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Law's Technology Leaders Can Be Found in Corporate Legal Departments

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on August 11, 2016 3:15 PM

If you want to find the cutting edge of law and technology, don't only look to BigLaw Bitcoin practices, AI innovators, or even lawyers turned techies. Look to corporate legal departments, as well.

A shift in corporate culture is driving in-house legal departments to "invest more than ever before in refining their operations to deliver more efficient and predictable legal services," according to Inside Counsel. And, in doing so, many of those legal departments are forging the legal tech frontier.

The Legal Department as Data Hub

Corporate legal departments have lost the leeway regarding operational and budgetary expectations that they once enjoyed, Doug Luftman, CIO and general counsel at Lecorpio, writes in Inside Counsel. That has driven them to turn to technology "to assist with automation of processes, resource and budgetary management, and tracking."

Many corporate legal departments are focusing heavily on data, according to Luftman. And, according to Jeremiah Chan, legal director of global patents at Google, "Legal departments now demand clean data, made possible by automated tools that verify and validate it." Chan explains:

The more you can give companies access to clean data, the more they can do with it. There is an enormous quantity of data available, but it needs to be clean. For example, in IP, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office releases tons of trademark and patent data in bulk for anyone to access. You can use all of this data to your advantage and increase transparency, but first you must ensure that the data integrity is intact.

That demand has given rise to new characters in the corporate law department, like database administrators, who are charged with gathering, evaluating, and interpreting relevant data.

Beyond Big Data -- and Beyond the Corporate Legal Department

Of course, not every legal department is becoming a major data analytics center and technological adaption isn't limited to data. Luftman lists seven "useful technologies" that GC's offices are adopting. These include common technology like e-billing and document management programs, to more novel e-signature software and analytics solutions.

Will these developments reach beyond the corporate sphere? It's likely. Once GC's get used to the benefits of technology in the legal practice, they'll start demanding the same improvements in process and efficiency from outside counsel, hopefully forcing more reluctant lawyers to catch up to their in-house peers.

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