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How to improve law department efficiency and effectiveness: Use a legal technology roadmap

Companies often press their legal departments to be more efficient and "do more with less,” but how can your department deliver at least the same level of service with fewer resources?

The departments that have made that shift uniformly credit a purposeful use of technology and data to help the department work better and ultimately demonstrate the value of the legal department. A clearly defined legal technology roadmap aligned with business strategy is a critical tool to help your department control cost, drive efficiency and effectiveness, and ultimately demonstrate value by acting as a business enabler.

The 2019 Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) Report identified that top-performing legal operations functions have a strong focus on technology to improve transparency and data analytics, efficiency, quality and consistency of work, and speed of execution

Of CLOC members surveyed, 72% reported having a technology roadmap. So why does the legal department need to deploy a technology roadmap and potentially procure more technology? Technology can help reduce overall legal costs and deliver a competitive edge, freeing up investment in other areas of the business. By deploying this technology, the legal department can better control costs and free up attorney time to focus on strategic, higher value work. In the 2019 Thomson Reuters Legal Department Operations (LDO) Index, 70% of today's corporate legal departments identified use of technology to simplify process and manual workflow as a high priority, and 51% increased the quantity of legal technology tools utilized in the last 12 months.

We can expect continued growth of technology alongside the evolution of legal department processes. In a 2020 predictions article, Gartner predicted that by 2023, 33% of corporate legal departments will have a dedicated legal technology expert to support the increasing automation of core in-house workflows.

Chapter One

What is a technology roadmap?

A legal technology roadmap is best defined as a plan that identifies the specifics on how technology can support the legal business strategy and priorities over a period of time (typically a three-year look).

Basic legal technology roadmap example:

Chapter Two

How to start building a roadmap

1. Prioritize

What are the biggest pain points/challenges that map to the strategic priorities for the legal department?  

Common strategic priority examples:

If you don't have clear strategic priorities for the legal department, you can start with surveying the legal department or business stakeholders that regularly interact with legal on areas of greatest need.

1.  Process map

Before building a plan, you must understand the current people, processes, and systems in place. You can start by listing out current systems used by the legal department and by looking at the common legal department responsibilities, or the most common business requests.

A great way to identify where process re-engineering or new technology is required is to look specifically at processes that are high cost, difficult, cumbersome, time consuming, repetitive, high volume, or low value. As you go a level deeper and map processes that lead to a need for technological improvements, be sure to define requirements and success measures along the way.

2.  Plan for implementation and procure solution

Technology roadmaps don’t always have to be the addition of new technology—you may have a system in place that needs an update based on business changes. Once you have a map of processes and priorities, start with your highest priority—don't try to do it all at once. Instead, focus on your highest priority and achieving success in that area, then build on that success.

Look for solutions that can deliver cost savings, be sure to promote and report up the cost savings to show success and gain momentum so you can then re-allocate those savings to procure additional technologies or resources to tackle the next priority on your list.

Chapter Three

What are the risks in not having a technology roadmap?

• Lack of buy-in from the legal department or leadership when attempting a change – An approved and communicated roadmap will make the change management journey simpler.

More difficult to secure budget when you find a solution – A clear legal roadmap builds a better internal relationship with IT/Finance/Procurement for faster purchase.

Ending up with the wrong technology at the wrong time – As an example, you may not want to deploy a contract review artificial intelligence (AI) tool before you have contracts in a central repository.

Not considering interconnectivity and overall simplification of tools – Danger in procuring too much technology that doesn’t work together.

Lack of resources to ensure technology success – Consider as part of your roadmap legal department staff to support implementation efforts and gain better partnership with IT for support if you need it.

Competitive disadvantage for your organization – When your competitors’ legal departments are deploying technology to more effectively control costs and do more with less, operating at lower levels of effectiveness could result in your company having less funds to deploy to other more strategic priorities.

When vetting technologies, identify your priorities (see sample list of priorities on previous page) and deploy a simple 1-5 scoring to help you compare and contrast solutions.

• End-user friendly

• Designed for legal workflows

• Strong data security and access controls

• Quick to deploy

• Measurable ROI/cost savings

• Open platform with APIs to connect corporate systems

• Quality of connections to standard business tools like Microsoft® Outlook and Office®

• Integrations with enterprise systems like AP Systems and HR Systems

• Connection of legal workflows —connection between spend and matter management, contract management and e-Signature, etc.

• Cloud based

• Legal department management (or ownership) with no code/low code to make updates and changes

• Valuable reporting and data visualization

• Use of modern technologies and capabilities

When considering core solutions for your legal department:

• Focus on your area of greatest need

• Consider what solutions are:

    – Foundational

    – Demonstrate a clear return on investment

    – Help your organization minimize risk

In several surveys, including the annual CLOC Survey and the LDO Index, e-billing and matter management are the most widely adopted technologies for corporate legal departments. While some technology delivers a broad-based approach to help manage your legal operations, other simple tools like e-Signature can yield significant benefits to drive efficiency within your business processes.

The sample list below provides common legal department technologies in terms of what is foundational, advanced, and leading edge depending on the sophistication of the department. Ultimately, for your department you should focus on the areas of biggest need based on your prioritized roadmap.

1. E-billing/spend & matter management

2. Legal hold/litigation hold

3. Document management

4. Legal research

5. Contract management

Chapter Seven


If you're on a journey to improve your legal operations technology, the best place to start is with a technology roadmap. It is through this process—and the resulting documentation—that you’ll more clearly understand what you have, what you need, and how to get there.

With a proper technology roadmap, you are more likely to succeed in controlling cost, driving efficiency, improving effectiveness, and mitigating risk.