Why in-house teams should think commercially about tech
Forming a business case could help in-house teams justify larger tech budgets to procure the systems they need, a legal operations specialist said.
Ahead of the Women in Law Forum 2023, Mollie Tregillis, executive director of legal optimisation consulting at MinterEllison in Melbourne, said she has witnessed many in-house legal teams continuing to struggle with a lack of dedicated budgets to expand their legal technology stack.
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As such, they still have very few tailored tools to support their operations and streamline efficiencies.
“Often, teams have to rely on very basic tools like Microsoft Excel, or they are trying to work with the tech stack provided to them by their organisation,” Ms Tregillis told Lawyers Weekly.
Her comments preceded the forum, where she and a panel of speakers will unpack how in-house counsel can use legal tech platforms to streamline efficiencies and focus on high-value legal tasks.
Ms Tregillis leads MinterEllison’s legal optimisation consultancy practice, which leverages the law firm’s legal operations team to help clients optimise their in-house legal function to improve operational efficiency using technology and data, strategy, delivery, team, and resources.
She explained that she encourages her clients to focus first on procuring matter management systems to enable the team to track their activities, and document management systems to store documents and information securely.
However, because organisations have technology budgetary constraints, Ms Tregillis said she helps in-house legal teams formulate a business case to justify implementing these systems.
“Our recommendation is often to think commercially about how the organisation and the team could benefit from purchasing their own legal technology. We help them work out what the business case might be and what positive changes these tools could yield for the organisation. We help them put the business case together,” she said.
“For example, when we work with teams to track their activities, we’ve sometimes identified that half of what they do is not legal work. They’re wrapped up in admin, wrangling with systems, and trying to chase down documentation.”
This is a clear business case for why organisations would be justified implementing systems that would automate these tasks, enabling the in-house team to focus on high-value legal tasks, Ms Tregillis said.
“Have a clear prioritisation approach,” she suggested.
“Work out what the high-value tasks are and how you can best focus on that. Ask yourselves what work you are doing that businesses could do themselves or outsource elsewhere. Ask yourself if there is a way to reduce the volume of work coming your way.”
Aside from budgetary constraints, in-house teams often also lack the time and resources to investigate all the legal technology options available in the market and determine what they should procure for their organisation.
To address this, teams could take stock of the technology tools currently available to them and customise them for legal functions.
“Look at what’s available in Office 365, too,” Ms Tregillis said.
“There’s a large suite of interesting applications and capabilities within that, which might be sufficient for a lot of legal functions. Using SharePoint as a document management system might be one of them.”
Ms Tregillis also advised in-house teams to cut “low-hanging fruit” activities that are not adding value, such as manual reporting (which might not be widely read).
“There is a range of activities that might be done under the banner of busy work, and it could be reduced or made more efficient,” she concluded.
To hear more from Mollie Tregillis on how in-house legal teams could build a business case to update their legal tech stack and deliver high-value tasks, come along to the Women in Law Forum 2023.
It will be held on Thursday, 23 November, at the Grand Hyatt, Melbourne.