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How legal tech will shape the New How

To support our clients and contacts in the in-house legal community and other business leaders, Shoosmiths hosted a webinar on 14 May 2020 focusing on legal tech’s role in #TheNewHow


As the saying goes “when the wind blows, some people build walls, while others build windmills". We know that we’re facing a crisis unlike any other, but what’s been illustrated clearly is that a lot of our old assumptions on how we work were wrong. We can be working smarter, faster, better. We want to emerge from lockdown with something positive to show for it: a new normal better than the old one. We need a new how.

On 14 May we hosted a webinar focusing on legal tech’s role in #TheNewHow. The panel of speakers comprised Martin Davidson, VP Customer – ThoughtRiver, Sarah Holford, Head of Legal & Compliance - Scania (Great Britain) Limited, Chris Padfield, Founder & CEO – Deskpro and Tony Randle, Partner – Shoosmiths and was hosted by Simon McArdle, Partner – Shoosmiths. Below are our key tips and takeaways.

Agile working

  • In-house teams as a cost centre mean that justifying change isn’t easy. However, the crisis means that an argument for change is now much more persuasive. Necessity is the mother of all invention: now is the time for transformational change!
  • Legal tech captures vital metrics to identify trends, prove worth and demonstrate value.
  • GCs know instinctively that legal tech will help but it is finding the time to implement it can be a challenge
  • The key mantra is ‘doing remote better’ (but bear in mind some people still want to be in an office and work together: consider the Silicon Valley cluster).
  • The best solutions for in-house lawyers? Those that keep them connected and visible, such as matter-tracking systems through which you can access information at all times (eg, Matters+). Shoosmiths’ Live Working allows communication in real time to keep clients up to date. The expectation is that these types of tech will increase. Every business wants to emerge from the crisis with something positive to show.
  • The Chief Executive of Unilever said recently that a lot of management is now looking at future improvements. The result? In-house teams can catch the tide of enthusiasm sweeping across the C-suite to implement change. Lawyers are much more adept at using tech and trusting it. Indeed, tech has kept business going in recent months!
  • Finally, the psychology of working from home has changed. Lawyers no longer need to feel guilty about homeworking. We’ve become more adaptable and tolerant. Good news!

“In-house teams can catch the tide of enthusiasm sweeping across the C-suite to implement change.”

Artificial intelligence (AI)

  • AI has come on dramatically in the past 2-3 years. But of course AI doesn’t replace lawyers. It supports lawyers and ensures consistency. AI enables lawyers to go deeper into the semantics on how a clause is drafted, what it says, what it means, and ultimately what the risk is. Indeed many lawyers are already using AI without knowing it and there will be a greater reliance on it. It frees up lawyers to work on matters where they can add the most value. It isn’t ‘turkeys voting for Christmas’.
  • From the point of view of a GC, AI has helped on low to mid-level contracts in particular. Put simply, it saves time! In-house lawyers won’t run out of work. AI helps to change the perspective of lawyers being seen to be the ‘business prevention squad’ by freeing up time to get out into business. This gets people on board so more projects and contracts (of a better quality) come the way of the in-house team.AI also allows humans to do what they do best, eg, support clients and negotiate. From an ethical point of view, it is worth remembering that AI doesn’t make decisions. It equips humans to make better decisions.

“AI doesn’t make decisions. It equips humans to make better decisions.”

Developing legal tech

  • Understanding and engaging with lawyers needs to be in the DNA of developers. To a degree, intuition does also help but lawyers need to be involved in products for lawyers and developers must engage with lawyers to determine what the problems are.
  • It is clear legal teams have been crying out for tech solutions for a while. Intuitive software is vital. The willingness to indulge in long training is no longer there - you need to flatten the trade-off between usability and features.

“Lawyers need to be involved in products for lawyers.”

Choosing and using legal tech

  • There are a huge array of legaltech companies. You need to know what your biggest challenges are: commercial contracts? Digital signatures? Collaboration? The process of choosing legatech is usually intuitive, although bear in mind that sitting through demos takes time (even though it is an investment well spent). Law firms can also offer trusted advice in this area. Challenge law firms to guide you through this. Can they provide end-to-end solutions?
  • From a GC’s point of view - know what your problem is. Do you need reports? Tracking? Take the time to sit through demos of any proposed product and get to know how it works day to day. Look at how intuitive it is. Is it directed at in-house? From a longevity point of view, consider how difficult it would be to stop using it. Getting away from a poor product could be a nightmare.
  • Using tech allows the sending out of feedback surveys. How is the team perceived? The creation of automated feedback forms means that trends can be spotted, and the in-house lawyer can focus attention on the business. Businesses do take note when you are attentive!
  • Software contains an enormous amount of data. Understanding ownership and security of data is key. Talk to someone who has had the experience of procuring legal tech. Social proof and testimonials are also useful: ‘what don’t you like about the product’?
  • As for the cost of legaltech, this is all relative and depends on your risk appetite. It doesn’t have to be a king’s ransom. It can be the equivalent to the cost of a high-end laptop., or, for a team of five lawyers, the cost of a paralegal.
  • Post-crisis we anticipate many offices will see fewer square feet per employee and changed configurations, with more space for collaboration areas and more reliance on legal tech. Tech will play a crucial part in who the winners and losers are: it won’t necessarily be those with the deepest pockets, but those who are the most innovative.

“Take control of the discussion. Create a world for yourself in which you can succeed.”

Final tips

  • Take the opportunities that exist now. Just try and, if necessary, try again. That mindset is important, you can only improve by trial and error
  • Legal tech is about taking control of the conversation with your business. It allows you to set your own KPIs so you can do what is expected of you better: you create your own world in which you can be successful
  • There are tools and services that can help you now which don’t involve huge investments in time or money. There are lots of easy wins. Get started!
  • Do something! Don’t wait to adopt innovation. Of course, choose carefully. But most people regret not having adopted tech solutions earlier

For more details, visit the New How portal on Shoosmiths website.


This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2022.

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