The legal tech and legal operations landscape is evolving at an increasingly fast pace. For legal departments, selecting and coordinating the right tools and providers is becoming more time-consuming and confusing.
A growing number of different tools also makes handling more difficult when users must log in separately and cannot use interfaces between the individual tools. The added value from the tool’s data use remains limited in these cases. A single digital gateway can avoid the fragmentation of tools and providers, without having to forego competences.
First, let’s see where legal tech stands today. According to Gartner’s hype cycle, the peak of inflated expectations has already been left behind and some applications have already passed through the trough of disillusionment, so we should be on the slope of enlightenment. How far is it to the plateau of productivity?
For some time now, we have observed a consolidation in the legal tech market. Existing applications such as contract analysis, contract generators, legal spend management and contract management are becoming more mature and productive. At the same time, no-code and low-code platforms are increasingly entering the market, which can easily automate decisions and processes without lengthy development.
However, these good prospects for legal departments and use of technology in legal operations do not yet seem to be fully realised in many companies.
Legal departments face a double challenge of generalism and specialisation. On the one hand, many different requests come from the specialised departments. On the other hand, many companies have a high degree of specialisation in their sector.
Legal departments need to find a balance between which topics they will cover themselves and which cases they will hand over to external advisors. For example, it could be argued that particularly complex issues should be handled internally because of their strategic importance, but their scope may determine that they still require external assistance. For smaller requests, a separate assignment is often too costly. Recurring tasks can and should be automated.
The solution for legal departments is a customised system that provides uniform access to all available tools and services. In addition, data on the work of the legal department can be used in perspective and KPIs can be analysed. The prerequisite for such a system is a holistic view of the processes in the legal department.
The work of the legal department should be seen as a sequence of different processes that are interconnected. They can either stand side-by-side, such as the examination of a trademark application and the drafting of a company acquisition agreement; or they can be in chronological order, such as the first draft of a (standard) contract and the subsequent negotiation of it.
In both cases, the processes are interrelated. In the case of sequential processes, this is obvious because the first process step must necessarily take place before the second process step, and the work result of the first process is the basis for the second process. But even in the case of processes running in parallel, there is usually a connection; for example through the sharing of resources, or the use of the same document management system.
Unified access provides legal departments and their clients with a direct digital channel to resolve legal issues. Via this channel, clients can communicate with the legal department and external lawyers; exchange data; and use tools. This is done on a unified frontend as a central access point for the legal department.
The legal department can either solve simple legal issues itself with the help of digital tools, for example receive a contract template; or get answers to non-complex, recurring legal questions. But it can also quickly find an in-house or external lawyer to help with legal questions that require advice. In the process, the necessary information and documents are exchanged via the Single Digital Gateway.
This is not only simple and effective, but also more secure than traditional formats, such as e-mails. The legal department has transparency about the processing status and current costs. It also has access to external tools, such as contract analysis tools or special solutions, which are connected and integrated via the Single Digital Gateway. The advantage for the legal department is that it does not need to conduct its own data protection and IT security audit for each of these external providers, but can delegate it to its service provider.
The Single Digital Gateway approach requires the solution of several challenges. On the one hand, a secure interface to the legal department’s infrastructure must be created. On the other hand, the connection of further services and tools also requires interfaces so that the legal department can use a uniform access. Different systems have different data structures, both in terms of data formats and the location of individual databases. Here, too, harmonisation and ideally a uniform data structure must be created.
In addition to the technical challenges, the business model must also be simple and flexible for the legal department. They receive transparent pricing and can check the running costs at any time. When connecting external services and tools, the Single Digital Gateway functions like an app store from which the legal department can select the appropriate solutions. However, billing takes place centrally via the service provider – with the option of showing individual components separately, if necessary.
It will be crucial for legal departments to find a strong and trustworthy provider that can solve these challenges. In the future, the Single Digital Gateway as a unified portal will be the easiest and most secure way to get fast legal support with high and consistent quality.
About the authors of this educational guest post for Artificial Lawyer:
- Philipp Glock, LL.M. (UWC), Partner, Co-Head of Legal Process & Technology, KPMG Law Rechtsanwaltsgesellschaft mbH,
- David Campos Pavon, General Counsel – eBusiness, Digital and IT, Chief Group Data Privacy Officer and Vice President, Nestlé S.A.