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Technology Priorities for Corporate Legal Departments
Here is my list of the essential and not so essential technology for corporate legal departments. As usual, my focus is on smaller departments that aren't yet using technology as effectively as they could be and don't have a dedicated IT staff to help them figure these things out.
Some of this is obvious and some not so obvious. I've tried to put the technology roughly in the order that I would recommend that a legal department implement it, given the constraints of cost, time, and complexity.
If you have the time, interest, expertise, and budget to create a comprehensive plan for technology implementation in your department (or if you can use a consultant or IT staff to help you create that plan), that's clearly the best way to go. You might want to start with a vision statement, such as Coca Cola's Legal Division Technology Statement of Vision. However, developing a comprehensive technology strategy is going to be difficult for many small departments. Many departments are going to adopt technology incrementally. Even so, it will help to have an idea of what's available and what's possible. Whatever approach you take, this list can act as a checklist for where you should be going.
None of this is to say that planning is not important. In fact, it's critical to have a plan that at least takes into account your department's needs, your users' ability and willingness to use technology, and where all of this fits in your corporate IT strategy. Somewhere, though, we all have to decide how much planning is enough. With technology changing all the time, your plan will never lead to action if you don't stop at some point and say "We're ready to try something." See The Best is the Enemy of the Good: Making Technology Choices, by Dennis Kennedy
Obviously, every department is different. If you do litigation in-house, you will have different needs from a department that primarily does transactions and only manages litigation. Realizing that it's impossible to deal with every department's special needs, however, I'll give this my best shot. Let me know if you have other ideas.
Absolutely Essential - Don't even think about practicing law in-house without these.
Next Steps - Now it starts to get more interesting - and more difficult, because there are often more choices.
Really Cooking - Get to this level and you can start to consider your department world-class.
The Ultimate - Put this all together into one integrated, smoothly functioning system, and you have the ultimate law department management system. We're not there yet.
Last updated: 04/23/01
Copyright 2001-2005 David A. Munn