Three Pillars of a Modern Legal Team
- 3 Mins
How are modern legal teams approaching eDiscovery and what industry themes are surfacing? All eDiscovery professionals should be pondering these questions as more organisations embark on transformation journeys. Innovation has increased and there is a focus on how to be strategic, make purposeful investments, and offer growth opportunities to the legal team. How is this all possible? While legal tech is a driving force in carrying out meaningful change, getting the right people with the right skillsets in the right places to close the gaps is what seals the deal.
Common themes that keep eDiscovery professionals across practice areas up at night include lack of technology and buy-in from upper management, uncooperative attitudes that limit capabilities, and the desire to maximise human potential. There is also increased focus on team growth, retention, employee well-being, and cultivating company culture. Making strides in these areas can help modernize legal teams and maintain a competitive edge.
Three main areas to focus on when modernising legal teams and eDiscovery processes are collaboration, automation, and standardisation. All of these components are intertwined and will drive change when harmonised and prioritised.
Everyone talks about the importance of collaboration, but do they really practice what they preach? Innovation unfolds by seeking out collaboration opportunities not just within respective teams, but with everyone involved in a matter. There are gaps that need to close between legal departments, outside counsel, and alternative legal service providers. Collaboration can also be beneficial outside the immediate project team by connecting deeper with third-party experts and other industry contacts. These opportunities often take a backseat to technology, when in reality the exchange of ideas and planning meetings are crucial to choosing optimal tools. When there is a disconnect between preservation and presentation, inefficiencies emerge due to lack of communication or being unaware of emerging technologies that will solve recurring problems. There needs to be a more concerted effort to bring everyone to the table via planning meetings, status calls, and new idea presentations.
Oftentimes the parties involved in a case are siloed and the more that regular communication occurs, the more the walls will break down. Consider these options:
- Invest in solid collaboration tools that provide one location to access case updates, communicate, integrate apps, and reuse prior intel.
- Have that initial meeting with the internal and external players at the outset of a case to align expectations.
- Employ a project manager to add value to the process.
- Check in with IT to see where internal security gaps exist so the team can proactively combat issues, continue to protect sensitive data, and maintain attorney client privilege.
- Perform legal spend analysis to help be more strategic about what should fall on outside counsel and what can be outsourced to a provider. For example, certain matters requiring specialised expertise or that are time/budget constrained may be better suited for a partner with flexible talent options versus outside counsel.
- Attend industry events to see what is working well for colleagues and competitors.
These are just a few ways to work on collaboration where the payoff manifests in smoother project management and increased efficiencies.
While automation is not a new concept, there is so much more innovation potential when legal teams focus on what really should be automated and the tools at their disposal. Being strategic with automation can be a game changer. Automating in the right places also provides the opportunity for lawyers to elevate their talent as they will have more time to shift their attention to strategy, preparation, consultation, and complex issues that drive higher-value work for clients. This also frees up time to focus more on collaboration opportunities and invest in professional development, which more people are prioritising.
As always with investing in automation, thorough vetting is critical and establishing longstanding relationships with trusted outside partner makes this process simpler. Any internal staff or external partners training tools to automate will need to have the right skillsets and knowledge to ensure the tech operates as desired. While eDiscovery projects are not one-size-fits-all, there is a lot of opportunity to automate where workflows repeat.
Standardisation and automation are greatly intertwined. Teams cannot automate effectively without solid standardised processes in place. There is widespread desire in the legal industry to overall improve standardisation efforts by exploring areas with untapped potential to create more uniform processes. This is crucial with high volume workloads, as there is just too much data to work through manually. While this seems like a simple task, it can be hard to know where to begin when there are so many unique factors in a case and divergences in how practitioners or external partners work. Start small with what is within reach and work up to standardizing across the different eDiscovery phases. Some examples include standardizing collection procedures, data handling via information governance policies, and preferred vendor usage.
Planning for the Future
To collaborate, automate, and standardise more effectively, there needs to be people on the legal team with the right skillsets. How to determine what is right? Remember this is subjective and will vary between organisations and case needs. Evaluate what can be repeated across projects and what is unique. The goal is to think critically and make informed recommendations, integrate emerging technologies, change and improve process, and drive adoption from the top down. This is possible with the right internal staff and external partners that work together as one unit.
Sometimes an eDiscovery managed services arrangement will be the answer to help manage legal matters with confidence. Using one provider that wears several hats can be valuable to improve legal tech education, find tools that every member of the eDiscovery team can benefit from, and improve collaboration. Besides having shared vision with an external partner – there needs to be internal stakeholders at law firms and corporations that collaborate effectively, the willingness to cooperate with adversaries, and continuous education.