What Does It Take to Be a Digital General Counsel?

31 July 2019

Living now, in the technological age, there seems to be an industry-wide expectation that a General Counsel must be “digital”. However, many are are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to “going digital”… Caught between the need to embrace the digital age and the realities of humans when it comes to change, implementation and adoption.

Digital Legal Counsel
In this article, we take a look at this “hard place” and ask, what does it really take to become tomorrow’s Digital GC?


Where is the “hard place”?


Whilst for many general counsels, legal technology is on the radar, often, competing priorities of business mean that revenue-generating business areas trump investment in internal technology for legal departments. In many businesses, even those with a digital focus, the task of convincing the right stakeholders – CFO or whoever holds the strategic purse strings – to invest in legal department focused technology is a hard sell.

Additionally, often once a GC has been granted permission to invest in digital, the task of finding the right tech tool may seem overwhelming, with the unfortunate effect of reduced priority. It can be difficult for various diverse and equally important teams to agree on requirements and select the best solution to fit all their needs.

Then there’s also the issue of capacity. Often the job of starting the digital transformation is an additional task tacked onto an already stretched workforce. Not only do the lawyers need to do their day job, but now they’re also in charge of transforming their legal departments! The great news is that, although challenging, it’s not impossible to overcome.


Successful Strategies to become a Digital General Counsel


So, how do GCs get out from between the rock and a hard place? Here are some of the most successful strategies that we’ve come across:

(1) Lawyers at the GC level are generally risk-averse and resistant to change, having been trained in the yester-year of law practice and not new legal service delivery models. A mindset change is required, with a determination to self-challenge, learn, develop, and to augment confidence around technology.

(2) Create a team to facilitate working smarter. Often, teams are ingrained in the way they work and changing mindsets can be tricky, but a holistic review is essential in order to drive genuine digital transformation. Many lawyers in the market are now expecting more from their legal careers and look for opportunities to upskill in areas such as legal operations and LegalTech with the goal of developing a more business focused and digitally enabled skillset. Bringing new multi-skilled talent to the team, who share the same digital ethos, can be a powerful strategy for influencing and delivering change.

(3) Tap into technology that is already available within the business. It could be as simple as using the full Google Suite or Office 365. These tools are supported by analytics and, with effective use, can help support the need for a more specific tech investment.

(4) Don’t be afraid to seek outside support. Capacity can be a real killer to starting the digital journey. Engaging with the experience of other experts can help you with your digital transformation journey. One solution which is becoming increasingly popular is a process and technology audit (normally a one-day fixed cost exercise). From there, you can see where you want to direct your time and resources – and start to create immediate impact for your team and organisation.

So, what does it really take to be a Digital GC? Evidence suggests that it’s not actually technology – it’s having the right mindset to drive and, most importantly, implement change and to follow it through. The “digital” will naturally follow.

This post was originally published on the KorumLegal Forum.

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Route1 is an award winning marketplace for legal talent. For any questions, please contact our Engagement Team or visit our Contact Us page for more information.

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