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LegalJuly 27, 2022

Three strategies to ensure your technology investments pay off

This article was originally published in Legaltech News.

According to a recent report from the Blickstein Group, law departments are primarily interested in business process improvement, cost savings, and staying abreast of law department technology. User-friendly technology plays a role in the first two and in order to understand that technology (priority three), law departments need a systematic way to evaluate those solutions.

With so many different types of legal technologies available, and with a plethora of vendors to choose from, how do you know which tools and partners to put at the top of your technology wish list? Here are three strategies to help you narrow down your choices and make the best technology decisions.

Map your technology choices to your business’ goals and objectives

Consider your company’s primary organizational goals and objectives. Are they to increase efficiency by X percent by the end of the year? Are they to reach a certain revenue target?

The answers will determine your technology purchasing decisions. For example, if your organization’s top goal is to cut costs over the next year, you may want to prioritize investing in a legal bill review platform that can automatically look for inaccuracies within invoices that are costing you money. Technologies that do not correspond to short-term needs but may ultimately benefit the business in the long run can be considered lower priority and put off until later.

Assess your current technology maturity level

You may already have some of the tools in place to get you where you need to be, but it’s also likely there are gaps in your technology needs or tools that attorneys aren’t using (but you’re still paying for). You can find these by performing an honest and thorough technology assessment that looks at every tool under your roof, their adoption rates, and more.

Get your team involved in the process. Ask them which tools they’re currently using and what they’re using them for. Focus on the bread-and-butter tasks of your CLD, such as contract lifecycle management, budgeting, panel management, billing guideline compliance, and more. Don’t limit your inquiries to legal technology; ask them about the other software and tools they use every day, like Office 365. Then, ask an additional set of questions, including:

  • Are the tools easy to use?
  • Do they incorporate elements such as artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, and other modern technologies that can help your team make better decisions?
  • Do you feel they make your job easier?
  • Are they helping to improve relationships with outside counsel?

There are no right or wrong answers, and the only things getting graded are the solutions your team uses. The idea is to identify strengths and weaknesses now to create a plan for future success so that one day your CLD will become technologically mature.

Once you’ve aligned your technology needs and goals, create a plan. Start with the next six months to a year, and fill it with short-term, high-priority needs and quick wins that can result in immediate time and cost savings. Then, broaden your plan to include the next three to five years, and populate that timeframe with longer-term investments, including those that will satisfy large-scale modernization efforts or are more “nice-to-haves” rather than pressing needs.

Evaluate your vendor options

It can be tough to select the right partner for your needs, but there are specific things to look for.

First, don’t let yourself be dazzled by a fancy demo; dig deeper. Any vendor worth their salt is going to be willing to provide you with a list of references. Reach out to them, ask them what they like and don’t like about the technology, find out if they would ever consider switching to another vendor, talk to them about their customer service experiences, and so forth.

Second, look at the vendor’s fundamentals. Are they an established player with a history of success? What is the average tenure of the people you’ll be working with? Do they have backgrounds in legal technology? Yes, there are a lot of great startups in the legal technology industry, but who can say if they’ll survive or be acquired? Look for a partner with a record of stability.

Finally, look closely at the technology itself. How old is it? Is it built on modern architecture? Does it incorporate the features you need to succeed? How often will it need to be updated and maintained, and how much will that maintenance cost? Who will handle that lifecycle maintenance—you or the vendor? In short, beware of the hidden costs that can undermine what may seem like a good upfront investment.

The legal technology space is booming. That gives you plenty of options to choose from, but it can also make it difficult to make the right choices. Following these three strategies will help guide you in the right direction and improve your chances of receiving the best possible ROI from your legal technology investments.

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's ELM Solutions.

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