Implementing legal technologies is always a challenge, but perhaps nowhere more so than in a corporate environment. There are several unique aspects within a corporate environment that need to be considered to assure the success of any project, but especially of technology within the Office of the General Counsel (OGC). These include the staff available to lead the project, the support of the IT team and the infrastructure and culture of the OGC itself. Each of these has particular markers for success.
Build a strong project team
One of the most overlooked, but important predictors of the success of a technology rollout is the qualifications of the project team. In an ideal scenario, an operational and business-focused employee would partner to drive the project. Most OGCs today have a legal operations director, manager, or coordinator. Some even have a legal technology specialist. The ideal operational lead would know how to run a technology project, from gathering requirements to scoping to implementation to QC. While it is a bonus if they are familiar with the specific technology, it is more important that they are comfortable with the process of implementing technology. Often people in legal operations positions have been promoted from within the legal staff. While this can provide many advantages to understanding the business, it can also mean that some technical management skills are lacking. There are many excellent technical project management courses available to bridge the gap. The business partner on the project needs to be the one that liaises with the rest of the department to assure that business goals are being met, user input is being considered and implementation is happening in a way that maximizes adoption.
Success Story: Having the Right Team
In a large food company, the head of legal operations, along with an assistant and records manager, partnered with the legal department’s practice group leaders. The practice group leaders provided input on the business needs and requirements for a new integrated matter and document management system and encouraged teammates to participate in design testing and training of the system. The legal operations team focused on the logistics of vendor communications, IT coordination, installation, user management, migrations, etc.
Line up support from IT
Another critical success factor is knowing the level of IT support that will be required and available from the beginning of a technology project. It is more common to see OGCs move to technologies in the cloud that require less support and infrastructure from the IT team but be forewarned that this does not mean that IT will not be involved in the project. There will be security and connectivity requirements, potential client installations, and integration issues. While cloud providers like to sell their solutions as plug and play, with the complex requirements of today’s corporations, things are rarely that simple.
Success story: Active IT Involvement
In a large consulting firm, the IT department wanted to be very involved and chose an on-premises solution for legal technology needs. They were active in every part of the project from scoping to security to building to deployment to support. They served as partners throughout the project and attended all status meetings as well as IT-specific meetings.
Success story: Minimal IT Involvement
In a large communications company, IT did not have the bandwidth to support the relatively small legal technology solution in relation to the other companywide technologies. The OGC chose to go with a cloud solution and provided IT very early on with the expectations for participation and support. IT assisted with connectivity via SSO, packaging and deployment via SCCM and system access to consultants when and where needed. By establishing clear expectations and communications the project went smoothly without an undue burden on IT.
Find a cultural fit
Perhaps the most important factor in a legal technology project is making sure to understand the culture of the OGC. Is the OGC a unified department or several independent teams? Does the group require white glove service? Is it a tech-savvy team, or do staff require additional training and support? It is important to involve the major stakeholders as part of the communications throughout the project and planning. It is also necessary to know which attorneys, secretaries and paralegals to involve in gathering requirements, designing the system and testing and QC. Is there a diverse enough team to have all perspectives represented? Have all dissenters been addressed prior to rollout?
Success story: helping a change-resistant culture learn and adapt
A global manufacturing firm needed a solution that unified its team. Its current technology was old and cumbersome, so the firm required high levels of involvement and high-touch training to make the technology rollout successful. It involved every legal professional in focus groups and design meetings prior to implementation. It also provided both classroom and at-desk training following rollout. Adoption rates were high, and efficiencies improved.
Success story: adapting new technology to minimize user disruption
A global pharmaceutical firm required collaboration across countries and legal departments while allowing for each department to continue to operate autonomously. Its legal technology rollout also demanded as little time and disruption for end-users as possible. While standardizing on a single technology platform, the firm took the approach of having a single person from each region of a division to assist with making the new system look and feel as close to the current systems as possible. This allowed for minimal input from the remaining users and minimal adjustment time at implementation.
With the increase in legal operations positions and cloud technologies, there are expanding opportunities for OGCs to enhance efficiency and service through new technologies. With a well-thought-out strategy and the correct team, the implementation of these technologies can be done with maximum impact for the OGC’s delivery of legal services.