One of my favorite topics is how lawyers and the legal profession can embrace leading technology to achieve more and better serve their clients. As we being a new decade, technology is becoming a bigger part in all of our lives, we are seeing a growth in tech intensity and there are great opportunities for lawyers put technology to work to help their clients.
Over the past few months I have delivered presentations on this important topic at the #MakeLawBetter Conference at Chicago-Kent College of Law and at the ALAS Firms Administrators Conference in Chicago. I have also had the opportunity to speak to various Microsoft customers regarding opportunities for their legal teams to accelerate their respective digital transformations. In this post, I share my thoughts regarding various steps that all legal organizations can take to embrace tech intensity so they can be more productive, more collaborative and better serve their clients.
Lawyers Must Be Innovators
I have begun my talks by sharing an important quote from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. When Satya become CEO in February 2014, the very first thing he did was to send this email to all Microsoft employees introducing himself and providing his vision for Microsoft on a go-forward basis. That email contained this very insightful quote: “Our industry does not respect tradition — it only respects innovation.” While of course Satya was referring to the information technology industry where Microsoft has been a leader for over 40 years, I think his quote is equally applicable to our legal profession. In order to best serve our clients, lawyers need to constantly innovate. If not, lawyers will be “disrupted” and our clients will go elsewhere for legal support – or if you are an in-house counsel they may not reach out to you for your advice at all (which is never good). In my opinion, technology is a lawyer’s best friend and it can help us accelerate our innovation on behalf of our clients so that we can deliver high-impact and high-value legal services.
Modern Legal Tech Intensity
There are plenty of areas for legal organizations to leverage technology to better serve their clients and help solve problems. However, I try to keep it simple with these four primary areas to modernize the delivery of legal services:
- Empower Legal Professionals: How can technology be leveraged to help enable legal professionals to engage in greater collaboration and deliver their legal services faster and in a more comprehensive fashion?
- Engage Clients: How can you use technology to better understand your clients, be more empathetic to them and be more responsive to them?
- Enhance Risk Management: In an increasingly regulated environment where earning trust is always paramount, how can legal organizations use technology to enable compliance, be more cybersecure and engage in smart risk-taking?
- Optimize Operations: How can legal organizations use technology to drive more efficiency, productivity, enhanced decision-making and “stop-doing” certain low impact and low value work?
Culture is King
A foundational element in embracing tech intensity is to help ensure that your legal organization has the right culture in place to fully use and consume technology. The management “guru” Peter Drucker has made the following quote famous in the corporate arena: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
While leading technology has great potential to help your legal organization, if your legal organization has not established the appropriate culture to take advantage of such technology, the return on your technology investments will be limited. My own employer, Microsoft, has been on a journey in transforming its culture over the last several years. While there is no magic formula per se in developing the right type of culture to help ignite greater digital transformation, here are some key areas to consider as your evolve the culture of your own legal organization:
- Embrace Change: In our fast-paced world, the only constant is change and as we all know being open to change and actually changing – both in our professional and personal lives – are very difficult things to do. Our customers, partners and competitors are all adapting and legal organizations also need to be able to change quickly to better serve their clients. Such change also involves being willing to evolve to use new and different types of technologies to better serve your clients. Here is one of my favorite quotes from Winston Churchill:
- Promote the Growth Mindset: Ideally your organization will strive to create a culture where your employees are constantly learning and growing. Stanford professor Carol Dweck wrote a leading book several years ago called Mindset where she stresses the importance of embracing a growth mindset mentality versus a fixed mindset mentality. Having this growth mindset mentality positions your legal organization to digitally transform faster and better serve your clients.
- Feedback is Fabulous: Be open to providing practical and actionable feedback to your team and actively seeking feedback from your teammates and your clients/customers. Of course, when you obtain such feedback be sure to do something with it in order to improve yourself and your legal organization.
- Be Bold: As many of us know, the legal profession is known to be a highly conservative one. However, legal organizations should be unafraid in taking smart risks when it comes to managing its teams, delivering legal services, making decisions about using appropriate technology and driving its organizations in a positive manner so they can better serve their clients. Think about appropriate and smart risk management to propel your legal organization forward versus having zero appetite for risk. Here are my 10 Ps of Smart Risk-Taking.
- Diversity & Inclusion (D&I): One of my favorite quotes about D&I is from D&I leader Verna Myers where she says “Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.” Having a culture that embraces D&I and the different and important perspectives that more diverse employees provide also can help legal organizations be ready and more prepared for digital transformation.
- Set the Tone at the Top: Of course, senior leaders in a legal organization need to set the right tone about their cultures both by their words – but much more importantly – by their actions.
