At ILTACON 2016, Nancy Beauchemin from InOutsource; Roger Bonine from Marshall, Dennehey, Warner, Coleman & Goggin; and Abby Spilker from Miles & Stockbridge P.C. spoke about their experiences streamlining their workflow technology. Their session focused on using workflow software suites like Intapp to build brand new, technology-assisted workflows.

The whole panel agreed that a significant amount of change management was required to implement new workflow processes. Attorneys, paralegals, and secretaries, for instance, had often performed tasks in the same way for many years, so asking them to change was a tall order. Spilker shared that she personally walked users through the new processes up to 50 times a week. Beauchemin’s firm revamped their conflicts system, hoping to eliminate inefficient processes such as sending a paper document via interoffice mail.

Bonine worked with his firm to rebuild their intake systems. They decided on K2 as their workflow platform, but wanted to keep their integrations in Intapp’s integration builder. They created a number of web services in-house to streamline their workflows. Using these integrations, the firm was able to reduce the time to onboard new employees by 50 percent. At time of hire, the workflow system would trigger a number of automatic processes to set up everything an employee would need to begin working. For example: setting up an active directory account and prompting the user to create a password, then sending an email to let the IT administrator know a new user had been set up in the system. The gains from this process improvement were especially apparent during crunch times when many people were hired at once.

Beauchemin spoke to her experiences developing a retention system using workflow tools. She pointed out that workflow tools were especially useful to document and process exceptions in policies. One interesting topic she touched on was about closing matters. Often times, matters don’t close right away at firms. It can take quite a bit of time before all attorneys acknowledge that a matter has been closed (if they ever do). She added that when building a workflow, it’s important to accept this and decide whether or not you report the date of last work done instead of the date of matter closed for other processes. Deciding when a matter is closed is somewhat critical to forming a document retention workflow, as otherwise you can’t determine when you can eliminate the data. This is a mere stumble compared to getting an attorney to approve destruction of documents and data. Destruction of data is something that firms want to do – aside from the liability of keeping it around, there’s often a significant cost to storing data. Using a workflow to automate the destruction process (setting deadlines, reminder emails, and acquiring consent) not only eliminates the need for a person to do this, it creates an audit trail, shows clear chain of custody and ensures compliance.

The legal industry is rife with complex workflows, and there’s no magic bullet for making any one process as efficient as possible. Even using a third-party workflow tool, it takes an enormous amount of work and coordination to translate a manual process into a smooth workflow. At least for this panel of experts, the pain was worth it as ultimately they derived significant gains and ROI for their organizations.

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