Budget remains a major barrier to legaltech adoption for in-house legal teams

Tech must be pitched as being a solution to business problems rather than legal problems, a legaltech startup's CEO says

Budget remains a major barrier to legaltech adoption for in-house legal teams
Evan Wong

Budget remains one of the main barriers to legaltech adoption for in-house legal teams, hampering the rate at which the profession automates despite the need created by COVID-19 restrictions.

“Legal teams have traditionally had little to no technology budgets. And this in itself is enough to stunt any exploration in technology adoption,” said Evan Wong, CEO and co-founder of legaltech startup Checkbox. “As we settle into operating in a widespread remote working world, this is no longer just an inconvenience, but a serious drag on the ability of legal to deliver, and by extension, the broader business to perform.”

Given the mindset of many organisations that there has traditionally been little need to allocate a tech budget for GCs, Wong believes that addressing the financial barrier is about framing legaltech as a solution to a business problem rather than merely a legal concern.

“Better document management isn't just about lawyers spending less time filing documents from email and searching for documents. It’s also about the business getting their document requests faster,” he explained. “Automated self-help tools aren't just about saving the time of lawyers; they are about the business getting legal help faster and therefore progressing more deals which impacts top line business growth.”

In-house legal teams being able to use their time wisely, particularly in light of the increased workload created by the pandemic, has generated a case for the adoption of legal automation systems.

“With the increase in regulatory complexity and business operations, there has been a sharp rise in the volume of work demanded from legal teams. The challenge is that lawyers are increasingly told to do more with less as there’s rarely an increase in resources to support their expanded remit,” Wong said. “This has forced highly-skilled legal professionals to reconsider where to apply their expertise; so they can provide strategic advice or negotiate on high impact matters, not have their time drained by the same, basic requests continually coming at them from business stakeholders.”

He placed the onus on legal team leaders to develop a strong business-related case for legaltech adoption before their organisations’ management.

“Because technology has rarely been an expense line for the general counsel, there are frequent roadblocks to building a business case for technology, or engaging their CFO to rationalise spend in an area that hasn't needed it before,” he said. “It is less about finding budget and more about creating it.”

The other main barrier to legaltech adoption, according to Wong, is a lack of understanding when it comes to identifying the type of tech to adopt and how to implement it.

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