Doing more with less (and for less)

By Dominic Jaar January 18, 201718 January 2017

Doing more with less (and for less)

After a couple of years in private practice, when my client Bell asked me to join its legal department as a litigator, I was excited at the prospect of working for a leading Canadian technology company. However, I was surprised to learn the legal department was as technologically advanced as a court of justice: I was given a computer with a matter management system (MMS) that resembled Excel (ok, maybe Access) and used Windows Explorer as the document management system (DMS). Things could only get better!

Within the first couple months, we embarked on a large-scale technology overhaul to source and implement more robust MMS and DMS. I had been involved in a similar project at my previous firm, which was created through the merger of five law firms, and brought my lessons learned to the table. From functional and technical requirements identification with the different stakeholders (lawyers, administrative assistants, paralegal, litigation support, IT, IS and clients) to RFPs, implementation, acceptance tests and production, it was an interesting but demanding journey (on top of my day job!)—which reminded me that technology is simple and humans are complex. Change management is the true challenge of any legal technology implementation. While the technological roll-out was completed in a matter of months, when I left about three years later, adoption was still ongoing.

Forced adoption

Given this challenge, it is not surprising that up until recently many legal departments still frowned upon automating and digitizing their processes. However, the last financial crisis, global competition, low oil prices and more put immense pressure on them to reduce spending, reduce head count and add value. To achieve these objectives, most GCs passed the burden to their outside providers. However, as the demands for more efficiency and value increased, they were forced to look for solutions within their departments, and technological improvements were, still are and, I suggest, will remain the best way.

Ease of implementation and security

Tech implementations used to be complex and risky, requiring significant capital investments, expensive infrastructure and sophisticated IT resources. However, new solutions and business models have democratized legal technologies, making them available to both the smallest and the largest departments. One important advancement in this regard has been hosted and cloud solutions, which offer fixed monthly fees that include the infrastructure, application, maintenance, support, updates and, yes, even security!

Even banks have recognized that they can’t secure data as well as companies that specialize in data hosting and have started to outsource their environment to third parties. Many of them also require their service providers, such as law firms, to demonstrate they meet certain standards, in turn leading those firms to outsource. From email servers to e-discovery applications, the legal industry has started to embrace third party hosting, and a variety of software vendors and service providers are releasing new hosted solutions to support this growing demand.

However, many in-house legal departments are still resisting, citing confidentiality and security reasons. Yet, most organizations send unencrypted emails and attachments, and entrust their data to many different providers (subcontractors, law firms, accounting firms, etc.), thereby duplicating content and losing any and all control over it. Isn’t it more secure to centralize all confidential material in one environment? Rather than sending information out to people, I much prefer directing people to the original and simply managing access rights to ensure security.

Centralization of information is inevitable. The newest legal technologies rely heavily on advanced data analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning—which all require a centralized system to draw from.

If today’s solutions had existed when I was with Bell, we could have streamlined the process even further and blown away our efficiency and value-add goals. You will get that chance with the next wave of legal technologies. Are you ready?

Dominic Jaar is Partner and National Leader of Forensic Technology Services at KPMG LLP. He and his team advise lawyers on records and information management, legal technology, e-discovery, evidence recovery, cyber security and data analytics. He is also Chair of the Board of CanLII. In his spare time, he advises and invests in numerous legal technology start-ups.

This article was initially published in the Winter 2016 issue of CCCA Magazine.

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