Legalweek 2021 Goes Virtual and Illustrates Just How Transformative Technology Can Be
Like everything else, Legalweek 2021 looked a bit different this year. While the conference was virtual, it did not disappoint. Attendees still experienced interesting keynotes, sat through CLE sessions, dropped into facilitated discussions, had networking opportunities, and even received virtual swag bags! The conference definitely reinforced the notion that most things can be done remotely, and can be done well. Necessity has forced legal professionals to explore more remote offerings, and many have discovered that adopting these tools has been transformative for the industry. In order to gain the most valuable business intelligence and operational benefits, it is crucial to have the right mix of people, process, and technology. As legal professionals learned more about how to enhance their practice and workflows with advanced technology as well as how to extract data for insights that help with making better business and legal decisions, the theme of having the right people, process, and technologies emerged.
Below are the four top takeaways from the conference that align with the overarching theme.
Do not fear data, leverage it instead
Leveraging data was by far the biggest takeaway from Legalweek 2021. More remote work has increased usage of collaboration tools, virtual support services, digital mailrooms, advanced technologies powered by artificial intelligence (AI), and other business applications. This in turn has generated more data than ever before, and organizations can use this data to collect business intelligence. Gathering data driven insights will improve outcomes, inform strategy moves, help make better business decisions, and increase transparency. Some ways to leverage data that came up during the conference include the following:
- Analyzing legal spend data and deciding what is working and what to cut.
- Performing early case assessments to determine the strength of a matter upfront in the litigation process. Case insights are all about harnessing the power of data to drive case strategy. Taking this step provides a deeper understanding of ESI and risk, allowing lawyers to make better informed decisions on how to move forward with a matter.
- Conducting searches for improper and offensive language through company databases to identify problems before they get out of hand and attempting preemption of legal action for issues like sexual harassment.
- Using data analytics to gauge the chance of success on a matter. This is especially helpful to identify trends specific to certain judges and arguments. Looking at this will help make decisions like where to file a case, what motions to attempt, and when to explore settlement more strategic.
- Using AI solutions to identify data patterns indicating whether certain information is valuable. This can influence decisions about data deletion and retention.
- Improving contract management by using analytics and automation with tasks like comparing clauses to corporate standards and identifying variances in contracts that are supposed to be uniform. All of this streamlines contract processes and helps a team to stay on top of deadlines.
When taking any actions to leverage data, it is critical to measure results. Questions to ponder include whether you were able to save money, identify potential problems, or use the data insights to make better operational moves. Report progress and “wins” in an ongoing way to demonstrate the value of putting data to work.
AI is helpful, not scary
Another repeat topic covered during the conference was how legal professionals need to change their way of thinking and talking about AI. For years, there has been hesitancy regarding AI and the “unknowns” about how this technology operates. But there is nothing to fear, as AI has proven to be helpful to the legal industry in several ways. Additionally, AI is becoming more prevalent and comes in many forms. From sites like Amazon to your iPhone’s facial recognition prompt, people are routinely using AI without even knowing it. Now is the time to take a new approach to AI and realize the benefits it can provide in the workplace, not only in the legal world. Key business advantages include being able to provide better and more reliably consistent outcomes and present clients with measured results backed by data.
The bottom line is that the legal industry needs to realize that AI is a helpful tool that can never replace the legal mind, as these systems require training and lawyers will need to analyze the data outputs to formulate strategies and determine operational decisions. However, those not embracing AI will be at a disadvantage because lawyers using AI will be able to offer faster reviews, cost-savings, and superior results.
Now is the time to focus on information governance
With remote work becoming more commonplace because of the pandemic, there has been a data explosion resulting from the accelerated digitization of business workflows and collaboration. This makes information governance a top priority, as organizations need to stay informed on how business data is being generated, how employees are using or storing data, and where the most valuable information resides. Rigorous data management can help organizations address retention, classification, dark data, compliance, information management, privacy, and so much more. With the abundance of data in the workplace, organizations need to review and update their information governance plans and data policies. This provides an opportunity to evaluate and score data for valuation and relevance. While technological aids like auto-classification software can surely help with these tasks, organizations should consider that simple process reengineering can often achieve these goals.
Also remember that information governance and information security go hand in hand. While it is crucial to make sure internal systems are secure to keep data safe, do not forget about vendor security. For example, if outsourcing for remote document review, it is important to vet a provider on their security processes to ensure business data is not compromised.
Seeing past the horizon – Choose legal solutions that compliment business objectives
An interesting point that surfaced during the conference was shifting focus from simply investing in technology to making more informed decisions about which solutions best align with an organization’s specific business goals. This requires having a deep understanding about a client’s goals and risk allowance. Knowing these factors ahead of time will help drive the selection of the best technology to combat potential challenges, instead of having to buy technology after a problem arises. Using technology to backfill is not the best way to accomplish business objectives or stay on the path of technological transformation. The big takeaway is that if an organization is investing, it needs to be the right technology for the job. Technology does not work in a bubble and it is important to make sensible decisions about what solutions to acquire.
For example, if keeping on top of regulatory obligations is a top concern then it would be prudent to look into horizon scanning. These solutions can provide alerts about new or updated regulations which helps stay on top of compliance obligations. With so many domestic and global regulations that legal organizations and their clients need to keep track of, it is crucial not to let things fall through the cracks and understand how change influences obligation. Turning to horizon scanning can help solve these hurdles by providing regulatory trend insights, better data management capabilities, and information that can sharpen data governance policies.
Like past Legalweeks, this year’s conference shined a light on the ever-increasing role of technology in the legal industry. Technology can do so much more today than just automate a process. It can provide previously unknown business intelligence, help improve case strategy, uncover potential issues, and overall, help organizations understand their data better. This last point of better understanding and managing data was also a key theme this year. At the end of the day, this conference is not just lecturing about new advancements in technology or better ways to use artificial intelligence, but sharing the best the ways to achieve maximum ROI: getting the right mix of people, process, and technology to produce better outcomes.
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