We’ve been getting more and more inquiries from corporate legal departments lately. It seems that they are starting to get the message that there’s a better way to practice law than to just keep reinventing wheels over and over again.
That’s a good thing for them – and everyone – because it appears that there’s still some work to be done here on making corporate legal departments work better. A recent study by Deloitte “CLOs and leadership: Closing the gap between today’s strengths and tomorrow’s expectations,” shows that there is indeed a gap between law department leaders and their teams – or at least the expectations of their teams. According to Deloitte:
“legal has the largest gap [of any department] between overall leadership score and employee engagement index score. . . These findings suggest that generally lawyers are lagging, or are at best mediocre, in their ability to connect with their direct and indirect reports, as well as other stakeholders across the enterprise—a key leadership quality as the future of legal unfolds.”
While we cannot say that we’ve spoken to 122,000 people, as Deloitte did for this study, we’ve spoken with more than a few corporate lawyers and we can say that we’ve found them to be less disconnected than they are distressed over the vast and ever-increasing volume of work that they need to do.
We’ve heard it over and over that corporate lawyers’ GC-bosses want, expect and even need them to do more higher-level, strategic work, but that the demands of day-to-day lower-level tactical issues such as drafting and re-drafting contracts – often the very same contracts – make that impossible.
It’s not all about the technology, but technology is certainly a key sticking point
In reporting about the Deloitte study, Law.com interviewed Lori Lorenzo, the managing director of Deloitte’s chief legal officer program to see what she saw as the drivers of this difficulty. As Law.com reports:
‘“Another disconnect emerged when the interviewees were asked to list the top three areas that rising leaders should be focused on for development. Most of the lower-level lawyers identified technical savvy—a skill that wasn’t on the radar of most CLOs. ‘I want to do more research about why there is that disconnect,’ Lorenzo said. ‘But this is interesting, especially in what I call the age of legal transformation.’”
When it comes to technology driving the “age of legal transformation” we couldn’t agree more
Even more importantly, the Law.com article then goes on to note:
“Leaders should be looking more closely at legal technology as a way to make legal departments more efficient but also as an opportunity to engage with their in-house lawyers by, for instance, giving them the chance to develop new skills or take on different responsibilities.”
Though admittedly we cannot determine if this sentiment is coming from Deloitte’s CLO program managing partner or the Law.com author, this is ground-breaking statement. Technology can indeed empower new skills and capabilities for lawyers.
Just think of all of those talented but frustrated corporate lawyers we’ve spoken with being able to make their GC-bosses and themselves a lot happier with their work by using technology to re-focus their time away from that lower-value, lower-level work towards the kinds of high-level, high-impact projects that would move their companies – and their careers – forward.
Thanks to cloud-based software, you can now get the kind of technology you need to move forward – and get it all by yourself!
We now return to the Deloitte study, toward the end of the report, where technology has been identified as a key driver of much-needed change:
“Leaders should be looking more closely at legal technology as a way to make legal departments more efficient but also as an opportunity to engage with their in-house lawyers by, for instance, giving them the chance to develop new skills or take on different responsibilities. . . .
We would normally disagree with Deloitte here, in their implication that this opportunity for change has to be lead from the top, but instead Deloitte goes on to make it crystal clear how this change can and should be lead from the bottom-up:
“. . . learning now extends from the bottom up—from younger lawyers, dubbed “digital natives” by some, who are perhaps less experienced in traditional areas of law, but far more experienced in other emerging areas of importance, such as technology.”
As we’ve said recently, we’re fortunate to live in a new era of technology products – solutions that don’t require begging a boss to drop everything in their all-too-busy jobs to approve something and don’t require pleading with an IT department to drop everything in their all-too-busy jobs to implement something.
Implementing document automation is one of the easiest and fastest ways to make the legal department more efficient. It doesn’t disrupt the workflows that are already in place; rather, it quietly slides right in to greatly enhance them.
Automating the tedious, error-prone task of preparing documents not only vastly improves the quality of the work of in-house lawyers but also frees up their time to focus on more meaningful work, exponentially increasing their job satisfaction.
Taking the long overdue step to automate repetitive contracts and agreements also signals to senior leadership that the legal team is ready to move away from their traditional roles as legal advisors, contract preparers, and risk watchdogs and move on to broader, more strategic roles as business partners empowered to champion “Attorney-driven-growth” within the organization.