Leading Digital Solutions – The Big 3
While there are lots of great technologies in the marketplace nowadays, I believe that legal organizations should focus their digital transformation efforts on these “Big 3” of the digital world: Cloud Computing, Data and Artificial Intelligence.
I remember negotiating my very first cloud computing contract with a major financial services customer at the end of the last decade during June 2009. Since that time the cloud computing marketplace had grown exponentially, it has become highly mature, robust and reliable and the cloud has provided the foundation for the generation of the massive amounts of data that we have access to nowadays and the growing prevalence of artificial intelligence.
While the cloud can benefit legal organizations in a number of different ways, in my opinion some of the key benefits of deploying cloud solutions involve the “3 Cs” of cost, cybersecurity and collaboration.
- Cost: By using cloud solutions you can save money and take costs out of your legal operations. By not having tangible technology like servers “on-premises” in your organization, you can lower your costs since you no longer need to acquire/lease such technology, you don’t need the space to store and run such technology, you don’t need to spend money powering such technology and you don’t need to have professionals responsible for maintaining/fixing such technology. Instead, you can in essence outsource your computing needs by partnering with a third party hyperscale and reliable cloud provider that can deliver cloud solutions to you on a remote basis via their data centers and the internet. In addition, leveraging high-powered cloud workplace collaboration tools can enable members of your legal organization to work on a remote-basis and your organization can reduce those costs associated with having a traditional physical office environment. For instance, large law firms may have an opportunity to reduce their operating costs by downsizing the footprint of their offices and enabling their workforce to serve their clients on a remote basis powered by cloud solutions – and such remote work may also help improve the quality of work life for their lawyers and legal professionals.
- Cybersecurity: As we know many legal organizations have access to highly sensitive data regarding their clients – and as we also know the cybercriminals are growing more sophisticated, bolder and are increasingly using technology as a weapon to target and obtain access to your data. Instead of protecting that highly sensitive data on your own, consider getting some help and storing and protecting such data in the state-of-the-art and highly secure data centers of hyperscale cloud providers who are in the business of using leading technical and operational measures to protect data and comply with a wide range of important data security standards and laws. For example, as a major cloud services provider Microsoft invests over $1 Billion annually on cybersecurity and offers a wide range of data privacy, security and compliance features that are part of its cloud solutions. It is virtually impossible for any legal organization to replicate the breadth and depth of security and compliance measures taken by hyperscale cloud providers in an increasingly regulated environment and by improving your legal organization’s cybersecurity position you can continue to earn the trust of your valuable clients.
- Collaboration: A constant challenge for many legal organizations is the ability to constantly collaborate and share knowledge in a manner that allows them to deliver more high-impact legal services to their clients. As lawyers and legal professionals it is very easy for us to remain “stuck” in our proverbial silos. Using leading and easy-to-use cloud-based workplace collaboration tools enables lawyers and legal professionals to break down those silos and collaborate in a more meangingful fashion. As an example, the Microsoft legal department uses the powerful and highly secure persistent chat tools that are part of Microsoft Teams to ignite richer collaboration with our legal teammates and business clients. In an article entitled “Digitally Transform with Microsoft Teams,” I outlined various use cases for Microsoft Teams in legal organizations.
Data, Data, and More Data
I believe that data is a highly underutilized asset by legal organizations. Being a huge fan of our country’s national pastime of Major League Baseball (MLB), I continue to be amazed at how MLB teams extensively use data and analytics to evaluate baseball talent and to make important decisions. As we begin the new decade, I believe that we will increasingly see legal organizations adopt this so-called Moneyball approach to data-driven decision-making and here are a few ways that your legal organizations can use data to better serve your clients:
- Data in Contracts: Chances are your legal organizations are involved in shaping and negotiating a wide range of agreements for your clients. If so, consider mining those contracts and its associated contractual provisions to spot trends, common issues, “fallback” provisions, etc…that can make you and your clients smarter when establishing such contractual arrangements with third parties.
- Data on Social Media: During this decade we have seen the continued growth and use of social media. There are terrific opportunities to learn from the vast amounts of data that can be found on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. I use the data on social media as a way to learn more about Microsoft, my clients, our customers, our partners, our competitors, and recent developments at the intersection of law, business and technology so that I can deliver more high-impact legal services to my clients.
- Organizational Analytics: One of my favorite Microsoft Office 365 tools is Workplace Analytics where I have access to data on my daily ways of working to help me be more productive in the workplace and to help balance the integration of my work and personal lives. By having richer insight into my workplace habits like how much focus, collaboration and quiet times that are part of my daily schedule I look for opportunities to work smarter and gain more productivity.
