When you decide you need a technology solution to help you manage your legal matter and spend, the process of getting to the point where you are using a great system can feel daunting. Even if you have narrowed down the providers you’re considering, there is preliminary work you can do to help make sure you are prepared for the vendor selection process, as well as an effective implementation. Here are a few suggestions for legal departments that have started the journey and want to keep the process moving.
Invite stakeholders outside of Legal into the process
The legal department typically initiates the search for a legal technology solution provider, but other functions are also deeply impacted by the choice of an e-billing tool and vendor. For example, the IT team will be involved in implementing and supporting your new system. They are likely to have expertise and experience that could help you avoid some common technological pitfalls. In addition, the finance department will be directly involved in the e-billing process. And your procurement team is likely to be a valuable resource with respect to choosing a solution that fits the company’s overall goals and vendor relationships.
It’s also wise to speak to your law firms and other key legal service providers. They are likely to have experience with several different vendors and may have thoughts on which are best at facilitating collaboration with their clients. Be sure to ask about the support provided by various vendors, as well. If you learn that a particular vendor doesn’t have good, direct support for law firms, choosing that vendor will mean that firms call you about system questions or issues. You can summarize your vendor evaluations on a scorecard, keeping the same criteria for each one to ensure an apples-to-apples comparison.
Begin with internal agreement
Once you’ve determined who the internal stakeholders are, you’re not very likely to agree on the best vendor to meet your needs unless those stakeholders have had discussions about, and reached alignment on, what those needs are. Gather your colleagues from outside legal, along with legal department members that represent your various geographies and practice areas, and identify the common priorities.
Questions to discuss include:
- What are the top three business problems you’re trying to solve?
- Do the team members have the same goals for the new solution?
- Where does each function see technology offering the greatest help in their mission?
- How similar are your workflows and do you need to account for many different matter and billing processes?
- Is there a best practice “base” workflow that all teams should use?
- What are the top two or three priorities everyone can agree on?
After reaching consensus on the most important aspects, you’ll be ready to go out to RFP and/or invite vendors in to show you their solutions. With all stakeholders’ concerns in mind, you’ll be able to evaluate solutions against the big-picture needs for your organization.
Think through your implementation plans
When a vendor is chosen and you’re getting ready to implement, there are steps you can take to give your company the best chance for a smooth process.
First, decide how the rollout will happen. For most organizations, it doesn’t make sense for every legal professional to start using the new product on day one. Some companies choose to begin with headquarters staff or a couple of practice areas, adding more gradually over time. This kind of phased approach gives you the opportunity to gather feedback from users and make adjustments as you go.
Your vendor will have many questions for you during implementation, but they should also be able to offer a lot of guidance. Assuming you have chosen a vendor who has been implementing clients for many years, they will probably ask you how you would like to handle situations you hadn’t even thought of yet. For example, If you aren’t already using billing guidelines to support your goals, they may suggest you consider adding them. You don’t have to get every answer or decision right immediately; part of the goal of implementation is to get processes in place so that they can be perfected as you learn more about how best to drive value for your organization.
Consider how to maximize the value of data in the long term
When faced with a project as challenging as choosing and implementing a matter and spend solution, it can be easy to focus exclusively on your near-term goals, but try to devote some time to think about what steps to take after implementation is completed. E-billing introduces an extraordinary amount of efficiency and improves billing guideline compliance, but it also captures valuable legal spend data that you can use strategically for improved planning and decision-making that provides long-term benefits.
For example, the information you’ll collect is incredibly useful for day-to-day management of matters and budget predictability. Think about how you can leverage it for decisions that better align with your organization’s business goals. In addition, consider using this data to negotiate more favorable rates and alternative fee arrangements with your firms. Further, you may even decide to leverage your data to make a case for increased headcount or outsourcing of lower-value work so that in-house attorneys can focus on value-add work.
Talking with your vendor or potential vendors about opportunities for using your data is wise, as they may offer options you had not considered. Building a solid foundation for a metrics program will pay off dividends in providing actionable information for managing firms, saving money on legal spend, and identifying risks.
The early steps can be some of the most difficult with a large-scale project because the momentum has yet to build up. If you assemble a great team with common goals and prepare for the implementation process while keeping the far-horizon in mind, you will start to encourage that momentum and build toward a successful matter and spend management operation.