Last week, we hosted a panel discussion on the topical subject of digital transformation in legal departments. Our diverse panel of General Counsels (GCs) shared their ongoing journey to digital transformation – the successes, the challenges and the learnings.
Danh Nguyen, General Manager & Managing Consultant for EMEA at KorumLegal, moderated the panel which included:
- Giselle Bates, Group General Counsel, Allegis Group
- Darren Foo, Senior Counsel – APAC, FIS
- Gill Meller, Legal and European Business Director, MTR Corporation Limited
The wave of transformation within the legal department has forced many to challenge their current ways of thinking. So, when asked about their experience with their legal teams’ adoption of innovation and digital transformation, the panellists shared a moment of chuckle. Giselle’s team had introduced an AI system to do the initial contract review. She stated that one of her challenges was that some members of her team seemed reluctant to adopt the technology offered as they were concerned that it would ultimately replace them. However, the reality is that the tool is designed to enable the team to reduce repetitive tasks and allow the team to do more interesting, higher value and strategic work.
Alternatively, Darren pointed out that there will likely be challenges getting a team to prioritise the adoption of a tool due to a team being too lean. With the pressure to prioritise revenue generating activities, this would fall to the bottom of the team’s list without clear communication on the benefits of the tool. Darren’s team had introduced a contract management system to optimise the end-to-end cycle time for their deals and ultimately support more sales.
Gill drew attention to the fact that people are simply too busy with their day jobs to stop and think about what they can do differently. By default, lawyers are not tech gurus, so the scepticism and resistance among many lawyers is understandable.
The panel discussed how legal teams can come together to bring more value to clients and customers in terms of the work they and their teams do. Here they all agreed that collaboration is key. Gill stressed the importance of the team coming together to understand the end to end process and who is involved at what stage and questioning whether your processes are seamless and efficient? It might be that technology is not the right solution for your team and actually you need to do some process redesign to optimise your existing processes. On the other hand, Giselle pointed out that it is important to demonstrate to your team that technology is meant to help you, not replace you. It reduces the burden of the laborious repetitive tasks and in exchange, gives you time for creative thinking and to focus on more high-value work.
During this discussion, it was highlighted that the role of the GC hasn’t changed but the workload has. GCs now are faced with tight budgets and limited resources and so are expected to do more with less – a constant challenge for today’s GC. This is where digital transformation can help to solve this dilemma and bring about real improvements in terms of efficiency and productivity. If done properly, digital transformation of legal departments can help GCs to manage legal spend and other costs and resources more effectively. And that’s what the journey is all about – identifying the roadblocks, assessing your internal processes and making the delivery of legal solutions seamless and more valuable for your clients.
New ways of working
The panellists shared new ways of working which can really help bring real change to the structure of the legal department.
- Talk to each other – Talking to another colleague can help you identify common pain points that affect your day-to-day tasks.
- Change mindset – We’re all creatures of habit and one of the biggest challenges is changing the mindset of those who have always done things a certain way. These kinds of mindsets hinder innovation and stands in the way of, not only technology adoption and implementation, but accepting it in the first place.
- Embrace the change – It is very much like the legal industry to have resistance towards change. Change can make you feel disorientated and “no longer the expert”, but the need to adapt to the change is crucial.
- Encourage training – Training and development can help lawyers understand how technology can better support them in carrying out their day-to-day duties and responsibilities.
The message from the room was to just make a start! Embark on your digital transformation journey – you won’t get anywhere if you don’t give it a go. There will be a lot of experimenting with different tools, processes and platforms and you will likely need to adjust your approach along the way. But once you find the right tools and processes that are the right fit for your team, their usefulness in terms of enhancing productivity and effectiveness can be – in a word - transformative.
If you’ve embarked on your digital transformation journey, please feel free to share the ups and downs with us. We’d love to hear your stories – successes and learnings.
Satinder is a law graduate with a fresh mind and attitude. She is excited to explore the alternative legal routes. She has a keen interest in LegalTech and how it is affecting the legal department. She followed her heart and returned to Hong Kong to make her initial professional mark and she is loving it!