UK Digital Transformation Trends for Legal Teams in 2021

Digital Transformation in Legal Industry in UK

In 2020 and 2021, digital transformation in the legal industry has accelerated as legal teams adapt to changes arising because of the pandemic. DocuSign surveyed more than 800 global corporate legal professionals to focus on the trends and tools they used to manage their work. 71% of respondents said that their department frequently looks for ways to innovate by implementing new solutions and tools. 

Contracting is a substantial part of the workload for legal teams

Over 80% of respondents are often or always involved in the pre-execution, creation, approval and post-execution management of contracts. They say that both manual processes and the lack of automation (from signatures to management) lead to needless complexity. Those working in legal stated some of the critical priorities that their legal tools need to address:

  • 53% said implementation of technology could help reduce errors in legal contracts.
  • 52% implementation of technology could help reduce compliance risk.
  • 51% said implementation of new technology would help to save time.
  • 45% said implementation of new technology would help to improve collaboration.
  • 44% said new technology would allow the department to work flexibly - working from anywhere at any time.

Legal teams have worked hard to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic

Legal respondents say that their leadership, tools and plans prepared them to adapt to the rapid changes forced by the COVID-19 pandemic via technology and policy updates. 61% of respondents said that their company was already prepared or very prepared for the pandemic, with over half suggesting their existing suite of tools supported a shift to remote working. The lessons learned can continue to be applied to the evolution of the future of work.

  • 56% of responders say they plan to continue to redesign existing legal workflows in response to the pandemic.
  • 45% of responders say that they plan to invest in new technology.

Digital transformation in legal - teams need to maximise technology use

Although so many legal respondents have already adopted technology to help them digitally transform, only 5% are using more than 75% of the technology’s capability. Legal respondents state a lack of integration with other systems and tools as the top reason for this, followed by insufficient IT or Executive support. However, 70% feel that digitising processes to improve department efficiency and effectiveness will become more of an even higher priority in 5 years.

Respondents state some of the key trends for legal as a function include:

  • 43% increasing the digitisation of legal workflows.
  • 43% reshaping of the legal function as a metrics-driven service.
  • 41% compliance with a changing regulatory landscape.
  • 40% accelerated use of AI and other advanced technologies.

Respondents are already using technology to aid automation and believe it will become critical to success in 5 years:

  • 78% feel eSignature software will be critical to their role in 5years.
  • 36% of legal respondents use identity verification software, and 48% believe it will be critical to their success in 5 years time.
  • 34% of legal respondents use AI-based legal bots, and 67% believe it will be critical to success in 5 years.
  • 30% of legal respondents said they were using contract lifecycle management (CLM) software, and 62% believe it will be critical to their success in 5 years time.

Legal professionals are frequently looking for ways to address common agreement pain points, particularly with technology. It seems that the most effective toolkits going forward will establish a successful integration among the most common tools: CRM, e-signature and CLM technology, along with support from leadership teams. 

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