Briefing: Legal's 'missing middle' problem and how to solve it

Many firms face a ‘missing middle’ problem — capturing key matter data alongside lawyer knowledge and knowhow, managing complex legal projects, and driving improved efficiencies. All these challenges require equal attention. Andrew Lindsay, general manager at LexisNexis Enterprise Solutions, addresses the ‘data’ challenge and considers the continued struggle for firms to achieve one source of truth may finally be over.

Where does your firm store its matter metadata, and the data that drives your client reporting?

It’s a pressing challenge for many large law firms, observes Andrew Lindsay, general manager at LexisNexis Enterprise Solutions, and one that modern technology can now solve much more effectively than in the past.

Clients have always demanded good management information (MI). In this post-pandemic world, expectations have continued to increase and a demand for 24/7 visibility of matters is the norm. But, if data isn’t stored in a central repository, how can it be reported on effectively, exploited by AI, or its security be confirmed?

It is obvious that legal businesses will lose out if they don’t make their data reusable. Lindsay says: “The key to future success is to repurpose data so that it drives innovation and new ways of efficient working.” For example, generative artificial intelligence (genAI) is the technology set to provide future insights and opportunities, yet it requires the data collected and available; especially sensitive material that must meet the increasingly strict demands of clients and legislation, to be stored and handled in a secure and standardised way.

The importance of data capture

Reflecting on the progression of technology stacks commonly employed by major law firms, Lindsay observes that these systems frequently emerged not from a deliberate, long-term plan, but rather as the result of organic development. “With the digital file, firms started by collecting data in their finance systems, with new solutions that specifically supported data capture only following slowly.”

Lindsay acknowledges that “while the data requirements for modern law firms are many and complex, getting it right can bring huge benefits”.  Firms face increasing challenges of security and legislative compliance, which must be balanced against the wide spectrum of service delivery needs. Best-of-breed case management is well established in volume practice areas, and the return on investment widely proven. But not every work type suits case management, leading to disparate data spread across a variety of sources in a non-uniform way.

The answer, he says, is a “best-of-breed data-focused solution that allows rapid firm-wide adoption while offering data capture and automation flexibility that will keep all users — and data custodians — happy.” A specific matter management platform that connects users to their other best-of-breed document and finance systems, avoiding the need for them to continually swap between solutions, and helps ensure critical data is captured and made available as a single source of truth. This approach will provide a strong foundation for efficiencies, insights and further advancement — to become an authoritative knowledge platform.

“Today, in the world of large language models, big data and genAI, there is a plethora of exciting technologies that can add value to a firm’s data — but only if that data is easily collected, readily available and 100% secure.”

A solution that serves the future-facing firm

In October 2023, LexisNexis Enterprise Solutions launched Lexis Everyfile, a web-based matter management solution deployed in Microsoft Azure. Capturing key metadata, Lindsay explains, “Lexis Everyfile is a single, easy-to-use solution that works for everyone, on every file, across the whole organisation. An ‘out-of-the-box’ framework is available as a firm-wide foundation that can easily be tailored to the specific client and practice area requirements.”

“It’s a very powerful proposition,” he continues. “You are no longer in a cul-de-sac, stuck with technology that fails to meet the needs of everyone in the business. It can be as structured as necessary, but is flexible, intuitive and easy to adapt, to work to suit the needs of every lawyer, simple or complex, prescriptive or ad hoc.”

Besides simplifying the perennial headache of labour-intensive data entry, the captured data can provide actionable insights that will power performance and success into the future. Removing roadblocks frees up firms to focus on more critical activities, equipped with a historical, firm-wide view of each client and their matters. In addition to optimising service delivery, the matter management platform becomes a powerful knowledge solution.

Lindsay professes: “What lawyers care most about, is delivering exceptional client service. Enabling the whole firm to work in the most efficient way and easily capture crucial touchpoints, harnesses the collective intelligence of the practice which leads to a standardised, seamless experience for clients, and highlights opportunities for the business, allowing for more effective planning.”

Critical to all of this, he adds, is valuing the firm’s data and harnessing the lawyers’ knowledge.

Our Briefing Frontiers 2024 research found that while 78% of leaders say their firms have a strategy to use GenAI, only 61% report having a firm-wide data strategy!  Lindsay insists that firms must avoid trying to “put the cart before the horse”, stating, “I would prioritise a data strategy over anything else — it’s the building block for successfully exploiting AI.”

Large firms have decades’ worth of data that they should be harnessing. Properly managed, this data can offer greater value, inform better decision-making, and help firms beat the competition. It is theirs to take advantage of, but it needs to be in the right place, safe and accessible. Only then can firms realise greater benefits.

Lexis Everyfile, solves the challenge of the ‘missing middle’. Firms can turn data into insights, drive new opportunities and underpin future technology strategies. It functions as the platform to feed genAI. “All of that lawyer knowledge, know-how and experience is gold — if you can capture it, and use it to inform future decision making, it will set the standard for future generations,” Lindsay concludes.

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Briefing: Legal's 'missing middle' problem and how to solve it preview