Technology - Legal Service Providers Moving From Point Solutions To The Unified Platform For Managing The Business Of Law

Thursday, September 1, 2005 - 00:00

Excluding the Wang and IBM mainframe days, the market of providing technology solutions to in-house law departments is about ten years old. This niche market space is only now emerging from the first evolutionary phase of any technology market: the phase in which a multitude of "specialist" early vendor entrants compete for first-mover clients with different delivery models and with very narrow products. In the legal services market, this phenomenon was in part due to the varying areas of expertise those vendors brought to the market. But it was equally the result of the fact that many early client companies were first-time buyers of technology who articulated very focused and specific needs. Those pioneering law departments found, gravitated to, and shaped a series of what might fairly be seen as "point solutions" in the legal market. This beginning has had a lasting legacy on the market.

These first and second generation systems were often highly customized to customer requirements and business processes. While offering a new means of facilitating the work of the customer, they often simply served to codify old business practices in a technology wrapper. The early phase of the legal technology market thus gave birth to many one-dimensional, specialist companies that handled matter management, or document management, or e-billing, or reporting. These narrow products, many of which were offered on a client server and version-based model, were rapidly outgrown by their customers whose demands evolved and matured over time. Many of these first generation vendors have come and gone or are no longer supporting their custom products fully or at all. Even where the implementations of these early systems were "successful," many law departments found they ended up with not just one vendor relationship, but many vendors operating independently within the company.

The Path To The Unified Solution

Three years ago, after having worked for nearly ten years with several dozen early pioneering clients, TyMetrix observed that the market it helped found was at a crossroads. The legal technology market was then and is even now flooded with more and more would-be legal technology providers and the services offered by these contenders were becoming increasingly similar, even as the vendor coverage of the market became more fractured. TyMetrix and its parent, CT Corporation, felt strongly that "Crossing the Chasm"1 could only be accomplished by gathering all the best practices, ideas, and solutions of TyMetrix' clients and the market at large into a unified solution. We sought to make TyMetrix 360° (the twentieth generation of the TyMetrix product) not merely an iterative step forward in our product lifecycle but a fundamental leap in the market. In our judgment there was no reason a law department should have to turn to half a dozen providers to solve a single business problem: namely, to find a technology platform to manage the business of law.

We seek to give our clients the power of a clearer view into every corner of their law department. We judge our client satisfaction and our success on the basis of whether our solution helps the law department in becoming deeper and better business partners to their fellow company executives. When our client law department leaders regularly prepare for meetings with their fellow executives and law firms with reports and metrics from our system, we will have succeeded.

The only way to ensure this level of business utilization is to unify the fractured and diverse legal systems, initially perhaps by connecting them, but ultimately by moving to one unified solution. Absent such an exercise, there will never be a unified way in which to have transparency back into the whole law department and to have a single source for analytics. Systems that serve the law department need not be a fractured universe of disassociated data warehouses. With TyMetrix 360°, there remains the possibility of the elegance, simplicity and power of a unified solution.

The advantages of a single solution are obvious, once the possibility of achieving it and the path forward become clear:

  • Avoiding user "system overload" that comes from requiring the company users to learn, be trained on, and to work in multiple systems.

  • Saving time by avoiding the double or triple data entry necessary to manually move data across systems.

  • Using a common platform to unify a complex organization around best practices and to drive good governance through a flexible enterprise model.

  • Achieving audit and SOX compliance by having all data in a secure, common platform with a detailed audit trail.

  • Creating a common (single) collaborative space in which law department, business unit, and outside counsel team members can work together efficiently.

  • Merging practice oriented tools (such as matter management, document management, calendaring, and task management) with financial tools (such as budgeting, forecasting, and reporting) so as to leverage relevant information and effectively execute strategies and tactics.

  • And, finally, using the enormous power for reporting purposes by bringing together matter management (with all of its data parameters) and e-billing (with its detailed financial and budgetary information) into a unified flexible whole.

Core Features And Functions

TyMetrix 360° unifies processes and consolidates data by combining an organization's legal management data on a single, unified platform, delivered through an ASP model. TyMetrix' core legal management modules are:

  • E-Billing. TyMetrix 360° provides end-to-end electronic invoicing. Invoices are submitted by law firms, programmatically tested for data integrity and compliance with the client's outside counsel guidelines, automatically routed according to a client-defined workflow and presented in an intuitive and flexible on-line review interface. Invoices are "reviewed by exception," easily adjusted and approved or rejected.

  • Matter Management. TyMetrix 360° matter management suite provides a complete and transparent view of your entire case portfolio. TyMetrix 360° matter management becomes a single source for all case information and documentation including all matter types, case profiles, background information, dates, documents, exposures, evaluations, issues, contacts, statuses, and notes.

  • Document Management. TyMetrix 360° Document Management provides an organized strategy for your important case documentation. Documents can be stored and organized in departmental libraries, at the matter level, or even as supporting invoices. The structured document storage methodology eliminates the frustration of searching for documents in large, separate repositories. The team can use keyword or filter based searching and to find documents quickly.

  • Reporting. Law department data contains valuable metrics about your department as well as outside counsel. TyMetrix solutions will help you reveal those metrics, and take action on them. Simply implementing an e-Billing and matter management system doesn't allow you to fully realize the potential of your department's data. TyMetrix solutions help you harness that data by translating raw numbers into meaningful metrics. Those metrics are used to optimize the department's performance through better financial management, stronger law firm engagement decisions, and more effective strategic planning.

  • Budgeting & Forecasting. TyMetrix 360° budgeting and forecasting tools are geared toward managing the dollars companies spend on legal fees and expenses related to the retention of outside counsel. These tools provide tighter control of your legal spend by going far beyond simple budget tracking. Only TyMetrix 360° combines features for estimating spend at macro and micro levels with enforcement tools that monitor adherence from the top down and bottom up.

The Second Opportunity To Lead

In any young market, the "Early Adopter" customers are of course very influential and have already served to drive our market to best practices. These advances will serve the "Mainstream Market" well. The Fortune 1000 companies which now follow their Fortune 100 leaders will find a steady road to a robust and standardized solution. But what remains for the Innovators who helped shape the early solutions? Where can they find even deeper value and ROI? Where can they lead again? The key question is what will be the next major leap made by the industry and its leading clients.

The answer will be found in bringing the solution closer to the business goals of the company and in bringing the law department closer to its internal clients. In this second chapter, systems like TyMetrix 360° focus on improving both the practice and the business of law by creating shareholder value not merely system value. For some customers it will be the deeper reporting of a combined matter management system; for others it will be a tool such as budgeting and forecasting which brings finance and the law department together; and for still others it will simply be the healthy SOX effect of having all core legal data in one unified and secure platform.

One thing is sure: the convergence of modern business principles and law department management - the task of managing the business of law - is not best supported by a scattered landscape of fractured and disassociated systems. It is time to move our clients on to higher ground.

1 Geoffrey A. Moore, Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers, Harper Collins Publishers, Inc., Copyright 1991, 1992, 2002.

Matthew W. Den Ouden is the National Director of Strategic Accounts for TyMetrix, Inc. He works with corporate law department and litigation executives to reduce costs, improve case outcomes, and strengthen relationships with retained counsel.

Please telephone the author at (860) 240-9635 or email him at mdenouden@tymetrix.com with questions about this article.