What is the reason behind legal’s hesitancy to adopt legal tech? We explore three main reasons and how to overcome the challenge in simple steps.
Author: Richard Mabey, CEO and co-founder of Juro.
Automation plays a significant role in most of our lives, without us even noticing. The concept of automation, however, is nothing new – one of the earliest instances was of car manufacturers creating mechanized processes to handle growing demand.
Nowadays, automation has improved the way we interact with businesses. When you contact the support team for any product or service, you elaborate on the problem with a chatbot before speaking to an actual human. Instead of scheduling the same video calls at work, you automate the process so the calls repeat each week.
And while this automated world seems to impact everything we do, there are certain industries that haven’t been as quick to adopt tech that could enable them. In a startup, for example, finance teams have digitized their processes to make them paperless, people and talent teams use applicant tracking systems to push candidates through the hiring funnel … but legal teams? Still struggling with Word and email.
Why is this? What’s stopping lawyers at startups from making the same decisions as their colleagues? We explore three main reasons behind legal’s hesitancy to adopt legal tech.
1. Getting buy-in from the business
At a startup, the primary focus is growth – anything that doesn’t show an immediate benefit to the bottom line is sidelined. Legal teams can struggle to get buy-in from the business for tech that helps the team work faster – and legal teams aren’t traditionally data-driven, so assembling a business case for legal tech isn’t always easy. “Doing more with less” has transformed from buzzword to mission statement for legal teams, and shifting that mindset can be challenging.
The solution is straightforward enough – lawyers need to change the narrative around why they buy legal tech in order to get the business on their side. Instead of leading with how it’ll help the function work more efficiently, lawyers should lead with how it’ll help them enable commercial areas of the business.
If you’re getting buy-in for a contract automation platform, for example, then focus on how an automated process will help sales teams handle routine contracts, such as non-disclosure agreements and order forms, at a faster rate. This will lead to closed deals, and more customers, in less time.
“’Doing more with less’ has transformed from buzzword to mission statement for legal teams, and shifting that mindset can be challenging”
2. Workloads vs time
When you think of a tech implementation project, the first thing that springs to mind is the amount of work involved from start to finish. In a startup, the legal team usually consists of one or two lawyers, serving a constantly-growing commercial team. When you’re part of a lean legal team, you naturally need to balance several, high-priority tasks at the same time – and legal tech doesn’t sit that high up the ‘to do’ list. Lawyers tend to find it easier to stay where they are, use the systems already in place, and pencil in automation for a later date.
The problem is, implementing tech later down the line, as the business continues to become more established, is a different challenge entirely. Over time, teams develop habits, and getting them to radically change the way they work is an even bigger challenge.
Usually, the process of buying and adopting legal tech feels much more complicated than it is – make sure you lean on a vendor that will have legal and other teams up and running in days, not months.
3. Spoilt for choice
With so many legal tech vendors out there, it’s easy for lawyers to feel overwhelmed. This abundance of choice, combined with buzzword techniques that don’t detail the problem tech solutions are trying to resolve, make it difficult for legal teams to understand what it is they’re actually buying.
For example, platforms that help with digital contracting address a range of problems – but if you don’t know the difference between contract management and contract automation, then finding a solution that caters to your specific needs is much more challenging.
This lack of understanding can dissuade legal teams from taking the plunge altogether – and lawyers are trained to be risk-averse. They would much rather stick to the systems already in place, regardless of how manual and time-consuming those systems are, instead of taking a risk and implementing legal tech that no-one ends up using.
Overcoming this challenge involves a few simple steps:
- Understand what it is legal is trying to solve: what’s the main purpose of the tech you’re trying to implement? How do you envision this tech making legal’s lives easier, and enabling others in the business?
- Do your research: reach out to others in your network, and look at the solutions that are already making an impact in your industry. For every platform, consider the competitors, and understand how the features line up in your list of priorities – for example, is an eSignature tool a must-have or nice-to-have feature in your contracts platform?
- Avoid the jargon: it’s so easy to be swayed by buzzwords, but these phrases don’t usually align with legal’s requirements, or the problem the customer is trying to solve. Look for a vendor that offers a no-nonsense overview of what they do, and how they can help you.
There are plenty of misconceptions around legal tech, and the nature of both lawyers and the wider industry means that change is happening in slow steps. But being able to overcome the challenges with tech adoption will help the legal team massively in the long run – enabling them to become strategic, value-add business partners as their startup continues to scale.
Richard Mabey is the CEO and co-founder of Juro, the all-in-one contract automation platform. He was previously a corporate lawyer at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. In 2019, FT Intelligent Business named Richard as one of the top ten legal technologists globally.