ResearchHG Insights examines the findings from the Annual Survey of Legal Operations Professionals which reveals the adoption of cloud-based technologies by Enterprise legal departments continues unabated.

The recent survey by OpenText demonstrates the convergence of multiple disciplines and the expanding responsibilities of corporate legal operations professionals. Today’s corporate legal leaders are shaping IT strategy with an eye towards litigation-readiness and partnering with security teams on data breach response plans.

“AI, cloud and security have emerged as top priorities for law firms and enterprise legal departments as we approach 2020,” said Todd Elliott, OpenText vice president for security, artificial intelligence, and legal technology.

Movement toward the cloud

The rise of the cloud and the emergence of AI represent progress, but technology adoption will be a long-term endeavor, and this study highlights the willingness to adopt new technologies. With discussions increasingly focused on innovation, efficiency and the next generation of legal practice, legal operations leaders are at the forefront of piloting new technology, executing strategic initiatives, and helping senior leadership navigate the evolving risk and compliance landscape.

Key findings from the survey include:

  • Movement toward the cloud continues: The majority of respondents, 83 percent, rated their organization’s current use of cloud-based tools at a three or above on a 1-5 scale. Further, an impressive 94 percent rated their company’s openness to implementing cloud solutions in the coming year at three or higher.
  • The use of AI is growing: Within legal departments, 34 percent of respondents currently use AI (up from 23 percent in 2017). However, 66 percent of respondents believe that spending on AI solutions will increase in 2019.
  • Focus on security is strong, but sensitive: A full 91 percent reported the legal department’s influence on information security decisions has increased, with 49 percent claiming the legal team is much more involved in information security. Having a seat at the table is significant as 91 percent of respondents also reported they have data security concerns around distributing electronically stored information to multiple discovery vendors and law firms.
  • The GDPR is driving major eDiscovery, privacy and security changes: With 80 percent of respondents advising data privacy concerns are affecting how they handle discovery and investigations, the impacts of regulations such as GDPR are starting to be realized by legal professionals. 49 percent of respondents reported the volume of government or regulatory investigations has grown over the past 12 months.
  • ECM joins the legal tech development conversation: 74 percent of participants reported if their ECM systems were integrated with their eDiscovery systems, it would be beneficial for the legal department.

Lawyers need to think like technologists

In last year’s Law Society report ‘Six ways the legal sector is using AI right now’, Joanne Frears, a commercial, IP and technology law solicitor, opines that lawyers should start considering the potential of AI not merely to make efficiency gains, but to radically shake up the legal sector. “Despite AI in law this year finally meeting the hype of previous ones, most AI-law firm collaborations remain of the data-crunching type, performing the tasks of many lawyers faster, more efficiently and more accurately,” comments Frears.

“But if we simply ask AI to perform the same legal tasks as lawyers have always undertaken, I can’t help thinking that we’ve missed the point of it. Lawyers need to think more like technologists and consider what AI could mean for the entire practice of legal service delivery.”

Research Methodology
The survey interviewed 35 legal operations leaders with Fortune 500 and 1000 companies between July and August 2018. Eighty percent served as their organization’s director of legal operations (or in an equally senior role). Most had traditional responsibilities for outside counsel and vendor management, legal technology administration and budgeting, while others participated in or led initiatives related to e-Discovery, advanced strategic planning, talent utilization and business process improvements. Forty-nine percent were from companies with revenues of more than $10 billion and 83 percent were with organizations with revenues of more than $5 billion. Two-thirds were at companies with more than 10,000 employees and 91 percent were with organizations maintaining more than 5,000 employees.

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