In a new series of monthly interviews, LawGeex speaks to top In-House Counsel adopting legal technology to enhance productivity. Here, we speak to Roberto Facundus, General Counsel and Chief Operating Officer at Tongal.
How is Tongal’s in-house team organized? Size and reporting function?
On the legal side, just me and one super lawyer. I report to the CEO and serve the Board of Directors as Corporate Secretary.
What are the biggest challenges you face as an in-house team?
The biggest challenge is keeping up with where we are headed from a product innovation and customer demand perspective. Anticipating the challenges that may arise from innovation requires a constant effort from many stakeholders and plenty of communication. Challenges exist in coordinating with teams that are not yet aware of the new changes or the impact of those changes will have on their role. We also have a somewhat unique situation in that we have to consider the impact of all decisions from the perspective our clients, the Company, AND our creative community. Our creative community is the lifeblood of our organization so we always have to keep their interests in mind.
Which LegalTech do you use?
We use DocuSign, AdobeSign, and Hello Sign for signatures and are generally open to any other types of electronic signature technologies. We also encourage our clients, partners, and community to use these tools. We use Salesforce for contract workflows, internal collaboration, tracking of contract terms, renewals management, and sharing. Having previously worked at Salesforce, as the Global Compliance Attorney, I became fairly familiar the functionality of the platform that goes beyond merely tracking and reporting sales.
The business was already using Salesforce on the sales side so we only had to implement a few additional features through the Salesforce API and educate our employees on usage to capture additional data that is helpful in running the legal and operations side of the business. Overall, we’re probably not at the upper end of LegalTech users though we are certainly open to learning about and utilizing more technologies.
What problems and pain points were you trying to solve with tech adoption?
Getting work done more effectively, saving time, and reducing costs.
How did you begin the process of thinking about efficiency/ your buying journey?
I think there are a few questions to consider. Will this technology make me better at my job? Does this technology integrate into my existing working process? Will it be easy to use? Will it be easily adopted?
I don’t want another login so single sign-on or no sign-on features are a plus. I don’t want to sit through another long training session or ask someone else to sit through a long training session, so an intuitive UI is important.
What results have you seen through the adoption of LegalTech?
Increased information flow, increased efficiency, and increased visibility. LegalTech is another tool to help anticipate problems and limit the potential negative impact on the business. Tech has helped reduce the need for extra hires and to keep outside counsel fees to a minimum.
What processes or improvements are you looking to enhance using tech in the future?
Automating review of certain documents. In particular for Tongal, reviewing release, publicity rights, and licensing forms. In the future, I think technology can be used to negotiate contracts with simple terms. I definitely see a day when there is a negotiation using AI alone. I speak to the other side probably 50% of the time as we often just exchange a few rounds of red lines via email before reaching an agreement. Looking at the other uses of AI, I don’t think we’re far away from this type of application. And let’s face it, lawyers are a pain in the ass, so any technology that reduces time having to interact with another lawyer is probably worth consideration.
And let’s face it, lawyers are a pain in the ass, so any technology that reduces time having to interact with another lawyer is probably worth consideration.
What is the main advice you would give any in-house counsel about the challenges/ opportunities or obstacles in a legal tech buying journey?
Firstly, you have to follow trends at the risk of being left behind. I recognize that there will be many things created that are not relevant or helpful, but one out of 100 might be worth knowing about. This doesn’t mean you have to be an early adopter, but you should at least be an early observer. I think you’re doing a disservice to you and your company if you are not paying attention. Secondly, will you actually use the technology or is the setup and integration too complicated? Just because something may initially seem cool, you should think about how you will be able to integrate it into your work process and whether it will really make you better at your job. And I don’t mean can you delegate integration of the technology to someone on your team or the IT department. I mean can you, yourself, integrate and work with the technology. If you can’t get your hands digitally dirty and do it yourself, then it’s not a technology worth pursuing.
Did the adoption of tech in your case mean a reduction in staff?
No. We’ve managed to keep the same levels, though I anticipate increasing both staff and tech adoption as the company grows.
Should lawyers be worried about automation or rise of technology?
Yes and no. Yes, because cybersecurity is such a hot topic from so many perspectives – regulatory, information security, privacy, etc. All of these have a commercial impact. Lawyers should be worried about the impact of technology, but as with any risk, it must be measured. Each business is different. Just because you see a large company get hacked resulting in the disclosure of millions of pieces of customer data, it doesn’t mean you have to suddenly allocate 75% of your budget towards protecting against cyber security breaches if your company doesn’t store any customer data. Like any legal analysis, you have to assess your risk.
No, lawyers shouldn’t be worried because ultimately, technology is there to help you and make you more efficient and give you access to more information. While technology shouldn’t be followed blindly, it’s not going anywhere so you might as well embrace it at the risk of becoming obsolete yourself.
Is today’s tech age, a better or worse time to be an in-house counsel?
Of course I think it’s better. It is certainly a benefit that we have more tools at our disposal than ever before. That said, LegalTech is still relatively nascent so we need people to innovate, experiment, and try new technologies that will make us better as a profession.
Roberto is among the top in-house counsel featured in The In-House Counsel’s LegalTech Buyers Guide.
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