A lot has happened over the last few months in the world, and today, it seems everyone is putting the entire blame on coronavirus. From affecting human health, lifestyle to hindering relationships between companies, COVID-19 has influenced our daily routines. From the initial lockdown to partial reopening, the time was tough for businesses and their legal departments striving to enhance employee safety at the office and fulfill all contract requirements.
Adapting with the new reality, corporate legal departments may increase their dependence upon technology. For example, in-house attorneys can help firms with contract negotiations, pricing, settlements, etc., by using substantial company data, small, easy-to-use analytical tools, and other legal software to aid close deals in favor. Also, the legal professionals can take help from technology to prepare a comprehensive policy for effective management of both in-house operations and remote work, in compliance with legal obligations. Let’s read more about some areas where tech helps corporate legal to manage the impact of COVID-19.
5 Ways Corporate Legal Departments using Tech to Manage the Impact of COVID-19
- Enhancing Remote Work Capabilities
Remote working has been a matter of concern for legal departments. But from the mid-march, companies increasingly started allowing their workforce, including in-house attorneys, to work from home. With budget constraints and low revenue, many companies managed to continue operations using affordable technology. It may be challenging to come back to the old normal, and in fact, companies may allow employees to work from home more often, during a minor illness or natural calamity, for instance.
Tools and software such as Slack, automation-powered applications, corporate legal management solutions, etc. that help in-house legal professionals collaborate and continue workflow are gradually becoming the key elements of legal operations; most are here to stay.
The use of paper-based invoices had already reduced in the past few years, but the shutdown due to COVID-19 has made it obsolete. Many companies who were once reluctant to digital processing of documents are now happy with having a no-paper policy. E-billing provides a useful structure of legal expense management while handling other third-party billing.
Besides, paper-based contracts are a thing of the past now. An integrated system can help automate and digitize most aspects, such as request, approval, execution, and e-signature, delivering the ultimate convenience and flexibility. Repetitive documents of contracts, NDAs, for instance, can be generated automatically that can directly be sent for self-service, freeing up a lot of time of the in-house legal team.
This also leads to a reduction in paper waste, storage cost, and prevents headaches related to finding documents from the vault, etc.
- Maintaining a Balance between In-house and Outside Counsel Jobs
The consequences of COVID-19 have impacted corporate legal; a similar level of impact is seen on law firms. This is the most significant disruption to the legal service industry after the great recession. The current disruption encouraged firm consolidation, specialization, and allowed ALSPs – Alternative Legal Service Providers to come forward and deliver quality legal support services.
Consequently, in-house legal teams are now reviewing the execution of the outside firms they rely on today while focusing on keeping the business running with meeting legal/contract requirements. Using online tools, they are sending new legal matters to outside firms that have more resources to fulfill specialized requirements, optimizing the mix of in-house team’s efforts and outside firms’ work.
- Legal Tech Planning
Legal operations help firms enhance their continuity plans and their execution, in order to prepare for the changes in market demand (due to coronavirus outbreak) and similar disruptions in the future. Technology will be the top priority for legal departments concerning operations; thus, they are practicing on leveraging tech as much as possible to be ready to adopt business workflow policies that might change once the crisis is passed.
The prime reason for using tech in legal operations is to increase the agility and productivity of the legal department that has been relying upon paper-based processes majorly; this will further encourage innovative tools and methods for driving efficiency in the company’s overall operations.
- Tracking the Impact of Major Events
Corporate legal is already a team responsible for managing employee safety, incidents, litigation, etc. They will also have to perform other duties such as identifying how and at what scale environmental or worldwide events disrupt companies’ business. With this, they can help organizations understand the actual impact and help them prepare for the future.
Now this revolves around capturing a whole lot of data and utilization of analytics tools that can be easily integrated with legal operations solutions. This data and the result of the analysis can be a significant source of insights for leaders and managers in companies that they can use to plan for the coming disruptions.
COVID-19 pandemic has impacted almost the entire world and businesses across it, affecting and transforming legal operations and legal professionals’ role in building a better future of companies. These impacts are long-term. In different cases, the impact also widely depends on how prepared in-house legal teams were to support and boost sustainability for the company’s operational continuity amidst crises and shutdown. Those that were having sufficient staff, appropriate technology, processes in place were able to tackle better the challenges arisen out of the outbreak. Therefore, it is always advised to be prepared for any kind of disturbance and difficulties that may arrive in the future too.
Operational flexibility, collaboration, and agility have been a requirement for the company’s success in its respective sector. But in the new normal, they have become vital, especially if you consider the fact that the catastrophic COVID-19 has transformed the business environment and how they operate, increasing competition in the market. A few months ago, nobody knew the world would change that much, but with continuous effort and time invested, we all managed to cope with the pandemic’s impacts.
In the current time, in-house legal teams should stand firm with their company leaders, guide them toward becoming a competitive enterprise in their industry, and help them drive value in the coming months and years, using innovation and all methods paramount for a better future.
Eliana Manon is a legal writer and marketer for Legal Support World, a California based LPO, since 2008. Providing legal back-office solutions to law firms and legal professionals nationwide, she is a certified attorney committed to providing information that lawyers need to make successful relationships with their clients.