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Technology and team efficiencies

Published March 2023

With a shared interest in evolving high-performing teams, 2MPy invited Ian Rogers, Head of Intellectual Property (IP) and Tech Law at Arup, to give his views on cutting-edge technology and team efficiencies.

In this guest article, he considers the pitfalls and merits of bringing digital advances to the legal function. 

New technology can feel daunting, yet successful implementation can bring advantages to businesses of all sizes through strong cohesion and a common purpose.

Reflecting on our experiences of implementing new technology to support our legal function, I paused to consider our achievements to date together with the challenges we might face going forward.

Having embraced technology to bring team efficiencies since the early 2000s (paperless filing, intranet and know how systems), as a team we have a lot to feel proud of. But there is always more to be achieved and, with the challenges of a global team, an increasingly complex operating environment and a wealth of supplier options available to us, there has been much for us to consider on the next steps for our tech journey. 

Trends in technology

In more recent years, we got swept up in the excitement of artificial intelligence (AI) and the notion that it could provide a host of endless possibilities for us: analysing data from our project files, reviewing contracts and maybe even negotiating them.

There was endless buzz in the legal press about the sorts of offerings being developed by both established companies and tech startups around the world.  But where to start, and how? Our internal Digital Technology (DT) specialists were largely focused on supporting the broader business and had little time to assist an internal legal function.  

In time, and once a business case was confirmed by senior leadership, DT was brought on board to help project manage and implement our journey into the unknown. The first step was to deliver a Proof of Concept. Great news! 

Or was it?  

A journey of lessons

The project was a major undertaking. Once onboard, DT helped us engage with a supplier via the Proof of Concept.  There was much talk of the waterfall model, staying agile, and terms such as use cases, specifications, I designs, a testing programme and results analysis – a whole new language for me to learn.  

Quite rightly, the supplier and DT expected significant commitment from us. This might be fine if your team is sat twiddling its thumbs looking for something to do. If not, and it’s heads-down with the ‘day job’, then a project of this scale is going to cause major disruption in the short term, with potential knock-on effects for those your team is providing services to in the wider business. This is a serious consideration, particularly given the nature of a Proof of Concept: long-term benefits are not certain. 

Cost implications needed to be honestly addressed. For example, the base cost paid to a supplier for their expertise can expect to be at least tripled to account for the internal costs created by the supporting teams.  

So where are we now?  

We decided not to go forward following that Proof of Concept. The technology just wasn’t mature enough for our needs. It’s been a huge learning experience for us all. As much as the technology has potential, there are no guaranteed outcomes and implementing a new solution is not like simply downloading an app. Being at the “bleeding edge” is painful and we needed the technology to be developed, trialled and tested by others before we jumped in.  

We have a better understanding of the market, which helps us to not be blinded by the glamour of ‘whizzy’ AI software. As demanding and challenging as it has been, we’ve learned a lot. 

Start from the ground up

Map your processes and workflows, identify the pinch points and then try to fix them using straightforward tools that are already in use elsewhere in the business. 

For us, MS Teams and Office generally is a great example of this.  There are many ways it can be used to improve efficiency. We had under-estimated the value it could bring and assumed that we’d be better placed outsourcing large chunks of our work to a ‘bot’.   

Reputable adviser

Find someone you trust, who has a solid understanding of the spectrum of technical solutions on the market, who knows the key players and who will support you on your journey.


Beware being first. Ask the supplier where they have implemented the tech previously and ask to speak to their customers. Try to ascertain if the supplier is familiar with your industry and the nature of your work. If they are not then the supplier’s understanding of their own tech’s capabilities may not align with the practical outcomes you want.  

Strong management

When it comes to project leadership, expect the work to be a rollercoaster of technical jargon, divergences and new learnings.  Find a wise, level-headed project manager who is comfortable with challenge but who can also get to the heart of the problem quickly and with relative ease. 

Serious investment

An initiative of this magnitude involves significant investment in time, effort and budget. Therefore, it needs to be the absolute right thing for the business before you hit the green light and get too involved. Recognise that the internal costs can dwarf the sums paid to the supplier. 

Stay grounded

2MPy business consultant developing teams & leadership

Stay focused on the human-touch – to what extent can tech really manage or mitigate risk? Might there be benefits to leaving some tasks to humans? One of my colleagues looked at an AI tool which automatically reviewed confidentiality agreements. Her reaction: “But we WANT the project teams to read and understand this stuff”. Such agreements still need the human eye and interpretation.  

Accept that there will be positive and negative aspects of implementing technology. Without careful handling, barriers can be created between a team and the wider business, for example by forcing them to use a portal as the only means to instruct you. This is tricky territory for an in-house team, for whom the ‘human touch’ is often a key part of providing the best quality support. 

My closing thoughts?  We’ve pushed the boundaries in terms of tech, made some good contacts and learned a lot – particularly that “it’s not all about the bot”! 

Ian Rogers is Head of IP and Tech Law at global consulting engineer, Arup. An experienced in-house lawyer, he has worked across many geographies and has been central to growing a high-performing global team. Ian supports Arup’s work in sustainability and digital solutions.

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