Let’s discuss corporate legal departments that still utilize spreadsheets and shared drives. Specifically, departments that handle more than just contracts, with at least three attorneys, and at least two to three support staff; those departments that may self-identify as being “small” or “mid-size”. Many legal teams fitting this profile typically utilize Excel spreadsheets and shared drives to manage their legal matters, associated documents, and spend information (Outside Counsel Spend, Settlements, Recoveries, etc.). For many, this works just fine. Who am I to judge? But given my position as a Solution Specialist and Sales Consultant, I love asking questions and having conversations on the following subject: What legal technology are you using, if any? And how is that working out for you? And for the record, I don’t judge.
The Typical Conversation
I’ve had this conversation with General Counsels, AGCs, Paralegals, Legal Support Staff, and sometimes IT, which are tasked with the project to “look around”: What obstacles or issues do you run into when operating in Spreadsheets and Shared Drives?
The Standard Answers:
- “We have to go to a specific person, because he/she is the only one that knows.”
- “We don’t really know who’s doing what.”
- “Finding documents, or anything for that matter, is a pain in the butt (people I usually talk to use a different word, but I’m trying to keep this Rated G).”
- “Reports and Trends? What Reports? What Trends? We ask Bob the Paralegal and he goes to town with those evil Excel pivot tables. And that usually takes a while.”
- “If someone leaves the department, we’re left picking up the pieces to determine where that person was on the various legal issues they were handling.”
- “If someone takes a vacation, things get dropped.”
This list goes on and on. Fact is, none of these are mission critical by themselves. Individually, none of these are compelling events. This list is more like a pebble in your shoe. Perhaps, they’re multiple pebbles. Walk too long with a pebble or three in your shoe and you’ll get a blister. So I ask the following question: What happens if status quo remains? Typical answer is, “Nothing.” Many departments will go through in-depth evaluations, do the demos, go through RFIs, and then nothing. Budget isn’t allocated. No real motivation to make the move. Status Quo reigns supreme.
So why are legal departments seeking out Enterprise Legal Management solution providers (ELM) to help them solve the pebble difficulties that are plaguing legal departments across the country?
The answers aren’t simple, but typically have same overtones time and time again: Too many pebbles, so we are thinking of doing something about it; We have a new GC who came from another company where they had metrics and operational visibility; GC is now being asked by the powers above to reduce legal cost, improve level of service to business, and offer visibility into the legal operation; We are one or two acquisitions away from having our work volume double without the benefit of an increased head count; What if Bob the Paralegal wins the lottery and bolts? Who’s your pivot table guru now? Who’s going to swiftly sift through the labyrinth of folders and subfolders to locate that pleading you drafted 6 months ago? These so called pebbles will eventually fester into a blister. There are more, but you already know what they are. You get it since you live it. Plus, all the other cool kids are doing it.
So why do some legal departments ultimately opt to do nothing? Budget is often the reason, but not to be overlooked is the ever powerful Status Quo (a close second culprit of not doing anything about those pebbles). Legal staff that have been operating in spreadsheets and shared drives find comfort operating this way for various reasons: primarily, it’s worked for them in the past. The close second, we humans sure hate change. The fact is, Legal is now forced to become a strategic partner in business operations. The only way to do that is to properly evaluate what the legal operational reality is as of today and leverage historical information to forecast/trend your future. This brings me to the following question: how does the legal department overcome budgetary or status quo constraints?
Help Us Help You
While it may seem cliché, this statement holds true. Let us help you. Top tier ELM providers will help you overcome these very obstacles. Don’t look at ELM vendors as simply software peddlers. As is the case with Mitratech, we have industry veterans with over 10 years of experience working with legal departments. Some on the professional services teams have worked in corporate legal departments themselves. ELM vendors will help you put together compelling ROI analyses that will help you get that elusive budget. If leadership teams are skeptical of the benefits ELM solutions provide to legal operations, we will help you make the business case as to why an ELM solution is mission critical to the legal operation. As the old saying goes, it takes money to make money. So out with the spreadsheets and shared drives, and in with a centralized legal solution that will make legal the best run department in your organization.