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Drafting a Business Case for Legal Technology 

As we approach the end of the year, pressure to secure and plan legal budgets rises. Any forward-thinking legal professional knows the importance of implementing tech solutions that streamline your daily workflows. However, evolving your team’s budget to meet these pressing needs is uniquely complicated.The Value of Technology Historically, technology hasn’t played as significant a role in legal operations as we’ve seen in other industries. However, with the world’s sudden shift to remote work and the ease of technology setting expectations of instant accessibility, our traditional industry is changing. In fact, in “The Future of Legal,” Gartner urges firms and in-house teams to adopt a technology plan by 2021 if they wish to remain profitable as the industry changes. Legal professionals are jumping on solutions that streamline all aspects of legal operations, including docketing software, financial software, and entity management software. But for those who have yet to take the technology leap, understanding how to position your needs and secure the needed budget changes is new territory. Drafting a Business Case: Best PracticesUnderstand your pain points. Before you begin drafting your business case, clearly outline the challenges you face and how they hinder productivity for your team and the business overall. Meet each point with a solution. Thoroughly overview your solution’s value proposition, and touch on the specific solutions for each pain point or need. Define your team. Ensure that you have a clear outline of who will engage with the software and how. This includes day-to-day users, administrators, project managers, etc. Elaborate on the type of access this person will have and how each user plays a role in solving the need.Use metrics when positioning return on investment. Be transparent with upfront costs and projected results. Whether referring to monetary ROI or invested time, use specific and accurate numbers, and explain how these benefits will affect the company at large.A sample from our Business Case TemplateOutline the risks. Transparency is critical to your value proposition. Be accurate and informative about potential risks and security plans for managing them. Want to Learn More?For more information on drafting a business case, you can access our free webinar, How to Secure a Budget for Legal Technology, where industry experts provide a business case template, discuss the intricacies of budget planning, overview what to prioritize in terms of financial investment, and unlock best practices for explaining ROI in both cost and time. 

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In-House Counsel: Best Practices

In-House Counsel: Trusted AdvisorsLawyers who work “in-house” for businesses are not outside advisors. When they embrace their role, and understand what is fully required from them, they become trusted advisors and close business colleagues. Corporate lawyers are often portrayed as professionals whose function is solely to evaluate risk and often restrain businesses from actions that may enable their growth and creativity. Yet this is decidedly not the role of an in-house lawyer. Rather, a lawyer who goes in-house to work at the heart of a business is an expert in their business. They can provide their colleagues with the benefit of valuable, specialist knowledge to propel the business forward and produce success. The Role of General CounselGeneral counsel is at once a primary member of a corporation’s senior management team, yet their role, by its very legal nature, demands an element of caution that their colleagues lack in their approach. Yet it is their colleagues and superiors; the company’s CEO and the board of directors, who will routinely request both their legal and business advice. It might even be asserted that they will be reliant on the guidance of the in-house lawyer in major business matters. In this increasingly fast and complex age of globalization, in-house counsel must have the ability to provide practical yet intellectually sophisticated advice in response to a huge variety of issues, often under great pressure. There are great benefits for companies in having counsel on their team, rather than consulting an outside lawyer. There’s no one who knows the business better than one who works in it every day, and over the course of the past few years, the role has increasingly become a vital one to business management teams, with their presence having been proven to result in more accurate business forecasts, as well as massively reducing legal risk.A skilled and knowledgeable in-house lawyer is, therefore, a huge benefit to a management team. However, just like business, whatever the sector, the role is constantly evolving. As such, in-house counsel must be flexible and able to adapt to whatever situations are thrown at them.That’s because, unlike in the past, in-house teams are not chosen solely for the provision of their legal acumen, or their ability to draft contracts – although these skills are of course still very much required. Rather, the role played by in-house counsel these days is more of a strategic partner that supports the business in whatever way required, whether that be the provision of legal advice, the improvement of systems and processes, ensuring compliance with regulations, or responding to client and supplier problems.Best Practices for In-House CounselIn-House Counsel: A Guiding Figure In-house counsel does not provide, therefore, only a legal role, but acts as a guiding figure for other executives in highlighting issues in the context of the bigger business picture. In the completion of their work, in-house counsel should always simultaneously keep in mind the business, its management, clients, and corporate development. This, in addition to the necessary consideration of legal issues, is undoubtedly difficult. Yet it is necessary.A Focus on the Big Picture This leads to the vital importance for in-house counsel of looking at the big picture; that is, considering the business as a whole. Lawyers must always ensure thoroughness and a focus on details; however, as in-house counsel, they must also consider what their company’s business team really needs them to do. That means not only the standard diligence that is involved in checking all documentation but really reflecting upon and understanding where the business is going and how any potential impediments standing in its way might be resolved.The InterpreterA key role for in-house counsel is as a liaison between the company and its clients or business partners. That means taking on a number of roles, from facilitator to interpreter. The lawyer’s purpose is to understand the complexity of legal issues and resolve them. Furthermore, a company’s business team is likely to have neither the time nor the legal training to understand certain legal complications, regardless of their intelligence or business experience. They will expect their in-house counsel to solve legal related matters that arise, without being required to listen to any prolonged explanations of any issues. For in-house counsel, this means that they must be skilled at identifying the key legal issues which they must be able to deal with alone, and identify those which must be considered together with the business team – and then have the skilled capacity to discuss those issues in such a way that they can translate, as it were, the legal jargon into straightforward business English. Essentially, in-house counsel best practice in this regard is to collaborate with the wider team as business partners, bringing their own unique legal skills to the table to achieve the resolution that’s the best result for the business.Risk Identification and the Courage to Say No The identification of material risks is, of course, a major function of lawyers, and in-house counsel are no different. One problem lawyers often experience is the need to tell their clients “no”. A client might arrive at a meeting with enthusiastic plans for expansion into certain jurisdictions or markets, for example, but there can be valid reasons why these plans are just not possible; legal, regulatory, financial or simply property-related. In such regular instances, lawyers are placed in the role of the negative member of the team who is the blocker of plans. Whilst that may not always be the most exciting position to occupy, it is the role of in-house counsel to identify these risks and warn their colleagues against making expensive or even unlawful mistakes that could jeopardize the business in any way. In-house counsel must be prepared to warn their business colleagues against moving forward with any transactions that have the potential to cause economic, legal, or reputational damages.Acting as a Business GuardianThe best practices for in-house counsel are quite fundamental. Consider the business and its functions in the wider context, and not merely the legal issues. Act as the translator for the business team, breaking down legal issues into plain language and explaining what they mean for business development. Consider economic, legal, social and reputational risks and, where necessary, have the mettle to stand their ground and refuse to support hazardous business plans, even where colleagues are enthusiastic. Essentially, acting as a guardian for the business, guiding it away from harmful transactions, and protecting it from risk.Evidently, these three key functions are closely interrelated, and in-house counsel must achieve the delicate balance of applying their judgment, legal knowledge, and experience, as well as business pragmatism. Yet these insights do not take into account the importance of factors such as building relationships and gaining a real understanding of company culture. In-house counsel should get to know their colleagues – introducing oneself, making conversation, and appreciating what they love about the company. Building personal relationships is crucial, and, like in so many areas of life, the ultimate key to success in business. Professional acumen is important, but communication is fundamental to successfully acting for a company as in-house counsel.

