How to Successfully Implement LegalTech Solutions
Implementing any technology solution within an established organization can be a monumental challenge for a developer. Doing so for a legal firm that has a strong culture and longstanding processes can be even more difficult. That’s why LegalTech developers need to take a few key factors into consideration as they work on applications for the legal industry.
Build vs. Buy
One of the first questions any firm needs to ask is whether it wants to build a specialized solution or turn to an existing LegalTech application. In many cases, this comes down to a question of resources. For larger “big law” firms or legal departments within an enterprise business, internal developers may be available to build a customized application that caters to specific organizational needs.
If the resources and development skills are on hand, building a dedicated solution can be an effective strategy. Developers can focus narrowly on the established processes used at the firm and design technology that targets clear pain points more effectively than an “off-the-shelf” product.
More importantly, as Kelly Wehbi, Head of Product for Gravity Stack, points out, building doesn’t necessarily mean starting from nothing:
“I think a lot about how to leverage the platforms we have or could potentially purchase, but then add our own expertise and strengths on top of it. That doesn’t have to mean you have to build some entirely new interface or have to invent some new technology. It could be there’s a tool that’s out there that does exactly what you need and maybe you have to build a few customizations on top of that.”
Of course, building a solution also presents a number of challenges, especially if the project’s requirements are not well defined from the beginning. There’s a great deal of overhead involved with building new technology in terms of maintenance and ongoing support. It’s easy to fall into the trap of focusing on technology at the expense of services. But legal firms are not product companies; they need to focus instead on finding ways they can use technology to leverage their core services.
It’s that emphasis on services that drives many firms to buy the technology solutions they need rather than to build them. Existing software integrations are typically better positioned to maintain security and don’t need to be maintained as extensively. Deploying proven software integrations also helps organizations to maximize their on-premises resources and enhance their flexibility in the long-term.
“I tend to default toward leveraging an existing platform when possible,” Wehbi admits. “Security ends up being a huge part of this and when you can leverage a company that’s solved that really well, that goes a long, long way. It offers you a bunch of options you wouldn’t have if you had to build it yourself,” Wehbi says. “That’s a pretty big undertaking to start from scratch.”
Getting Buy-In for LegalTech Solutions
Once the build or buy decision is finally made, there’s still the critical matter of executing and putting the new solution into practice. Getting feedback throughout the development and integration process is important, whether it’s gathered from anecdotal observations or some form of usage analytics.
Neeraj Raijpal, CIO at Schroock & Schroock & Lavan, finds that implementations tend to go smoother when the development team is able to get rapid feedback from key decision makers: “The faster you get the feedback, the faster you know you’re down the right path or not. It is very frightening when the stakeholder…looks at something and says ‘This is exactly the opposite of what I expected.’ You don’t want to be in that situation.”
Ultimately, a LegalTech application’s success depends largely upon whether or not the firm as a whole embraces it. When developers are seeking to implement a solution, they need to be especially careful to take the culture of the firm into consideration. Without buy-in at the top, it will be difficult to convince anyone in the organization to commit to change.
“If you’re trying to solve a problem because you have a deficiency in a current business process, but you’re not willing to change the process…that’s (a) disaster,” Raijpal warns. Although LegalTech solutions are designed to enhance efficiency and reduce errors, they often require people to learn how to use them or to abandon existing technology solutions.
Take, for example, a legal firm that needs to redact documents during the discovery process. The existing process likely involves printing out documents and then laboriously redacting them by hand with marker. Once that process is finished, they are scanned and saved as image-based PDFs. An HTML5 viewer with redaction capabilities could easily streamline this process to make it faster, more flexible, and more secure. Unfortunately, if the firm’s attorneys aren’t willing to adopt the new process, all of the potential efficiency benefits go to waste.
The Importance of Communication
Communication and ongoing support are critical to ensuring a successful LegalTech implementation. Developers can begin this important conversation right from the beginning when they’re designing application features. Whether they’re building everything from scratch or turning to software integrations, they need to have honest and thorough discussions to determine what specific features are needed to support legal processes. Implementing a LegalTech solution is more likely to be successful if that solution is closely aligned with the firm’s existing needs and future goals.
But the conversation doesn’t stop once the application goes live. Ongoing support and education is often necessary to help firms adopt new technology and make the most of its potential. Developers may even need to adjust some features over time as needs change. If they utilized third party software integrations to add key functionality, they need to know they can count on those vendors to support them as the LegalTech application evolves.
Make Your LegalTech Implementation a Success with Accusoft
Accusoft’s family of software integrations allow LegalTech developers to quickly add the features their clients need to modernize workflows and improve efficiency. Whether it’s PrizmDoc Viewer’s extensive document redaction capabilities that make it easier to protect privacy during eDiscovery or the automated document assembly features of PrizmDoc Editor, developers can lean on our 30 years of document processing expertise so they can focus on building the tools legal teams require
As part of our ongoing work with the LegalTech industry, Accusoft recently sponsored a Law.com webinar on the subject of building vs buying technology solutions for legal firms. You can listen to some of the highlights with contributors Kelly Wehbi and Neeraj Rajpal along with host Zach Warren, editor-in-chief of LegalTech News, on the Law.com Perspectives podcast.