The Shift In Corporate Legal: Making Legal Departments The Best-Run Function In The Organization

Friday, August 16, 2013 - 09:16

The Editor interviews Jason Parkman, Chief Executive Officer of Mitratech.

Editor: You joined Mitratech about a year ago now after a career primarily focused on the law firm business. What intrigued you about the corporate counsel market?

Parkman: I have worked in legal technology for 18 years, initially within a law firm managing technology implementations and trial sites, and then later on running businesses focused on law firm technology needs. Over that time, I have been able to see a significant shift in both the use of technology and the relationship between in-house counsel and their outside firms. At the start of my career, the in-house legal department was in a much more reactive mode, both in terms of allowing the relationship to be dictated by their outside firms and in terms of how they leveraged technology.

Over the past decade, and in particular since the recession, there has been a power shift to the GC from outside counsel, and the general counsel’s role in the company has expanded tremendously. The legal department is being asked to act as a change agent; GCs are being asked to predict risk, to quickly adjust to new regulations, and to redefine the relationships with outside law firms. At the same time, we’ve seen the emergence of a buyer’s market for legal services with, frankly, an oversupply of legal hours. In this environment, GCs have the ability to redefine the relationship with their outside counsel at precisely the same time that they are being asked to provide the visibility and predictability typically associated with other business units within the corporation. All of this means that the GC’s office, not the law firm, is leading the way with technology to drive efficiency, manage change, gain visibility, and manage risk.  It’s an exciting place to be, and a very exciting time in this industry.

Editor: Can you expand on why the stakes for the general counsel are higher than ever?

Parkman: Simply put, because what the legal department manages is increasingly material to the success of the broader organization. There seems to be ever-increasing compliance risk, legal risk and IP to manage. On the compliance side alone, automated processes are absolutely necessary to keep track of the changing regulatory environment ushered in by SOX, HIPAA, the Affordable Care Act and hundreds of other state, local and federal regulations that are changing the business environment on a daily basis. Improper management of compliance needs means huge business exposure. On the litigation side, IP litigation has increased tenfold in the last ten years. All told, this means that how the legal department manages all of this risk and compliance can make a difference of millions, and even billions of dollars to the company. The stakes are very high.

Editor: How is enterprise legal management (ELM) technology adapting to this new-found pressure on general counsels?

Parkman: Corporate legal departments are being asked to manage this dramatic increase in risk and compliance without the corresponding increase in budgets. Legal departments today have to act in much the same way as other cost centers, doing more with less while increasing visibility and predictability across the department.

ELM technology allows the general counsel to make decisions based on metrics instead of instincts, turning the legal department into a data-driven organization. For example, we have noticed a recent trend towards moving matters in-house. In order to facilitate this data-driven decision making, robust ELM solutions offer users the ability to organize and analyze tremendous amounts of data to make educated decisions about everything from which matters to bring in-house, to which firms to use on specific types of matters, to how to better negotiate rates within a particular market or type of matter.

Ultimately, this type of sound decision making enables the legal department to be an even more strategic business partner across the entire organization – minimizing business exposure and reducing overall costs. 

Editor: You mentioned legal departments are a major cost center in an organization. How does technology combat that instead of contributing to it?

Parkman: With a combination of matter management and spend management solutions, clients are able to gain insight into their operations, increase productivity, and automate processes. Matters, contracts, and vital documents are located in one central, easily accessible place, creating a single source of truth across multiple business units.  Law firm invoices can be flagged, or even automatically adjusted, for discrepancies, preventing attorneys from having to review and approve them line by line. Automated calendaring prevents missed court deadlines and dramatically reduces the overall time needed to manage docketing when matters are handled in-house. The savings in both money and time are substantial.  In fact, our clients have validated that the typical Fortune 500 firm will save an average of almost $5 million per year, well above the investment required to realize these benefits.

Editor: ELM technology has traditionally been defined as Matter Management and Spend Management.  Do you think that definition is changing?

