COVID-19 has accelerated the push toward digital business transformation for most businesses, and legal and compliance leaders are under pressure to anticipate both the potential improvements and possible risks that come with new legal technology innovations, according to Gartner.
Legal technology innovations
To address this challenge, Gartner lists the 31 must watch legal technologies to allow legal and compliance leaders to identify innovations that will allow them to act faster. They can use this information for internal planning and prioritization of emerging innovations.
“Legal and compliance leaders must collaborate with other stakeholders to garner support for organization wide and function wide investments in technology,” said Zack Hutto, director in the Gartner Legal and Compliance practice.
“They must address complex business demand by investing in technologies and practices to better anticipate, identify and manage risks, while seeking out opportunities to contribute to growth.”
Analysts said enterprise legal management (ELM), subject rights requests, predictive analytics, and robotic process automation (RPA) are likely to be most beneficial for the majority of legal and compliance organizations within a few years. They are also likely to help with the increased need for cost optimization and unplanned legal work arising from the pandemic.
Enterprise legal management
This is a multifaceted market where several vendors are trying to consolidate many of the technologies on this year’s Hype Cycle into unified platforms and suites to streamline the many aspects of corporate governance.
“Just as enterprise resource planning (ERP) overhauled finance, there is promise for a foundational system of record to improve in-house legal operations and workflows,” said Mr. Hutto. “Legal leaders should take a lesson from ERP’s evolution: ‘monolithic’ IT systems tend to lack flexibility and can quickly become an anchor not a sail.”
Legal application leaders and general counsel must begin with their desired business outcomes, and only then find a technology that can help deliver those outcomes.
Subject rights requests
The demand for subject rights requests (SRRs) is growing along with the number of regulations that enshrine a data subject’s right to access their data and request amendment or deletion. Current regulations include the CCPA in the U.S., the EU’s GDPR and Brazil’s Lei Geral de Proteção de Dadosis.
Many organizations are funneling their subject access requests (SARs) through internal legal counsel to limit the potential exposure to liability. This is costing, on average, $1,406 per SAR.
“In the face of rising request volumes and significant costs, there is great potential for legal and compliance leaders to make substantial savings and free up time by using technology to automate part, if not most, of the SRR workflow,” said Mr. Hutto.
This is a well-established technology and the market is mature, so it can be relatively simple to use “out-of-the-box” or via a cloud service. Typically, the technology can examine data or content to answer the question, ”What is likely to happen if…?”
“Adoption of this technology in legal and compliance is typically less mature than other business functions,” said Mr. Hutto. “This likely means untapped use cases where existing solutions could be used in the legal and compliance context to offer some real benefits.
“While analytics platforms may make data analysis more ‘turnkey’ extracting real insights may be more elusive. Legal and compliance leaders still should consider and improve the usefulness of their data, the capabilities of their teams, and the attainability of data in various existing systems.”
Robotic process automation (RPA)
RPA’s potential to streamline workflows for repetitive, rule-based tasks is already well-established in other business functions. Typically, RPA is best suited to systems with a standardized — often legacy — user interfaces for which scripts can be written.
“Where legal departments already use these types of systems it is likely that RPA can drive higher efficiency,” said Mr. Hutto. “However, not all legal departments use such systems. If not, it could make sense to take a longer view and consider investing in systems that have automation functionality built in.”
Gartner advice is to consider these four technologies is not solely based on their position on the Hype Cycle. Legal and compliance leaders should focus on the technologies that have the most potential for driving the greatest transformation within their own organizations in the near to medium term; the position on the Hype Cycle is part of that but not the whole story.
For example, Mr. Hutto said blockchain is a technology that has the potential to make a successful journey to the Plateau of Productivity within five years. But for now, its application will likely be limited to quite a narrow set of use cases, and it is unlikely to be transformational for corporate legal and compliance leaders.