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How digitalising the legal function can support the transformation of the wider organisation

17 May 2021

Jonathan Brayne assesses the implications of digitalisation for the operations of the in-house legal function, and how it could in turn act as a catalyst for the digital transformation of the entire organisation.

The top drivers of innovation cited by the more than 100+ senior in-house leaders who completed our survey of in-house legal function innovation included: better data, better service, improved risk management, improved client/user experience, cost cutting, aligning with the business and speed to market.

Digital transformation is the key to realising all these drivers and so warrants better understanding.

Jason Bloomberg, an IT industry analyst, writing on the Forbes website offers a helpful explanation of the confusing terminology behind the concept of digital transformation: “….we digitize information, we digitalize processes and roles that make up the operation of a business, and we digitally transform the business and its strategy. Each one is necessary but not sufficient for the next”.

Applying his explanation to legal function transformation is illuminating:


  • His explanation positions the conversion of knowledge from analogue to digital format (digitisation) as a necessary foundation for any wider transformation of the legal function. Too often legal functions and law firms tackle digitalisation of their processes first and think of digitising their knowledge later – leading to long-term unsatisfactory results.


  • It emphasises the importance of using digital technologies to change the processes and operations of a legal function (digitalisation). Thanks to organisations like CLOC (Corporate Legal Operations Consortium), the importance of streamlining legal function operations is now well understood, but our survey, The Allen & Overy Legal Innovation Benchmarking Report, shows that extensive digitalisation of those operations remains rare.

Digital transformation

  • It reminds us that the legal function is a means, not an end. Its role is to support the wider business objectives and strategy of the organisation. The legal function has a crucial role to play in enabling the digital transformation of the business.

What does each of these ideas mean in practice for a legal function?


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