Parkman: Absolutely.  I think the traditional definition of the market is expanding in two primary ways: 1) Legal departments are continuing to invest in adjacent legal management solutions, including compliance solutions, e-discovery and legal hold, and entity management solutions.  More often than not, they are looking for a platform that allows as many of these functions to be integrated and consolidated as  possible to minimize total cost of ownership; 2) As corporate legal expands its collaborative and strategic partnerships across the organization, we’ve seen many companies expand the use of their technology platform to additional departments; for instance, a pharmaceutical client of ours is now using matter management in their fraud and investigations group. Dozens of insurance clients are using us to track their claims in addition to legal matters, and many use TeamConnect for contract management. Expanded uses like these help prevent millions of dollars of loss and risk, allowing our clients to have full insight into matters well before they become litigious.

Editor: Do you see any industry-specific trends impacting the use of ELM technology?

Parkman: Insurance companies have really been able to use our system in groundbreaking ways to make their systems more efficient. They handle a large amount of risk, and having a robust and versatile system such as ours allows them to handle this risk systematically. Technology is another industry that has readily adopted our software, being led by tremendous need around intellectual property matters. IP matter management is becoming increasingly integral to running a successful technology company, and our system is powerful enough to do so successfully.

Editor: What differentiates Mitratech in the ELM market?

Parkman: First and foremost, proven client success. We have been in this market for 25 years, and we’ve been innovating on the TeamConnect platform itself for 13 years. That innovation has been a direct result of our industry-leading clients’ feedback and engagement.  We have an incredibly engaged client base that is the foundation of our market leadership, and there are hundreds of certified TeamConnect implementers that have successfully executed the platform across every industry.

Second, our products are incredibly scalable in two primary ways. First, we offer  the broadest suite of ELM solutions in the market (including Matter Management, Spend Management, Legal Hold, GRC, and Entity Management), which means you can expand your use of  the TeamConnect platform as your technology needs grow; 50 percent of our clients have extended their solution beyond traditional Matter Management and Spend Management. Second, TeamConnect is quite simply able to handle whatever you throw at it. We are regularly helping firms to manage hundreds of millions of dollars in legal spend and claims management and tens of thousands of matters annually.

Finally, our products are flexible and extensible. The platform is highly configurable and can integrate with systems legal departments already use, like Microsoft Office, SharePoint, and AP systems, increasing the efficiency of users.  Additionally, our clients are regularly building and extending custom applications on this platform that meet their unique business needs.

Editor: How would you define your mission as an ELM technology provider?

Parkman: We want the legal departments of our clients to be the best-run department in their organizations. In-house counsel deals with a daunting number of matters every single day, and the stakes are ever increasing. Work is never done, and at times the volume and complexity of the legal department’s load can be extremely overwhelming. Our systems streamline this workflow, eliminate unnecessary work, and provide deep analytical capabilities. This actually provides the legal department with an immense amount of power. Transparency increases - as does collaboration. Information is available in real-time, allowing the legal department to be more of a strategic business partner and make decisions that make a difference for the business.

In short, we want to allow lawyers to spend their time being lawyers and business partners, not administrators - driving even stronger results than they are today. Technology like TeamConnect enables this goal to be realized.

As CEO of Mitratech, Jason Parkman is responsible for worldwide operations and overall strategic vision of Mitratech. He joined Mitratech with more than 15 years of leadership experience in legal technology, software and services businesses. Most recently, Mr. PArkman served as Senior Vice President, Large Law Firm Business at Thomson Reuters, where he led the Sales, Marketing, Technology Services and Operations teams. Prior to leading the Large Law Firm Business, he was General Manager of Hubbard One, where he was responsible for the overall strategic direction and management of the fast-growing legal software business. He has also served as co-founder and CTO of technology start-up Juritas, Inc. and Director of Technology Development at Chicago-based law firm Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott.

Please email the interviewee at jason.parkman@mitratech.com with questions about this interview.