Utilising automation: opportunities, challenges and learnings.

Author Georgia Morgan-Wynne
December 12, 2018

Taylor Root hosted their annual General Counsels in Technology breakfast chaired by Zoopla’s General Counsel Ned Staple, featuring Patricia Christias, Head of Legal for UK at Microsoft and Xavier Langlois, General Counsel at HighQ. As a self-proclaimed “skeptic,” Ned led the discussion with Xavier and Patricia sharing their own personal experiences whilst the General Counsels also in attendance contributed throughout the roundtable.

Xavier explained the benefits of using a collaborative platform for lawyers and external stakeholders and how this had transformed the way in which his in-house lawyers support the wider business. Whilst acknowledging that the integration of new systems across the business can be a challenge, he said the quick wins of knowledge management outweigh those difficulties. Xavier gave examples such as the movement of documents into one centralised destination, which enabled a “go-to” for the business, increasing the non-lawyer’s own self-efficiency during the sale cycle. Furthermore, he explained how utilising the analytics and metrics created from the usage of these programmes provided an easy way for the whole business to see where the legal team can really add value, and how these modifications with th e us e of technology can make a huge impact on the sales cycle and the wider business.

Patricia elaborated further on the roll-out of self-help portals and the importance of piloting technologies in order to learn how to use them effectively. With this, she introduced the General Counsels (GCs) to Zela, Microsoft’s very own legal bot which was piloted and rolled out across the global business. A demonstration followed along with the analytics behind this usage and what her key findings were. Patricia summarised that with the implementation of Zela, the low-hanging, high volume, distracting legal questions were taken off their Lawyers’ workload and allowed them to focus more on strategic, high-value projects.

The GCs in attendance concurred that a user-friendly, collaborative system made a huge impact on the legal team’s use of time and that automated processes could in fact create a far quicker turnaround time than traditional methods. With that said, Xavier was quick to point out that: “AI can start learning things, and through analytics and metrics, your team and the larger business will be able to see what and how things can be improved. Let the system be clever for us, augment our business, but not replace us.” Another key message shared by the panel was that you need to ensure you are sending a consistent and strong message to the business on using the tools you have implemented to ensure they are taken up in the longer term.

Georgia Morgan-Wynne from Taylor Root asked the panel to conclude with their top tip for any GC implementing and utilising technology in their function.

Patricia commented on the feelings expressed by the GCs of being overwhelmed by the new ways of collaborating and communicating with clients, such as Teams. “A few months ago, I thought I could not take being added to another Teams collaboration group; but it does bring the right people and the right information together for successful collaboration. My tip is to prioritise the top four or five Teams (or communication channels) and not to worry about the rest, they will always be there if you need to refer to them.”

Ned’s top tip related to the “transformative” effect of a bill tracking tool, which he said had been enormously helpful with both internal conversations regarding budget and external ones with law firms.

Xavier’s advice was that for any business thinking about automating processes, it is best to start small. “People try to fix everything in one go, but that approach is bound to fail. Start small, get the buy-in and adoption from the right people and then everything will grow organically. Try to go for the low-hanging fruit and the issues that really matter to your business.”

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