Last year at VEON we implemented our first legal-specific technology. Many legal departments are currently in the same position we once were; knowing they need technology but unsure where to start or how to ensure success. We learned a lot during our project, and I wanted to share this advice.
Before engaging with a vendor, decide internally what you need
It’s a cliché for a reason. Fail to prepare, then prepare to fail! Before you start looking at solutions, you need to define the priorities and desired outcome of the project, and have a basic idea of the technology you will need. At VEON, we started with having our stakeholders from across the global legal department map out the current processes for our legal workflows. We were coming from a low-tech status quo of spreadsheets and basic business software, so for some cases, we also used this opportunity to map out what a best practice workflow would look like. This process identified that we had a number of requirements for technology across the legal team. While different practice areas often had their own priorities, the need for simplifying the legal billing process and tracking and predicting legal spend was a priority for all practice areas, so we decided to start there.
Identify other stakeholders and have them help select a vendor
Legal is not the only department impacted by an eBilling software implementation. IT is an obvious stakeholder, as well as Finance. We didn’t realise it at first, but I can’t stress enough the value that Procurement can bring to the table. Although not a specialist legal procurement function, they were able to think beyond the immediate focus of the legal department and look at the bigger picture of how our needs fit into other solutions the group uses, which was critical input in making a successful business case. In the end, we had one representative from each stakeholder area on the buying panel. We had no formal RFP (we didn’t want it to be a checklist exercise) but brought in four to five vendors to present their solutions. The benefit of not having an RFP meant we could amend our requirements as we learned and discussed ideas with vendors. I believe it’s also important at this stage to consider your external stakeholders. We consulted our law firms on their experience with different eBilling solutions, and learned many were using and had a positive experience with Wolters Kluwer’s ELM Solutions TyMetrix® 360° product, so this helped validate our decision.
Don’t underestimate the hard work involved for implementation
To maximise success, I recommend a phased approach with both internal and external users for implementation. We started at our Amsterdam HQ of 35 users, but are hoping to rollout more broadly into some of the 13 jurisdictions in which we operate. This phased rollout enables us to gain feedback from users that we can use to fine-tune the workflows as we move forward. We also on-boarded our panel firms first, most of whom were already using TyMetrix 360°, which helped with training impact. Some of the smaller firms we on-boarded in the second wave were new to eBilling, so a vendor that provides training and call centre support takes some strain off your team during a busy time.
It’s vital your chosen vendor has a strong track record of implementation, and it was a great benefit that our implementation team was in Europe. The Wolters Kluwer team used their experience to offer best practices and point out potential challenges that we had not originally identified; for example, what processes to put in place should a lawyer leave VEON. Six months on, we are able to refine and implement additional functionality, and a solution that allows for some configuration has been very useful.
Finally, don’t underestimate the change management required both within the legal team and other functions, which was heightened for us because we were coming from a low-tech starting point. Despite having a representative from each user stakeholder on the buying panel, we are still experiencing some user resistance (often purely due to lack of knowledge of the system and how it fits into the Company’s strategic goals). The change management and internal selling needs to come from the top and across the board; it will be incredibly difficult if legal is driving the change alone.
Think about the long-term strategic benefits
It’s difficult to think beyond your initial basic tech needs, especially when you’re coming from no technology, but try to think about the long-term benefits of your project, as this will help you make a strong business case. Automation of the eBilling process was VEON’s initial goal, but having the eBilling data available is a massively important by-product. We can generate a report for every matter and instantly know the status and where we are against budget.
After 6-12 months, we plan to use the data we’ve collected to start scoring and benchmarking our firms so we can get better value for money. We can compare how long it takes different firms to complete a matter, ensure outcomes of matters were acceptable for the price paid, and confirm firms are staffing matters efficiently and not using partners for paralegal work. You can use matter spend data to make the case for additional headcount and bringing specialist work in-house, and to outsource more of the basic work so lawyers aren’t bogged down with routine. None of this is possible to justify, or at least, it’s very difficult, without good data. It’s vital that the vendor you choose has sophisticated data analytics and visualisation, and an innovative roadmap for product enhancements that you can benefit from in the future. Think about trends that may seem too futurist for you, like AI; does the vendor have a plan to develop in this area? It may not seem important, or even achievable, when all you need is simplified processes right now, but data and AI-driven decision-making has the potential to turn your legal department from a cost centre into a strategic, valued part of the business that’s driving revenue, retaining talent, and saving money.