Legal ops

Why legal has trouble buying software

Buying Legal Software-02

“I will take one software, please.”

You went to law school, got a doctorate level degree to practice in a specialized field, secured a position within the corporate ranks, and only now does a seemingly insurmountable challenge lie before you: purchasing software. 

Dunn dun dunnnnnnn. 

In our experience, legal teams have not been empowered with knowledge on how to buy software, who to engage to build a business case for software, and what kinds of considerations to make when building the business case.

Why legal struggles to buy software

It’s not like you are a technical novice, or technically inept. In fact, the problem likely isn’t you at all. It is a combination of a few key elements: 

  1. Your budget isn’t giving you a whole lot of options 
  2. The market isn’t giving you a whole lot of options 
  3. No one within your company has taught you how to buy software

The budget ain’t budging 

One of the core issues when it comes to purchasing software for the legal department is the budget. Often, budget isn’t accurately allocated because (on a surface level), the market is not a great indicator of what the budget for legal software should be.  Legal software is a slowly evolving space, which is ironic when you take into account the pace of legislative implications and precedent that impact the immutability of certain practices. Basing the budget off of “what we have always spent” or “market average” can be a disservice to the purchasing process right out of the gate.  

The market is lagging 

There is an antiquated view of legal, which results in antiquated solution offerings cluttering the market.  Whereas there are hundreds of options for say, a ticketing system for operations, there are a limited number of legal software solutions that fulfill more than one function, adequately.  This means you are left to adopt a partial solution, or settle for a Frankenstein’s monster of a technology stack made more difficult by previously mentioned budgeting constraints. 

No one taught you how

Within any medium to large business, you may have dedicated procurement teams that you work with every day on the final stages of vendor agreements. That doesn’t mean that you have a great sense for the entire lifecycle of buying technology. In fact, most of legal’s technology stack consists of Microsoft Office products. Times are changing, though. The landscape your business is trying to operate in is growing in complexity with the advent of mobile apps, self-service experiences, and your business trying to decrease friction everywhere.

Your team will need to better leverage technology just like every other business function. So where do you start in trying to understand how, when, and why to fill gaps in your business with software?

The solution comes from an unexpected ally: your Product Team. 

Weird, right? How is the product team going to solve your problems? 

For starters, unlike traditional legal departments, product teams have both extensive experience in and budget for buying software. They are an invaluable resource when it comes to a) joint initiatives that expand your budget and b) evaluating a solution that truly works for your company, product, and end customer. 

In all likelihood, you or some member of your team has spent time consulting with product, asking your internal technical resources to pull data logs of certain events, and worked to make sure features or web based interactions are compliant.  

As a member of a product team, I can personally attest that there are few things in this world that we hate more than unplanned fluctuations in our work.  It sets off a domino effect of roadmap implications hitherto unknown.

Product teams spend their time carefully planning, researching, and ranking the features that make up your product offering. The work that goes into each element is carefully laid out on a roadmap that helps evaluate the amount of time and resources that have to be allocated towards the project in order to meet deadlines.  Every time there is a new ask that is elevated to the top of the queue, the roadmap is compromised. While most product teams try to budget a bucket of hours for “unplanned work” and random one-off asks, that doesn’t mean that work won’t cause delays.

What may be a simple terms update ask to you, can have a huge impact on the resources available to address the roadmap. 

One of the few things they may hate more than unplanned work is being told how to build something, which can easily happen if you purchase software for online agreement tracking that is not compatible with current workflows.  When you purchase in a silo, you expose the product team. Say the software you commit to is not an “out of the box fit”. If it survives the procurement process, you are signing your product team up for an array of integration work and troubleshooting they now have to turn their attention to. 

This means product teams should be invested in the software you purchase, perhaps enough so that they are willing to lend time, budget, and expertise to ensuring you make the right selection. Plus, who doesn’t love a good team up? 

More reasons legal should collaborate with product

Additionally, the product team can help you identify gaps in your current solution, and help educate your team on the benefits of a lean, centralized tech stack.  This will help you narrow down the solutions on the market that are viable for your organization in its current state, and designed to scale with continued growth.  

Lastly, product teams are generally designed to be agile. They are built on practices that allow them to be the most nimble and efficient part of the organization, because they are responsible for maintaining your core offering.  They have to be adaptable, efficient, innovative and optimized. Legal can be all these things as well, and there is a lot to learn from the structure and operation of a well run product team (which we will dig into later in another blog #content). 

Crafting your legal team around the right software solutions can enable you to transform the way legal operates within your organization.  When you have offloaded repeatable tasks into automated software...you gain back the time to put your highly specialized, advanced knowledge to use on tasks that are truly impossible to digitally replicate.  You have the ability to move faster, to work smarter, and change the way a modern legal department operates.  

To learn more about why legal should (and how they can) collaborate with different departments within a business, download The Definitive Guide to Building Cross-Functional Relationships for Legal Teams

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