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Legalweek takeaways: Departments adopting tech, but should do more to unlock value

March 2022

David Cambria
Managing Director, Legal Business Solutions, PwC US

If there’s one issue that law departments and law firms have struggled with over the years, it’s creating a modern law practice. While the profession has taken some incremental steps to evolve, innovation has, for the most part, been slow.  Most have not adapted, let alone unlocked the full value of the technology, expertise or processes they need to do things differently.

That may finally be changing.

This year’s Legalweek, rescheduled from its typical late January cadence to March 8 to 11 in New York, featured many of the same themes as it has in the past, including the need for more innovation and the importance of legal technology, but unlike in previous years, there were more transformation stories to tell.

Rethinking legal operations

It was clear from some panels and from talking to people on the conference sidelines that many law departments and law firms embraced digitization and technological adoption over the last two years. It wasn’t because any new ground-breaking technologies were introduced, but rather, pandemic-related business shifts, such as work from home, plus the need for law departments and firms to do more with the same or fewer resources, forced companies to rethink their legal operations.

Attendees talked about workflow and collaboration tools – solutions to help documents and contracts easily move between lawyers, reviewers, and other stakeholders, for instance – and how best to handle change management, which is something more companies will need to think carefully about as their own transformations take shape. (One strategy that came up is to encourage the skeptic, rather than the early adopter, to try new solutions. If you can get the former, then the rest will likely follow.)

Where to go next

One of the big questions on people’s minds, however, is what to do next. While many firms did evolve during the COVID-19 crisis, they also have a long way to go before they become a truly modern law department. There was a lot of talk around firms needing to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, which means disrupting your own processes, bringing in new technology vendors and reimaging the ways in which legal ecosystems are structured. 

Discussions also centered around who should lead and execute this change, and that investing time in a transformation can pay dividends in multiple ways - especially given that law departments are already so time constrained. 

Don’t go it alone

While there does need to be an internal champion, often the General Counsel, there was also an acknowledgment that law departments can’t transform on their own and need strategic advisors like PwC. That was further proven by the fact that several members of PwC’s Legal Business Solutions team attended Legalweek. We had several conversations with attendees about the solutions we bring to the table, including our joint business relationships with innovative enterprise legal management, document discovery and management, and contract lifecycle system providers.

We’re going to help law departments extract more value from the technologies and platforms they have or wish to invest in, by helping to implement their systems in a way that gives them the insights and information they need to make more meaningful decisions around how to support their business. And that’s a key part of any transformation, as Legalweek attendees learned: a transformation is not about the technology itself, but rather the ability to use technology to support the law department’s - and the business overall - always-evolving needs.

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