Insights

How the COVID-19 crisis is showing the way for legal technology

Corporate

In times like this it can be a challenge to look forward. However 'crisis' comes from the Greek word 'to sift', and a crisis is an opportunity to sift through all you have available to you and keep only that which is worthwhile and valuable.

As the COVID-19 crisis transforms the way we work, the pressure to enable effective remote working has become overwhelming. All legal businesses have had to adapt quickly, and in doing so, many have uncovered shortcomings in the way they operate. This is particularly acute for smaller in-house teams. So how can these teams use this crisis as an opportunity to revise their work practices and work in a better way? And importantly, what legal technologies will help them do this?

What legal technology will be most useful?

We believe the current crisis has made the following technology essential:

  1. Document management/exchange
  2. Electronic signing
  3. Matter/task management
  4. Communications

Many in-house teams will have some of the above in place already, but to be able to work at maximum productivity, you need all of them.

None of these are particularly new or exciting, and yet the crisis has made it clear that everyone needs to adopt these well-worn technologies in order to simply be able to operate effectively in the new environment. Keeping with these technologies after the crisis and building them into your operating model will benefit your team into the future.

Document management/exchange

If you are running remote teams, you need to have a central storage capability for all of your legal documents. Sending documents by email between team members is risky, lacking version control and the 'one source of truth'.

These systems can be as simple as Google Docs/Drive or as sophisticated as iManage Cloud. The best of them operate in the cloud so that they are accessible anywhere, anytime and drive efficiency and risk management.

A related issue is document exchange - how do you move large, confidential documents securely between parties, including outside your team? Printing execution versions/delivering USBs and sending by mail/courier has passed us by, and should be eliminated from your processes.

Again, a cloud-based document management system can assist here, but there are also systems such as Dropbox, HighQ and the like which can be used to enable exchange.

Security is an issue for all of these systems. Obviously using a consumer-grade system can be less than ideal, so we recommend a system that prioritises security.

Electronic signing

So once you have digitised your document process, how do you manage the execution of documents?

Firstly, consider whether you need signing at all. Do you just need agreement or acceptance, and can that be effected by pressing a button on an email or webpage?

If you need signing, can you move to an electronic process? Some documents do need wet ink signatures, but they are in the minority. Instead, consider products like DocuSign and Adobe Sign - both are quick and easy to adopt. Teams should be looking to build these products into their process now.

Matter/task management

One obvious challenge of remote teams is knowing what everyone is working on at any point in time, who has capacity to take on new tasks and who is the most effective at completing certain tasks.

This challenge can be solved by a matter management platform. These platforms allow efficient management of resources and risk while providing a better understanding of the legal operations of a team. Two local examples are Xakia and LawVu.

If you are looking for something simple to assist with task management, there are many systems which can be used, such as Asana or Todoist. For specific legal products, there is Evenor, which is a resident of the Lander & Rogers LawTech Hub powered by YBF Ventures, and promotes itself as like Airtasker for legal.

Communications

One of the biggest issues for remote teams is communications. Fortunately there are numerous potential off-the-shelf solutions, including the ubiquitous Zoom and Microsoft Teams. There is a mountain of information readily available about these products.

There is also Legaler, a specific product designed for legal teams which has been around for a while now. Legaler addresses a number of the specific issues pertaining to legal teams which the other products do not, particularly around security.

How to decide?

The product you choose needs to be the right one for your team, now and in the future. We've spent time ourselves evaluating products and understand this process, which can be daunting for any team. Nevertheless, putting aside product fit and functionality, the two most important features are usually security and cost, and often they are mutually exclusive.

If signing up to the expense of an enterprise product is not going to be feasible, a number of these products are available on a per-user per-month basis, which can flex up and down with a team. Adopting these technologies now will help your team come out of this crisis in better shape.

Our team is actively monitoring and considering the implications of legal and regulatory developments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. You can find our COVID-19 collection here.

All information on this site is of a general nature only and is not intended to be relied upon as, nor to be a substitute for, specific legal professional advice. No responsibility for the loss occasioned to any person acting on or refraining from action as a result of any material published can be accepted.

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