Digital operations platforms in legal operations: A primer on legal marketplace options

Topics: Artificial Intelligence, Automated Contracts, Data Analytics, Digitalization, Efficiency, Law Firms, Legal Operations, Midsize Law Firms Blog Posts, Platforms

Digital operations platforms

This series was co-authored by Kenneth Jones, chief technologist for Tanenbaum Keale, and Jason Moyse, director at Autologyx and principal at Law Made.

In the first part of this two-part series, we explored the concept, use-cases, and benefits of technologies like Human in the Loop and no- or low-code application builds within the legal function. Now, in the concluding part of this series, we look at some of the emerging technologies and approaches available to legal technologists that would allow them to maximize the benefit of digital operations platforms within the legal function.

We all get that technology development resources (e.g., programmers, database analysts, etc.) are expensive resources. Efforts have been made to gain affordability in this area, such as offshoring, nearshoring, and the growth of software tools laypeople can reasonably operate to complete sophisticated functions.

Just as certain tools have enabled website development without true coding, the business world craves easier, faster, and more economical methods of developing applications. The legal operations field is certainly no exception to this trend; in fact, a variety of diverse approaches have emerged to help fuel the automation of the legal industry.

Let’s take a look at some of these no- or low-code approaches, and how some of these approaches might be more or less beneficial for different members of the legal field. It is important to note that, for the sake of clarity, that although certain software tools are perceived as the predominant use-case, it certainly does not mean to apply there are not voluminous opportunities for crossover usage in practice.

Understanding the spirit in which the use-cases are offered, here’s our take on the no- or low-code offerings in the legal ecosystem today.

Option 1: Legal-oriented no- or low-code providers

Key opportunity: Rapid development

Here’s the deal: This simply offers programming system without programming resources or costs. A new class of providers are designing modules to help improve legal processes by providing a development toolkit, configurable by non-coders, to integrate people into certain workflows and gain efficiencies through different workflows.

Common processes like assigning attorneys to legal tasks, granting clients 24×7 visibility to their case metrics, collaborating on legal document edits, and stripping non-value added tasks out of legal workflows are benefits of the no- or low-code approach, which facilitates on-the-fly adjustments executed at minimal costs fueled by end-user requirements. The beauty of companies specializing in the legal space is they tend to have their finger on the pulse of legal best practices, which, when married to their advanced toolset empowering automation, is exceptionally valuable.

Option 2: Enterprise providers

Key opportunity: Corporate law department integration

Here’s the deal: Chances are, if you are a member of a corporate law department’s legal operations group, your company partners with some of the largest enterprise software providers in the world.

And while the key target market seems to be law firms at this point, we believe there is an even larger benefit to be had by deploying these technologies within corporate law departments. Certain platforms are offering some of the same no- or low-code benefits and can integrate advanced services like artificial intelligence business reporting into a tool, and, most importantly, help embed legal into the internal functional groups that it supports (since they are on the same platform). This approach could, in time, be a game changer for corporate law departments.

Option 3: Legal software app stores and marketplaces

Key opportunity: Law department integration

Here’s the deal: While Option 2 spoke about some of the technologies Corporate America used to integrate their business (for example, helping groups like sales, manufacturing, and finance all operate on the same software platform), to date, the legal function really hasn’t got there. And that is despite the best efforts of consortiums like LEDES (Legal Electronic Data Exchange Standard) or the SALI Alliance. But that does not mean others are not trying.

Indeed, there are several platforms that feature the unique strategy of deploying cloud-based containerized applications to law firms via a single, managed platform. All of these are another flavor of no- or low-code implementation, that being the ability to use advanced functional tools or integration toolkits offered within a legal operations platform.

On this front, clearly the race has only just begun, but whenever one or a few companies within this class attain critical mass, the legal profession will be all the better for it. Moving law firms from fragmented, disjointed application portfolios (e.g., different tools for tasks involving practice management, document management, and financials) to a unified, interconnected suite will be a huge win for the legal operations field.

Option 4: Law firm offerings

Key opportunity: Client familiarity and alignment with legal needs

Here’s the deal: In one sense, these approaches might seem a bit less advanced than some of the others; but, they benefit from one huge pillar of strength. That is, the close relationships law firms have with their current clients. Most experts in application development would surely rank one’s ability to understand business goals, workflows, and other related issues as darn close to the top priority when developing business requirements for systems.

Many a massive software project have seen their code flushed down the toilet because they failed to address, improve, and solve the issues facing the businesspeople and the functions they serve. And, if you are smart enough to master development concepts like the Model-View-Controller methodology, as we did within Tanenbaum Keale more than a decade ago, the amalgamation of understanding client needs and internally developed advanced technology is a formidable combination indeed.

Summary

For sure, there’s no single right answer to improving legal operations in the digital operations platforms. Various clients and situations call for different approaches. For example, no- or low-code software companies specializing in the legal industry offer tremendous technical toolsets and equally impressive business knowledge of how to gain efficiencies in the most common legal work processes.

Opportunities are present to better integrate corporate law departments with their corporate counterparts, and to achieve front-to-end integration within law firms. And law firms, by nature of the clients they serve and the experiences they have developed, have tremendous first-hand knowledge of actual client needs.

What’s important here is that inroads are being made in a host of ways to allow legal operations to develop better mousetraps.