Solve complex problems, forecast legal spend, manage risk and partner with a diverse set of business stakeholders—these are just a few of the vast demands placed on in-house legal. In addition, corporate legal departments are facing new disruptions, such as changes to law firm practice models and advancements in technology. What does this mean for in-house attorneys and legal operations professionals?
Legal departments looking to embrace this disruption and seeking to be a modern, strategic business partner to the entire company must find new efficiencies, turning to technology to drive greater productivity. Collaboration technology is one example of a completely new category designed to boost productivity. In some companies, other corporate functions, such as IT, operations and R&D, have already experienced the benefits of collaboration. Now this technology is making its way to the legal sector with customized platforms specific to this audience. For corporate law leaders, the right collaboration platform can play a vital role in transforming a department’s overall strategy.
What Is Enterprise Collaboration?
Collaboration technology emphasizes quick, concise messages, on-demand videoconferencing, screen and document sharing and ongoing private and team conversations. Messages are organized by activity streams, which can consist of matters, projects or discussions. Available on a desktop, laptop or mobile device, this instantaneous messaging stream mimics the social and mobile communication paradigm that employees are used to in their personal communications. Documents are stored securely in one place, keeping files organized and allowing users to search across everything using keywords. In some collaboration systems, users can video chat and screen share one-on-one or with a team from within the collaboration tool.
One of the most significant benefits to consider is the possibility of aggregating applications into one platform. For in-house legal teams, some collaboration platforms can be integrated with existing legal systems and workflows, supporting processes for litigation, contract management, IP management, deal negotiations and more. Furthermore, when it comes to working across the organization with other key company functions, such as HR, IT, finance, etc., collaboration platforms can help legal teams with a proactive, collaborative approach, connecting all stakeholders—internal business clients, outside counsel, experts and other providers.
Finally, similar to other functions, law departments are experiencing a shift in employee demographics, with younger, more global and remote workforces. Many teams face challenges when connecting with teammates in different time zones or working with remote colleagues. A collaboration platform, rolled out enterprisewide, provides flexibility for co-workers in the same building or different countries around the world to collaborate with the same amount of ease, with the ultimate goal of improving how legal teams coordinate, communicate and perform across the board.
How Can Corporate Legal Departments Leverage Collaboration Tools and Get Started?
Becoming familiar with the value brought by collaboration software is increasingly important for in-house legal professionals, but knowing where to start can be challenging.
Find the right platform. Look for a platform with a simple, easy-to-use interface available on a desktop, laptop and mobile device. The platform should provide a way to exchange quick, concise messages. Evaluate the benefits of videoconferencing and document-sharing capabilities, and determine which processes and tools currently used could be integrated. Most importantly, ask questions about security protocols, training materials and help desk support.
Start with a pilot program and then expand. Start a collaboration deployment with an internal pilot team that focuses on one area of legal work and one set of business stakeholders. For example, a pilot program could begin with the contract management process with procurement, facilitating the negotiation, execution, performance, modification and termination of contracts. Implement key integrations to connect the collaboration system to other software tools used in the department, such as the billing system. Then, the platform could be expanded to other legal functions, such as IP management or litigation, and tools, such as document management systems or discovery tools.
Identify a champion and encourage power users. Make use of collaboration champions to spread the word and persuade stakeholders to join the platform. Explain how collaboration tools will enhance communication with internal and external stakeholders, lawyer-to-lawyer, lawyer-to-executive and lawyer-to-functional leaders. Share real-world scenarios so colleagues see how communication flows. For example, help users understand that messaging streams will allow for matter-specific conversations, with a persistent location for conversations. As teams change, show how new team members can come into a topic or matter and easily get up to speed. If needed, teams can drag a document into a conversation to share a reference point for the whole team or start a web meeting with voice, video and screen sharing on demand.
Prepare for the future. Tomorrow’s legal departments will look markedly different than they did yesterday. Legal departments must acknowledge their evolving role and embrace innovations in technology. Leveraging collaboration technology that integrates applications, workflows and data streams can help a legal department improve efficiency and be more effective in delivering strategic counsel.
This article originally appeared on December 7, 2018 in Corporate Counsel.