Transforming the Legal Department: ELM Solution Puts Information at Everyone's Fingertips

Friday, March 2, 2018 - 15:02

When you think of enterprise legal management (ELM) systems, you probably think about the ways they can make spend and matter management more efficient. But ELM systems are quickly evolving, becoming more comprehensive all the time, and today they can help optimize contract management, NDA creation and distribution, legal holds, legal service requests and much more.

Speaking at a recent LegalTech New York conference, Anna-Lisa Corrales, general counsel at Jaguar Land Rover North America, talked about her company’s search for a comprehensive ELM solution. Her legal team is comprised of five attorneys, three paralegals and one product analyst who helps the other team members understand the technical aspects of the company’s fleet of vehicles. It’s a small enough group that communication isn’t generally an issue. However, the team was frustrated by the way information was spread across different hard drives and email accounts, which was especially difficult when dealing with complex matters. Beyond the various details of contracts, the company has to contend with matters related to safety and emissions, product liability, dealer franchise laws, lemon laws, trademark infringement, class-action suits and thorny issues involving autonomous vehicle -technology.

“Every lawyer had documents, emails and notes in different places,” Corrales said. “If we had someone go on maternity leave, for instance, we’d have to figure out where all of the information was about a matter. It was not all in one place, knowledge transfer was nearly impossible, and the process was very time-consuming. The impetus for this initiative was simple: Transform our legal department with technology and process to better manage our overall legal operations function.”

In doing so, Corrales’ goals were straightforward: 

  • Spend less time on tedious tasks associated with reviewing and processing invoices.
  • Save money on legal fees by better managing outside counsel billing practices and rates.
  • Create a one-stop shop for all matter information and updates.
  • Maintain a document repository for all executed contracts, resolutions and important documents.
  • Gain visibility into all areas of reporting for all types of litigation and outside counsel spend.
  • Easily integrate information from emails into the matter management system.
  • Keep critical dates, deadlines and tasks in one place so the entire department can access them.

Over a number of years, the company explored several approaches to ELM. Some were too difficult to customize to the company’s needs, or too difficult to integrate with existing systems. One solution seemed promising, but the vendor was acquired by another company, leading to potentially reduced support and a higher price tag.

 

An Early Partnership

After talking to an industry analyst, Corrales and her team decided to use Onit’s ELM solution. “It could look at different types of data, whether it was people who are associated with the matter, courts, contacts, documents, dates, tasks – whatever we needed,” Corrales explained. “And because of the way it runs apps for each of these data sets in the background, it could easily relate those data sets to each other in a way that worked on the front end.”

Additionally, the software provided an intuitive user experience and could be modified to meet the company’s needs. “Establishing an early partnership with our IT department was an early win for us,” Corrales said. “They appointed a technical specialist who waded through the details and documented what we needed the system to do for us. The Onit team was remarkable at taking a long list of information and changes that we wanted to make to the system, and just making it work.”

Since implementing the Onit ELM solution, Corrales and her team have seen substantial operational and financial improvements. Some key milestones include:

  • All invoices are processed electronically, and the team no longer needs to enter G/L codes and other information multiple times to assign matters to invoices.
  • Financial reporting is simplified, and they can easily drill into outside counsel spend and run reports on different matters and different geographies.
    • Some sample reports include spend by matter, vendor or matter type.
    • Ad hoc requests for information from finance can be created in minutes instead of hours or days.
  • Attorneys can review invoices in Onit and see alerts for duplicate billing entries or other filters set up to alert to potential issues.
  • The team can easily check and approve rates by individual counsel and avoid hidden increases.
  • They have a consistent, trackable system for all matters in one location, and pending matters can be sorted to see departmental workload.
  • Detecting errors by law firms that uploaded invoices with default higher billing rates, instead of pre-negotiated discounts, saved thousands of dollars.
  • Better oversight of spending versus budget; previously, it was too cumbersome to update spend reports regularly.
  • Attorneys have the ability to look at settlements on similar cases with similar plaintiffs’ counsel to assess trends and evaluate appropriate settlement values in new cases.

Onit’s ELM solution facilitates engagement, is focused on process, offers an environment where the user experience is crucial, empowers a better way to work and can be augmented to manage other legal processes.

“What’s unique about the way Onit solutions work in the background with different data sets is that as you decide different categories of data, you can add these tabs along a horizontal line,” Corrales said. “It was just differently organized than other systems we had seen, and we really liked it because all of the information was at our fingertips. And in today’s highly connected world, where information is spread across devices and in the cloud, that is more important than ever.”

 

KEY MILESTONES

  • Invoices processed electronically
  • Financial reporting
  • Billing review
  • Approving rates
  • Managing matters
  • Detecting billing errors
  • Tracking spend vs. budget
  • Analysis of outcomes