Legal Business Blogs

Guest post: How legal services providers should be changing their models for the digital age

Covid-19 continues to disrupt our personal and professional norms. In business – particularly, the legal industry – seismic shifts are occurring in how work is conceptualized and delivered. Corporate law departments and law firms that have not made digital a priority are considering all options in a new, decidedly digital world.

Remote working and social distancing have ignited a new appetite for technology that accelerates the profession’s agility. The move towards digital has rapidly evolved in all other business functions, and for the legal function it certainly enables much more than remote work. It affords an opportunity to maximize client and professional resource experience and creates new commercial value while redefining legal’s contribution to the business.

This opportunity is especially prescient in the UK, where a forward-thinking regulatory environment allows for the kinds of innovation and reimagination that can help law departments and firms not only survive but accelerate in an uncertain global economy.

Going digital is not new and early stage aspects are present in various legal sectors. That said, most law departments and law firms have only adopted point solutions that provide incremental benefits, few have totally reimagined how they execute work.

Technology is not the whole answer, however. Too often the hype surrounding technologies such as AI becomes the only message heard when thinking digital. New technologies by themselves rarely – if ever – result in productivity improvements or business value.

Digital legal transformation extends far beyond technology adoption and is a fresh take on how legal services are structured and delivered. A new mindset is required to re-evaluate the customer and client experience relative to all aspects of the law department and its impact on the success of the business.

The pathway to digital legal transformation requires a commitment to fundamentally evolve the company’s legal operating model, transitioning certain costs from fixed to variable, with immediate upfront and ongoing cost savings. In leveraging digital, legal teams gain insight across the full spectrum of work to enable faster, better-informed business decisions, improved legal risk management capabilities, and enriched business processes that create expansive value across the enterprise.

While there is a growing realisation of the inherent advantages of a fully digital legal function – revenue gains, performance gains, risk reductions, and cost reductions – it is still a relatively new concept in the legal world. Legal departments have been previously constrained by significant forces outside their control – restrictions that have not allowed them to fully define their value contribution to the organisation.

Given the stakes, this type of transformation requires the right knowledge base. Until recently, GCs and law firm leaders alike would have been challenged to find a space where the merging of technology and law is approached with a global mindset.

This has been a primary motivator behind the creation of the Digital Legal Exchange (DLEX), an initiative founded in partnership by UnitedLex and DXC, the IT services company.

DLEX’s mission is to educate, inform, and scale the digital transformation of legal and brings together some of the brightest minds across business, technology, law, government, and academia. The lessons and insights granted by the DLEX faculty affords a conduit to bridge gaps that might preclude firms and law departments from making the leap into technology-driven processes.

Digital transformation is the single biggest opportunity for law today. When properly executed, it will change how corporate leadership and colleagues across the business perceive the impact and value of the legal department for years to come. It is a powerful and ongoing evolutionary force for creating economic value, agility, and competitive advantage.

The combined advancement of technologies appropriate to law along with the current economic environment, create a perfect storm for companies to bridge the digital divide. Digital is the new imperative in legal, and we will see a wholesale shift in how legal services are structured and delivered. As we have experienced in the past few months, that imperative is arriving more quickly than anyone anticipated.

Dan Reed is chief executive of UnitedLex