Resistance is Futile: Why General Counsel Must Embrace Technology

The legal profession is steeped in tradition and history. In fact, the law itself tends to respond to contemporary problems by looking back, and legal professionals are no different. If we should believe stereotype – and many firsthand accounts – lawyers tend to resist change tooth and nail. After all, they were bred – and are handsomely remunerated – in an age-old institution that lauds ethics and intellect, not innovation and reinvention.

A recent Law Practice Magazine article, Why Do Law Firms Resist Innovation? 10 Reasons, observes, “What passes for a radical change in a law practice—a new training program, some alternative billing, an extranet—is old hat in other markets.” As a profession that sticks to the beaten path, with a generation of young lawyers that has come to expect a few years of filing, drafting and proofing before they begin to tackle stimulating legal challenges, it is no wonder so many legal teams are hesitant to embrace legal technology.

But a general reticence to change doesn’t mean change isn’t coming. Indeed, an article published earlier this month in Law Technology Today claims a legal technology skills audit – in which legal teams will be assessed on how well they use technology to complete legal tasks – is on the way. The reason for this is clear – when considering the bottom line, taking advantage of new products in the legal sphere is a no-brainer.

Document automation and contract management, for example, would allow those document-crunching young lawyers to spend more of their time and competence on higher-value tasks. According to What Really Should Be in General Counsel’s Skill Set published a few weeks ago in Law Technology News, these are among the technologies general counsels must explore in order to bring their departments into the 21st century. We couldn’t agree more.

Automation turns what were once manual, labor-intensive legal processes – such as locating a specific non-standard clause – into a simple one-click search. Document assembly software may especially suit large law firms, where the quantity and variety of contracts demand a streamlined, user-friendly approach. For general counsel of large corporations who potentially deal with thousands of contracts, software that combines document assembly with a suite of intelligent contract lifecycle management tools will prove essential in bringing the legal department up to speed with (if not light years ahead of) the rest of the company. Standard contracts can be pre-approved, so salespeople can see a contract through from beginning to end, avoiding bottlenecks in the legal department. With Contract Lifecycle Management software, not only will all of your contracts and standardized contract terms be stored in a central repository, but you will have the ability to search, receive notifications for renewals, be sure you’re sticking to negotiated terms, and analyze changes made during negotiations, among other things. Technologies like these ease the entire lifecycle of the contract, while providing invaluable insight into the nature, value and strength of the contracts upon which your business depends.

With features like this, it’s no wonder investing in legal technology is more than just a rising trend. Indeed, the abovementioned LFT article insists that “Not having the basic knowledge of the automation tools that are used or could be used in the department is a throwback to the old days…Today, as several states have made clear in their ethical rules, it borders on malpractice.” Clearly, hiding one’s head in the sand is no longer an excuse. As the rest of the corporation takes advantage of technologies providing management of and insight into information affecting the business, legal has no choice but to keep up.

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