The Legal Departments in a Digital Era report, conducted by Wolters Kluwer and ECLA, conducted by Wolters Kluwer and the European Company Lawyers Association (ECLA), uncovered some surprising results about how legal departments are developing and implementing a digital strategy.
Almost half of the legal departments across Europe (47%) have started implementing a digital strategy. Of those that have a digital strategy, 41% started more than three years ago, while 37% started 1-3 years ago. This is good news because corporate legal departments across Europe have recognized the importance of digital initiatives.
However, the study also found that 65% of legal departments indicated that their digital strategy is not driven by a clear plan with specific dates and milestones.
A digital strategy is important because it outlines how organizations can leverage technology to improve outcomes, including how technology can create a competitive advantages and concrete steps it will take. When implemented successfully, a digital strategy leads to the creation of a roadmap. Without a timeline or milestones, you're likely to end up with the wrong technology, or create a digital strategy that doesn't fit the projected needs of the department over the next three years.
Maurits Annegarn, Segment Manager for Wolters Kluwer’s Legal Software unit notes, “many departments lay claim to having a digital strategy, but it needs to be more than just a rough idea of where they’d like to be five years from now. Achieving desired results requires proper project management and budgeting, two issues that are still underestimated by most corporate legal departments.”
As a legal counsel, your priorities are probably focused more on creating value and managing risk. However, a digital strategy can help you find ways to carry out these tasks more efficiently. Below are cues your department needs a digital strategy:
- If your legal department is growing there’s a good chance that the strategy implemented years ago no longer meets the needs of your department and its stakeholders. If this is the case, it’s time to evaluate whether existing tools are aligned with the company’s trajectory. You need technology that’s scalable and can grow along with the department.
- Each member of the team has a different way of organising information and completing tasks. It’s difficult to know who’s responsible for what, and determine the status of legal information including contracts, corporate records and claims. Standard processes, like contract approval may take days, or even weeks to complete, because they’re carried out manually.
- Your department has no technology budget , or no relationship with those responsible for the IT infrastructure. Having no technology budget results in one in the following scenarios - previous technology investments were made impulsively, which have resulted in the purchase of multiple tools. At the other end of the spectrum are legal departments that still use spreadsheets and generic software to manage legal information, both of which have to be updated manually.
It's easy to become distracted by technology and develop your strategy around implementing as many solutions as possible. However, any technology investments are part of a bigger picture. Before you start creating your digital strategy you need to examine the current situation and what pain points you want to address.