INDUSTRY INTERVIEW

INDUSTRY INTERVIEW

A share of the information

Technological transformation offers the chance to improve how business is done – and law firms’ clients are now demanding their digital service expectations be met. Ben Wild, enterprise sales at Coveo, says now might be the right time to take seriously the need for better information sharing tools, both within and outside the firm’s systems

Sponsored editorial

Over the last few years, many technologies have caused a major buzz in the legal industry and set hopes high that major transformation was just around the corner. But that potential has sometimes been hard to follow up on: “People can be dismissive of AI, for instance, because it hasn’t lived up to expectations in the past,” says Ben Wild, enterprise sales at Coveo.

Although firms may be wary of bold claims around such tools, he adds that recent, rapid adoption of digital technologies has made the case for such tools abundantly clear, and many firms have developed their digital infrastructure very rapidly, leading to a disjointed architecture. “We need to be honest with firms about what they can achieve to avoid disappointment – but the capability to structure information that wasn’t built to a particular framework in the first place exists.”

The difference data makes

That capability, Wild adds, will be increasingly important to law firms planning their competitive strategies in the future. Being more digitally engaged can help firms stand out in an industry not known for its innovative instincts, he says. “Law firms can risk looking similar – they offer similar services to one another, and potentially have some similar expertise, so the differentiator becomes how those services are delivered.”

Indeed, with the pandemic having moved many activities online, both in business and personal lives, everyone across society is beginning to expect more digital capability. “As consumers, we expect a certain level of digital capability and we’re transferring that expectation into our business relationships. Using digital channels to deliver services is something firms need to get their arms around – client portals are being discussed more and more.”

“Law firms can risk looking similar – they offer similar services to one another, and potentially have some similar expertise, so the differentiator becomes how those services are delivered.”

Ben Wild, enterprise sales, Coveo

Before firms can arrive at this point though, they need tools to help them navigate data which may not have been organised within a common framework from the get-go. “Firms often have systems that have grown organically, and groups within a firm often deploy tech to achieve a specific objective – that means you can end up lacking a consistent framework, and it can be very difficult to leverage data meaningfully,” Wild says.

And after that step, firms can begin to present information in a more useful context as well, potentially driving clients to engage with additional services. Wild cites the information design philosophy employed by many big tech companies as an example: “Amazon is usually a search-initiated process, but it quite quickly becomes browse. They’re very good at presenting a list of things you want, but also presenting additional content or information that’s relevant as well.”

This shift in thinking around sharing information isn’t only relevant to clients, Wild adds – building more consistent digital structures and new ways of surfacing data would also be of benefit internally. In particular, he points to Coveo’s Workplace Relevance Report 2022, which found knowledge workers spend on average three-and-a-half hours a day looking for information – and that since the pandemic it’s got worse. “Reducing that time would be a very tangible benefit to all parties. You don’t want to lose thousands of hours per day of potential billing, but firms should also be keeping an eye out for competitor firms also making those efficiencies.”

Context required

But improving efficiencies requires firms to find ways of building on the trend, which developed in the pandemic, of people looking further afield than their own locale for information. “Relevant knowledge can be in the head of somebody in another office, potentially on another continent. The goal should be to put mechanisms in place that can capture that information in an efficient and intuitive way.”

However, it’s not only sharing knowledge content that should matter. “What did the firm bill; what was the margin; where are the internal metrics; that’s all important to be able to share as well, especially when someone has already done that work elsewhere. But it’s a classic instance of it being easy when you know where to look – so it becomes a question of how to help lawyers know when a similar matter, case or pitch has been worked on, who worked on it, and where the expertise lies,” he says.

“Relevant knowledge can be in the head of somebody in another office, potentially on another continent. The goal should be to put mechanisms in place that can capture that information in an efficient and intuitive way.”

Ben Wild, enterprise sales, Coveo

One popular approach to such information capture and sharing has of course been MS Teams – but Wild stresses that the specific channel used to share information is less important than the way information is surfaced. “Firms really need a ‘unified point of entry’ for information – which channel it’s on matters less than consistency and coherence.”

That includes understanding the context of the terms used in a database. Outside of legal, Wild says, Coveo has worked with pharmaceutical clients for which it’s been important to make sure systems can interpret complex language that means one thing in ‘regular’ discourse, but something quite different in that specific setting. “That’s an area where people feel let down by ‘traditional’ systems,” he adds.

And even understanding who is searching can make a difference to the efficiency of information sharing. “Two people might look for the same terms, but the information they get back should be different, depending on who they are, where they are, what they need in that moment. That’s going to be more useful for people and firms in the future,” he concludes.

To find out more, visit: www.coveo.com/en