In a series of monthly interviews, LawGeex speaks to top In-House Counsel adopting legal technology to enhance productivity. Here, we speak to Chris Newby, General Counsel and Chief Operating Officer at AIG EMEA
How is AIG’s in-house team organized? Size and reporting function?
I have 70 lawyers in EMEA. I am based in London acting as General Counsel for EMEA. We also have a legal operations center headquartered in Europe, which helps with panel management, billing and eDiscovery.
What are the biggest challenges you face as an in-house team?
Career progression is probably one of the hardest thing to achieve for people. In fact, one of the ways we are trying to use technology is trying to automate the more mundane legal tasks, with a view to focusing the team on more sophisticated work. We have large volumes of work, so a challenge is clearing lower level work, enabling us to focus on more strategic work.
We use DocuSign for our automatic signature system and have eBilling. Following a successful pilot, we also have automated NDA process, which we recently further adopted across each country. In addition, we built our own in-house workflow tool to better understand what our lawyers are working on and allocate matters to lawyers. Though we have a document management system, we are looking at a new solution for the legal team.
We also have a legal center in Manila where company queries go automatically, helping to automate this process.
What problems and pain points were you trying to solve with tech adoption?
The workflow tool which was built in-house was designed to solve a problem of understanding what everyone is working on, and the volume of work coming through to different areas in legal. This enabled us to effectively clear out the noise and focus on the more sophisticated legal issues.
What results have you seen through the adoption of LegalTech?
In the UK, 60-70 confidentiality agreements are automated weekly. This essentially frees up a junior lawyers’ entire week. The workflow system provides valuable data such as which department uses legal the most. Incidentally Financial Lines, and our consumer unit are the business lines which relies on legal the most!Over 24 months, our approach has enabled us to save around 15-20% of lawyer’s time, which we have then reinvested.
Over 24 months, our approach has enabled us to save around 15-20% of lawyer’s time, which we have then reinvested.
Our lawyers now have more time to do the things they want to.
What processes or improvements are you looking to enhance using tech in the future?
If you look from an insurance perspective, if you can automate more around the insurance policy, and the contractual construction of the agreement that is a big win.
In addition, I think there is a lot you can do with technology around understanding your legal risk. If you are worried about a certain term, a good document management system can automatically show how many contracts have that specific wording in it.
Overall, explaining to your board where you are with your legal operational risk is one of the biggest wins you can get from technology. You can track the data with a lot more precision, and can map volume. At some point, you have to look at ways of not reducing your headcount, but keeping your current costs stable. Technology helps to bring those costs down.
What is the main advice you would give any in-house counsel about the challenges/ opportunities or obstacles in a legal tech buying journey?
Generally, the way lawyers work is never easy. They are quite ingrained in the way they are trained and so getting them to take a holistic view of change can be tricky. But I think you have to force this holistic view. There are better ways of working, and you need to sell the positives of it, and that there will be benefits in the longer term.
I think it is easier if you have a bigger team, as you have to go through a data gathering period which puts an extra burden on your legal team. Until you get to data, to show your CFO or CEO that you can apply technology to a certain volume of work, then you won’t have something substantial to build a case. For most lawyers that will be a burden on them because it is not part of their daily schedule. Yet there is a need to take this step, which could just mean building a simple excel spreadsheet or just get people to capture more information.
There is also a lot technology out there. It is hard for a GC with a limited budget to say with confidence “I want to buy X’. For a lot of lawyers, they are not necessarily from a tech background and have concerns that if they buy it, it won’t do everything you want from it. In particular, if you hang your hat on a business case and it turns out not to be exactly as you expected it can be very expensive. I think that there is a hump that lawyers are trying to get over right now: when I look at the market what do I buy?
I think that there is a hump that lawyers are trying to get over right now: when I look at the market what do I buy?
Did tech adoption mean a reduction in staff?
Not at all. If you are trying to get people to buy into technology, I think it is important to remove the myth that computers and automation will replace workers. It is important to combine technology and people to get better outcomes. It should be seen as a way of achieving some cost reduction. In other areas, it is keeping costs stable.
Should lawyers be worried about automation or rise of technology?
I am not sure they should be worried, but lawyers, whether they are in private practice or in-house, have to embrace technology as a way of improving the service they provide. I also believe that it is necessary to attract the best talent. If you can take out all the mundane in the work, making the daily diet of legal work is more sophisticated, you look like a more attractive proposition than not having a way of getting through the churn. As a GC, you can choose outsourcing the boring work at a heavy cost; use technology; or you have to do it yourself, which means your lawyers get bored because there is no variety.
Is today’s tech age, a better or worse time to be an in-house counsel?
I think it’s a good time. Historically a question that a lot of companies struggle with is if you have to explain your operational legal risk to your Board or to your CEO, that is a pretty tricky question.
Technology enables you to, firstly, get the data, but also enables you to automate, and better capture your legal risks. So you do not have to have members of your legal team doing administrative tasks. Technology is also getting cheaper. If you go back five years, purchasing a sophisticated document management system was a big investment, now there is a lot of competition in that space making technology, including legal technology, within the reach of smaller companies.
Chris is among the top in-house counsel featured in The In-House Counsel’s LegalTech Buyers Guide.
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