Tech and Normal Counsel: Planning for a Profitable Launch

Implementing legal technology is always a challenge, but perhaps nowhere more so than in a corporate setting. Within a corporate environment, there are several unique aspects that need to be considered in order to ensure the success of a project, particularly the technology in the General Counsel’s (OGC) office. This includes the staff available for project management, the support of the IT team and the infrastructure and culture of the OGC. Each of them has certain characteristics of success.

Build a strong project team

One of the most overlooked but important predictors of the success of a technology rollout is the skills of the project team. Ideally, an operational and business-minded employee would drive the project forward. Most OGCs today have a legal operations director, manager, or coordinator. Some even have a legal technology specialist. The ideal operations manager knows how to run a technology project, from capturing the requirements, to the scope, to implementation and quality control. While it is a bonus if you are familiar with the specific technology, it is more important that you are familiar with the process of implementing the technology. Often times, individuals in legal positions have been promoted from legal staff. While this can provide many benefits in understanding the business, it can also lead to a lack of some technical management skills. There are many excellent technical project management courses available to fill this void. The project’s business partner must be the one who works with the rest of the department to ensure business goals are met, user input is taken into account, and implementation is done in a way that maximizes adoption.

Success story: having the right team

In a large food company, the head of legal, along with an assistant and a file manager, worked with the heads of the legal practice group. The exercise group leaders provided information on the business needs and requirements for a new integrated materials and document management system and encouraged teammates to take part in design testing and training of the system. The Legal Operations team focused on supplier communication logistics, IT coordination, installation, user management, migrations, etc.

Align support from IT

Another critical success factor is knowing the level of IT support that will be required and available at the start of a technology project. It is more common for OGCs to move to technologies in the cloud that require less support and infrastructure from the IT team. However, be warned that this does not mean that IT is not involved in the project. There are security and connectivity requirements, potential client installations, and integration issues. While cloud providers like to sell their solutions as plug-and-play given the complex needs of today’s businesses, things are rarely that simple.

Success story: Active IT commitment

In a large consulting firm, the IT department wanted to be very involved and choose a local solution for legal technology requirements. They were active in every part of the project, from scope to security, to construction, deployment and support. They acted as partners throughout the project and took part in all status meetings as well as IT-specific meetings.

Success story: Minimal IT involvement

At a large communications company, IT did not have the bandwidth to support the relatively small legal technology solution compared to the other enterprise-wide technologies. The OGC opted for a cloud solution and provided IT with the expectations of participation and support very early on. IT supported connectivity through SSO, packaging and deployment through SCCM, and system access to consultants whenever and wherever needed. By setting clear expectations and communications, the project went smoothly without placing undue strain on IT.

Find a cultural fit

Perhaps the most important factor in a legal technology project is understanding the culture of the OGC. Is the OGC a single department or several independent teams? Does the group need white gloved service? Is it a tech-savvy team or do employees need additional training and support? It is important to involve key stakeholders in communication throughout the project and planning. It is also necessary to know which attorneys, secretaries, and paralegals are involved in gathering the requirements, designing the system, and testing and quality control. Is there a team that is diverse enough to represent all perspectives? Were all dissidents addressed before the rollout?

Success story: Supporting a change-resistant culture in learning and adapting

A global manufacturing company needed a solution that united its team. The current technology was old and cumbersome, so the company needed a high level of dedication and training to successfully adopt the technology. Each lawyer was involved in focus groups and design meetings prior to implementation. After the rollout, training was also offered in the classroom and at the desk. Adoption rates were high and efficiency improved.

Success story: Adaptation of new technologies to minimize user interference

A global pharmaceutical company required collaboration between countries and legal departments while each department could continue to operate autonomously. The adoption of legal technology also required as little time and disruption as possible for end users. When standardizing on a single technology platform, the company took the approach of having a single person from each region of a business unit to make the new system look as close as possible to the current systems. This allowed minimal input from the remaining users and minimal adaptation time in the implementation.

As legal and cloud technology positions increase, OGCs have expanded opportunities to improve efficiency and service through new technologies. With a well thought out strategy and the right team, these technologies can be implemented with maximum impact on the delivery of legal services by the OGC.

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