Workshare: The Latest Trends in Legal Technology

Monday, August 30, 2010 - 01:00

The Editor interviews Workshare executive Matthew Brown. Workshare provides document collaboration solutions to more than 1.5 million legal professionals in 65 countries. Customers rely on Workshare solutions to increase productivity and safeguard proprietary and confidential information.

Editor: Tell us about Workshare and the latest technology trends you are seeing in corporate legal.

Brown: For about 12 years Workshare has provided applications and services to enable legal departments and law offices to collaborate on documents more efficiently and safely. We have a number of desktop applications and server-based technology solutions that not only allow law departments and law offices to accelerate document review cycles and to turn documents around quicker, but also to ensure accuracy and remove hidden information, known as metadata, from documents. The latest trends we have been seeing in corporate legal involve Microsoft Office 2010 projects, server-based solutions to reduce applications on the desktop and provide metadata removal across the entire organization, and initiatives focused on Microsoft SharePoint. We recently announced a legal-centric collaboration platform to enable lawyers to manage their documents and emails from within Microsoft Office and Outlook using the Microsoft SharePoint 2010 platform.

Editor: What challenges are corporate legal teams having with documents?

Brown: Often the challenge corporate legal teams have with exchanging information and collaborating on documents is the ability to control the security and accuracy of the content. This is true particularly when you start working with multiple versions of a document, which are multiplied across several reviewers, and then shared both inside and outside your organization. It is difficult to keep control over the content on which you are working. For example, we have seen organizations make investments in content management or document management systems to provide version control, security, audit trails and even email management. But one of the things that often happens is that once these documents leave those systems, all the controls are lost. So Workshare provides an easy way to collaborate on and control documents when a document leaves a central repository. We also ensure that you are working on the right version, that you don't miss changes, and that you avoid any issues due to hidden information within your documents.

Editor: Document control outside a central repository is a unique attribute. Are there others that provide these types of solutions?

Brown: We are unique in the fact that we integrate our applications tightly with Microsoft technology and document management systems to help control versions outside a central repository. With multiple collaboration solutions for Word, Excel and PowerPoint, as well as solutions for PDF and metadata removal, there is overlap with other point solutions, but very few are focused on the specific needs of the corporate legal team.

Editor: How does Workshare aid in protecting the integrity of a document?

Brown: To protect the integrity of a document we focus on content accuracy with comparison tools for Word, Excel, PowerPoint and PDF, and ensure any hidden data is removed before a document is shared. For example, when you are sending an email with a document attachment our metadata removal solution can prompt you with a hidden content warning, or it can automatically clean the document. Corporate legal teams are now implementing these technologies to cover the entire organization, and we are seeing a trend with other departments adopting the same comparison tools the corporate legal department is using in order to ensure their own document accuracy. The key for these solutions to work is the tight integration into the desktop applications already being used by corporate legal or other departments - really the strength of the Workshare applications.

Editor: In 2006 the FRCP rules were updated, are corporate legal departments still reacting to those changes?

Brown: In a word yes. Many organizations have taken great steps to protect themselves, but there are still companies that have not taken steps to reduce their risk. On the whole there are more information governance projects being driven by legal, risk and compliance teams than we have seen in the past.

Editor: What technology trends do you see today regarding FRCP?

Brown: In discovery actions you need to be aware of metadata because it is now discoverable and admissible in court. You must manage this hidden data very carefully throughout the document life cycle - from when a document is created right through to when it is archived or deleted. Today we are seeing more corporate legal teams look at server-based solutions for metadata removal in order to protect the entire company. The technology is being deployed on a global basis much like anti-virus protection. This increased interest in centralized metadata cleaning is being driven by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedures specifically because of the issues around discovery.

Editor: Are departments other than corporate legal raising concerns about metadata in their documents?

Brown: Traditionally metadata has been a focus for the legal department since they are dealing with potential discovery requests. Contracts and financial documentation all flow in and out of legal; these high-value documents are still the focus of the majority of projects. But other departments are now recognizing the risks with their own documents, and we are seeing concerns raised by many departments outside corporate legal.

Editor: What other technologies are corporate legal departments leveraging?

Brown: Other trends that we are seeing are the implementation of applications such as Microsoft SharePoint, which gives more control over documents centrally with a move away from file shares. SharePoint is everywhere, and it is here to stay. It is being used by everyone to provide document management across the enterprise. For example, one particular customer of ours utilized the Workshare technology and SharePoint to be able to collaborate centrally with their customers on processing bond series transactions that actually saved them more than one million dollars a year by eliminating the costs of processing paper contracts and documents. So by automating the process electronically through Workshare and SharePoint, they became much more efficient. Paper-based work flows are being made electronic, and Workshare provides the application needed to collaborate with and share electronic documents between multiple people and sites.

Editor: Is the general counsel influencing other departments with his or her technology decisions?

Brown: Wherever there is any cross-departmental collaboration, such as the key ones - contract management or documents that require regulatory submissions - many times the legal department is the central linchpin. The legal department influences other departments on its use of technology processes when it comes to multiple review cycles or document collaboration, and we are seeing many departments look to them for guidance. For example, finance departments are adopting our Excel comparison software for the same reasons corporate counsel adopted our applications for Word, accuracy and improved productivity.

Editor: Is there anything that you would like to add?

Brown: Keeping up on the latest technology can be a challenge, and there are a lot of legal specific solutions available. If any of your readers would like more details about the trends we are seeing with technology adoption I would encourage them to contact me. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me.

Please email the interviewee at matthew.brown@workshare.com with questions about this interview.