Initial Expectations for Digital Transformation: My Practical Applications for a Cross-Generational Legal Department’s Digital Upgrade

I missed last class because I was in back-to-back meetings discussing the operations – both intra-department and intra-company – of the Legal Department of the construction company at which I work. One of the topics that we kept circling back to involved digital transformation: how can we update the old-school ways of saving legal data in such a way that preserves knowledge for future generations of this legal team.

The advancements of digital technologies are, in short, complicated when intermixed with the legal and construction industries. Sticking just with just the legal industry in this blogpost, digital technologies have certainly disrupted some aspects of the legal industry. For example, JPMorgan Chase uses tech to save 360,000 hours of annual work by lawyers and loan officers. So, digital technologies have not necessarily disrupted the operations of in-house legal departments; rather, they have posed new opportunities to reduce spend on outside counsel and to preserve knowledge internally. Said differently, digital technologies have challenged in-house legal departments to advance their uses of such.

https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/features/how-to-set-free-your-robo-lawyer/5065048.article

I expect this course to help me manage the organizational changes required to harness the power of technology in my Legal Department. I hope to actively integrate the lessons I’m learning in class with my job duties, which include upgrading our Legal Department data management from two separate network hard drives (regionally segregated between NYC/CT and MA/ME/DC/USVI) and figuring out a way to preserve the data produced hourly in such a way that helps preserve knowledge for future generations of this Legal Department. I want to learn how to select the right technologies and uses of such to go about this digital upgrade and to implement them in such a way that there is buy-in across all of the generations that make up the Legal Department. I want to do this all while balancing the fact that some aspects of legal data saving are required to be old-school (e.g., sometimes we really do need that scanned signature document saved on file). I understand that this will take experimentation, management of risk tolerance, and an overall adjustment of departmental culture towards of data management strategy. The good news: coming out of two days of operations meetings, everyone is on board with the very real fact that there needs to be a better way we manage knowledge and data within the department since one team member (me!) will be gone this May and another (the CLO) plans to retire within five years.

https://www.cartoonstock.com/directory/l/law_jokes.asp

I’m excited to read our course textbook and understand the thoughts of managers at companies, such as Walmart, Google, and Salesforce, and their concept of “digital maturity.” I want to help my legal department “be digital.” And I can’t think of a better class to help get me on my way!

https://www.cartoonstock.com/directory/s/sicial_networks.asp

5 comments

  1. Lexie- Really interesting to think about how hopeful you are for a more digitally enhanced future for lawyers, especially considering how paper based the traditional stereotype is. On one hand, you don’t want to tech yourself out of a job, but here I think you artfully explained that digitizing a portion of the practice actually helps you to be able to do and work more. It reminds me of a project where I worked with an AI company who was beta testing a program that would help “remember” certain contract clauses and suggest different iterations based on the clauses already selected.

    1. I think that AI/contract program is really so cool. It’s definitely the future – like that JPMorgan article I cited above. Lots of innovation in the transactional side of lawyering, but I’ve seen less in litigation. Wonder when that’ll come or what that’ll be…

  2. I’m excited to see where you take us within the scope of legal work. I noticed during my summer internship that legal counsel was very accessible due to video call platforms. Beyond that I have little to no understanding of how this back office role will adapt to digital transformation. So, I look forward to reading your future posts.

    1. I’m excited, too. I think busy lawyers have clearly benefitted from the video call world as we’re able to fit more into the day (note that this is an industry that has not really returned to the office), so I’m glad, but not terribly surprised, that you found the lawyers at your summer internship to be easily accessible. The other aspects of digital transformation, and I’m mostly thinking work share platforms, I think lag, particularly for in-house legal departments. Definitely share your insights along the way! I’m curious to hear.

  3. Nice post. When I visit SF with my undergraduate class, we’ve gone to Iron Clad, which is a digital contracts company. Super interesting what they are doing with AI. I think law is going to be significantly disrupted by tech, while also creating new opportunities.

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