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Nordic Legal Tech Day: 3 lessons for better legal ops

Josephine Hanschke, 19 September 2019

Legal operations

Juro was both a speaker and a sponsor at Nordic Legal Tech Day. But what were the three key themes and takeaways from the event?

Last year’s Nordic General Counsel Report was about ‘Dealing with complexity’, and a year later, at Nordic Legal Tech Day in Stockholm, it feels like in-house lawyers are still looking for simplicity. I came away with three overriding lessons about technology's impact on the legal industry.

1. Excel is winning 

In many ways it seems like the deck is stacked against GCs. They’re constantly challenged to do more with less, of course; budgets get smaller as companies grow, and legal teams don’t scale at the same pace as the rest of the business either. Lawyers want to be doing value-add, strategic work, and not be seen as a bottleneck. 

But real life gets in the way, and prioritization is a big challenge. Carl Ostring, General Counsel at Traction, identified a common perception of in-house lawyers: that they’re ‘old school’, and not sufficiently target-oriented, focusing on the business’ bottom line above everything else. 

The good news is that we know this is changing. As our CEO Richard said in the day’s first session, one of the biggest legal technology shifts is lawyers migrating from Microsoft Word to Microsoft Excel. This might seem a little conservative compared to some industries, but it’s a huge mindset shift when it comes to lawyers becoming genuinely data-driven, able to identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies. Once low-value tasks are identified, that opens the door to automation.

2. You don’t need perfection

David Köröndi, our customer and General Counsel at Eton Shirts, has made progress along this journey and shared his experiences: “Boring work used to take up 30% of my time (before automation) - now I can spend this time on value added work,” he said.

David also urged the in-house legal audience to examine how we collaborate with colleagues, highlighting lawyers’ tendency to work in isolation until things are perfect. That makes sense, it’s how we were trained - what lawyer doesn’t strive for perfection? But business stakeholders want legal to be fast and easy, and it doesn’t always have to be perfect. That’s a hard mindset for lawyers to accept, but it can make a huge difference if contract volumes are increasing and the team is not.

We see this with our customers, who often set up approval workflows to give legal oversight, but then empower business teams to self-serve their documents, perhaps even removing lawyers entirely from the process for the lowest value contracts (depending on risk appetite). If legal want to add the most value to the business, that value might not actually mean meticulous, perfect drafting; it might mean taking friction out of the process instead, and making that time free to focus on strategic issues.

3. Vendors’ cultures matter

This year’s Nordic General Counsel Report was discussed at length, and it revealed that some 63% of corporate in-house legal teams in house have yet to automate any processes.

The reasons for this are well documented: lawyers are risk averse by nature which, coupled with the perfectionism we already discussed, makes it difficult to commit to change. But the existence of events like Nordic Legal Tech Day, and the compelling conversations taking place both on and off stage, demonstrate that the appetite is growing to find faster and smarter ways of handling legal process.

Vendor selection is difficult, with new entrants joining the market all the time, making it a sometimes confusing environment for buyers. David Köröndi advised people to “use the same metrics as for hiring employees - it's about culture,” he said. “I need to trust my suppliers and have a strong relationship - we need to see someone that sells their culture, not just who solves the problem. We spend as much time talking to them as we do with some internal business functions, so trust is very important.” General Counsel often think vendors don’t take enough time to understand their particular needs - finding vendors that are genuinely consultative is crucial if your innovation projects are to be successful.

The flipside of the survey’s findings is that there’s a huge opportunity for General Counsel to make their processes more efficient through automation, as long as they can find the right partner to do it. If you’d like to know more about how contract automation could save time for your legal team, just check out our case studies or get in touch.

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Topics: Legal operations

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