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Lower Costs and More Effective Management: How Legal Entity Management Software Solves These Issues

Technology and the Elimination of Distractions Modern life – and business - is full of distractions for professionals, and lawyers are no different. Legal professionals are often overwhelmed by all the numerous tasks that must be completed each day, and this impedes effective task management, hinders the completion of real work, and reduces firm productivity. There are numerous obstacles to overcoming this problem: a lack of planning, the ineffective management of both tasks and time, distractions from phones and emails which, whilst crucial for client communication, also hamper productivity, and, to put it succinctly, the poor prioritization of projects. A haphazard approach spells failure for the intensive focus that is required to successfully complete client work and, importantly, reduces overwhelm and improves productivity – and profits.Legal entity management software offers law firms a powerful solution and the benefits of using a third-party platform stem from its user-friendly features and wide range of customization possibilities. Here at Athennian, we are familiar with the difficulties that law firms have encountered in the past with their use of legal entity software, and our purpose has always been to analyze and implement how we can enable lawyers to use IT software as effectively as possible in the working environment. Athennian has long studied how the minor distractions that take up so much of a legal professional’s day – the invoicing, searching for documentation, document signing, and so on, can be integrated to provide one single, one-stop solution that will save time and effort, leaving space free for the rea, focused legal work to be done. Athennian’s entity-management suite provides a valuable, cloud-based solution that enables lawyers, paralegals, corporate secretaries, and indeed any firm that requires a scalable solution to securely address the routine tasks that require constant ongoing attention, and instead increase billable hours.Legal Entity Management: Scalable Features and Cloud-Based Integration The scalable, cloud-based integration of key firm functions that Athennian provides, including features such as the facility for eSignatures, document automation and custom templates, means that using this technology as a base, legal departments can work together more smoothly, in the knowledge that key business procedures are already covered. Not only this: in full awareness of the complexity of practice law, as well as the actual business aspect, Athennian has developed a powerful solution that enables total integration. It isn’t simply a database; rather, our legal entity software focuses on enabling ways in which colleagues can easily and efficiently communicate and collaborate with one another in a workspace that ensures the speedy signing of documentation, the ability to quickly search for, find and download folders and files, the auto-population of templates, and the ability to work together with colleagues in real time.By using this technology as the core base for operations, law firms can function more efficiently and better execute client work. Essentially, the use of legal entity software means that firms have the ability to keep a significantly tighter rein on operations, and this results in reduced spend across the business. It also means that legal departments are both internally aligned, as well as working better across the firm with other departments, so that there is the elimination of any confusion or delays when different departments, such as corporate and property, are working on the same transaction. ‍Streamlined Security and Standardization This increased streamlining of documentation, records, and the facilitation of improved communication all means that firms have a tailored tool at their disposal that has the ability to improve almost every aspect of their business. A centralized, technological solution means lower costs. Security concerns are also eliminated; Athennian uses rigorous monitoring tools and security controls to ensure that every single aspect of its operations, from document storage to reporting, to third-party integrations and auditing, are watertight. With all of the advantages that legal entity management software offers, the cost-effectiveness of an investment in an integrated solution is evident. Key to this is the allocation of a budget to technology and software; the cost-savings leveraged are achieved by the improvement of work processes, the expansion of team capabilities, and the fundamental standardization of business operations. One of the key solutions that Athennian provides is the means by which routine matters and templates can be standardized. Given that a high percentage of firm work is routine, standardization offers the potential for huge savings. These tasks and the related savings translate to almost every aspect of a firm and its business. Just one example is provided by e-billing - the software will automatically check invoices and eliminates the mistakes and omissions that often occur with human reviewers, and allows for the review of non-compliant invoices that may have been approved for payment. Whereas in the past, different departments in the same firm may once have adhered to different guidelines with regard to invoicing procedures, these will now be standardised and integrated. This solution improves not only cost-transparency, but also means that firms now have the ability to better estimate their costs and profits.‍Increased Legal Focus and Reduced Costs The tighter control of firm variables, the standardization of documentation, and the implementation of a collaborative, cloud-based solution means that professionals are left free to carry out the critical legal work that brings in the true revenue and raises the firm’s reputation. By reducing time and spend on tasks that can be standardized and accessed by all workers from a single, cloud-based point of access, legal departments are able to focus on work and achieve improved hourly rates and work volume. This enhanced digital proficiency transforms firms into smoother operations, where colleagues have immediate access to crucial documentation and can work together in real-time. This elimination of the time wasted on the manual compilation of routine documentation and financials, with, instead, lawyers freed to work on their key areas of expertise, results in huge benefits. The improved spend, timekeeping, better-organized workload, and automation of routine documentation results in improved management, reducing the need to spend any more vital time on tedious tasks, faster work processes, reduced costs, and, ultimately, a focus on the completion of actual legal work. 

