This year, in addition to the exciting opportunity to get back to in-person legal operations-related events, the CLOC Global Institute in Las Vegas was a chance for Wolters Kluwer ELM Solutions to explore some of the ways legal departments can improve efficiency and optimize performance. For our session “You can’t manage what you don’t measure: A case study for AI in legal operations,” we were joined by John Crawshaw of PNC’s Financial Services Group, who talked about his team’s experience with artificial intelligence and legal bill review technology. There are lessons in his experience that can inform other types of legal technology initiatives, as well. Here are five takeaways from the discussion.
Align the team on common goals
Even in a legal department with a long and successful history of using legal ops technology, introducing a new tool goes far more smoothly when department leaders understand the current challenges, and all stakeholders are aligned on the goals for the new technology. For example, some members of your team may not be achieving the level of billing guideline compliance they want. Others may be focused on increasing cost savings. A team where all members are aware of each other’s goals will be better positioned to choose technology that can meet them all.
Make an informed build vs. buy decision
Large companies with internal technology teams of their own often weigh the option to purchase new technology against the possibility of building their own in-house solution. When both of these alternatives are possible, there are several things to keep in mind to make sure the team arrives at the right decision for their organization.
- Do the internal developers have experience on projects that used similar technology for similar applications?
- Does the in-house team have access to all of the necessary data for decision-making or is external benchmarking data needed?
- Be sure to crunch the numbers – and include stakeholders from other departments – to truly quantify the cost of building vs. buying over the years you plan to use the new technology.
Set reasonable expectations
One key to success is to make sure everyone involved has the same expectations of the project and the technology product itself. Be sure to have discussions that include all stakeholders where the team communicates about expectations such as:
- How long it will take to achieve the primary goals (cost savings, cleaner data, etc.)
- How success will be defined (a particular amount of savings, specific reduction in matter cycle time, etc.)
- Which stakeholders or managers will get reports on progress and how often
Communicate clearly and often
Communication is critical during a legal technology implementation. Everyone impacted by the project, from the legal ops managers directly involved in the implementation to the end users whose processes will need to be adjusted, should understand what changes are coming, when to expect them, and what is needed from them to keep things running smoothly.
When in doubt, overcommunicate. Sometimes busy professionals need to get a message more than once in order to truly comprehend how the new technology will affect them. There are normally a few surprises with any large-scale implementation project, but you should minimize these as much as you can by ensuring that everyone has the information they need and knows what to expect.
Report the results
After the new technology is implemented, it is important to communicate the success of the selection and implementation project and of the new technology on an ongoing basis. This ensures that senior management knows that the team made good technology decisions and sets the stage for continuing trust in the legal department as a business partner.
It’s best to keep reporting simple. Establish key performance indicators that clearly communicate progress toward your goals. Depending on the project, these could be financial results, comparative measures of law firm performance, matter or invoice cycle time metrics, etc.
Be sure to share this data within the legal department so that the team remains well-informed on their new technology in addition to senior leadership. And don’t forget to report to stakeholders in other departments, as well. For example, the finance department is likely to be very interested in the ROI of the project and any ongoing cost savings.