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Why is Legal Tech Funding a Problem for Corporates?

Thursday, July 20, 2017
- 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.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

LTC4 Certification Makes Business Sense for Law Firms

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, August 7, 2017

Top Five Reasons Why iManage Users Need Work 10

The demonstration of the iManage Work 10 at the recent iManage ConnectLive event would have left little doubt in the minds of organisations that this latest version truly represents a substantial leap forward in the functionality of document and email management systems. It will enable organisations to address a number of business challenges surrounding mobility, security, total cost of ownership and system adoption.

Specifically, from a user’s perspective, here are the top five reasons why organisations should consider upgrading to Work 10:

  • Windows 10 ready – Work 10 fully integrates with Microsoft Office, including Office 365. Users can manage emails, documents, client collaboration and more – all from within their Outlook folders. Most things are merely a click away with Work 10. In fact, Work 10 also integrates with Gmail, Adobe Acrobat and other widely used tools that professionals use to get their job done.

  • Enhanced day-to-day mobility – Mobility isn’t merely a requirement of ‘road warriors’ who are often travelling on business, but also of daily commuters who need access to data while on the move between offices. Systems today need to be device agnostic as access to data from anywhere, anytime and from any instrument is key to employee productivity. The new HTML 5 web app in Work 10 enables this.

  • Better remote access for satellite offices – Many organisations today have satellite offices and so remote workers need applications that are smart and resilient to high latency. The Work 10 client application uses modern REST APIs to communicate with iManage; which are designed to be light weight and efficient for cloud, remote access and mobile apps so that the lag on the network is minimised.

  • Restoring the Trash Bin – How often does it happen that a user accidently deletes an important document? Typically, a lengthy process in other document management systems, Work 10 enables end users to easily restore deleted content with ease, creating a much need safety net for busy and under pressure professionals.

  • New security models – Organisations today are guardians of data, and safeguarding this often-confidential information is crucial of course, but additionally now there are crippling regulatory implications too with the new GDPR coming into force in 2018. IT users can set up instantaneous walls based on individuals’ need to know information, to better manage access and authorisations of content. There are new security models in Work 10 that facilitate this.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but gives an idea of why law firms, in-house legal departments and other professional services organisations (e.g. accountancy practices) should consider a move to Work 10. If this is something you are considering, get in touch with us via contact@ascertus.com. We can offer a step by step approach to the upgrade, which will reduce the risk of a big bang approach, minimise downtime and ensure the best possible user adoption.