- Data and D&I: As many of us know advancing D&I continues to be a challenge in the legal profession. However, legal organizations can improve D&I so they can better serve their clients by using data to closely measure their legal organization’s D&I progress, being transparent about such D&I metrics reporting to identify the opportunities and challenges for improvement and then taking actual action to move their D&I focus forward. After all, as Peter Drucker also once said, “What’s measured improves.”
- Data and Outside Counsel: The relationship between in-house legal teams and their outside counsel law firms are extremely important to their mutual success. In-house legal departments need greater value from their law firm providers while law firms are seeking greater business opportunities from their in-house legal clients in an increasingly competitive legal services marketplace. In-house legal teams and law firms can analyze the data associated with both the scope of services rendered by law firm providers and the time spent in delivering such services to spot trends, identify potential efficiencies and to help create alternative fee arrangements that can be mutually beneficial to in-house counsel and their law firm providers.
- Make Your Data “Pop”: As your legal organization uses data to drive better decision-making, please consider how that data is presented to your senior leaders and clients for maximum impact. By using tools such as Power BI, your legal organization can tell its own data story by creating stunning reports with interactive data visualizations.
Finally, while it is always great to have access to interesting data and analytics, they mean absolutely nothing unless your legal organization puts such data and analytics to work to drive improved business and legal outcomes for your organizations and your clients.
Although Artificial Intelligence (AI) is still in its infancy, AI solutions – and its impact upon society – are increasingly capturing the attention of the legal profession. In my opinion as AI tools continue to advance and become more sophisticated, there will be more opportunities for legal organizations to use AI as a tool to deliver legal services to clients. As an in-house lawyer I am excited about the prospects of using AI solutions to handle the routine, repetitive and mundane tasks that lawyers have traditionally performed and engage in more “stop doing” and “de-lawyering” so that it can free up time for my team and I to perform more higher value work for my business clients.
There are a variety of use applications for AI solutions in the legal industry and the recent 2019 Legal Tech Buyer’s Guide and graphic below by LawGeex does an excellent job depicting those range of areas that may be ripe for AI in the provision of legal services.
In addition to the AI use applications above, there are also opportunities for legal organizations to use more “entry-level” AI solutions in the form of chatbots and/or digital assistants that may be able to perform various operational related talks for lawyers (e.g., scheduling meetings, timekeeping, booking travel) or interacting with clients to help answer certain common questions.
As lawyers increasingly use AI solutions I believe it is important to recognize that these solutions should be viewed as a tool by lawyers to supplement their legal services and not as a wholesale replacement for lawyers. While AI solutions can be highly valuable for lawyers, AI solutions also have several limitations and in my view should not be viewed as a substitute for a lawyer’s judgment, intuition, emotional intelligence and other key customer obsession-type skills used by lawyers in providing legal services. In addition, lawyers also need to understand the important intersection between AI and ethics and my company has taken a leadership role regarding responsible AI.
Tech Intensity Tips
Finally, here is a compilation of “Top Ten” best practices to keep in mind as your legal organization embraces greater tech intensity.
- Solve Problems: As your legal organization deploys technology, always remain well-grounded on the specific issues/problems that you are seeking to resolve for your legal organization and your clients.
- Start Small Projects: Seek to develop some “quick wins” when using technology.
- Perfection is Not Required: Lawyers have a tendency to seek perfection, but remember that “good enough” is often sufficient when lawyers leverage technology to better serve their clients.
- Use What You Have: Always remember to first fully utilize and exhaust your existing investments in technologies to help realize an appropriate return on your investments – and especially since acquiring new technologies costs time and money.
- Get Help: Legal organizations should not be shy in seeking the help of technology professionals as needed as they “skill-up” in the ever-changing world of technology. Also keep in mind that in the US currently 38 states now require lawyers to embrace the duty of technology competence.
- Lawyers Define Requirements: Although it will make sense for legal organizations to seek the guidance of technology professionals as applicable, lawyers should still define the specific needs for technology solutions as they know their clients and legal organizations the best.
- Evaluate and Select Technology Vendors You Trust: Be sure to conduct the necessary due diligence to select technology providers that you can truly trust since they will have access to highly sensitive data regarding your legal organization and client.
- Adopt User Friendly Technology: If technology is not relatively easy to use legal organizations will face challenges in getting their lawyers to embrace it.
- Establish Appropriate Training: When using new technology be sure to set your team up for success by initially delivering practical and hands-on training and designating lawyers on your team to be technology-specific “champs” so they can serve as a constant resource for their teammates.
- User Adoption is Key – Including Leaders: Even if you acquire the greatest technology in the world, it will have little to no positive impact unless you actually use it – and team leaders should set the right “tone at the top” through their own usage of technology.
As we begin a new decade it is an opportune time to carefully consider how your legal organization can drive more tech intensity to better serve your clients. Best of luck in your journey!