The first key point is that IT departments in law firms are generally implementing systems that will meet the needs of their users and offer benefit across the entire firm. Apply this to the corporate organisation and you start to see why their IT teams focus on corporate-wide solutions such as Email, HR, Finance and Compliance.
Even the largest in-house corporate legal teams have a very small number of people in relation to the global organisation. Whilst we can argue that some systems used by lawyers (particularly document management) could be used across the entire organisation, corporate legal teams often find it difficult to get a seat at the table to even be able to present their argument for systems specifically suitable for them.
Will things change?
The answer has to be yes.
With more and more focus on managing risk but at the same time reducing costs, the General Counsel is expected to know at a much more detailed level what the legal team is working on, who it’s for, how much it’s costing, what the risks are, and the current status of large matters – in particular those related to litigation. This is all at a time when there’s an increasing trend to move work in-house.
A recent survey, which focused mainly on trends in the US, highlighted that while around 80% of the largest legal departments had matter management and eBilling solutions, this dropped to only 20% – 25% for the smaller corporates and concluded that, “Adoption of various legal technology solutions is still minimal, especially in smaller and midsized legal departments”.
In Europe, in-house legal teams are increasingly creating Chief Operating Officer (COO) positions and Legal Operations and Change teams to work more closely with corporate IT, rather than asking a busy lawyer to run an IT project on the side of their desk. Also, the increasing opportunity to use cloud hosted solutions means there can be less ongoing involvement from in-house IT teams once the solution is in place, or in some cases even during the implementation.
Perhaps the greatest challenge is that even if there’s more demand and buy-in for legal technology solutions from General Counsel and engagement with corporate IT is easier than in the past, there’s still a need to produce a strategy, create a solid business case with benefits, obtain budget, have the resources to deliver the technology – while managing the ongoing change process.