Tue, Sep 25, 2012

Maximizing The Value Of Law Department Technology

In the current environment, organizations face increasing legal and regulatory complexity, high-stakes disputes, limited resources and decreasing budgets. Accordingly, legal teams have invested (or are investing) in a variety of digital solutions and other technologies – but they often use these technologies in isolation and struggle to maximize their value.

In the age of limited staff bandwidth, optimizing technology may seem an unaffordable luxury. But the evolution of technology and related law department protocol is rapidly expanding the options available to cope with competing priorities. Legal professionals must start taking steps toward evaluating those options, or they risk falling behind their competitors. Every corporate legal manager should be thinking today about the following three aspects of technology that will impact performance in the near future:

  • Integrating matter management and e-billing globally
  • Leveraging technology-related data to increase efficiencies
  • Leveraging currently owned technologies to benefit non-traditional functions and expanding on your legal technology investment

Integrating Matter Management and e-Billing Globally

Over the past decade, the US legal industry has shifted toward electronic matter management and e-billing. This shift involves the use of digital data and electronic tracking of legal fees and expenses. The next trend will be the roll-out of this technology on an international basis for global organizations.  This is a challenge because of the different laws, rules and language issues in different territories; taxation and privacy issues, in particular, pose a range of challenges and opportunities. Following territory-specific protocols for gathering information can be very complex, but tracking all of an organizations' data via one system can deliver worthwhile benefits.

For some organizations, preparing for an integrated international system may be a long-term process. Regardless, there are preparatory actions every corporate legal department manager should take now to brace for the inevitable shift to the global integration of matter management and e-billing:

  • Talk to your tax department (or consultants) about an interdisciplinary plan for handling global tax issues. Start determining whether seeking a tax refund is a priority and, if so, how the organization will coordinate amongst various departments and geographies to achieve that goal.
  • Consult with your Privacy attorneys(or consultants) to determine how the regional privacy laws will affect the storage of data in your system.
  • Talk to your Accounts Payable Department about receipt and payment of foreign invoices. It is important to determine what collection methods and currencies are currently being used in the various locations where the company conducts legal activity.
  • Talk to your technology team (or consultant) about how to integrate global activity into your current e-billing system. Verify that your current system (or any system that you may be planning to implement in the future) can handle your special needs.

Leveraging technology-related data to increase efficiencies

Legal departments have been quietly gathering data since implementing technology solutions years ago. Now, it’s more important than ever to begin using this valuable data as the key strategic asset it is. The data that has been gathered holds an enormous amount of knowledge and insight into trends, efficiencies and expenses associated with the work your department has been performing over the years. Proper use of this data can help you with the important task of demonstrating the value of the legal services you are providing to the corporation by:

  • Providing insight into historical trends that may identify risk to be addressed immediately,
  • facilitating conversations and critical decisions about topics such as in-house versus outsourced resources,
  • identifying cost drivers that should be reviewed and assigned actionable next steps for reducing spend and
  • highlighting additional ways to leverage your current systems to provide additional benefit across the department.

To leverage the technology and realize these benefits, legal managers should currently be taking the following measures:

  • Meet with leaders in your department to develop and understand the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) important to your organization and to gather top-down drivers,
  • determine the correct resources to mine the data and develop the reports, dashboards etc to that will be required,
  • evaluate and assess your technology landscape to ensure it provides the foundation for supporting and measuring the KPIs,
  • address any technology gaps through implementation of missing components and systems or tuning up existing ones,
  • consider engaging outside consultants to help align the business processes and business goals with industry best practices,
  • develop mechanisms such as a 5-Year Plan to insure the greatest return on your technology investment and to keep your new program alive.

Leveraging currently owned technologies to benefit non-traditional functions and expanding on your legal technology investment

Currently owned technologies can also be leveraged to benefit nontraditional functions, such as:

  • Governance, Risk and Compliance Solutions
  • Privacy Investigation Solutions
  • Contract Management Solutions
  • Financial Crimes Investigations and Suspicious Activity Reporting (SARs) Reporting Solutions
  • Retail Loss Prevention Solutions
  • Intellectual Property Counterfeit/Theft Investigation Solutions
  • Outside Counsel Management, Law Firm Performance & Metrics, Law Firm Diversity Inclusion
  • Global Anti-Corruption Compliance Solutions
  • Asbestos/Mass Tort Claim Solutions

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