Even with the best support, GCs can sometimes struggle to identify the right technology. Just over a third of respondents (38%) said they now looked to their firms for guidance when it came to finding or implementing legal technologies, while under a quarter (23%) reported having been advised by their firms on the use of specialist legal technology.
Chris Young, general counsel for digital contracting
platform Ironclad notes that ‘In-house teams used to ask
their law firms about technology. Now it’s the reverse.
GCs are encouraging their firms to adopt technology, and firms
are hearing about the most useful software and tools from their
For many firms, this will come as unpleasant news. But there is
an upside. As Young points out, ‘In-house lawyers will always
need law firms, and the industry won’t be transformed by
one side alone. The more forward-thinking law firms should
see this moment of change as an opportunity to gain a
competitive advantage and become a true strategic partner
to their clients.’
Judging by the results of our survey, it is an opportunity many
have failed to grasp. Under half (45%) of the more than 200
senior counsel we polled for this report said their firms were
using technology to deliver legal services and solutions, while a
similar number (41%) were unsure how their external firms were
As one respondent noted, ‘Knowing what goes on at a lot
of firms is a game of Schrödinger’s Cat. They may be using
some pretty sophisticated software to bulk process our
matters, but they are unlikely to tell us about it unless we
This lack of transparency was widely cited as a source of
frustration. Indeed, nearly three quarters (74%) of those we
spoke to said they were not satisfied with their firms when it
came to technology.
Law firms should take note: 88% of legal teams said it was
important that their law firms kept up with developments
in technology, with 32% saying it was crucial for them to
We should not place the blame entirely on law firms here.
In-house lawyers may complain that their firms behind the
curve, but fewer than half (44%) are asking about their
external advisers’ use of technology when undertaking
With so many GCs either unsure of or dissatisfied with their
firms’ use of technology, it is no surprise to see that few are
looking to them as a source of inspiration. Just over a third
of respondents (38%) said they now looked to their firms
for guidance when it came to finding or implementing legal
technologies, while under a quarter (23%) reported having been
advised by their firms on the use of specialist legal technology.
Only 21% of respondents said their firms had offered to share
technology with them.
This, for some GCs, has been a dealbreaker. ‘One of the factors
that motivated me to change firms was the lack of use of
technology by my old external firm’, comments the general
counsel of a large commodities business.
Of course, the technology used by law firms is often very
different to the technology needed by corporate legal teams.
Firms tend to operate in scales and volumes that are far beyond
the requirements of their clients, making tech transfer a far
from simple matter.
Even so, it may trouble those in private practice to know that
legal teams are beginning to look for solutions elsewhere.
Almost half (47%) of those surveyed said use of technology
within the legal team had already impacted their relationships
with external firms.
The good news? Law firms that take a proactive approach
are winning clients. As Michael Shour, general counsel and
secretary of Banyan Software, concludes:
‘If a firm is wise to the implementation of appropriate
technology solutions, it can allow them to complete tasks
more efficiently and cost-effectively. When I see a firm doing
things like this, I can't help but appreciate that they are
driving efficiently for their clients and am impressed that
they are on top of things – and that can only be a good thing