A business can offer the best product or service in the world, but if its operations aren’t compliant or its contracts aren't correctly negotiated and executed, it's in for serious trouble.
Automation can be of great value to the legal department – and a source of excitement, increased efficiency and even increased precision rather than a source of painful disruption. So let's explore what legal professionals and the businesses that employ them need to understand to make it happen.
If a business implements an automated solution without buy-in from the teams who are supposed to be using it, then it's a wasted investment. No matter how much value a cloud-based system for managing documents offers, if nobody uploads documents or even logs in, then a robust, active tool becomes nothing but empty remote drive space that costs money. As a uniquely skeptical audience with very specific needs from an automated solution, a legal team is going to need to see what a solution can do for them – and that could take some legwork.
How will a tool allow a lawyer, or a legal team, to more easily compare difficult-to-distinguish documents to one another? How will it give them deeper visibility, letting them make and notice changes on difficult-to-read contracts at a glance? How will it get the right work to the right lawyer the first time, rather than tossing the work around amongst teams in email? And how will all of these features combine to reduce the company's legal risk? Questions like these are what a legal team will be asking when they're shown a new automated solution. By giving hands-on demos and training, having a robust communication strategy and leveraging executive sponsorship and governance, a typically timid audience can be persuaded to the efficacy and benefits of the solution.
Throughout a given business's IT operations, there are plenty of systems that can be pushed to the cloud and automated with next-gen tools. Don't try to do all of them at once. Instead, do a top-to-bottom need assessment; see what processes are being handled least efficiently with existing manual techniques, and target them for process improvement and automation.
After that, assess the needs of the impacted departments. Legal, in particular, is going to have very specific demands to make of an automated tool – have them tell, and guide, the project managers on precisely what they need throughout the implementation process. A constant, iterative feedback loop with the parties who'll be using the tool is crucial to successfully automating any process. Harnessing the voice of the legal users is critical to successful implementation and adoption.
The legal profession is one with a long history and a lot of respect for its traditions – including an affinity for basic word processing and redwelds. Even as other professions have moved toward digitization, it's not uncommon in 2018 for lawyers to still reference the kind of dog-eared, underlined tomes that have characterized the legal trade for centuries. Professionals, after all, have their own way of doing things, and there's no reason that even the most tech-savvy, tech-forward professions can't find value in timeless, analog research techniques.
But there's hardly a lawyer out there who looks forward to the tangled web of multiple documents sent back and forth between different parties via email when working on a deal. What changes have been made, even without redlining? Where is the document in the approval process? Or their worst-case scenario in finding that one of those all-important iterations in language they flagged on a PDF had been overlooked, and a deal is now contractually committed, with potentially dire consequences. It is this type of clerical busywork that contract automation streamlines out. Through adding the right technology, it lets the legal team get more hands-on to the stuff that matters.
So while surely there are still parts of their job that many lawyers prefer to do manually, automation can streamline out the parts that they definitely don't. If implemented correctly, contract automation can give a legal department the time and the mental space to focus on the legal strategy – and make sure they're reading those contracts correctly down to the letter.
About the author: Rebecca Yoder brings her legal industry expertise to SpringCM, where she focuses on client solutions, industry impact and market development.
Prior to SpringCM, Rebecca worked for Accenture for over 20 years as a member of the Legal organization. There, she was responsible for technology deployed to Accenture's Legal Professionals, as well as technology solutions deployed across the Accenture enterprise on behalf of Legal.
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