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Future-Proofing Your Legal Tech Stack, Part I: Process Automation

No matter how advanced a company’s tech stack may seem to be, it has to also support efficient and agile processes to ensure business continuity, both during “normal” times and amidst crises.

It also should be able to provide that level of confidence for years to come.  A “future-proofed” tech stack will be able to tackle future disruptions without needing a rip-and-replace; its components will have the flexibility to evolve over time, continuing to steadily deliver value and ROI.

What’s a proven foundational tool for A) delivering flexible and highly efficient processes, B) providing both immediate and long-term value, and C) uniting other components of your legal tech stack so they operate more efficiently?  Process automation.

Legal Ops pioneer Connie Brenton, Chief of Staff and Director of Legal Operations at tech giant NetApp, once described it as “one of those crazy, life-changing technologies.” Why?

The power to pivot

The reasons were explored during a recent webinar featuring Jeffrey Marple, Director of Innovation, Corporate Legal at Liberty Mutual, who was joined by Mitratech’s Brian McGovern and Steven O’Donnell.

Best-in-class legal process automation solutions empower legal departments to quickly and easily design, build, and deploy workflows and processes that are highly cost-effective and error-free, which is important enough to legal department performance during “normalcy.”  When disruptions strike, being able to pivot swiftly and implement new processes to cope with sudden impacts has proven to be a lifesaver for some in-house teams.

Some of the types of processes and workflows that were developed and deployed, often in just days, to mitigate COVID-19’s effects?  Processes for vetting legal vendor continuity, for obtaining onsite visit request approvals, even for remote work tracking.

Accelerate everything, everywhere

The ability of process automation to react in a hurry to the demands of a pandemic is just an illustration of its everyday value to your tech stack and operations. Nearly any process, anywhere can be automated, and successful adopters often start with the “low-hanging fruit” of high-volume tasks that can be easily digitized–and can thus immediately demonstrate the ROI and advantages of automation.

Take, for instance, processes that rely on email. As Brian McGovern, General Manager, Workflow Solutions at Mitratech, and a renowned Legal Ops leader, puts it, “Email is the most widely-used workflow tool and it’s simultaneously the worst workflow tool.”

By automating one of these processes to ensure the right gatekeepers receive the right emails at the right moment, with automatic notifications and escalations to keep participants on track? That not only accelerates execution and ensures completion but frees staffers and managers alike from the manual busywork of writing emails and doing followups. That, in turn, slashes time costs by as much as 95%, depending on the process.

Build something better with process automation

But as Brian points out, it’s not merely about automating an existing process. “You want to build an improved process, not just the same process.”

“Look to do something better. Think about how you can make them better and start with ‘friendlies’…that have some good relationships in your organization because your initial steps are to get some points on the board, (and) convince people to come along on this ride with you.

“If you’ve designed a good process, you’re going to be generating savings…and then, as your company learns more about process automation, if you get those first wins under your belt and generate some excitement, go ahead and tackle the larger and more complicated processes.”

What this leads to, in his experience and that of other Legal Ops leaders, is that other business units and departments begin working with Legal in adopting process automation. This allows legal departments to actually embed legal and compliance best practices in those processes, allowing legal’s ability to drive pervasive, positive results for the entire organization. Which also burnishes the legal department’s star, of course.  As Jeff Marple explains:

“Legal wasn’t originally a process or tech-forward organization within Liberty Mutual. Now we have developed several internal client-facing workflows that our clients just love, and that has changed the reputation…Legal now leads the organization with process automation deployments.”

Helping other systems work together

The integration of disparate applications and resources in a legal tech stack is a key to the long-term value of those components, and even of the entire stack. A modern legal process automation solution can integrate seamlessly with legacy systems and third-party providers, permitting them to function together as contributors in processes that can range from the simple to the extraordinarily complex.

This can not only benefit the legal department, but it–again–provides a foundation for integration that’s extensible across the entire organization.

As Greg Bennett, Manager of Legal Operations at Gilead Sciences once pointed out:

Proven in practice: 64% of in-house legal departments say technology has resulted in better workflows for attorneys.

Source: Statista

“We see (process automation) enabling more data and information to be flowing between multiple applications…we can connect multiple organizations to Legal in order to get information in faster.”

In our next installment in this series about future-proofing your legal tech stack, we’ll address the importance of having a data strategy in place.  And why that strategy should be driving your investment decisions about legal tech adoption.

On-Demand Webinar: 5 Top Ways to Future-Proof Your Legal Technology Stack

What are the best strategies for preserving your legal technology investment for whatever lies ahead? Learn in this on-demand webinar video featuring top experts.