As global organizations find themselves confronted with growing legal needs, their Legal Operations departments and outside counsel are looking for new ways to achieve operational excellence – and workflow automation software is one of those approaches.
The just-published 2017 HBR Consulting Law Department Survey found that 82% of respondents expected their legal needs to increase over the next year, up from last year’s 79% figure. The areas with the most increase include commercial contracts, regulatory compliance, and international business units.
To meet that rise, they’re looking to increase operational efficiency, as Lauren Chung, managing director and survey editor for HBR explains:
“Law departments are building internal capacity, increasing capabilities and effectively managing demand by training internal clients to be more self-sufficient. By leveraging available technology, law departments are optimizing internal resources and automating routine tasks.”
This year’s survey results align closely with what we are seeing in our own work with clients. Law departments are driving change across the legal vertical by creating a well-leveraged organizational structure, streamlining inefficiencies and adopting new innovative technologies to be more agile in supporting growing legal needs.
Trying new tactics
Some of the ways they’re striving for efficiency and cost containment, according to the report, and how we see workflow automation fitting in?
- Greater use of technology and analytics: More law departments are leveraging analytics and workflow tools, A.I. and other solutions. 46% of the respondents reported they were using a legal analytics spend platform, up from 39% the year before. Workflow software tools were, along with analytics, among the top five tech areas where legal departments and law firms were looking to implement solutions.
- Centers of excellence (CoE) implementation for contracts: 79% of Legal Ops and law departments manage contracts through individual internal legal resources, but the use of CoEs is gaining ground. Workflow automation is an obvious tool for centralizing and standardizing contracts as part of a CoE’s processes, which frees senior counsel to focus on more important tasks.
- Legal outsourcing and alternative service providers: Sending legal work to an external non-law firm resource holds down costs, and 21% of the report’s respondents were outsourcing work that way. A workflow automation system can provide centralized monitoring of even outside vendors, and “unite the legal ecosystem,” as one of our own Legal Ops users recently put it.