”Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.”

– Henry David Thoreau

In my previous blog post, “Nightmare on ELM Street,” I shared the many pitfalls of the current ELM solutions on the market. In this post, I examine the flip side of that nightmare by asking, What is your dream ELM? What do you wish your ELM could do?

I meet with many ELM dreamers, and their wish-list is for an ELM that can:

  • Accept, track, and update requests and questions coming to the legal team
  • Route requests automatically to the right team or individual
  • Create a matter or project at the click of a button
  • Suggest the law firms who would best match your criteria based on risk, cost, and expertise
  • Launch an RFP with the right firms for the matter with the click of a button
  • Allow a law firm to pre-fill their standard RFP responses onto the RFP they are responding to
  • Create a pricing proposal by filling out a template that, upon winning the RFP, a firm can use to create a detailed project plan with phases and tasks
  • Simplify adherence to billing guidelines to enable efficient, machine-driven billing and invoices reviews
  • Auto-identify and de-risk your contractual exposure from new and legacy contracts

However, most of the time, trying to realize any of these wishes results in a disappointing reality. Adding capabilities to an ELM often inflicts users with incompatible, disconnected systems or, if they are lucky enough to manage to stitch things together, an illogical user experience. A paradox emerges whereby expanding the functionality of an ELM makes using it harder.

The Legal Industry needs a logical, interconnected solution that delivers a delightful experience to the user. But is it even possible for one vendor to provide the best products across the full spectrum of the legal tech ecosystem? If not, then how do you resolve this apparent paradox of the conflict between getting a best-in-class solution versus a single-vendor platform?

The answer begins by re-conceptualizing the paradox as an opportunity rather than a problem. As explained in this great article I found on Paradox Thinking, addressing a paradox is likely to produce and spur creative solutions. The fact is that achieving an ELM that is at once logical, interconnected, and delightful is not a matter of mutually exclusive objectives.

You may ask, why hasn’t anyone done this before? Well, as many of us know all too well, for each of the different (ELM) platform providers in the industry, each solution has unique capabilities, limitations, and quirks. So, how did Elevate create a platform that ties everything together?

As noted in the ELM Street article, the trick lies in having the courage to think out-of-the-box. At Elevate, we believe in solving the hard problems others may have failed or avoided trying to solve. We assembled a team of product experts with deep experience building platforms in other industries (travel, healthcare, financial, and others) and combined forces with others who have strong knowledge in the legal domain. The solution we came up with is a loosely coupled platform of interconnected modules, each of which can be replaced with a 3rd party product.

There are several possible ways to describe the nuances of a loosely coupled platform. However, this example jumped out during my Thanksgiving dinner last month. Our approach to the ELM platform is similar to a dinner table, with our ELM modules representing the chairs. The modules are loosely coupled to the platform; the platform allows data (food and other items) to be easily shared with others. You can add additional 3rd party modules (chairs) to the platform (table) as needed, or you can also replace a module with another vendor’s module (a folding chair), so you can protect your previous investments or maintain continuity. Imagine the alternate scenario with incompatible platforms and providers – extending the analogy, you would need to remove the arms from an armchair or put another leaf in the table if you wanted to add another chair -- or even worse, put a second table just to get another chair in! Sound familiar?

With a loosely coupled platform, we can have our pumpkin pie and eat it, too! So, wake up from your ELM nightmare and reset your expectations.   I encourage all disrupters to dream, embrace paradoxes, and think out-of-the-box.