skip to content

Strategizing Digital Transformation with Google and Ironclad

Modernizing the In-House Legal Department

by Colleen Haikes

“With the exception of government, the corporate legal department is the slowest to transform digitally,” posited Chris Young, General Counsel at Ironclad. His comments kicked off a recent webinar on strategies for modernizing in-house legal departments

“We’re way behind most folks in the organization and we’ve still got a lot of catching up to do,” Chris said. “The good news is, companies like Everlaw and Ironclad are providing best-in-class software that allows us to do more with our time.” 

Digital Transformation: It’s Not as Easy as It Sounds

Meghan Landrum, Director, Head of Discovery and Legal Data Management at Google, tempered her enthusiasm for technology adoption with a bit of a reality check. 

“Legal is a difficult place to experiment,” she said. “There’s often a lot on the line for any individual analysis or deal, any litigation or investigation.

“It can be really tough to convince folks to take a chance on a new tool or strategy, but to the extent that you can start conversations that value the need for experimentation, that’s incredibly important. We need to digitally transform to scale our ability to work; there’s too much data for humans to deal with on their own. It’s just not physically possible.”

Ultimately, avoiding technology risk can have a chilling effect on innovation.

Meghan suggested that in-house legal teams can “perhaps take a smaller risk to try to demonstrate the benefit of a new technology or tool with a proof of concept, or just the idea of experimentation in general. Otherwise we end up stagnant, and that can hurt the legal department’s ability to keep up with our clients. 

“Ultimately, avoiding technology risk can have a chilling effect on innovation across the company,” she concluded.

Everlaw Chief Legal Officer Shana Simmons orchestrated the lively conversation, level-setting the panelists’ differing points of view with a definition of digital transformation: The process of using digital technology to create new or modify existing business processes, culture and customer experiences to meet changing business and market requirements.  

“Digital transformation is a big buzzword for legal departments right now,” she continued. “Part of the reason why it’s a challenge is that lawyers have been trained to think of our own value in terms of our time; we’ve all been trained to bill in six-minute increments. But our value is much more than our time; lawyers can be even more valuable in figuring out how to be more efficient. 

We’ve all been trained to bill in six-minute increments. But our value is much more than our time.

“I’m a true believer that when we use digital transformation to unlock the true value we bring, we will change the game for our business, four firms, our companies and ourselves.” 

Three Steps Toward Digital Transformation

Shana then led the discussion to give in-house legal professionals in the audience a path toward digitally transforming their legal departments. Broadly speaking, the three steps are:

1. Find Allies with Your C-suite Peers

Ironclad GC Chris Young laid out a first-step strategy that he’s found success with, and has proven to be effective in in-house legal departments in a wide range of industries. 

“Across the enterprise, the more efficient we become in our respective professions, the more impactful we can be with less time,” he said. 

“This is a new frontier for legal teams, but the conversation is going strong across the organization; the CIO [Chief Information Officer] is talking about digital transformation and it is happening in every department, from finance to sales to marketing. If you’re in a legal department and looking for software to free up time to tackle more substantive work, this is the time to have that conversation with the CIO and the IT organization.”

Chris’s assertion was affirmed by data presented by Shana, a finding from Everlaw’s recent “The State of Corporate Litigation Today,” original industry research published in partnership with the Association of Corporate Counsel. In answering the question, “Do you anticipate your need to strengthen the partnership between legal and IT teams a year from now?” 56% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed. 

Instead of defending, we’re being proactive and adding value that’s tangible and recognizable to everyone in your company.

Shana added, “In the C-suite, executives are data-driven. Benchmarking can be an effective tool for CLOs to use in making a case for digital transformation investments, to see the impact of technology investments on other departments.”

“Sales has Salesforce, finance has Netsuite, marketing has Marketo and Hubspot,” Chris replied. “Everyone has something that’s been built for them. Legal doesn’t have a lot of chips to play, ever, but digital transformation presents a unique opportunity for us. Instead of defending, we’re being proactive and adding value that’s tangible and recognizable to everyone in your company. It’s a really important endeavor. 

As an example, he said, “If you can benchmark how long it takes for the average firm to go through discovery, or contract modifications, for example, and be able to say, ‘With this tool we could cut the time by 33%,’ that’s a message you can use to partner with C-suite members and other stakeholders, and go through the procurement process with them.” 

 2. Experiment and Be Creative – with an Eye on the Big Picture

“Let’s double-click on the software scenario,” Shana said. “In-house legal professionals wrestle with various tools. But there’s no unifying approach –  the tools aren’t necessarily working together, talking to each other. Is this really digital transformation? How do you choose enterprise systems, Meghan, and where are you in your digital transformation journey?”

“It’s a never-ending one, for sure,” she laughed. “There are a lot of different approaches and strategies to identifying technical tools that can be helpful. Some companies or departments will pursue a best-of-breed approach, to find the right tool for each individual pain point or gap in their processes. The advantage of this approach is that you find the right solution for acute problems and are able to fill many gaps.”

However, “best-of-breed can be somewhat expensive in terms of people or money,” Meghan said. “It may require multiple tools to be deployed across your department, or different people to handle their implementation and ongoing maintenance.”

Megan then presented the alternative: “If that doesn’t work out, other departments and companies will pursue more of a single-platform approach, choosing one provider. The all-in-one platform may not hit 90% to 100% of what you're looking for, but if you set the right expectations with your stakeholders you may be able to solve 60% to 80% of their problems with less financial and human capital.”  

One of the most important parts in selecting tools is working closely and creatively with the people you’re trying to support.

She said that one of the main benefits of a one-platform approach is, “You don’t want to necessarily hold up progress for perfection, and if you can choose a single platform you may be able to move things forward more quickly and at a lower total cost.

“At Google we have pursued best-of-breed and single-platform approaches at different times. Some worked and some didn’t; success very much depended on our needs at the time and our internal resources. But I do think one of the most important parts in selecting the tools and implementing them is working closely and creatively with the people you’re trying to support. It can be very easy to oversell the big solution and set everyone up for disappointment. Likewise, individual best-of-breed tools can be easy to deploy but there aren’t enough resources for ongoing success. In the end, the whole purpose of digital transformation is to make people’s jobs and lives a little easier.”

3. Evangelize Innovation and Successes

As the webinar drew to a close Shana said, “You’re both in unique places of championing innovation. Mistakes will be made, and not everyone is in a position to work closely with their CIO. Meghan and Chris, what are some key strategies for success you can recommend for the audience here today, no matter what stage of digital transformation they’re in?”

“I’m enamored with the value of experimentation and learning from mistakes,” Meghan said. “Whatever size company or dept or group you may be working in, it’s really important to try to identify how you can create a culture that values those qualities, as well, in collaboration with your team, the C-suite and the partners you work with internally or externally.” 

We need to be educating our organizations almost constantly about what the legal team does.

Chris advised, “Credibility matters so much for legal teams. We need to be educating our organizations almost constantly about what the legal team does. This may seem distant from digital transformation, but how else can we build consensus around getting legal technology procured? 

“The more we educate, the more successful we will be. As GC, my job is to shine a light on everyone on our legal team; I want our entire company to know each of the superstars who make up our lean but mighty legal team.”

Where is your organization on its digital transformation journey?

A live poll taken during the webinar showed that most attendees – fully 90% – are in the early or middle stages of digital transformation. Wherever your organization is on the road to digital transformation, Everlaw can help.