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What Does It Take to Be a Digital General Counsel.

We live in the technological age and with it, there now seems to be an industry wide expectation that General Counsels must be ‘digital’. But many of today’s GCs are caught between a rock and 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. In this article, we take a look at this “hard place” based on our industry knowledge and conversations with clients, to better understand: what does it really take to become tomorrow’s “Digital GC”?

Where is the “hard place”?

Whilst for many general counsel’s, 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 on legal department focused technology is a hard sell.

Additionally, often once a GC has been given the “ok” to invest in digital, the task of finding the right tech tool can be 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 – zero to hero!

The great news is, although challenging, it’s not impossible to overcome.

Successful Strategies to become a Digital GC

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

1. It starts with you. As lawyers at the GC level, we are generally risk adverse and resistant to change. We have been trained in the yester-year of law practice and not new legal service delivery models. It starts with changing our mindsets. Challenging ourselves to learn, to develop, to grow our confidence around technology. There is a plethora of information out there. Our clients expect this from us. Newer generations of lawyers coming through demand this as a minimum having been born with MacBooks and mobile phones.

2. Build teams that can help you. 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 a 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. Start with using technology that is already available within your 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. Start with a coffee and let’s see where the experts can help you with your digital transformation journey. One solution which 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. In this digital age, doing nothing is not an option.

Matt Roberts & Titus Rahiri