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LTC4 Certification Makes Business Sense for Law Firms

Thursday, June 29, 2017

By Joanne Humber, Consultant, Technology Skills at Humber Associates

Pressured by their organisations to ‘do more with less’, in-house legal departments are demanding more efficiency from law firms; and given the access to and the use of technology in business today, there really isn’t any excuse for inefficiency.

However, despite the extensive use of technology in law firms, many who are involved in legal IT training like me, know that proficiency with the software and technology tools that lawyers use, is not where it should be. This is impacting on their productivity and efficiency. Take the simple task of ‘searching’ for emails, documents and precedents, an activity that lawyers spend a fair amount of time on – it can take them a lot longer to find what they are looking for in their document management system, because they aren’t adept at using the tools available. This isn’t because they lack opportunities to learn how to use their firm’s systems, but that they see delivering sound legal advice and service to clients as their main focus, not maximising the use of technology.

This is set to change as law firms may now be compelled to change their attitude. For instance, members of the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC), a non-profit, professional development organisation, are beginning to demand that law firms participating in their Requests for Proposals demonstrate the technological competence of their lawyers. Members of CLOC include the likes of Oracle, Nationwide, Deutsche Bank and Amazon.

Today, firms can provide such evidence by joining the Legal Technology Core Competencies Certification Coalition (LTC4), which provides the global standard for legal technology proficiency. LTC4 was formed as a not-for-profit organisation by a group of legal training, IT professionals and lawyers in the US and UK. CLOC recognises LTC4 certification. Also, in the UK, the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) is looking to encourage its members to go for the LTC4 certification.

To create the LTC4 certification, volunteers from over 95 Canadian, US and UK firms have collaborated to develop 10 core competencies or Learning Plans for lawyers and support staff including

  • Working with legal documents
  • Managing documents and emails
  • Time and billing
  • Collaborating with others
  • Client relationship management
  • Security
  • Mobile working
  • Presentations
  • Data reports and exhibits (working with spreadsheets)
  • eDiscovery/eDisclosure

These core competencies are application agnostic and workflow based. This means that they are not prescriptive, and organisations can utilise them in a way that reflects their way of working. These Learning Plans help lawyers develop a good, basic understanding of the IT systems and workflows they use on a day to day basis – lawyers do not need to acquire advanced skills to achieve certification.

However, to ensure that their skills evolve with technology, lawyers are required to re-certify every two years.

The LTC4 certification isn’t a tick-box exercise. Law firms globally should consider the adoption of LTC4 certification. It is a meaningful and practical way for lawyers and support staff to gain and retain the core IT skills they need to efficiently and productively deliver legal services to their clients. Firms can easily incorporate these 10 Learning Plans into their existing competency and training frameworks. In fact, the LTC4 framework fits in strategically with the new SRA requirements that replace the traditional CPD obligations of lawyers.

In the UK, firms such as Allen & Overy, DLA Piper, Bird & Bird, Berwin Leighton Paisner and many more have adopted the LTC4 approach to IT competency development for lawyers and support staff. The business rationale is simple – efficiency directly translates into happier clients and a healthier bottom line.

About the author

Joanne Humber has been involved in the delivery of legal IT training for more than 20 years, initially through her own company and then as Director of Training for a leading global IT consultancy. Now an independent consultant, she advises law firms, corporates and law schools how to improve user adoption of technology.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Law Firms Need a Paper Lifecycle Management Strategy

- Roy Russell, CEO, Ascertus Limited

Ask a law firm if the organisation has a ‘paper to digital’ strategy and the majority will affirm. Then ask if they are seeing a significant reduction in paper in their organisation, and the typical answer is likely to be a resounding “no”. Law firms are investing significantly in digital transformation projects to minimise paper, make cost savings and enhance data security – but without a full paper lifecycle management strategy, their efforts are proving to be ineffective. Furthermore, they are putting their businesses at risk of non-compliance with the upcoming EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Research by Docsolid, a provider of Paper2Digital solutions, reveals that 57% of all paper in law firms is a printout of existing electronic files stored in their document management system (DMS). This paper matter file would grow another 39% if all the other DMS-printed paper that is on lawyers’ desks, in filing cabinets, scanning rooms and secretaries’ workstations, is collected. We don’t need or want to file and store these duplicate documents, but we do: we keep filing, re-filing, moving and storing the same paper.

This situation begs the question – if all the documents are stored in the DMS, why are firms printing and storing them in physical paper files? There are two answers – one, that lawyers often like to work off paper (understandable); and two, firms don’t have a process to be a 100% sure that they have the most recent version of the paper documents stored in the DMS and therefore there isn’t a need to retain them. To mitigate the risk of losing matter-related data, they duplicate electronic versions in physical matter files.

The reasons for reducing reliance on paper records include the continuously burgeoning cost of paper storage (which is entirely avoidable), the physical risks of losing critical information (e.g. warehouse fire), the cost of manually managing matter files, and so on. Although these issues are well known, little has been done to alleviate them. However, with new regulations such as GDPR, new answers need to be found and pertinently firms now need to be able to answer the following question, in a fast and effective manner, suitably supported by evidence and audit trails – do we know what personal records we hold?

