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University of Waterloo’s Legal Department Delivers an Enhanced Service by Streamlining Document & Matter Management Processes

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Canada-based, University of Waterloo is home to the world's largest Co-Op education and talent pipeline, to game-changing academic programmes and research and technology in an unmatched entrepreneurial culture. Today, with more than 42,000 students, Waterloo is #1 in Canada for experiential learning and employer-student connections.

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The challenge

The University’s legal department, comprising of six staff members, was working in a hybrid approach with various digital or paper-based systems and there was not a universal and consistent method to manage the legal documentation. With the department providing legal services to all faculties and departments across campus, a manual environment created a significant amount of administrative work as largely, information had to be shared, maintained and managed in physical files.

When the pandemic hit, with an overnight switch to remote working, a digital approach to legal operation became an imperative.

Elaborating on the need for a digital approach, Nickola Voegelin, General Counsel at University of Waterloo, explains, “There existed a vast amount of corporate and legal knowledge, but we were not able to draw upon it easily because it wasn’t stored in a centralised location. Also, we want to make sure that we are always providing legal advice with one common voice, clearly addressing all areas of the University.”


The solution

Following a request for proposal, Ascertus and Xakia presented a joint cloud-based solution to help address the University’s challenge. The Xakia legal matter management system would help track all the individual matters – right from in-take and triage through to completion – with all the information centrally residing in the iManage Work document and email management system.

Nickola adds, “Both Ascertus and Xakia presented and demonstrated a compelling joint solution. Any initial concerns that we had about how smoothly the two systems would work together were instantly put to rest during the demonstration. We could see that the integration between Xakia and iManage would be seamless.”

A cloud-based solution was the obvious choice. During the pandemic, the team would be able to access iManage Work and Xakia from anywhere, at any time and from any device. There was no burden on the University’s IT team to implement the joint solution on-premises. Routinely, the management and maintenance of the solution would be taken care of by iManage and Xakia. Most crucially, the joint solution met the security requirements of the University’s IT department, which was a critical element within the legal department’s decision-making process.

Prior to implementation, Ascertus worked closely with the University’s legal department to ensure that the right data would be migrated into the new joint solution. Given the nature of the data that the University holds, this was an extremely important exercise as there were many policy and privacy considerations that needed to be taken care of when preparing the data for migration.

Ascertus undertook the data migration in an organised and phased manner, taking into account the time zone difference and staff vacations during July and August 2021.

“In any system deployment, determining the data that needs to be migrated and then organising it so that it is immediately accessible for the end users is crucial to the success of a project,” commented Jon Wainwright, Sales Director at Ascertus. “The University fully understood this importance and collaborated with us painstakingly as we guided them through the process.”

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The benefits

The new solution has completely changed the way the University’s legal department functions. In iManage, the University has a digital, single, centralised repository for all legal matter-related information. Already, there are hundreds of thousands of files in iManage Work and this number is growing.

The legal team is able to easily collaborate with colleagues in other departments on legal matters. For instance, they are able to create shared folders in iManage Work, enabling the department’s internal clients who are located in various offices across the University, to drag and drop matter-related documents into the relevant shared workspaces. Previously, the team used the file sharing app, sendit, to exchange information with other offices, which wasn’t easy as not all the departments used this software.

The team is able to easily apply security policies to workspaces, matter folders and even individual files and documents so that only authorised individuals can view and access the required information.

The legal team is actively exploring the rich functionality of the joint solution, which will greatly assist the department in establishing best practices so that they can deliver a consistent and efficient service to all the faculties in the University.

For those team members who use the Apple Mac computer, iManage Work is introducing the same functionality as that for Microsoft Windows.

Nickola concludes, “iManage proved to be a God send for us during the pandemic when we were working from home. We are still relatively new users of the solution and are exploring the various functionalities and features to make continuous improvements in the way we operate. We are focussing on stretching the four corners of the system so that we can draw maximum return on our investment.”

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