The Paperless In-House Legal Department: 5 Steps to Success

Corporate legal departments are managing a higher volume of information than at anytime before. At the same time, there is increased pressure on lawyers and legal operations teams to reduce costs, improve efficiencies and demonstrate more value. In order to meet the demands of today’s legal department, organisations are transforming their workforce into a digital workforce and going paperless.

Although the expression ‘paperless’ has been used for a number of years, legal departments have been slow to consider it as an option. Many are still in the dark about what exactly ‘paperless’ means – let alone how to begin the process of becoming ‘paperless’.

Changing from paper based to paperless takes courage and making the decision to ditch paper will be the most important step in your journey. However, where do you go next?
Here are the five steps to consider if you want to successfully make your corporate legal department paperless;

Step 1: Map out your current processes and workflows
Start by figuring out where you stand at the moment. Mapping out your current processes and workflows gives you insight on what you need to improve. No legal technology, no matter how good it is, can help your in-house legal team if you don’t understand what needs to be changed.

Step 2: Develop your desired state
Once you understand your process inefficiencies, the next step is to reimagine your current processes and workflows. Determine the outputs you want your lawyers to produce and the possible solutions will show themselves.

Whether it is improved contract or document management, matter management, or anything else, you have to rethink the processes and redesign them to suit your specific needs.

Step 3: Decide which documents to digitise
Having the roadmap in mind, it becomes clear which documents you need to digitise. If your first reaction is digitising all the documents at once, you should know that it is possible, but not necessarily the best option.
Maybe it’s better to start small. Analyse your desired state first and decide with which documents you should start. See how the beginning of your “going paperless” journey will take off, and then consider how to keep going.

Step 4: Choose the right legal technology to implement
Once you have mapped out your route to going paperless, it is time to choose the tools to start you on that journey to digital transformation. There are now hundreds of legal technology solutions available to help you go paperless.
However when selecting the right legal technology, make sure you have only your business processes in mind. Don’t necessarily go after the shiny tools your business friends use. They are not necessarily good for your legal team as they are for others. Pilot before you buy to ensure the solution works for you and remember, If implemented properly, these tools will reduce your legal spend and significantly increase efficiencies so it is worth employing the right team to do that. The wrong tools, however, will only keep the inefficiencies.

Step 5: Iterate where needed and improve
If the implementation goes well right from the beginning – great for you and your team. In many cases, though, businesses need to get feedback, learn, and iterate. This may mean training your lawyers to use the tools, further redesign of processes, or trying new solutions.
If things start slowly, don’t get discouraged. There is a learning curve with legal technology, but once your employees get acquainted to it, the efficiency will only go up.

In conclusion, going paperless is a simple way for legal departments to reduce spend, increase productivity and become more efficient through the use of technology. However, to ensure success you need to adopt a well thought through, methodical approach and understand what you are trying to achieve and how you intend on getting there. It is important to know the right solution for your legal department and not get confused by the hundreds of solutions available today.