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LegalMarch 08, 2023

Are you getting the most out of your existing technology?

This article was originally published in Legaltech News.

According to Gartner, corporate legal departments (CLDs) are expected to triple their technology spend in the next three years. But getting the most out of existing technology is just as important as investing in shiny new tools—and perhaps more so. Many CLDs already have the legal ops technology they need, but don’t understand the full capabilities of their systems.

This isn’t expected to change. For technology focused on contract lifecycle management, for instance, Gartner estimates that CLDs will only capture 30% of the potential benefit in the years ahead.

Between rate hikes, a looming recession, and continued uncertainty, CLDs must squeeze everything out of their existing technology before investing in new tools. Here are four steps to ensure you are getting the most from your legal operations technology.

1. Make a list of non-negotiable capabilities.

Before digging into any individual tool’s features, it’s important to understand your legal department’s core needs. What technology is integral to day-to-day operations? For many CLDs, the answer may include e-billing, spend management, matter management, contract lifecycle management, legal holds, and document management, to name a few. Such software enables the department to operate with maximum efficiency.

Explicitly listing out these non-negotiable capabilities is useful so you can audit your current technology to see which boxes are being checked. After all, you can’t know how to proceed unless you know what you already have.

So, be sure to drill into your current technologies to ensure they include the features you require. Ideally, a piece of software will be able to check a range of boxes, as opposed to addressing just one need. Additionally, it’s crucial to understand the current usage and pain points of existing technology, to ensure the benefits outweigh any hurdles or roadblocks—and to take steps to address them and increase usage.

2. Make a list of 100 things that you hate doing.

Core competencies are the starting line, not the finish line. That’s why your next step should be to make a list of tasks that are annoying, redundant, or difficult. These should be tasks that are low value but necessary to keep things running, such as entering something manually into Excel at the end of each month or dealing with international currency and tax issues associated with paying CLD vendors located overseas.

Pass the list around your department, too. See if there are niche use cases that members of your team might need, and match those up with the technology you’re currently using. A mature tool is likely to have countless functionalities—ones that are non-essential yet extremely useful—designed for previous clients. You may find something deep within the technology that you didn’t know existed.

3. Build a relationship with your customer success manager.

Some features might not be readily apparent. That’s where your vendor’s customer success team can help. Mature legal technology companies have dedicated customer success managers (CSMs) whose only responsibility is to help you get the absolute most value out of the technology you already bought. This should be a separate function from the account management team, which is more focused on additional technology you don’t yet have. Your CSM can point you in the direction of niche functionalities that already exist—including ones you may not have thought of.

The more you can foster a relationship with your customer success manager, the easier it will be to get more from your technology on an ongoing basis. A good manager will check in with you periodically to touch base on how things are going, recommend new features you may not have been aware of, and allow you to solicit feedback and suggest improvements.

4. Be honest with yourself.

With the first three steps completed, you’re now ready to ask yourself if your department’s technology is sufficient. You want to squeeze everything you can out of your existing stack. But new technology might be a worthwhile investment if key features are missing.

As you browse new options, continue doing deep dives on core features. Just like realtors stage a house to get it to sell, software vendors often build the bare minimum just to check a box, particularly if they’re new on the scene. Asking questions early can help you avoid disappointment later.

The bottom line

In the current landscape, every dollar counts. When CLDs are savvy with their spend and wring every feature out of their legal operations technology, the entire business benefits. Before investing in a new tool, ensure you’re getting the most out of the technology you already have. By mapping out your department’s needs and wants, you can move beyond marketing speak to understand what software will truly improve your CLD’s operations on an ongoing basis. Start your honest assessment today.

Nathan Cemenska
Director of Legal Operations and Industry Insights

Nathan Cemenska, JD/MBA, is the Director of Legal Operations and Industry Insights at Wolters Kluwer ELM Solutions.

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