Spend Management Solutions: Four to Focus on in 2018

Thursday, January 11, 2018 - 12:33

There are four aspects of matter and spend management technology that legal department leaders should take a fresh look at.

Spend and matter management technology is a core part of many legal department operations and is not new to most larger companies. But the fact that these tools are an established part of legal processes doesn’t mean that you should “set it and forget it.” Technological advancements in the business software world are impacting matter and spend solutions in a positive way. Many of the technologies that have been part of enterprise legal management (ELM) for years are now being used in new, and newly productive, ways.

As technology providers continue to find new ways to improve efficiency – as well as legal and financial outcomes – legal operations professionals seek to realize all of the benefits these advances offer.

As I see it, there are four aspects of matter and spend management technology that legal department leaders should take a fresh look at in 2018. If you haven’t yet incorporated these into your operations, consider doing so to avoid the risk of falling behind.

Artificial Intelligence

Where it’s been: Artificial intelligence (AI) is a broad term that encompasses several types of technology, such as machine learning, natural language processing and robotic process automation. These varying types are used to accomplish different goals, but they all empower people to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively.

Over the past few years, most legal operations professionals have probably heard AI talked about most often with respect to e-discovery. Because of the volume of data that is usually involved and the time-consuming nature of scrutinizing documents, e-discovery is a natural fit for AI tools that can simulate simple human judgments about relevance and process data quickly. But e-discovery isn’t the only area where AI offers that advantage to legal departments.

Where it’s going: For these reasons, applications for AI will quickly spread to additional facets of legal operations. One major area of focus for Wolters Kluwer’s ELM Solutions is bill review. This is a use well suited to AI because it’s both time-consuming and data-heavy. Some invoices from larger firms can have thousands of line items, each specifying a task, timekeeper, rate, amount of time spent, etc. AI can analyze line items and rank them according to the likelihood that they will need adjustment.

This is the role played by machine learning in the LegalVIEW® BillAnalyzer offering from ELM Solutions. Thanks to the AI ranking, our expert analysts can concentrate their efforts on the items that are most in need of attention. And because it leverages machine learning, the software gets better at ranking over time. Results are fed back into the database and the AI learns from any past misses. The result is a more accurate bill review process, with more savings identified more efficiently than could be done by expert reviewers alone.

Benchmark Data

Where it’s been: Benchmark data has been an important part of many legal departments’ operations for years. The Real Rate Report, ELM Solutions’ annual report on lawyer rates, provides very specific data about the actual hourly rates charged by law firms and how those rates are affected by factors such as geographic location, practice area and years of experience.

Many legal departments obtain the report every year and use the information to inform their negotiations with firms. This data is a powerful tool that helps companies ensure that the rates they pay for specific types of work in specific metropolitan areas are fair and aligned with industry norms.

Where it’s going: While access to benchmarking data was a huge leap forward, the next step is integration of this information into the tools that corporate legal professionals use to get their daily work done. This means incorporating industry data into reporting and dashboards that are used to manage legal operations and to report to senior leadership.

It is also important to have access to benchmarks at the point of decision making, where the information is most useful. For example, when choosing which outside counsel to assign to a new matter, it is helpful to compare firms to each other and against industry standards to make sure the right resources are doing the right work. ELM Solutions recently released Law Firm Smart Select functionality that does this within Passport Claims Defense, and we have plans to expand the feature to our corporate legal offerings.

User Experience

Where it’s been: Enterprise software across all industries has undergone significant user experience improvements, and ELM systems are no exception. Just a decade ago, ELM tools were often a challenge to navigate and didn’t mirror advances in consumer software products. As providers evolved and sought to improve the user experience, more intuitive UIs emerged and clicks were reduced, providing more efficient, streamlined workflows.

Where it’s going: Users expect the same flexibility with their ELM tools as with other software products they use. This flexibility includes mobile access, which is available with Passport® and TyMetrix® 360°, including responsive design that detects the size of the device’s screen and adjusts accordingly. A positive user experience isn’t just a nice-to-have; without it, user adoption suffers and companies have difficulty achieving their expected ROI.

One of the best ways to drive adoption is to minimize the need for users to switch from system to system during their workday. ELM tools can now come to users wherever it is most convenient and most comfortable for them. Our Office Companion, for example, allows users to manage matters and spend from their familiar Microsoft Office applications without the need to log into the ELM tool to do most of their work.

Data Security

Where it’s been: Until recently, many legal departments focused their cybersecurity efforts on the data residing on their own systems without giving as much thought to information held by their law firms. In the past few years, however, high-profile data breaches and ransomware attacks involving law firms have driven legal departments to secure the sensitive data they share with their firms. The majority of these efforts have taken the form of email exchanges tracked in manually maintained spreadsheets. This is not suitable as a long-term solution.

Where it’s going: The improved approach is to automate the assessment and management of law firm performance against the department’s specific cybersecurity policies. Customizable law firm surveys should be integrated into an ELM system for full law firm performance visibility.

ELM Solutions’ Cybersecurity Risk Assessment application offers a secure portal for collaboration between legal departments and law firms. Importantly, this includes the ability to capture remediation plans and track actions. It is critical to make sure that your requirements are clear and that you have details about where each firm stands with respect to those requirements. Automation will ensure this data is always up to date, while ELM integration provides insight where it’s most needed.

Technological improvements are coming at a fast pace within the legal operations sphere, but these are not just great tech ideas looking for a practical application. Rather, they are proven tools that are already paying dividends for those legal departments that have invested in them and are ushering legal departments into a future of more efficient and successful operations.


Barry Ader is vice president of product management and marketing for Wolters Kluwer’s ELM Solutions. In this role, Ader is responsible for analyzing and understanding the enterprise legal management market, managing the product portfolio, creating a compelling road map and driving new business opportunities. He is responsible for leading and developing the marketing strategy establishing the company as the premier services and technology provider in the global corporate legal market. Reach him at Barry.Ader@wolterskluwer.com