Steven O’Donnell

I recently interviewed Steven O’Donnell, Director of Product Marketing and Sales for Mitratech. Mitratech is a leader in the legal operations and workflow automation space. They describe themselves as a “proven global technology partner for corporate legal departments and risk & compliance professionals seeking to raise productivity, control expense, and mitigate risk by deepening organizational alignment, increasing visibility, and spurring collaboration across the enterprise.”

How would you define innovation?

Innovation is any new concept, process or approach to solving a problem. Within the corporate legal ecosystem that Mitratech is focused on, those problems could range from internal pressure to provide legal services across the business, pressure to run the department as a data-driven business, external regulatory and compliance pressures, or simply gaining the ability to handle more work without increasing staff size. There’s a desire for innovation in each of these areas, both in terms of best practices and technology.

Tell me a little about the history of Mitratech and its role within the legal ecosystem?

Mitratech was founded in 1987 and was really an early pioneer in building legal matter management solutions for corporations. Over the years, we’ve provided the technology platforms and best-in-class solutions that the Office of the General Counsel and the legal department use to manage their core legal processes and operations. That history gives Mitratech considerable insight into the evolution of the role of the General Counsel and the rise of Legal Operations as an accepted discipline, and these are evolutions that we continually track and participate in. We’ve helped leading organizations across many industries transform their Legal Operations, and achieve success at managing risk, following legal best practices, and being more efficient and productive. Today we’ve got over 500,000 users in over 160 countries, and offices in the US, UK, and Australia. So, we see our role within the legal ecosystem is as being a proven, reliable partner for them in meeting the challenges facing corporate legal professionals and their organizations everywhere around the world.

How would you define the relationship between technology and innovation?

I like to think about it in terms of co-innovation, or the partnership that we’ve been able to form with Legal Ops leaders. Through that, they’re really able to leverage our flexible solutions to transform Legal Operations, accelerate time-to-value, and make the legal department an indispensable and valued asset for the entire enterprise. Part of that co-innovation is how our product teams ensure the fitness of need in our roadmaps by involving customers at every stage during the product development process. A great example is Mitratech Legal Hold, which is a stand-alone SaaS solution for managing the entire legal hold process from end-to-end. We co-innovated with 40 of our long-term clients to create a validated best practice-based solution that really met the needs of the market. Mitratech’s client community is exceptional, too, and actively shares best practices and use cases for the advancement of Legal Ops, which is something really exciting to be a part of.

How did you first get interested in legal technology?

Before coming to Mitratech, I spent 15 years with a major property and casualty insurance corporation in a number of product and marketing roles, a job where I frequently interacted with the corporate legal department. Legal is a critical part of any P&C insurance company because of the amount of state-level regulation, claims litigation, and the sheer number of contracts and transactions with third parties. The individual attorneys and staff I worked with were great, but there was a definite lack of technology, and each time you needed to engage legal it was a bit of a black hole for the business in terms of response and the time it took. Additionally, I had some experience evaluating and purchasing enterprise-level technology for the company, and that gave me unique insight into the tech buyer’s journey. That background got me interested in the opportunity to join Mitratech in 2011, where I could take best practices and lessons learned in the past and apply it to this legal technology company that had just moved to Austin and was experiencing rapid growth. My experience since joining Mitratech has been awesome, since there are so many incredible people working in the corporate legal space, both inside and outside of our company.

Lawyers are resistant to change and risk-averse. How do you get them to see the value of a legal tech tool?

I know that lawyers have the reputation of being resistant to change, but my observation is they’re becoming more willing to use technology to simplify daily tasks, communicate, and collaborate. Additionally, companies have come around to accepting the role and value of Legal Operations professionals. Since they’re legal process experts with deep knowledge of their organization’s best practices and current technologies, they act as change agents who recognize a specific problem that innovation or new solutions can address. To make it easier for them to adopt and then prove the value of our products internally, we really focus on ease of adoption, use, and integration, because we know that user adoption is key to realizing the operational efficiency and ROI good software can bring. We’ve got dedicated UI/UIX expertise within our product teams, ensuring that we’re continually researching how user expectations may be changing when it comes to the user experience. Modern users of technology demand a modern experience, and so satisfying their expectations about ease-of-use and efficiency from mobile optimization, applications, and workflows is a key driver for our product strategy. At the end of the day, if we provide the right innovation to solve problems, I’ve absolutely seen how it overcomes that resistance to change.