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Using Technology to Achieve Legal Operational Maturity

Just like any modern industry, operations play a critical role in successful business function. In the legal industry, operations are defined as a set of business initiatives, processes, and job functions that enable the efficient practice of law. They include technical practices and business strategies that aid legal professionals in delivering optimum services to their clients.According to the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium’s 2021 State of the Industry report, 57% of those surveyed ranked “automating legal processes” as a high priority for 2021. In addition, 54% rank “implementing new technology solutions” as an equally high priority. With the industry’s growing adoption of automation, tech solutions are more business-critical than ever before, especially when looking to achieve operational maturity. The Pillars of Legal OperationsThe Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) lists fourteen target areas of legal operations: Change Management and Communications, or the strategic planning for implementing intended changes within the company, provides alignment, support, and structure for company-facing legal operations.Contract Management, including all processes related to contract creation, execution, storage, and compliance.eDiscovery, which is defined as the identifying, collecting, and production of electronically-stored information for reasons relating to lawsuits or investigations.External Resources Management, or the processes relating to selecting, managing, and compensating vendors.Financial Management, including management of all resources, revenues, expenses, and budgets, in addition to ensuring compliance between accounting.Information Governance, or a secure system for managing business-critical data that upholds an organization’s compliance, entities, and other functional requirements.Innovation Management, including evaluating, choosing, piloting, and implementing all innovative systems within the legal department. Intellectual Property Management, or the processes related to the return on investment in the intangible assets of an organization, such as patents and trademarks.Internal Resources Management, defined as the operations that advance HR within the legal department. Knowledge Management, or the strategic collection and distribution of understood knowledge within a company. Metrics & Analytics, or the collection and organization of data for decision making and performance management.Project & Process Management, including planning and coordinating all initiatives in the pursuit of efficiency. Strategic Planning & Legal Operations Leadership, including processes that set operational alignment, allocate resources and define metric standards.Technology Management, or the procurement, evaluation, and maintenance of user-friendly, modern, and scalable software Technology ManagementIn todays digital age, organization’s must strive for advanced maturity in the fourteenth and most relevant pillar, Technology Management. According to Gartner’s report, “The Future of Legal,” teams with a technology-forward approach are predicted to outperform those without by 2025. Advanced technology operations include a well-defined 5+ year technology roadmap that follows industry trends and adapts to ongoing benchmarks. Operational maturity in this area also requires a top-down approach––meaning the support and advocacy for tech solutions should exist from the senior management level down. Organizations with dedicated technologists or IT resources are well-positioned for operational maturity. However, a crucial part of technology management is finding software that can function 100% off-premises––especially as remote-working becomes the norm in more and more industries. The use of innovative solutions improves efficiency in every area of legal operations––HR software has a huge impact on mature internal resources management, eDiscovery would not be possible without automation, and cloud-based knowledge libraries are necessary for company-wide alignment. In fact, ACC data suggests that mature legal operations require relevant software solutions for each of the 14 areas. How Mature Are Your Legal Operations? Where does your organization currently stand on technology? Have you implemented a five-year roadmap that includes solutions to help manage operational challenges, such as corporate governance and entity management?Take our short, interactive assessment to determine your legal operations maturity status, and receive customized recommendations and improvement areas. 

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