2020 - The year that put legaltech in the spotlight


The year 2020 has been a one of unexpected challenges and opportunities, not just for law firms but for all businesses across the globe. 

At TLT, the year began with a clear strategy, a fundamental part of which was strengthening the FutureLaw team and bolstering its innovation programme. For clients, the year began with legaltech strategies creeping higher on their busy and competing agendas, with a greater will and need to discuss the opportunities available to them to improve their in-house efficiency and capability, but also their collaboration with external legal counsel.

The COVID-19 crisis led to an unexpected acceleration of both acceptance and adoption of legaltech across law firms and by clients.

The impact of the virus has provided the nudge needed to speed up the universal adoption of remote working and other tools across the business world. It also brought the need to improve efficiencies, collaboration, speed of delivery and risk management sharply into focus, pushing law firms to hone how they work internally as well as how they deliver services to clients. 

The use of legaltech during the crisis

TLT has been investing in legaltech solutions for many years to help deliver legal services more efficiently. This technology has been tested, deployed and has various use cases, many of which proved to be ideal for supporting businesses through the pandemic.

We have deployed legaltech for our clients in various key areas:

  • Contract clause reviews – At the start of the crisis it was apparent that businesses needed an efficient and accurate way to find key clauses in their existing contracts, particularly around force majeure that exempt a party fulfilling its obligations or from doing so on time. Extracting key contractual data from contracts using one of the many tools available, allows for key clauses to be assimilated and assessed from a legal risk perspective very quickly.
  • Bulk creation of new contracts - For those businesses facing increased demands (such as supermarkets, pharmacies and broadband/telecoms), the need to quickly recruit staff and manage the resulting number of employment contracts increased dramatically.
  • Contract risk management - Recognising that some new contracts may be temporary, and that businesses may be dealing with high volumes of contracts that will need to reviewed and referred back to in the coming months (particularly in the event of any litigation or claims against the business), secure data portals came sharply into focus for many businesses.  The realisation that they didn’t know where many of their contracts were, let alone be able to share them with colleagues in a virtual world, was a real issue for many. 46% of GC’s we recently surveyed at The Lawyer In-house Counsel as a Business partner conference 2020 said their businesses still rely on shared or personal hard drives to store documents; far from ideal when trying to work with a team virtually.
  • E-signatures – For many, e-signature solutions were not a new concept and one that many businesses already had in place. But for those businesses that had not previously used e-signature tools we saw an increase in e-signature deployment and management of those contracts once signed.

What do we expect to see in 2021?

Contract management will continue to be one of the top priorities for GCs across the UK, with 40.5% of GCs surveyed at the GC Strategy Summit 2020 identifying contract management as the top tech priority for 2021. However, 2020 has accelerated where many businesses are in their legaltech strategy, and as a result many are further forward in building strong foundations in their contract management and document storage than at the start of year. As such, we expect to see more focus on contract automation within that workstream. 

Focusing on contract automation combined with an online portal that gives visibility across the business will ensure accurate contracts are drafted, efficiently, whilst managing risk and preventing bottle necks within legal teams, allowing legal teams the time to focus on strategic, added value work.

Written by Lisa Urwin and Clara Howard.


This article first appeared in The Lawyer.

This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at November 2020. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms & conditions.

 


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