Legal operations is still a recent phenomenon that finds its genesis in the more with less challenge or more for less challenge depending on whether you look at it from the in house legal department or the law firm perspective. There are more legal and compliance risks to manage with less and less resources, and for law firms, there is more work to handle for less consideration. COVID-19 is turbo charging this challenge and makes legal operations increasingly relevant as it involves a set of business processes, activities, tools and professionals that aim at delivering legal services more effectively and efficiently.

If technology is a key enabler and is a fundamental driver of the rise of the legal operations profession, it can pose some challenges itself. First, there has been a boom of technical solutions, and so the question for the entire legal function is, “What technology is relevant?”. If you manage to identify a technical tool, the next potential issue for many organizations will be the lack of resources to finance and implement this technology. The third obstacle one may face is the rejection of this technology, as it often involves new ways of working, and in some cases, even a revamping of part or all of the legal function. Finally, in some areas the technology may need to be “validated” by governmental authorities to ensure that its output is of the same quality as that of a trained legal expert. A concrete example is the continuous active learning machine used in internal competition law audits.

So how to solve those critical challenges? First, one needs to bear in mind that technology remains a means to an end – i.e. increasing the efficiency and the effectiveness of the legal service. This is the reason why one should start from the clients’ perspective and ask, “What is the pain point my client is trying to solve?” and then look at the most relevant technology. This is the approach that Dentons, Nextlaw Labs and Nextlaw In-House Solutions have adopted when they are developing or investing in new technical products or advising clients as to what technology to implement (which is not necessarily Nextlaw technology). They always start with engaging in a high trust, deep listening conversation with the client to understand concrete needs.

Second, a technology is as good as the people are using it. This is the reason why it is essential to consider the user experience and ensure that the technology is delivering a seamless experience comparable to what consumers have on the best-in-class consumer goods’ website.

Third, Dentons has invested into collaboration technical solutions such as Dentons Direct that should help with the resource challenge.

Finally, beyond technology, we strongly believe that efficiency and effectiveness will result from implementing the right mix of three key ingredients – people, efficiency and technology – holistically. For people, this means not only the lawyers in private practice or the legal department, but also the internal client of the legal department and in some cases up to the external clients (e.g. training regarding anti bribery rules).

Efficiency does not only involve leveraging a technical tool to reduce the time to handle a large volume of repetitive work. It can also entail implementing a methodology that combines premium legal work together with best legal operation practices – for example, developing a cross-regional transactional self-help tool including practical contract 101 training. It protects the interests of the organization, and thanks to business-friendly language, enables the procurement function to use it with limited support from the legal function.

About the author

Alan Ragueneau
Europe Managing Director, Nextlaw In-House Solutions, Dentons
Phone +39 02 726 268 28