OEN Magazine: Industry Spotlight Legal Sector: Roy Russell from Ascertus


Despite the amount of technology systems that law firms and corporate legal departments deploy, it’s often the product name, rather than the business requirement that takes president. Roy Russell, CEO of Ascertus explores the world of legal IT and what systems you should be buying.


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There are so many different point solutions that enterprises implement – document management, customer relationship management, enterprise resource planning, accounting and finance management – and so on. However, the implementation of these systems typically
hinges on individuals’ perceived understanding of what these solutions can deliver, which in turn is often based on product descriptions. The business requirement should drive product selection, not enterprises’ pre-conceptions and apparent understanding of solution names.

Roy said, “the legal department of an investment bank is an example of an organisation that has greatly benefited from such an approach. The legal department needed a variety of functionalities and capabilities – a central repository for documents, precedents and emails; capability to share legal advice and knowledge with colleagues internationally, and ability to
undertake automated records management.

“The department also wanted to reduce its expenditure on external counsel. Instead  of deploying point solutions for all these functions, all of which are available in the market today, the legal department chose a solution that goes by the description of ‘document management’ but configured it in a way that meets all the above-mentioned business requirements, and  essentially serves as a knowledge management system. In doing so, the legal department has reduced its expenditure and the risk of purchasing multiple solutions. They are maximising their return on investment in this one single document management application.”

Another common mistake that enterprises make is selecting solutions for their price. Roy said, “a legal department at a European public transportation company needed a document management system but opted to deploy a low-cost case management solution in the hope that the limited document management functionality in the solution would suffice. It proved to be false economy and remedying the error years later proved a lot more expensive.

“With so much choice of technology solutions, it’s easy for enterprises to get swayed by product names and perceptions of their capabilities. It should never be about product terminology or categorisation, but expressly about business requirements.”

Having decided on what IT your legal department or law firm requires, it may be that document management comes pretty high up on the list and expanding adoption of document management from in-house legal to other corporate departments could seem like a very tempting solution.

The in-house legal department, due the nature of the highly censored work that it does, has the most stringent business requirements for document and email management.

Roy said, “document and email management is intrinsic to corporate in-house legal departments. It’s no surprise, given the copious volumes of documents these departments generate on a daily basis. The capability to effectively and efficiently store and manage, often highly confidential and sensitive information, is key to legal departments’ productivity and more crucially, the ability to mitigate business risk.

“Therefore, many corporate legal departments demand and deploy best of breed document and email management systems, preferring them over less functional and inferior products,such as Microsoft SharePoint, which in many corporates are the IT chosen, enterprise
option for this function.”

With an already deployed and proven document and email management system in the legal department, it makes business sense to expand such solutions to other corporate departments – HR Finance, Procurement, and so on.

Legal department the acid test
With legal organisations being a major target of cyber criminals, the security requirements are the greatest. Capabilities such as ethical walls, need-to-know security and internal segregation are imperative to minimising the risk and impact of security breaches. The legal department also has the most need for highly secure internal and external collaboration, including sharing of restricted and confidential documents, within the business and with third parties, such as law firms on their panel and other legal services suppliers. Add to this the substantial regulatory and compliance related requirements; and the need for
lawyers to routinely work remotely and via mobile devices.

The cost rationale
Any solution that meets the extensive needs of the corporate legal department is well worth considering for expansion into other business departments. With the initial investment already made in a document and email management system for the enterprise’s
legal department, the incremental costs of rolling out to a wider set of users across other functional units only pertains to adding more licences for additional PCs/desktops and mobile devices. Especially in comparison to the initial server cost (be that via an on-premises or a cloud solution) incurred for installation in the legal department, the expansion of the solution to other departments can be achieved with relatively less implementation services and resources

Benefit of enterprise-wide document and email management adoption
With digital transformation on the agenda of most corporates, an enterprise-wide adoption of document and email management facilitates a digitised business environment.

This is fundamental to wider data security, smart working, knowledge management as well as the adoption of emerging artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies.  A document and email management system represents a robust foundation upon which
to build and layer other document lifecycle applications to effectively meet the business requirements of the various corporate functions. Take unstructured documents i.e.those that sit in applications such as network file shares, personal hard drives or third-party collaboration tools such as Dropbox. Because they have little or no meta data attached to them, typically only a small percentage are searchable records. However, by deploying a document and email management system, very easily an OCR (optical character recognition) service can be added so that all records, emails, contracts – pretty much any type of document – can be enriched and indexed to make findable within a single application.

All documents and emails in these various departments are stored in specific electronic files or workspaces, providing a single central filing system and full visibility of the data. Access to information in the system is strictly based on a need-to-know basis and
individuals’ authorisations. All the documents are indexed and hence the basic search capability is very similar to the keyword search in Google.

Roy added, “today, many enterprises are grappling with the challenge of managing unstructured data. A best practice document and email management approach can help digitise the data to support improvements in business processes, employee productivity
and enterprise efficiency.”

IT environment
Ascertus partners with leading software vendors, bringing together their knowledge to create expertly integrated document and information lifecycle solutions for its clients, whatever their needs and whatever their IT environment looks like. Speaking of that environment, Ascertus believes it’s important that its customers unlock the technical and commercial value in their existing IT landscape. That means its focus is on helping you get the most out of the software and systems you have, rather than replacing everything with new systems. Ascertus also do everything it can to remove the obstacles to technology adoption that large organisations often face – from working directly with your IT team to integrate your solution with other corporate systems, to running training for new users before, during and after the implementation of a new solution.

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