Increasing Efficiency in the In-House Legal Department Through Technology
By Sterling Miller, Senior Counsel, HILGERS GRABEN PLLC
Every legal department needs to increase efficiency and reduce costs. Technology provides one way to do this- from smart phone apps to sophisticated software running on company servers. One problem is the multitude of choices out there. This article will briefly touch on ten ideas for useful technology that can help increase the efficiency of the department and you.
1) “Practical Law.” Practical Law (www.us.practicallaw.com)gives you instant access to useful articles, forms, checklists, practice notes, memorandam, etc. For example, if someone in the business calls you and says “I need to know the ins and outs of insider trading in the next hour” you go to Practical Law, type in “insider trading” and instantly get back articles discussing the topic in simple “black and white,” along with checklists, sample polices, sample memos to the client, and more. It will save you hours of research and the cost of using outside counsel. You can get a free demo and test period to try it out.
2) E-Billing System. Virtually all in-house legal departments need an e-billing system. It will save you time and money and give you deep insights into your legal spend, average hourly rates, efficiency of law firms, projected spend, budgeting compliance, monthly accruals, and usually some type of matter management system, all rolled into one. There are a number of highly rated e-billing systemsavailable including Serengeti, Lawtrac, Lexis CounselLink, TyMetrix, and others.
3) E-Discovery Tool. Document discovery used to mean sending an email to employees and requiring them to go through their desk drawers, file cabinets, and emails/computer files and to let you know if they had any documents dealing with the case. You cannot do a search like that today without risking major sanctions. If you have lots of litigation, you should invest in an e-discovery tool. Sabre used MatterSpace (www.workproducts.com) which provided us with litigation-hold automation, automated document collection (i.e., the client only needed to give us access to their computer), cloud storage, and the ability to connect to multiple discovery management tools. It saved us hours of work, made the discovery process easy for the business, and gave us a defensible chain of custody/review process.
4) “Getting the Deal Through.” A website containing multi-jurisdictional guides for different legal areas, including merger control, employment law, competition law, arbitration, telecoms and media, intellectual property, cyber security, banking and finance, etc. The guides are written by top lawyers from each country, are updated frequently, and are free to in-house counsel. Need the scoop on merger control in Chile? Want to know about trademark protection in Mexico? Dispute resolution in India? Go to www.gettingthe dealthrough.com and sign-up.
5) “Lexology.com.” A free news feed service providing access to hundreds of articles, blogs, law firm publications, etc. about legal issues. When you subscribe to Lexology.com you set preferences regarding geographic and legal areas of interest and you get a daily email containing tremendously useful content.
6) “SigFont.” Sigfont (www.sigfont.com) scans your signature and makes it available as a new “font” in Word. You can then use it to sign and send documents directly from your computer. This can save the day when something needs to be signed and sent and you are not near a fax machine or scanner.
7) “TripCase.com.” TripCase (www.tripcase.com) is an awesome appthat captures your travel itinerary information from any travel source, i.e., air, hotel, car, dinner reservations, limo, conference room, etc. It’s perfect for business or personal travel and has services like notifications, weather, reserve parking, currency, and a link to Uber. You can add information by forwarding your confirmation email to your TripCaseaccount. Your travel information is always with you (smart phone, tablet, laptop, smartwatch) and you can share your itinerary with your spouse or friends.
8) Instant Message Program. Using IM (Microsoft, Google, Yahoo!, etc.) to its full potential is a great tool, especially with remote/international offices and work-from-home colleagues. The most powerful IM tools are the ability to create a video-conference by simply clicking a button and to collaborate together on documents (i.e., work off one version) as part of the IM session.
9) “Copernic Desk Top Search.” Your laptop has likely become a very large file cabinet. Which means it can be difficult to find things. You know you have that important email or Word document somewhere on your computer but you cannot remember where you stored it. The Copernic (www.copernic.com)program is the most complete and easiest to navigate. There is a free version and a pay for version.
10) “TRACE”. You cannot avoid the increasing importance of compliance with anti-corruption laws (e.g., FCPA). A great resource is TRACE (www.traceinternational.org), which provides anti-corruption compliance tools (and many other things) including a slick due diligence tool called TRACEsort.
There are other things I was tempted to list, including a deadline calculator (www.calculatorsoup.com), world meeting time zone calculator (www.timeanddate.com), and apps to create pdf documents (www.bestfreewebresources.com) using your phone’s camera. The key is to not be afraid of technology. You cannot break anything and you will find some really useful tools out there if you experiment a bit.
*Sterling Miller is Senior Counsel to the Dallas office of Gober Hilgers. He recently retired after 20-plus years as in-house counsel including being General Counsel at Sabre Corporation and Travelocity.com.