Digitization of Legal Operations

Digitization of Legal Operations

Madan Mohan K.R, Director – Legal & Compliance and Member of the Executive Board, Air Liquide Global E&C Solutions India, 0

Signify the role of digital tools in legal operations.
The role of Digital Tools in Legal Operation activities have become imperative. The digitization of Legal Operations means digitizing every aspect of the legal operations including but not limited to legal deliverables (like contracts, NDAs, standard formats for routine activities, etc.), workflow, processes, team collaboration and also most importantly customer management. The Legal Department always face the challenges being under staffed while overloaded with work not even finding time to attend to the pressing matters. Further, the legal budget is always a subject matter of discussion as the Legal Department is predominantly seen as an expenses center.

While the digitization was in slow progress until 2019, the pandemic Covid-19 thought us hard way to adopt digitization quickly despite long being resistant to change in this area. Some example are like on-line court hearing, negotiation of contract on-line, adoption of digital signatures, etc. Optimizing Legal Operations by digitization and digitalization is a challenge by itself and game changer for the Legal Operations. This calls for developing skill sets of the legal team, and mastering the process of digitization, by which the activity become simplified and process oriented and will have limited or no human interface. The ultimate aim of digitalization is to simplify the processes and get out of mundane activities and concentrate on high value, high risk and important matters. Digitalization will help the In-House legal team to show case the value that they can provides to the organization. Modern legal function is being seen as a profit center rather than an expense center. In fact digitalization will help the in-house legal team to actually prove themselves that they are worthy of it and mean business. While the Legal Department must focus on digitization by converting and recording data, they shall not forget digitalization process leading to developing legal processes and changing workflows to improve manual systems. Finally, digitalization will lead to digital transformation leveraging the knowledge and integrating it in all business areas to enhance engagement and create value.

"Legal Department must focus on digitization by converting and recording data, they shall not forget digitalization process leading to developing legal processes and changing workflows to improve manual systems"

The Role of Digital Tools:
At times, like it or not, you actually needs the digital tool to provide legal advice. For example, conducting Due diligence. The recent international crisis with respect to sanctions imposed by several countries including the US and the European Union arising out of conflict between Russian and Ukraine and identifying risk emanating from such sanctions. Once should really need to apply a digital tool to identify and mitigate the risk. There are several other digital tools that automate the legal process such as automation of contracts, NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreements) Developer, etc., which not only saves time but also ensure perfectness of the documentation. Thus, digital transformation is a must and it is a continuous process constantly evolving journey that requires constant updating.

Elaborate about digitization’s influence and effects on the customer experience and demand.
The Business Team expects the Legal Team not only to provide legal inputs and compliance but also to identify the areas of risks and suggest mitigation measures and even implementation of the same and improve fact based decision making process to strengthen customer experience. This is possible only when digitalized information is used for the purpose of accomplishing the business goals such as operational efficiency, reducing costs and expenses, minimizing human errors and interfaces. For example, Contract Life Cycle Management Tool can provide you with the data that enable data analysis leading to understand the expectations of the customer and cater to the requirements thereby influencing customer experience and demand. At the end, this will help the organization to create revenues and add value and business opportunities.

Secondly, the timely and speedy resolutions of customer requirements are key to customer satisfaction and
experience. Digitization plays a vital role in this respect. The faster the service resolution is better the chance to retain the customers.

How has been the investor sentiment on the same?
Investor sentiments has been quite optimistic. Two basic reasons, viz. the external legal cost is prohibitively high and have become sometime unaffordable and the second ever increasing statutory requirements and compliances. To a large extent, the legal budget could be bought under some control by digitizing legal operations. There are a lot of mundane legal activities that could be done by non-legal people but with the help of digitization and digitalization. Going forward, we will see new organizations providing legal services through digital tools, a very good example is the recent development in the areas of artificial intelligence.

The automation of legal operations is not a choice any more. In fact, not going for digitization, the organization may gain in short term over cutting costs immediately but surely they will lose in the long run. Digitization is not cheap and one need to increase the legal budget and spend on legal technology. The return on income (ROI) is definitely be interesting, as such an investment both in digital tool and enhancing the skill set of legal people will drive their appetite to expand the use of technology to support workflows and meet the productivity demands.

The Legal Department will no longer be seen as a supporting function but a function that influence, impact and drive business strategy and growth, consequently a profit center.

Where do the current talent force stand when it comes to leveraging latest technologies? Is there more room for improvement?
The current talent force, of course need a face lift vis-à-vis leveraging latest technologies, which is already happening. The current strength of the legal team may remain or even reduce, but by taking advantage of latest technologies, the team will be able to cope up with the workload situation in the short term. Further, the Legal Team will be able to concentrate on high value high volume business rather than routine activities. The trend will be that the legal leaders will have to capitalize on technology investments to drive business needs.

What is your future outlook on how digitization could transform the way legal operations are carried out?
The future outlook on digitization is bright for the legal department, the reason being that they will be able to design and implement a fit-for-purpose legal operations based on technology and roadmap and achieve cost efficiencies. The Legal Department will no longer be seen as a supporting function but a function that influence, impact and drive business strategy and growth, consequently a profit center. Once the Legal Department is seen as a profit center, then the legal budget and cost become secondary aspect. Going forward, the legal team will have not only lawyers but also non-lawyers.

The General Counsels have already seen as to how the other functions of the Organization have benefited from the technology innovations and the significant advancements in legal technology industry. This will force the General Counsels to transform the legal operations and use the technology to support workflows and meet productivity demands.

What is your advice to upcoming leaders while hacking new opportunities in the legal domain?
As I mentioned before, the Legal domain of an Organization will have great demand. They will be seen as part of front-line managers supporting the business. This also means that legal leaders will have to upgrade themselves with business and commercial acumen. Going forward, the legal leaders with business and commercial acumen will be in great demand. Who could be a better person than a legal leader who can drive business and commercial strategies while taking care of legal security and compliance issues.

Madan Mohan K.R, Director- Legal & Compliance &
Member of the Executive Board, Air Liquide Global E&C Solutions India

Madan has more than 35 years of expertise in the fields of law, compliance, company secretarial work, insurance, and risk management, working with companies in the pharmaceutical, manufacturing, building and real estate, engineering (EPC Contracting), etc. In a conversation with Bimlesh Prasad, Correspondent, CEOInsights, Madan presented his thoughts on the digitization of the legal system and how it may affect people's behaviours. He additionally spoke about how digitization is utilising knowledge and integrating with business interaction, as well as how legal operations are conducted through digitalization.