By Sarah Hallowell

After nearing two years of widespread change and disruption, we have seen a new type of lawyer emerge inside the in-house legal function – the Tech-Enabled Lawyer – and they’re more determined than ever to push forward with their digital transformation roadmaps.

In the last decade or so, the in-house legal function has moved beyond the realms of offering legal advice and support in times of need, and has transitioned into a high-functioning, commercially-savvy operating at the heart of the organisation. The next phase of evolution will drive in-house counsel to focus on building a digital strategy that proactively addresses pain points and delivers better legal and business outcomes with provable ROI.

We’ve identified the following five characteristics as fundamental to the make-up of the Tech-Enabled Lawyer:

  • They’re agile – they thrive on uncertainty, they’re comfortable being uncomfortable, they’re used to navigating their way into the unknown and they’re always looking to challenge the status quo.
  • They’re collaborative – they’re sick of silos and are always looking to work across departments to come up with and carry out new ideas, and make a real difference across the business.
  • They’re innovative – they’re always looking for new ideas and approaches, and they don’t pigeonhole themselves from learning opportunities.
  • They’re resilient – they don’t let risk stop them from pushing forward, and if they fail, they react quickly, learn from it and move on to better things.
  • They have a growth-mindset – they want the legal team to be known as the change-makers that challenge existing approaches and ideas, adopt new technologies and ways of working, and bring about transformation.

To prove our point, here are the key trends taking place across in-house legal teams throughout the UK (according to a survey of 120 in-house legal teams).

1. In-house legal teams are eager to embrace new technology

The legal technology market is rife with innovation – and the majority of in-house legal teams are eager to make the most of this new legal technology. According to our survey, four-fifths (82%) of in-house legal teams will increase their adoption of legal technology in the next five years and almost three-quarters (71%) believe the quality, choice and usefulness of legal technology solutions for in-house legal teams is improving.

2. Data insights are now deemed crucial

With widespread digital adoption on the cards for most in-house legal teams, many are equally invested in being able to access valuable data to improve effectiveness, productivity and reporting – making it a must-have functionality from technology vendors. According to the survey, 84% of in-house teams said legal technology must have the ability to surface data insights in the next three to five years.

3. Automating routine work is on the agenda for many

Many in-house legal teams feel as though they are being held back by routine, repetitive work. According to the survey, 51% of in-house legal teams said they still spend too much time reviewing documents while 53% said they spend too much time carrying out repetitive tasks that add very little value.

4. Lack of digital knowledge is holding in-house legal teams back

Lack of time and resources are the key barriers holding legal teams back from digital transformation. When asked about the obstacles to digital transformation, 59% of in-house legal teams listed lack of time as a key barrier, while 53% said a lack of internal knowledge and expertise. However, this is likely to change as in-house lawyers throw themselves in the deep end by learning everything they need to know about legal tech.

5. In-house teams are growing in size and specialist expertise

In-house legal departments are growing in team size and they’re taking on more responsibilities. Almost two-thirds (62%) of respondents said they agreed or strongly agreed that legal teams will continue to grow, and 55% agreed that the level of specialist knowledge required from in-house lawyers is akin to what you’d expect to find at a traditional law firm.

This year we will see the Tech-Enabled Lawyer expand their use of automation and analytics technology to better manage higher-volume, lower-complexity work, freeing up time to focus on higher-value work that has a substantive strategic impact on commercial outcomes. We will also see this lawyer supported by multi-disciplinary legal teams that have a mix of specialist, operational and technical expertise to improve their overall effectiveness.