October 10, 2021

When, why, and how to implement legal tech, with Marie Widmer, Legal Operations Lead @ Dapper Labs

Why should businesses implement legal tech? When should they do it? And most importantly, how can they do it? Marie Widmer, Legal Operations and Contracts Lead at Dapper Labs, helps us explore this topic.

Legal Ops

It's no secret that legal tech is on the rise.

But many businesses are still hesitant to adopt these solutions as they either don't believe they need it yet or don't fully understand the long-term value vs. upfront effort proposition.

Particularly in the tech ecosystem, building simple yet robust and sustainable processes are key to effectively scaling a business. In the face of a growing and broadening workload, businesses and their legal teams can utilize legal tech as a mechanism to scale.

So why should businesses implement legal tech? When should they do it? And most importantly, how can they do it?

Following on from her Legal Spotlight with us, we were excited to hear more from Marie Widmer, Legal Operations Lead at Ashbury Legal, on exactly this topic.

What are the biggest challenges facing in-house legal teams when it comes to contract management?

Fear of technology adoption is the hardest item to tackle as a legal operations professional. There is a general bias towards building manually before bringing in technology. Which I get – implementing a tool uncovers the original weaknesses in the process and can shake some leaves. Hiring a legal operations professional can help alleviate this tension, as our role is to guide the business through what feels like a big transition.

That makes sense. We’re talking more and more about the digitization of the legal function. What’s your view on the role of legal tech?

My view is buy now not later! There are a plethora of options to fit your unique needs, and at a very broad range of prices. Don’t buy into the idea that once you roll out a system you’ll be stuck. Once your contracts data is properly archived and the metadata is well-organized, you have more power than you realize to continue to scale into new technology over the years. If you hire the right people to drive the implementation on your team and guide the business through transitions, everyone will thank you for it.

Legal tech allows legal teams to capture data points that we never thought possible. Gone are the days where your staff should have to plug liability or other high-risk terms into a spreadsheet. The industry is delivering AI that allows you to access and download your contract risk profile, key savings, SLAs, and other items that help drive home the fact that Legal is an asset to the company, not a cost center.

You’ve implemented some CLM platforms in your career. What has this process been like?

To date, I’ve implemented 4 CLM platforms and worked with 5 CLM vendors in total. The process I undertake to launch a CMS platform follows 6 steps:

1. Organization - data mapping and archiving all company contracts and templates into a repository (cloud-based)

2. Implementation/data import - archiving contracts repository and selected metadata into a CLM tool

3️. Customization/design - building custom contract workflows that meet your users' requirements

4️. User training - ensuring all potential users are confident and fully equipped to adopt the platform successfully

5️. Program management/compliance - monitoring and guiding the use of the platform to ensure adoption

6️. Data mining - harvesting contract and user metadata to create SLAs and key legal reports

Before you select your CLM platform, it is essential to understand your users. Each company has different pain points and needs, and different tools are better geared to address those needs than others. In order to gain user adoption, your tool and training must be customized to feel easy and familiar to your users.

What challenges might you face when implementing a CLM system?

The largest challenge when adopting CLM is timing. Your users don’t really want to see how the meal is made; they just want to eat it. Choosing when to allow users into the platform can make or break the experience. Prior to launch, it is important to:

👉 Customize and publish multiple workflows

👉 Import all past agreements

👉 Conduct beta testing with a handful of key users

After you’ve passed these stages, you’ll be able to jump into mass training and adoption with minor bumps in the road.

At what stage should companies and in-house legal teams be thinking about implementing a CLM system?

If you haven’t already, do it now, regardless of whether you feel things are perfect or not. The messier it is, the better time to get CLM. Most CLM vendors offer support during the implementation, workflow design, and training processes, which should alleviate the fear that this is too big of an undertaking. The import of old contracts simply requires a download from one system to another, or connection to a cloud storage drive (SharePoint, GDrive, etc.). The effort upfront is worth it to remove the time spent explaining outdated intake processes to users, filtering through emails, and dragging items manually in and out of signature platforms (need I go on?).

What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking about investing in a CLM?

As mentioned earlier, I would meet with each department and have a “state of the union” chat before picking your CLM. Spend time learning what has worked for them in their current processes and make sure your CLM solution, and the processes you build around that, provide a better, easier service than what they had before. And keep in mind that there is no tool in the market that can provide you everything you need. CLM success relies heavily on the team (or person) you hire to implement it, and the intelligent process that is built around it.

Thanks Marie - that's a really helpful overview for those who are unsure about when to invest in legal tech! We hope to hear more from you soon.

Want to learn more about contract management? Check out our 'What Is Contract Management? An In-Depth Guide' here.

Ready to take control of your contract management?

The Tomorro team