Changing legal models for a digital age

A recent article by Dan Reed of Unilex highlights some of the issues lawyers everywhere are dealing with as the profession evolves and we are Platforum 9 have developed Forums to deal with how tech is changing the world and our profession.

In the legal industry seismic shifts are occurring in how work is conceptualized and delivered. Corporate law departments and law firms that have not made digital a priority are considering all options in a new, decidedly digital world.

Remote working and social distancing have ignited a new appetite for technology that accelerates the profession’s agility. The move towards digital has rapidly evolved in all other business functions, and for the legal function it certainly enables much more than remote work. It affords an opportunity to maximize client and professional resource experience and creates new commercial value while redefining legal’s contribution to the business.

Going digital is not new and early stage aspects are present in various legal sectors. That said, most law departments and law firms have only adopted point solutions that provide incremental benefits, few have totally reimagined how they execute work.

Technology is not the whole answer, however. Too often the hype surrounding technologies such as AI becomes the only message heard when thinking digital. New technologies by themselves rarely – if ever – result in productivity improvements or business value.

Digital legal transformation extends far beyond technology adoption and is a fresh take on how legal services are structured and delivered. A new mindset is required to re-evaluate the customer and client experience relative to all aspects of the law department and its impact on the success of the business.

The pathway to digital legal transformation requires a commitment to fundamentally evolve the company’s legal operating model, transitioning certain costs from fixed to variable, with immediate upfront and ongoing cost savings. In leveraging digital, legal teams gain insight across the full spectrum of work to enable faster, better-informed business decisions, improved legal risk management capabilities, and enriched business processes that create expansive value across the enterprise.

While there is a growing realisation of the inherent advantages of a fully digital legal function – revenue gains, performance gains, risk reductions, and cost reductions – it is still a relatively new concept in the legal world. Legal departments have been previously constrained by significant forces outside their control – restrictions that have not allowed them to fully define their value contribution to the organisation.

Given the stakes, this type of transformation requires the right knowledge base. Until recently, GCs and law firm leaders alike would have been challenged to find a space where the merging of technology and law is approached with a global mindset.

Digital transformation is the single biggest opportunity for law today. When properly executed, it will change how corporate leadership and colleagues across the business perceive the impact and value of the legal department for years to come. It is a powerful and ongoing evolutionary force for creating economic value, agility, and competitive advantage.

Dan Reed is chief executive of UnitedLex

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