The COVID-19 pandemic spurred greater adoption of legal technology by in-house professionals, and many are hopeful their legal departments will keep pressing forward in that vein.
A report released earlier this year by ContractWorks found that 57% of respondents said their team’s tech adoption was accelerated by at least three years due to the public health crisis, and 20% said the pandemic sped things up by at least four years. The results indicate corporate legal departments are taking steps to move past their reputation for being slow to modernize.
“By adopting technology, legal teams working both on-site and remotely continued to move contracts and other revenue-generating initiatives forward in an efficient, safe, and compliant manner,” the report said.
Main areas of adoption
The 2022 In-House Legal Tech Report issued by the contract management platform ContractWorks features insights shared by 350 legal department professionals across the U.S. and U.K.
The three leading areas of tech adoption reported by participants were contract management (37%), matter management (36%) and e-signature (36%).
One third of respondents also said they adopted e-billing solutions during the pandemic that upended business operations starting in 2020.
“For in-house lawyers tasked with establishing the infrastructure for remote work, streamlining internal processes quickly became a top priority,” the report said.
The technology solutions adopted most frequently during COVID-19 are also among the areas in which in-house professionals are still looking to strengthen their operations with tech.
The study found that 34% of respondents said contract management and litigation management were areas they wanted to improve through the use of technology, while exactly one-third said that e-signature and e-billing were areas of desired improvement.
E-discovery, matter management and IP management were also listed by respondents as areas where they hoped for improved performance through the use of technology.
“The solutions that were quickly adopted by so many organizations during the pandemic seem to be just the start for the in-house legal community,” the ContractWorks report said.
Tech adoption challenges
Even as in-house professionals reported an uptick in tech adoption, they also shared that struggles to implement technology are common.
Three out of four lawyers said they have experienced a failed tech adoption project, according to the ContractWorks report. Overall, 43% of in-house professionals report experiencing more than one failed tech adoption project.
The most common reasons cited for adoption failures were the implementation took too long (38%), the tech was too complicated (36%) and resistance to change (33%).
“Dealing with lengthy implementation processes and overly complex software is such a critical issue because it prevents teams from actually using the solution they just invested time and financial resources to acquire — which also prevents a timely ROI,” the report said.
Tech adoption challenges can also be attributed to a “combination of limited budgets, a lack of time to dedicate to evaluating, selecting, and implementing software, and concerns around managing change,” according to the report.
“And with the legal tech sector exploding with thousands of solutions — from enterprise systems that do everything to point solutions for every part of the legal process — it’s easy to understand why some in-house teams facing pressure to modernize are overwhelmed,” the report said. “In other words, many projects fail before they ever get started.”
However, the report struck a more positive note in mentioning that vendors are developing “user-friendly, quick-to-implement, and purpose-built solutions” that should make adoption failures less frequent.