We recently sat down with Colin Levy to discuss legal technology and tools and their importance for law departments. We also discussed some of the benefits of contract management tools.
Colin is currently the Director of Marketing and Business Development at WordRake and has worked heavily with contracts in his past roles where he focused on corporate transactions, which taught him a lot about contract management and how technology can assist in these efforts.
What is Legal Technology?
Legal technology, also known as legal tech, is all technology that law firms use to improve and streamline their processes as well as increase their effectiveness and efficiency. Note that some of these technologies help modern law teams better serve their clients by helping the law firm operate and render legal services more efficiently.
Why Colin Focused on Legal Technology and Legal Innovation
For Colin, a lot of impetus and passion for his focus came from his experience. Before law school, he worked for a big firm as an IT paralegal creating litigation databases. So, he was using technology before law school. This is why he thought that he would surely learn about these concepts and tools in law school. However, unfortunately, he did not learn anything about these tools in law school. And he found that very disappointing.
After graduating from law school, Colin was constantly astounded at how little technology was being used by lawyers. So, he wanted to learn about people who were changing this dynamic. These people were either developing technology for lawyers or teaching lawyers how to use technology.
So, he started writing about his experiences talking to those people and interviewing them. And since then, he cannot get enough of it. He has been dedicated to inspiring and informing others about legal technology and legal innovation.
Pandemic and Legal Technology
Note that in many ways, the coronavirus pandemic has forced many lawyers and law firms to adapt to using some basic technologies. We are yet to determine the long-lasting impacts of this pandemic on the industry.
Technology can be useful in making your life simpler, and it allows you to be more productive. However, it is worth noting that technology is not a panacea, and it will not solve every problem you may face. It is essential to start with your people and processes. You have to understand how people work in your organization and what their level of comfort with technology is. So, it is crucial to understand what your problems are before considering solutions.
Technological Innovations and Software Making an Impact on In-house Legal Teams
In Colin’s opinion, there are many add-ons and tools that integrate into MS Word or Excel that most lawyers already use. These tools and add-ons help with things like automating documents and editing documents.
Also, MS Word has amazing built-in technology that many lawyers are not aware of. These MS Word features can help with formatting and styling documents.
Legal operations are becoming a vital part of any legal department for a variety of reasons. One of the reasons is that you can better optimize your current processes. You can also better integrate those processes into the larger operations of the business. This is important because, for a long time, legal departments have worked in isolation and were not connected with other business functions.
In Colin’s opinion, ‘legal operations’ is the bridge between the legal dept and the larger business. We have to make the legal dept more of a business partner and a resource, enabling it to act as a team member instead of just being a go-to problem solver or cost center, which has been the traditional approach in many law firms.
Deriving Insights from the Data
It is essential for legal departments to make use of data they have on hand, for example, in the contracts and other documents, to show their value. In addition to minimizing risks, legal departments have to play different roles as well. They have to help businesses better see data—for example, how their contracts are operating and hidden risks in their contracts about legal obligations.
What are the Biggest Bottlenecks or Pain Points in Contract Management?
There are several bottlenecks. For example, one issue is version control. This is because most of us send documents back and forth, and everyone has a different way of naming them and dating them, which can cause issues down the line. This is one of the areas that effective contract management can address. As many contract management software products work well with MS Word natively, tracked changes by the user as well as version control is done on your behalf.
Another issue is a lack of a central place for storing and maintaining documents. Having a single place for all documents helps sort and search documents with similar traits and features. Unlike traditional contract management systems, storing and maintaining all files in a single centralized, digital repository allows for extensive reporting and optimum compliance. Contract management can also help find documents that have commonly used clauses and provisions.
Also, contract management tools can allow you to derive a lot of data from your agreements through reviewing them and reviewing them through algorithms. However, it is vital to understand your goals before choosing a contract management tool for your firm.
Factors to Consider when Choosing the Right Contract Management Tool
You should consider the needs and preferences of your organization carefully before choosing a specific contract management tool.
Customizable to your Company’s Needs
Your company’s needs and preferences change over time. As your company enters into a higher number of contracts, you may have to change the way the contracts are labeled, organized, or searched based on your new business goals and objectives.
When considering a contract management solution for your company, ask the potential provider regarding customizability- during as well as after the implementation phase.
Implementation and Ease of Use
There is no doubt that nobody wants a system that is hard to use. Note that the ultimate success of any contract management platform will depend on several things, but mainly on whether your team members are willing to give the tool a try.
Convenience, ease of use, and a positive user experience will definitely encourage not just an initial trial but consistent and long-term use of the contract management system as well.
When the implementation and onboarding processes are smoother, your teams will experience less disruption and will be able to make a faster transition.