What are the biggest trends in legal tech in 2021? What are the types of technologies organizations planning on investing in? And what are the metrics we all might want to start measuring?
Those are exactly the kinds of questions we asked top corporate legal leaders in a recent survey commissioned by Mitratech It revealed insight, predictions, and expert opinions from Legal Operations leaders and lawyers on the challenges, changes, and new legal tech coming to legal teams in 2021.
The advancement of legal technology
To start, a unifying, and very strongly held opinion from all of our survey respondents was that corporate legal technology will continue to become more advanced – and even more common – in 2021.
More specifically, respondents predicted these technologies will become even more prevalent in 2021:
- 44% – contracts management
- 42% – matter management
- 37% – governance, risk, and compliance technologies
Additionally, it’s important to note that almost one-third of respondents predict e-Billing will only increase in usage.
Data privacy and security is a top initiative
Another near universal response from the legal leaders we surveyed was that data privacy and security will become a top priority in the new year. This renewed focus can be linked to the chaos of 2020.
When the pandemic struck and employees began to work from home, companies turned to their policies and processes to manage new risks. The problem? A mess of outdated, confusing, or contradictory policies and outdated processes. Last year showed us just how much manual compliance processes or siloed technologies slow down organizations.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML)
32% of respondents stated AI and ML will be part of their technology roadmaps in 2021, while 42% are uncertain or unsure how these technologies fit into the business strategy overall.
Despite this split in opinion, it’s important to note that Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning can solve major challenges for companies, especially for analysis, management, and predictability. In fact, these technologies can transform organizations into more efficient, profitable, and employee-friendly places.
Another key finding? Many legal experts expect an anticipated spike in litigation related to COVID-19 in 2021. The Insurance Journal backs this up, reporting a record 1,548 class action rulings on workplace issues in 2020.
2021 is also predicted to be another year reliant on collaboration tools, thanks to remote workforces. With working from home the new norm, tools that enhance collaboration will be very important for in-house legal departments.
However, while 60% of our respondents predict remote work environments will be widely encouraged and accepted in 2021, there was an exception. Lawyers. Most lawyers will have to – and want to – return to their workplace.
More workflow automation
With so many employees working from home, workflow automation is now a vital component of any effective remote work environment. In the new year, 77% of corporate legal departments anticipate their use of workflow automation will increase and only 2% believe their use will decrease.
“Having our different agreements, NDAs, and contract approvals remote, as is in a cloud technology, has made the transition to that work from home significantly easier.” Andy Cooper, Legal Operations Manager, IDEXX Laboratories
Building something better with process automation
However, while many legal leaders predict more workflow automation, many were quick to point out that the future is not just about automating an existing process. Instead, organizations want to automate and improve processes. This kind of implementation can best happen when business units and departments work with Legal to adopt process automation.
By collaborating on the automation adoption process, Legal can ensure legal and compliance best practices are easily embedded in every department’s processes.
For example, take Jeff Marple, Director of Innovation, Corporate Legal at Liberty Mutual, explanation on their process: “Legal wasn’t originally a process or tech-forward organization within Liberty Mutual. Now we have developed several internal client-facing workflows that our clients just love, and that has changed the reputation…Legal now leads the organization with process automation deployments.”
Increasing efforts toward diversity, inclusion, and equity in 2021
Another area top of mind for modern legal professionals? Diversity, equity, and inclusion. In fact, 87% of corporate legal departments see ongoing diversity and inclusion efforts as vital to their company’s mission.
But implementing diversity and inclusion efforts will not be enough in 2021. For true success, measuring and metrics will be key to departments prioritizing diversity.
Nagendra Donepudi, Senior Vice President of Product Development at Mitratech, explains: “We want more legal department eyes on the metrics because that compels the law firms to improve those metrics,” as “they’re going to be held accountable if they know people are watching them.”
Immigration and Worker Eligibility
Finally, one more area our survey explored was immigration and visas. 32% of respondents said it was fairly or very likely that they will add H1B1 visa holders to their workforce in 2021.
What does the future hold?
“With the continued pressures of COVID-19, I believe 2021 will be heavily focused on efficiency and being able to do much more with lean teams and resources. That means focusing heavily on automation, AI enablement, and the greater use of ALSP’s.” 2021 Survey respondent
Looking ahead, the horizon is primed for more digital transformation, better data security and privacy regulations, and an even wider acceptance of remote work. No matter what 2021 throws our way, legal teams have the tools to welcome the changes and challenges of the new year with confidence.
To see a white paper that contains the complete results, predictions from respondents, and more analysis? Download it here.
Steven O’Donnell is Mitratech’s Head of Product Marketing for Legal Operations. Steven originally came from Progressive Insurance where he spent 15 years as a product and market analyst. Steven joined Mitratech in 2011 and leads our company efforts around creating content for legal operations. A frequent speaker at Mitratech events, Steven spends considerable time researching the market and technology trends to understand how our products can address legal department challenges.