Building A Business Case For Your Law Department's IT Initiative

Saturday, April 1, 2006 - 01:00

The Editor interviews Hans Bengard, National Director of Client Solutions and Strategies, CT TyMetrix, a Wolters Kluwer Company. Please call him on (860) 240-9619 with questions about this interview.

CT TyMetrix is a market leader in web-based management solutions, including e-billing, matter management and performance metrics, for corporate law departments and claims organizations. For more information, please visit

Editor: What do you recommend as the first step when building a business case for a law department's IT initiative?

Bengard: Building a business case begins with a vision. The vision should address such questions as: What does the IT initiative look like? What interests will be served? Who will benefit?

Editor: What are some common goals and objectives for an IT initiative?

Bengard: One common objective is to create a collaborative network of knowledge and critical matter information across the law department, business clients and legal vendors. Another is to provide meaningfully aggregated and easily accessible information on matters within an integrated workspace.

The solution needs to be flexible so that it can scale with complex and changing needs of the law department and the business. Quick implementation helps to establish channels for information dissemination that removes barriers to communication.

The workflow of critical data throughout the solution should be streamlined to all points of the matter lifecycle. The important financial data across the law department to be gathered and unified includes information about legal spend, budget, reserve and disposition amounts.

The bottom line is to enable responsible professionals to more easily act upon and leverage information captured throughout the matter lifecycle.

Editor: How can stakeholders' buy-in be secured?

Bengard: For the typical IT initiative, the stakeholders would include law department leaders, operational leaders, IT groups, end users and law firms. For an e-billing solution, stakeholders should be expanded to include representatives from the company's accounts payable team.

The stakeholders' ideas and input should be gathered from the outset. Based on their input, a consensus vision should be built, and the stakeholders should be kept involved throughout sourcing.

It is very helpful to have defined roles for each group in looking at the market. They will feel that they have some "skin in the game" if they're given some research to undertake.

As you're building consensus of the team on the goals and vision for the IT initiative, keep in mind that you only have this one time to pull back and do long-range planning and goal setting.

Remember that you're looking for a solution, not just a system; you're finding a partner not just a piece of software.

Editor: What are the elements of a business case?

Bengard: If your IT initiative is intended to provide process efficiency, map the way that work is currently being done against the new process to determine any cost savings. Also, quantify the gains from enabling personnel to higher-value work by freeing them from inefficient processes.

Analyze back-end delivery efficiency. What are the legal fees and internal costs of inefficient collaboration on cases? What would a quick pay discount be worth?

Monetize good governance. The solution could yield savings ten times the cost of the initiative. For example, you may find a 3 or 8 percent reduction in legal spend by enforcing your company's guidelines. Or, you may find a 5 or 15 percent legal fee savings in key areas by better placing work

When quantifying the costs of the current status, compare ASP and client/server models. Outsourcing servers and services tend to offer much lower TCO. When comparing an ASP with a software solution, add back support and upgrade costs.

The greatest returns of all come from placing the right business with the right firm. Budgeting, assessment, disposition strategy and monitoring against large losses should be built into the business case.

Editor: What are some of the internal drivers of a successful IT initiative?

Bengard: Planning criteria should answer important questions, such as: Has input been gathered from all company stakeholders, including law department leadership, law department finance, IT leadership, first-line invoice reviewers, managing attorneys, audit team, reporting consumers and law firms? Has it been decided whether there will be a separate matter management system, or whether the vision is for an integrated solution throughout the law department?

What are the reporting goals for the system? Are these strategic goals driving selection and design? What are the goals in terms of the relationship with the company's law firms and monitoring and driving law firm performance?

Has the existing internal business process been mapped so as to identify all of the process stakeholders and to find the areas for process improvement?

What is the vision for ROI? For example, does it include guideline enforcement, panel convergence, budgeting, competitive assignments, deeper invoice review, better reporting or all of the above?

Editor: What are a few of the key questions to ask when selecting the vendor to implement the law department's IT initiative?

Bengard: You should ask whether the vendor can offer a complete solution (e-billing, matter management, document management, and reporting). If the company is looking for multiple solutions, what is the driver for this course of action?

Is the vendor staffed and structured to ensure a successful implementation and engagement? That is, does it have a plan and the team to do project? Ask for the plan and to meet the team.

What is the size and financial condition of the vendor? Are they in the black? How long have they been in business? Is the company funded by venture capital or publicly held?

How many clients does the vendor have? Are they all referencable? What were clients' buying criteria? Are case studies and reference names immediately available?

Is the solution secure? Does the data center have SAS 70 certification? Does the vendor offer full encryption during communication with the law firms? Does the vendor offer a pricing model which is flexible enough to allow your company to decide the extent to which it wants to share costs with the law firms?

Less Obvious, But Important Questions

  • Will the selected solution grow with your company as it changes and grows? Will this be at additional cost?

  • Does the vendor offer global scalability (multiple currencies, global support and help desk)?

  • How, other than the ASP model, will your company install and support a solution in multiple offices and communicate with law firms around the country or globe?

  • Will the vendor offer out year (post-implementation) support and service to extend and support the solution and your company team?

  • If the company selects an e-billing or matter management-only solution, what will be the costs and obstacles to integration?

  • With more than one system, where will the company do financial reporting? Where will it do practice and matter workflow reporting?

  • What is the "total cost of ownership" of all of the technology solutions for the law department, and how much of this should the company outsource?