Five Essentials Lawyers Need in their Legal Toolbox — Right Now

Five Essentials Lawyers Need in their Legal Toolbox — Right Now
by Viraj Chaudhary

In the past several years, corporate lawyers have been forced to find innovative ways to be more productive. The COVID-19 pandemic, in particular, has driven in-house counsel and companies to significantly increase investment in their legal digital toolbox. And Gartner predicts that corporate legal departments will increase their legal technology spend as much as threefold by 2025.

Though many legal professionals have started to return to the office, the shift toward more flexible, resilient, and efficient operations has gained momentum — and is expected to last for the foreseeable future. Key employees recruited by legal departments will not only be attorneys, paralegals, and general counsels (GCs), but also data scientists, technology specialists, and project managers. That latter will work shoulder-to-shoulder with those who have practiced the law far more traditionally.

Now, let’s look at five essentials that every lawyer should have in their legal toolbox today. Many of these are highly effective digital tools, while others are simple ways to prepare yourself and your business to survive — and thrive — in the years to come.

1. Document Management and Workflow ApplicationsGartner predicts that legal departments will increase their legal tech spend as much as threefold by 2025.

Document management applications have long been important solutions within the corporate legal tech stack. Creating and managing a searchable repository for digital files, like contracts, invoices, purchase orders, and other correspondence, is simply invaluable to companies of any size.

For more advanced legal management and workflow functionality, though, many in-house legal departments would do well to look at the most centralized legal management solutions in the marketplace. Granted, finding a purpose-built solution for in-house counsel has been daunting in the past. But there has been a shift toward more comprehensive legal management platforms — and B2B-calibre user experiences.

2. Low-Code or No-Code App Development Platforms

Although many legal departments are now onboarding technical staff, they are not necessarily hiring coders with deep expertise in languages, like Python, .NET, or JavaScript. However, artificial intelligence (AI), analytics, and business process management are evolving more and more. And legal professionals will not necessarily need to have configuration and business process skills to build custom functionality — without lengthy development lifecycles or technical overhead.

3. Compliance and Risk Management

In-house legal is often the team that senior leadership turns to for matters related to regulatory compliance. The same is true when it comes to ensuring relationships and business approaches do not subject the business to an unmanageable amount of risk.

Fortunately, there are best practices that can be deployed by legal and shared with interdepartmental colleagues, including:

  • Fully understanding of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for those companies processing, storing, and managing data about citizens of the European Union (EU) — and UK GDPR for those in the U.K.
  • Completely enforcing data security policies, which usually requires a combination of technical controls and HR policies

So, what is essential here is mitigating risk and securing sensitive data by adhering to internal policies, good stewardship practices, and international regulatory standards.

4. Analytics and Business Intelligence

The legal department is a hub for reviewing legal documents and associated data. But in addition to reviewing and approving agreements and other documents, in-house counsel help business leaders better understand:By 2024, legal departments will have automated 50 percent of legal work, related to major corporate transactions, with digital toolboxes.

  • The obligations to which their contracts hold them, and their suppliers and service providers
  • The near-term and long-term contract lifecycles, including renewals, at-risk customers, and terminated agreements
  • The performance of suppliers against their delivery and quality terms

Interestingly, many law schools like Columbia are expanding their curriculum to include data analytics courses. This is in response to technologies, like AI and business process automation, shaping the future of law from a corporate legal perspective. Analytics engines — which can search both internal and public data repositories, for example — deliver great value to companies, as local, regional, and federal laws vary widely and change rapidly.

5. AI and e-Discovery

Last but not least, artificial intelligence enhances processes, like contract review, analytics, and legal discovery, by a measure unattainable by human beings. That is because AI can help process structured and unstructured data far quicker than even the most educated — and caffeinated — team of attorneys, paralegals, and contract managers.

An article in even highlights the increased adoption of AI-based analytics as part of e-discovery and corporate legal technologies.

So very clearly, in-house legal departments can use a number of technological tools to be more productive. The Gartner survey referenced above also predicts that by 2024, legal departments will have automated 50 percent of legal work, related to major corporate transactions, with digital toolboxes.

Ultimately, process automation can help legal professionals take on more strategic, consultative responsibilities in their business. It can create new opportunities — for the corporate legal team — in the areas of risk management, regulatory compliance, and mergers and acquisitions. All of this, while accelerating time-intensive processes like document reviews, speeding up negotiations, and increasing corporate growth altogether.

Viraj Chaudhary

Viraj Chaudhary
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