INDUSTRY INTERVIEW

INDUSTRY INTERVIEW

Into integration

If law firms are to capitalise on the positive technological trends from the last two years, they need to get their systems properly talking to one another, says Chris Cartrett, CEO at Aderant. But that will require some dedicated collaboration between vendors and a focus from firms on automating their workflows

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“The last couple of years have seen shifts in the legal technology landscape that law firms are only just now beginning to proactively respond to – and some distinct trends around the need for integration and automation of data sharing are beginning to emerge as a result,” says Chris Cartrett, CEO at Aderant.

But, to set the scene, he mentions having noticed that changes in behaviour induced by lockdowns have put pressure on the overall performance of software used by firms. “All of a sudden, at the start of the pandemic, you had lawyers, including partners, personally using the firm’s software. Previously there would have been far fewer individuals engaging with systems.” As an example, he says one of Aderant’s large law firm clients had, before the pandemic, roughly 10% of its 1,000 partners directly engaged with its software. Six months into the pandemic, that figure was 100%.

“The firm decided everyone needed to use this paperless tool for the pre-bill process because it helped speed up billing. That number is now probably close to 75%, but it’s still a radical shift in how lawyers are engaging with software.”

“Without question, there’s been a sprint to the cloud. It’s the single biggest trend I’ve seen among law firms in the last two years. They’re realising there’s a better way of doing things and that they can lighten the load in terms of managing the environment systems sit in and some of the security issues by moving their systems over to the cloud provider.”

Chris Cartrett, CEO, Aderant 

“Though the tools already existed to allow this kind of usage, the pandemic forced firms to leverage existing technology as much as possible,” Cartrett says. And going from a world where only the most tech-savvy lawyers were using systems such as paperless billing tools directly themselves, to one in which everyone is doing so, is a sign of the less manual, more self-service status quo firms should become accustomed to. “Now, the lawyers understand they can send something like billing information over to the relevant people while also tracking time on a matter automatically, speeding up the process exponentially.”

Heads in the cloud

That trend has combined with a second theme in recent times to result in an increasingly pressing need for better integration between systems. “Without question, there’s been a sprint to the cloud. It’s the single biggest trend I’ve seen among law firms in the last two years. They’re realising there’s a better way of doing things and that they can lighten the load in terms of managing the environment systems sit in and some of the security issues by moving their systems over to the cloud provider.”

Though he cites this as a positive development, Cartrett adds that transitioning to cloud, combined with increased usage and expectations around what systems can do, has created a need for more integration. With many firms having built their own, on-premises data warehouses in the past, moving systems and data out to third-party cloud locations creates a barrier to data sharing between systems, he explains. “When you’ve built data reporting tools for an on-premises environment and then start looking at cloud-based systems, it creates a far greater focus on the importance of APIs – that means a bigger focus for us on automating ways those tools can interact with third-party systems.”

“Just operating within your own systems’ world is not enough. Vendors need to be able to automate the points where their own workflows pass between different systems or different companies’ products, and that’s a fair ask from law firms. I’ve probably worked on creating more third-party partnerships in the past 12 months than in the last five years as a result.”

Chris Cartrett, CEO, Aderant 

Aderant has focused much more heavily, therefore, on working directly with other legal technology providers to fulfil that need for cross-system workflows. “Just operating within your own systems’ world is not enough. Vendors need to be able to automate the points where their own workflows pass between different systems or different companies’ products, and that’s a fair ask from law firms. I’ve probably worked on creating more third-party partnerships in the past 12 months than in the last five years as a result,” he says.

Informed is prepared

That drive has come from a desire for more insight to be derived from existing systems (and a recognition of the opportunity this provides), he adds. “Firms want a holistic understanding of their client relationships. For example, ensuring compliance with something as simple as outside counsel guidelines – which almost every law firm has to deal with on almost every matter – requires a lot of information from a lot of different systems. There are many items we can automate across our finance tools, providing data and insight back to the law firm in the process, and make workflows more efficient.”

There are also many other uses for an improved overview of data. Elements of outside counsel guidelines also touch on issues around diversity and inclusion, for example, though those metrics benefit from connecting to systems outside the Aderant ecosystem – exactly why it’s so important firms get their cross-system data reporting working. “If you’re not able to create workflows within those systems, it becomes a very manual process that creates unnecessary complexity,” he says.

And if firms can get a broader overview of their systems and effectively pull data from them, they can begin to benchmark themselves against competitors when it comes to realisation, success rates in court and other criteria. “In the past, law firms have been nervous about data and performance – it’s a very protectionist stance. But if there’s a way to get a better understanding of how you interact with a client, why would you not want to know that? Those tools just help your firm become a better managed business,” he concludes.

To find out more, visit: www.aderant.com