On a recent visit to see Resolver Inc. general counsel Peter Nguyen, I casually asked him “what’s new?”
In an equally casual way, he said, “Well, we’ve created a workflow app that is working really well.” Then he asked if I wanted to see it.
Well yes, of course I did. What he showed me was a simple-looking but incredibly smart system that has taken the craziness of his email in-box and streamlined all of those requests into a transparent system that can show people at the company exactly what is in the queue for him. (See our story here on the process and how it works.) It even includes service-level commitments from the legal department to Nguyen’s business colleagues.
Resolver has now started efforts to commercialize what Nguyen has created and he tells me: “We continue to have very interesting conversations with both in-house departments and law firms.”
Back in March, he had emailed me to say he was looking at what was on the market for in-house but also whether any law firms had implemented client workflow systems through which work is assigned and managed, allowing clients to have a dashboard to see the status on open matters. It all made a lot of sense.
So often I have heard in-house counsel say how they wait to hear from external counsel on the status of a matter. Phone calls and emails often go unreturned for days. What if, Nguyen is imagining, he could do with his external firms what his internal clients do to see where the status of a matter is for them? Doesn’t that make sense?
Some large firms are offering improved collaboration tools with clients using project management platforms and client real-time web-based tools such as HighQ, a platform for in-house and law firms often used for virtual deal rooms and financial institutions to share sensitive information.
While Nguyen investigated off-the-shelf tools, he found they were too big or complex for what he really needed.
Similarly, Steven Choi, managing director of legal and administration at Flipp Corporation, was also looking for a workflow tool. He didn’t create anything from scratch but rather adapted a ticketing system to fit his legal needs. Flipp uses JIRA by Atlassian as its main ticketing system. When it came time for Flipp’s legal department to standardize the way it reviews legal requests, it decided to use JIRA to reduce the barrier to adoption. Combined with a Google spreadsheet that parses through data from the ticketing system, Choi was able to provide a dashboard for Key Performance Indicators without spending any additional funds on a new system. He now uses the dashboard to report to executives every month.
“As a non-revenue-generating team, justifying spending on huge licensing fees is challenging,” he told me.
These are just a couple of examples of how small in-house legal teams are finding solutions to help them get work done more efficiently and be more accountable to the business at the same time.