To take steps towards GDPR compliance, firms need a concerted paper lifecycle management and retirement strategy to fill a gaping hole in their current paper-to-digital methodology. Every firm has some form of casual paper scanning solution and / or a central scanning department, but paper lifecycle management is not purely a paper scanning exercise. The paper lifecycle methodology must be supported by tools designed to ensure that paper is appropriately managed from creation through to de-duplication and retirement.

One such product, which seamlessly supplements the DMS and allows firms to adopt an effective paper lifecycle management strategy is by Postmark from Docsolid. Postmark identifies those paper documents that have been printed from an electronic document that is filed in the DMS, by placing a small bar code in a corner of the printed document. The presence of this bar code on the paper denotes that a corresponding electronic copy is filed in the DMS. After the paper document is used, it can be destroyed instead of being scanned and re-filed. In addition to removing this large segment of the paper burden from a law firm, there are other operational advantages to Postmark. Often, electronically filed documents are printed, and manual notes are made on that paper. The hand notated paper becomes a new document, with new information, and must be filed as the fee earners notes in the related matter file. If a notated document has a Postmark, it can be scanned and auto-filed, because the Postmark bar code is used to automatically link the scanned image to the related client-matter-folder-description without any further data input.

Scanning paper for storage is critical, but only one part of the paper to digital process. Including a paper lifecycle management and retirement strategy within the overall methodology can help firms break the vicious cycle of robotically printing-filing-scanning-electronically storing-physically archiving – regardless of whether it is required or not. Crucially, it will tangibly support GDPR as firms will know exactly what information is stored, where, and in what format.

Such an approach to digital transformation realistically supports a ‘less paper’ strategy as opposed to a ‘paper less’ policy, which as yet, has proven to be unachievable, given lawyers’ affinity to hard copies. With a fully integrated approach to printing, scanning and document management, firms can provide their staff a paper friendly process whilst allowing them to reduce costs and mitigate the risks associated with the ongoing management of paper.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Why is Legal Tech Funding a Problem for Corporates?

- By Jon Wainwright, Sales Director, Ascertus Limited

This comment from a General Counsel recently says it all: “We have done an acquisition worth £50 million in three months, but it has taken us two years to get £80,000 signed off for legal technology for the department.” We frequently hear such anecdotes from corporate legal departments.

It is genuinely mind-boggling. Why do in-house departments struggle to secure investment for legal technology from the business and indeed from IT? The commercial rationale for legal technology is exactly the same as for any other business application and department – increased efficiency and productivity, reduced staff cost, decreased business risk and more recently, the need to comply with the requirements of the GDPR.

A longstanding argument that traditional corporates often express is that the legal department is a cost centre. It’s true that in the typical sense, the legal department does not bring in revenue like the sales department does; but this is a very old school way of thinking. Today, more than ever before, due to the global political and economic environment, the General Counsel plays a highly strategic role in business, facilitating the achievement of the broader corporate objectives, be it regulatory compliance, mergers and acquisitions, transformation or any other.

Technology can help ensure that the legal department maintains its focus on delivering the high value, strategic legal services to the business, by relegating the low value, routine administrative tasks to IT. This not only enables the department to contain costs, but indeed become a value generator for the corporate.

The characteristic IT view in corporate organisations tends to be that the applications deployed across the business are and should be equally suitable for the legal department. The reality is that while this may be true for some applications, legal technology is designed to deliver against very specific functionality requirements of lawyers and General Counsel. Take document management. Holding business-critical, matter-related files on multiple shares and drives is risky. Instead, an integrated email and document management system ensures that all matter-related files are automatically stored in a secure central repository, supported by automatic version control, change management, audit trails and powerful search capabilities. This supports collaboration across the department as there is always one de-duplicated version of the truth and teams always know the latest position and status of every single matter that the department is dealing with.

Similarly, legal departments often employ external counsel and law firms for specialised work. A senior lawyer in a corporate legal department recently recounted his frustration over law firm invoicing: it took this individual a couple of hours reviewing a panel law firm’s invoice, line by line; formulating an extensive email questioning why a large amount was charged for a particular activity; subsequently calling the law firm partner to discuss the sum, who in turn discussed the issue with the fee earner for clarification; and finally arranging a face to face meeting for a later date to settle the issue.

Of course, in this example, the lawyer is only talking of one of the panel firms. A similar process is typically applied to invoices from all the law firms on the corporate’s panel. This scenario is immensely avoidable with a legal spend management solution. Not only would this solution enable the adoption of e-billing, making reviewing bills easy; the legal department would be able to undertake risk and spend management, which will help tangibly reduce costs – a goal that the department is tasked with.

In the current, technology-driven and increasingly regulatory and legal-led business environment; it’s time the archetypal attitude of IT and the business towards legal technology changed – for the benefit of the wider organisation.