Planning Your Next Legal IT Strategy Discussion (Part III): Focus on Talent

By Peter Krakaur, Vice President, Legal Business Solutions, UnitedLex
This is the final installment of a 3-part series offering a framework for law firm leaders to discuss and plan a sustainable IT strategy that enables internal and external digital clients of today and tomorrow. In this final installment, we focus on staffing and talent model disruption as an indispensable ingredient to enable a technology strategy that will drive successful future legal practices and business models.
In our previous installments, we explored the framework’s nine (9) layers, including enterprise platforms, business applications, business and legal processes, and legal-specific applications. See Part 1 A Service Delivery Framework. The framework suggests technology delivery can be viewed as a series of building blocks, starting with infrastructure and hardware (brown layers) that support enterprise business systems and legal systems (white and green layers). These bottom, foundational layers also include (likely nascent but growing) intentionally designed data warehouses.
Leaders build upon these layers to architect future technology strategies by breaking down and rebuilding legal service delivery models (“digitization”; and “legal project management”), coupled with investments in “new” technologies (e.g., document automation and augmented intelligence). See part 2, Invest With Purpose .(blue layers).
Collectively, these process and technology changes enable practice efficiencies and generate data about the nature and cost of legal services. This data is critical not only to measure the value derived from the changes, but also to enable further, iterative change.
For example, imagine a digital transformation of the current contract negotiation paradigm. Today, lawyers generally exchange contract drafts by e-mail, sharing redlines with the counterparty and the business. Presume these lawyers have a rich knowledge management resources (playbooks and model agreements with fallback provisions), perhaps on an internal SharePoint portal. Assuming the contracting process continues via e-mail, the enterprise has no visibility into (i) which clauses are most heavily negotiated, the degree of variation of the agreed-upon language to the company standard; (ii) which individuals and teams perform at or beyond expected service levels; or (iii) the actual cost (or lost revenue) associated with producing the contract.
By contrast, assume adoption of a new process that integrates these playbooks into a contract negotiation platform that measures all of the element suggested above (e.g., ContractRoom, Akorda, Kim). Visibility into all contract negotiation steps enables greater contracting velocity for business clients. In parallel, contract (legal/business) risk can be reduced by embedding playbooks and best practices in the revised flow. Finally, the technology-based contract platform will capture data about the contract terms, the lawyers and business partners involved, and how those contacts are impacted by end-of-quarter business cycles. In sum, the re-imagined contact process delivers more value. Put another way, although the business client wants a contract, lawyers need to deliver more than a signed piece of paper.
Getting From Here to There
In order to (re)envision this process, leaders must assess the talent sitting atop the framework and within each of the layers below. Do you have people who can see the forest for the trees in the top purple layer? In parallel, do you have people who can see the trees for the forest, dynamically managing systems, permissions, security, and system integrations in the layers below? In this context, lawyers are necessary but not sufficient.
Project managers, legal operations professionals, data scientists, solution engineers, and innovation architects are critical roles that complement the traditional mix of lawyers, paralegals, and knowledge management professionals. Regardless of the role or title, you need purple people and other talent:

Talent to understand how to digitize your legal service – a mix of legal and technical savvy with strong project management and design thinking skills to disaggregate and reaggregate your legal work

Talent to understand how to digitize your business model for legal– a mix of business and technical savvy with strong project management and design thinking skills to disaggregate and reaggregate your business processes to support the legal work and align it with your business partners/clients

Talent to design, manage and enhance systems and processes at each layer – essential technical and business skills to help your legal business manage security, system integrations, data architectures, and user interfaces & experiences (UI/UX)

Talent to make sense of all the layers – solution and knowledge architects who know how all the legal and business elements align, adapting designs and systems to drive change to meet the legal/business challenges of today and tomorrow.

This talent is critical to derive the promised value from any system you purchase today or, more broadly, your collective technology portfolio. Prepare your workforce for your future; become a “Talent Champion.” See “Success Personified in the Fourth Industrial Revolution – Four leadership personas for an era of change and uncertainty” — “Talent: Reality Sinks In,” p.16 (Deloitte, 2018). See also CLOC Legal Operations Career Toolkit (suggesting a suite of IQ and EQ skills needed to enable an agile legal service model).
Businesses will continue to digitize, whether leveraging data to drive greater internal efficiency and/or to change the way the business interacts with customers and potential customers. As the business changes, so must those who deliver legal services to their business clients and partners. In this series we attempt to offer a structured framework of a legal technology roadmap – an intentional, synergistic mix of people, process and technology. Although leaders can use this framework to align agilely technology strategies for the future, it is critical that these strategies include the right talent above and within all framework layers. Absent this integrated talent, you may design a technology forest but miss the nuances of the legal trees that must be cultivated to keep your lawyers and clients happy.
Peter joined UnitedLex in 2017. He has held roles including director of legal operations at SolarCity, where he was responsible for developing and administering processes and systems that supported the legal department and its collaboration with employees, law firms, and external service providers. He also spent more than 10 years as chief knowledge officer at Orrick. 
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