Industry interview

Industry interview

The foundations of firm innovation

It’s not enough to be an innovative technology partner of law firms. From enabling seamless collaboration, to top-tier security, it needs to be innovation that all can depend on, says Dan Hauck at NetDocuments

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Innovation is often associated with disruption. But even if the duration of a global pandemic and necessity of remote working have increased appetite for change within the walls of legal business more widely, firms still want to know the bets they make on efficiency or productivity gains are well placed.

Dan Hauck, the chief product officer of NetDocuments, says: “When people think about innovation – and particularly when software companies talk about innovation – it can feel too far out of reach for comfort; that it’s a concept or technology that isn’t fully baked.

“Is it really solving an actual problem that lawyers have today?”

NetDocuments, he says, has been busy investing in “dependable” innovation for more streamlined document management involving different parties – one of the core themes of NetDocuments Inspire 2021, which took place in early November.

A very good sign

He first gives the example of a new integration between NetDocuments and DocuSign to increase the efficiency of e-signing.

“So many firms have started using e-signatures more extensively during the pandemic. We wanted to make it really easy for them to send documents into DocuSign for signing, and then to bring those documents right back into NetDocuments along with the other files in the client matter.

“Previously, you would need to download and upload, or leverage a third-party product. Now, you can select either one or several documents directly in NetDocuments, determine who needs to sign, and send them straight out to all the parties to return. You can also mark and track the status of outstanding signatures, and once complete it goes right back in – the journey is completely automated.”

It’s a good example of the fact that continuous process improvement can count as innovation if it delivers tangible results for a business – no less a candidate than the lightbulb moments that may feed a new product or service.

The whole security story

This integration doesn’t just increase document collaboration efficiency – no exporting, scanning, printing or training is needed. It also reduces the security risk posed by people downloading a local copy – everything stays protected in the system.

And it goes without saying that security improvement also needs to be a dependable investment – this is another area of immediate realisable change Hauck highlights.

“The security of all a law firm’s content must extend to integrating it with other systems as a seamless governance experience,” he says. “There’s a spectrum of ways we’re integrating with Microsoft, for example – Teams of course, Power Automate, and next is Microsoft Information Protection and Cloud Access Security.

When people think about innovation – and particularly when software companies talk about innovation – it can feel too far out of reach for comfort; that it’s a concept or technology that isn’t fully baked. Is it really solving an actual problem that lawyers have today?

“You can apply classification and controls to documents throughout the Microsoft application stack. Marking as ‘sensitive’, for example, places controls around what users can do with that content. Similarly, the data loss prevention capability of NetDocuments includes sensitivity labels that can prevent attachment of a document to an email. Linking these labels together creates a complete holistic security story.”

Adding to law firms’ security challenges, meanwhile, is the proliferation of communication channels such as Teams ­– designed to enable greater collaboration among a dispersed workforce of course, but something that may also create some areas of friction for personal productivity.

Hauck says: “We often need to share content quickly on a mobile device, so how do you quickly and easily send a link to something secured in a document management system?” The answer is that NetDocuments now has a mobile app, where you can immediately call up a keyboard function to facilitate sharing. “It will display recent documents worked on, and you can select and paste the link or attachment right in, and never need to leave the conversation,” he explains.

Scale of trust

Dependable innovation – fixing today’s problems – is the backbone, but there is still room for experimentation. The second day of NetDocuments Inspire 2021 included a hackathon, where law firms could compete to build apps for the system leveraging Microsoft Power Automate. These visions may contain the seeds of how ways of working will change tomorrow – using knowledge, connecting people or surfacing information to help lawyers become even more effective in future.

And of course, this all takes place in the context of the NetDocuments cloud. “There are many different lenses of dependable innovation, and a big one is the overall dependability of our platform,” says Hauck. “Firms know that when we add something to the platform, it is immediately available to all. You don’t need to wait for an upgrade or run into growing pains, as we’ve been doing it for 20 years.

“We not only know how to help firms securely collaborate at scale but can also be depended on to innovate for those firms at scale.”

For further information, visit: www.netdocuments.com