When acquiring legal tech, focus on the problem, don’t get consumed by ‘shiny objects:’ panel

LegalTech Summit panel discussed the challenge of finding the right solution amid a deluge of options

When acquiring legal tech, focus on the problem, don’t get consumed by ‘shiny objects:’ panel
Jean-François L’Ecuyer, Art Wilson, Monica Goyal, Ginevra Saylor, Andrew Terrett

The rapid pace of innovation in the legal tech space has created a problem for practitioners looking to implement applicable tools: Where to start? A panel of innovation experts at Canadian Lawyer’s LegalTech Summit recommended working from the pain point toward appropriate solutions rather than getting distracted by shiny new toys.

“The reality right now is there are so many tools out there,” said Jean-François L’Ecuyer, chief revenue officer at Edilex, who moderated the panel, “Emerging technologies and automated workflow in the legal industry.” Edilex is a cloud-based software service for automating legal tasks.

“How do you prioritize? What do you look into first?... There are so many types of automation, so if you're new to this, how do you make your choice?”

It would have been relatively easy a few years ago, said panellist Andrew Terrett, national director of legal technology and service delivery at Borden Ladner Gervais. “The world's changed. We're at a significant inflection point.”

Practitioners must explore the range of options, learn, investigate, and understand “this firmament of opportunity,” he said. “Put your chequebook away for a while.”

The organization must ask itself some “heartfelt, soul-searching questions” about the problems that need solving, said Terrett, and different practice groups will present different pet peeves.

“You're going to have to gather all of that and ask yourself, of all these problems, where do we begin? Because the opportunities are all there. The technology is maturing so rapidly,” he said.

“Don't get taken in by all the shiny toys. They're great. Have a look at the shiny objects for sure. But don't be consumed by them. Spend enough time on the problem side of the ledger.”

Canadian Lawyer’s 2023 LegalTech Summit took place June 15 in Toronto. The first session of the day was “Emerging technologies and automated workflow in the legal industry.” L’Ecuyer’s and Terrett’s panel was the first of the day, and it also included Monica Goyal, director of legal innovation at Caravel Law; Art Wilson, manager of access to innovation at the Law Society of Ontario; and Ginevra Saylor, national director of innovation and knowledge programs at Gowling WLG (Canada). The panel discussed the emerging technologies enabling lawyers to improve service delivery and automate workflows and how to choose the right tools and effectively implement them.

The magnitude of the available technology presents a unique challenge for sole practitioners and medium and small firms, said Wilson. While the big national and international firms have entire departments devoted to finding and evaluating, smaller players are at a disadvantage when wading through an ocean of options, he said.

In response, Saylor noted that Legaltech Hub is one helpful tool for that problem. Created by Nicola Shaver and Chris Ford, Legaltech Hub has an online search tool holding a vast repository of legal-tech companies.

“It's a great resource,” said Saylor. “What she's done is categorize all the different legal technologies by what they do. If you're looking for litigation eDiscovery, or drafting solutions, or proofreading, or contract lifecycle management, whatever, she's got it all categorized.”

Saylor adds that those searching for the solution should include their colleagues who will ultimately use it.

“It's extremely important to involve the people who are going to end up using it, from the very beginning to the end,” she said. “Find out what they need. Find out how they work. Find out how their process can be improved. Then start looking for a solution and testing it with those people.”

The acquisition is only half the battle, said Saylor. Then comes adoption – getting buy-in from those who will use it and sustainability. “If after a year no one's using it, it's pointless.”

Layered on top of the buy-in issue is integrated the solution with the organization’s existing tech stack, said Goyal. Adopters should examine their tools and determine whether they can harmonize them with the new software, she said.

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