

What are the most common types of technology being used in legal departments?

According to the survey results, the top categories of technology being used by legal departments are:

• electronic signature

• contract management

• document management

• matter management/e-billing

What are the key benefits technology can bring to a legal department?

Technology can vastly improve turnaround time and increase legal department bandwidth. When a legal department adopts technology that accelerates the process of negotiating, drafting and signing contracts, it leads to a shorter sales cycle and a faster revenue generation cycle. Deploying workflow and automation tools that allow the business units to create certain low-risk documents without legal review provides the department with more bandwidth to handle more complex and higher risk work in a timely manner. In turn, increased bandwidth increases coverage and client satisfaction.

Are there any risks to a legal department that doesn’t adopt legal technology?

Most definitely. Technology not only creates efficiencies—it helps mitigate risk. Having the ability to track contractual obligations reduces the potential for inadvertent breaches, termination or renewal. Electronic signature ensures that agreements get properly executed, and ebilling/matter management is integral to spend management and cost control. Similarly, the use of good technology to preserve and collect electronically stored information (ESI) reduces the risk of spoliation and other discovery sanctions.

What are the most important technology-related metrics a legal department should be tracking and why?

This is a difficult question to answer because the metrics depend on the type of technology platform. That said, here are some of the things we look at when evaluating the benefits of deployed technology:

• has turnaround time improved?

• has the sales cycle gotten shorter?

• has reliance on outside counsel lessoned in a given area?

• has revenue been recaptured?

• has the legal department handled more work with its existing head count?

How can technology metrics be used to demonstrate a legal department’s contribution to the business?

Depending on a company’s given legal technology ecosystem, a forward-thinking legal department that has made the right investments should be able to show less spend on third-party providers, including outside counsel. Also, fewer instances of adverse economic consequences through inadequate obligations management and higher internal customer satisfaction shown through improved net promoter scores (NPS).

What were the key findings in the 2019 Global Legal Department Benchmarking Report around legal technology? What are the key takeaways from this report?

Legal departments have not fully embraced the adoption of technology. There is a lot of opportunity for technology providers to provide tools and systems to under-resourced legal departments. If you look at the number of participants that responded to questions about the most common vendors and systems, the number of respondents was under 40 for every category of technology except for electronic signature. A total of 508 companies responded to the survey, yet only a small number responded to the questions about technology. That suggests that a significant number of law departments have not been in a position to make technology investments.

Does this report reveal any trends? Are the results surprising in any way?

I found a couple of things interesting. First, the percentage of participants indicating they were ‘very satisfied’ with either their technology vendors or technology tools was under 20% in most categories. Most participants were either satisfied or neutral. That suggests a lot of room to improve the delivery of legal technology services. Second, Microsoft SharePoint was identified as the most common system across five categories of technology. In almost every one of those categories, there are much more powerful technology solutions available. It suggests to me that many law departments are defaulting to Microsoft solutions even though they often need to be heavily modified for adaptive use cases.

There are now so many legal tech solutions out there it can be overwhelming. Do you have any top tips to share about where to start and how a legal department can work out what’s right for them and their work?

Create a cross-functional team that includes legal, IT, sourcing and members of the business units. Define the use cases and functional needs requirements before vetting any technology. Prepare vendors by sharing the use cases and functional requirements in advance of any demos. At Major, Lindsey & Africa, we take clients through this exact process. We collaborate with clients to define their needs, then we arrange for a carefully curated group of providers to give tailored demos to the client. We also create and provide clients with scorecards to assess each vendor using common criteria. It helps clarify the process for everyone involved.

What is the next big thing in legal tech to look out for?

As legal departments continue to build legal operations teams, those process-minded teams will continue to expand the use of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to handle routine rules-based tasks and provide the business units with more self-serve options for creating routine types of legal documents. NetApp is an example of a law department that has done precisely that. As skilled legal technologists get increasingly better at blending AI tools with RPA, more applications will be built to perform complex compliance and regulatory monitoring.

Additional recommended reading:

The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) and MLA 2019 Global Legal Department Benchmarking Report.

In-house Insights Report: Legal Technology: Looking past the hype - we reveal how other legal departments are approaching, using and benefiting from new and trusted technologies and identify where to focus effort that has a proven track record of delivering improvement and value.

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About the author:

Louisa leads marketing for the in-house legal community at LexisNexis. She joined the dedicated in-house team at LexisNexis four years ago and has a passion for driving and facilitating initiatives which are customer-focused at their heart. Her vision is to support in-house counsel succeed in their fast-evolving role based on deep insight, data analysis and best practice gathered across the in-house community.

Prior to her in-house focused role, Louisa led the marketing for the bar and mid-market private practice sectors as well as product marketing lead for LexisPSL - LexisNexis' cloud based, practical guidance and legal research software solution.

She brings 20 years' marketing experience both client and agency side, specialising in B2B marketing in the Legal, TMT (Telco, Media and Technology) and Financial Services industries. In both South Africa, Europe and the UK.

Louisa is also an active member on the LexisNexis Gender Equality Matters (GEM) steering committee and is involved with the Families at LexisNexis Group which brings together, supports and lobbies for change those with an interest in balancing the challenges of work and family.