We are delighted to have Katie Jones on board the LexisNexis Enterprise Solutions ship as a Product Management Specialist. As a qualified lawyer and a Technology Consultant in previous lives, she is ideally placed to guide the Lexis Visualfiles and Lexis® Omni development teams. Having “walked in lawyers’ shoes”, she has first-hand insight into the day-to-day challenges lawyers face.
We caught up with Katie for a tête-à-tête, here’s how it went!
- You are a qualified lawyer; how did you catch the tech bug?
Katie Jones: Well, Visualfiles is the culprit, fairly and squarely! Way back, when I started my training, my firm (then Simpson and Marwick) bought Visualfiles. People used the solution with varying degrees of intent and expectation, but nobody used it to its full potential. So, I volunteered to explore how the firm could best leverage the system.
At the time, we had two key drivers for developing Visualfiles – to work efficiently and profitably as a business, and to reduce risk in low value cases. It was an exciting time for me. I got the opportunity to work with developers to develop the system exactly as I wanted it for my team. Subsequently, Simpson and Marwick merged with Clyde & Co, and I then had the opportunity to see how the work we had done with Visualfiles might benefit a much larger firm.
Seeing first-hand how technology could solve our problems, help us work better and importantly allow us to focus on areas that we most enjoyed working in, really opened my mind. I was hooked!
- Moving from being lawyer to consultant and now in product management, has your perspective on the way technology is developed and adopted in firms, changed at all?
Katie Jones: Today, I appreciate the challenges that software developers and lawyers face a lot more. For example, one of the challenges that software vendors, including LexisNexis, face is that they are developing products potentially for people who don’t always appreciate what’s possible with technology. What I mean by this is, lawyers want tools that make what they do easier, but for a technology vendor to deliver against this brief, they must first get into the nitty gritty of what users do – and more crucially, why they do it that way. This kind of interrogation can be difficult and requires patience on the part of both parties. I’ve come to realise that often, lawyers do certain things in a particular way because the tools that they have at their disposal force them to do things in that way.
So, at LexisNexis now, I’m working with the development team, going back to ‘first principles’ to understand what it is that the lawyers want and need to do, so that we can develop Visualfiles and Lexis® Omni to allow them to work exactly how they want to. Technology cannot dictate how they should work.
- LexisNexis finds that risk management, Service Level Agreement (SLA) compliance and access to management information (MI) are among the top candidates for technology adoption in law firms today – would you agree?
Katie Jones: Yes, completely. In all honesty, these areas have been priorities for a long time. Looking back to my time as a practicing lawyer, I wanted to use Visualfiles as much as possible because there was simply no way that we as a team could keep on top of manual processes for risk management and SLA compliance. Making diary entries to ensure you report on time works if you get a handful of cases a month, but if you get 10s of new cases a day, it’s not an option. Lawyers can’t be expected to remember the SLAs for every case they work on.
Similarly, manually producing MI reporting spreadsheets every month is a hugely time-consuming exercise that eats into lawyers’ billable time. These tasks undertaken with the help of technology can reduce the burden to negligible levels and minimise risk in real terms.
- In your view, how should firms approach technology adoption for risk management, SLA compliance and MI and reporting?
Katie Jones: One of the biggest barriers to successful technology adoption in these areas is that lawyers aren’t always able to visualise how their day-to-day work impacts the overall risk posture of the firm. Their risk focus is on the cases they work on – have we accurately assessed the legal problem, do we have the right level of resource and experience working on the project and so on. They do not necessarily consider the day-to-day repeatable work as posing a risk – and potentially that’s where risk creeps in because lawyers’ sight is set on different things. It’s of course understandable – when working on complex cases, the minutia of “is the data entered into the system correctly?” or “have I updated my reserve advice on time?” doesn’t command a high level of attention. Similarly, lawyers at the coalface might not have the financial risks associated with fee budgets, or the risks inherent in handling and managing data, at the forefront of their minds.
Technology can be adopted to provide lawyers with information and metrics which will help them to manage these risks. SLA compliance can be accommodated. Reporting tools can be utilised to provide alerts to financial risks, and data can be more effectively controlled and managed when the right tools are adopted
To embed technology for these functions, lawyers need to be persuaded that the tools are there to assist them with and not restrict them in the work they are doing. The system the firm deploys must be tailored to the needs of the lawyers. It cannot dictate how the lawyers must work. This happens often though, when firms deploy systems that aren’t flexible enough to simultaneously meet the varying needs of different types of lawyers. What might suit a volume case worker will be restrictive and overwhelming to a high-value knowledge lawyer. Conversely, the light touch matter management that a high-value lawyer looks for does not meet the automation and workflow needs of a volume worker.
- Let’s review each of the three above-mentioned candidates for technology adoption individually. So, for the first one – i.e., risk management – what should the key considerations be for firms?
Katie Jones: How a firm uses the information and data that it gathers on matters to provide a view of progress against budget, resourcing and matter status will impact how well it can manage risk. If information is presented in an accessible and meaningful way, then a lawyer can act on it.
Data management is another key area for firms. With increasing amounts of data being held, often in different locations, regions and jurisdictions, there is a real challenge around knowing what is held where and managing the risks that holding data brings. The more systems a firm has, and the greater the geographical spread, the greater the challenge.
This is the first part of the interview in a two-part series. In the next and final instalment, we’ll ask Katie Jones for her thoughts on technology adoption for SLA compliance and MI and reporting.