What Do Corporate Clients Want From Legal Tech?

The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) 2021 survey of Chief Legal Officers (CLO) has concluded and it gives us some indications of what corporate clients actually want to buy in terms of legal tech over the next two years.

The answers are below:

ACC CLO survey 2021.

As can be seen, contract management is the number one legal tech priority, with 67% of respondents picking this area to focus investments on.

The next, which is closely related, is document management, at about 41%, followed by the relatively prosaic need to adopt esignature tech at 33.5%.

Interestingly, eBilling was very low – at around 8%. This may suggest most CLOs have already got a good handle on billing matters – or perhaps it’s just not half as important as knowing where their contracts are and what’s in them?

Unsurprisingly eDiscovery tools were very low on the list, at 7.4%, but except in a very few large businesses one would not expect a corporate to be running its own eDiscovery projects and buying software for this work. Also no mention of NLP tools for transactional work – but again, you would not expect most corporates to handle this inhouse either.

Where such NLP tools may be important could be for compliance matters, and the importance of data privacy figured heavily across the overall survey results.

One surprise was that KM tools were only at 25.8% – but it’s possible that some of that demand is being soaked up by demand for broader contract management systems.

Overall, not too many surprises here, but it’s good news for CLM companies. Whether CLOs want CLM systems with NLP capabilities to help strip out contract data to build dashboards of obligations and provide business insights is not clear, but analytics as a separate category received 21%.

Wrapping up the survey, which was made in partnership with Exterro, the ACC team said: ‘CLOs continue to spend significant amounts of time contributing to strategy development, governance issues, and advising executives on non-legal issues, solidifying their role as an essential partner to the business. This influence is even more pronounced when the CLO reports directly to the CEO and is particularly so in larger organisations.’

They added: ‘Nearly one third …. plan on adding lawyers to their in-house teams in 2021, which is a slight increase from the previous year (32.1% this year compared to 30.4% last year).

‘Twenty percent of departments plan on adding paralegals and 12.7% expect to hire additional legal ops professionals. Hiring expectations remain largely the same across positions compared to last year with the exception of administrative staff with 6.3% of departments.’

Conclusion: no great surprises. But good news to see that inhouse teams and their CLOs want to grapple more with contract management, after all – that is the foundation of much of the key data that then streams into a variety of other legal tech applications and business use cases. So, a good step.

(The survey analysed data from 947 CLOs across 21 industries and 44 countries.)