Why Fewer than Half of Corporate Law Depts. Embrace Legal Tech

A recent industry research report showed some surprising numbers regarding corporate law departments and their use of legal tech. Fewer than half of those participating in the survey use the latest legal tech tools designed to make what they do easier and more efficient. The big question is, why?

It must be understood that technology and legal tech are two different things. The distinction must be made in light of the fact that corporate legal departments are embracing general technology. They are using things like mobile apps and cloud-based applications. They are using high-powered computers and robust networks. What they aren’t using are those technology tools specifically designed for them.

A Few Key Numbers

The Association of Corporate Counsel’s (ACC) 2019 Global Legal Department Benchmarking Report shows some surprising things, beginning with the fact that not one of the 14 well-known legal tech tools mentioned in the survey are currently being utilized by at least half of all corporate legal departments. The survey found that:

  • 38-44% utilize the most popular tools
  • just 14% utilize advanced analytics.

These numbers tell us something about how corporate law departments are doing business. But still, they don’t explain why. Could it be that legal tech doesn’t really support corporate law? Probably not. It’s more likely a combination of a resistance to change and a poor understanding of how legal tech can help.

An Entirely New Mindset

NuLaw is a Fort Lauderdale, Florida company that specializes in legal case management software. They have created a software package built on the Salesforce CRM application. Developers say their choice of Salesforce as the foundation was no accident.

Salesforce was chosen because it embraces an entirely new mindset for managing relationships between vendors and customers. The key operating word here is ‘relationship’. Today’s vendors are not merely service providers. Clients are not merely consumers. Rather, the modern mindset is one that sees vendor and client as partners in a common pursuit.

Unfortunately, the legal industry is resistant to this new way of thinking. Law is steeped in traditional ways of doing things, ways that draw clear differences between attorney and client. Those differences are so distinct that any blurring of the line between them is unacceptable.

Salesforce, and NuLaw by extension, are built around the idea of managing the relationship between service provider and consumer. Not only that, but the two platforms seek to facilitate managing said relationships from start to finish. Every aspect of the relationship flows seamlessly in both directions. In a law setting, this puts attorneys and clients on a level playing field that encourages them to work together.

Resistance to Change

This new mindset is tough enough for individual law firms to grasp. Imagine how difficult it must be for corporate law departments that tend to be as rigid as they come. Corporate attorneys are so resistant to change that considering their employers as partners is unthinkable.

Resistance to change also extends to those technologies that take some of the responsibility away from attorneys. For example, artificial intelligence can completely eliminate the need for corporate attorneys to review contracts. That would seem like a good thing, but attorneys do not necessarily see it that way. They see artificial intelligence as impinging on their authority and expertise. They don’t like the idea of a machine doing something they have always been responsible for.

Data shows that corporate law departments are not warming up to legal tech all that much. Something needs to change, beginning with a better understanding of why corporate law is so resistant.