As product line director, Tina Ayotte Welu now applies her legal background to developing and promoting the management tools that Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory U.S. offers to its corporate clients, such as Effacts, GCN and the soon-to-be-released Cheetah. Her remarks here, which are edited for length and style, focus on the company’s offerings for small to midsize legal departments, a niche that Welu calls “highly focused on a return on their investment with easy implementation.”
MCC: You have extensive experience in legal technology and product management. Please tell our readers about your experience in these areas.
Welu: I am currently the product line director for the corporate counsel market for Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory U.S., which means I’m responsible for advancing our digital products and services to the corporate legal market to enhance our customers’ efficiencies and workflow overall. I have 16 years of experience creating solutions that are focused specifically on the legal information and software side of the industry. I have a B.A. and a J.D., and I am licensed to practice law in Minnesota.
MCC: What is Effacts, and what has it brought to the overall offering of Wolters Kluwer products?
Welu: Effacts is a legal management platform for small to midsize corporations. It’s an easy-to-use, affordable, cloud-based solution that allows corporate counsel to organize information into one secure database, giving them the power to control their risk and their time. It’s very much designed for the small to midsize corporate legal department, but it is a platform that can grow with the corporation. There are always optional customizations that can meet the organization’s unique needs as well. Wolters Kluwer provides a variety of products designed specifically to serve the small to midsize corporate legal market, including our General Counsel Navigator product, which provides fast answers for the busy generalist and includes multistate surveys for easy legal and regulatory comparisons across multiple jurisdictions. Plus, our new legal research solution, Cheetah, will be rolled out to the corporate market later this year. We’re committed to providing a comprehensive suite of products that are designed specifically for the needs of small to midsize corporate legal departments, so Effacts adds to our existing family of products for this market.
MCC: How has this type of technology penetrated the marketplace?
Welu: Having recently launched in the U.S., Effacts has a relatively small but growing footprint. The role of corporate counsel within small to midsize departments is evolving, and they’re increasingly becoming more of a strategic adviser to the C-suite and a vital player in driving the business forward. These demands often outpace the department resources and pose a challenge – one that Effacts helps solve. This sort of tool, though, has not been accessible before in an affordable, easy-to-implement platform for small to midsize departments, which traditionally have relied on spreadsheets and shared folders, so we’re very excited to bring this type of technology to fruition for this particular market. Effacts is designed specifically by corporate counsel for the way they work.
A small to midsize corporate legal department has specific needs, and we can bring them a comprehensive and refined set of products that are specifically designed to help them elevate their role and their business influence within the company.
MCC: When you say small to midsize, give us some sense of what that means.
Welu: We typically are looking at
departments that have 10 attorneys or fewer. They are budget conscious and highly focused on a return on their investment with easy implementation. They simply don’t have the time for extended training and complex implementation.
MCC: What do you see as the biggest management challenges facing corporate legal departments, especially in the small to midsize segment?
Welu: Doing more with less. When you’re in that small to midsize space, you may have only two attorneys and a paralegal, and yet you still have to deal with the constant and oftentimes complex regulatory structure that your company needs to comply with – it’s the global nature of business. Being able to make sure that you can have the information at your fingertips that allows you to manage that and provide a strategic voice back to your business is critical. To be in control. There’s just no room for error.
MCC: How have corporate legal departments evolved over the past few years?
Welu: They have definitely evolved. I think at one point many years ago they were seen as just a cost center and a necessary evil. Today, they are very much seen as a strategic business partner that helps to drive the business forward while managing the legal process with increased efficiency.
That means when they spend their limited dollars, their return on investment needs to be very apparent. And the legal self-help tools they provide to the business units need to be easy to use and accessible. One of the great things about Effacts lies within the contract management section. You can directly upload and store legally approved documents. If you constantly have business units asking you for your master service agreement or if they need their latest NDA, you can upload that into the system, provide the business unit owners with access, and they can help themselves.
MCC: When you begin an engagement with a corporate legal department, do existing manual systems run redundantly for some period of time, and how long does it take for them to take the plunge, pull out the old systems and move over to you? Is it a months-long process or weeks?
Welu: Most of the time the transition to Effacts takes just hours. Our typical implementation – where we’re getting data into the system and we’re doing configuration changes to make sure that the system works according to that business’ needs – typically is 10 hours. It’s important that before implementation, thought is given by the corporation about how they want things structured.
At the small to midsize companies, they’re actually using mostly disparate systems, often multiple systems, to track legal information. So the information they need is in Word, Excel, PDF, and there’s a copy of it in Bob’s desk down the hall.
This information can live practically anywhere. We’re able to bring that information together and get it uploaded, as long as it’s in an electronic format. We can help get that information into the system in the way that the customer wants.
We take the customer through an onboarding process, where we talk about different things that we know, based upon our previous customer interactions, and are important to people. For example, in the contract section, a lot of our customers like to be able to separate out certain types of contracts. They’ll have their vendor agreements in one section; they’ll have their NDAs in another section.
MCC: Are there certain industries that are early adopters?
Welu: We’re still fairly early in the U.S., but we are seeing several industry sectors where we have early adopters who are incredibly excited about the solution. One sector is government contracts. Government contracting is quite complex, and we can help companies manage a plethora of government contracts. There are lots of reporting requirements in terms of what you have to do and report back on, and milestones within contracts. We’ve been able to bring that together for our customers in this area.
MCC: How is Effacts different from other products in this space?
Welu: It comes down to three main things. We’re easy to use, easy to implement and affordable. The ease of use in this particular space is critical because corporate legal departments are dealing with so much that they have to manage. They need a system that is intuitive and easy to implement. This system is just that.
MCC: Walk through how you handle three main areas of focus: contract management, compliance and entity management.
Welu: Contract management is really something that should be easy and efficient. We have features here that our customers really like. One of them is our contract template database. This is what I think of as the legal self-help desk, if you will. The legal department can upload an approved version of a particular contract, an NDA, a master services agreement, a sales contract. Then they can provide access to the business unit, so the business unit can go in and help themselves.
The other big thing that people really love about the contracts function is automatic alerts. When you put a contract into the system, you can set up an automatic alert on that contract. We’ve talked with customers who have auto renewals on their contracts, but at the time of auto renewal, the price increases. They want to control those costs. They implement alerts on those contracts, assign it to a particular individual, typically within the legal department, so that they can ensure that they’re controlling those sorts of risks within the contract and making sure that the company isn’t paying more than it should.
Compliance management allows corporate counsel to be alert to any important deadlines and track their risk, so they can create compliance risks for the company and indicate the level of risk. You can set up an alert to indicate that this particular policy should be reviewed in six months, or we need to train again on X, Y and Z because a regulation just changed. It’s all on an interactive calendar.
Entity management is really the backbone of the system. A business may have one entity, or they may have hundreds of entities. Being able to easily access that information in terms of where the company is, its ownership structure and who the executives are is critical to effectively managing the business.
The entity module has an interactive map, so you can see where your entities are across the globe. You can set up alerts on where you need to file businesses’ registrations.
What we are very much striving to do is give corporate counsel the control so that they can manage their risk and be as efficient as possible, to become that confident, strategic business partner. That’s what we believe the system can do for them. We’ve seen it in action.
Tina Ayotte Welu, Product line director for the corporate counsel segment at Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory U.S., which is headquartered in New York. email@example.com
Published March 31, 2016.