From general counsel to legal ops professions, ELMs have been gaining attention as law departments confront the difficulty of operating efficiently across multiple disconnected point solutions. The February session of ALM Media’s LegalWeek(year) conference included an hour-long session devoted to discussing the ELM platform paradigm. Moderator Daniel Katz, Elevate’s VP of Data Science and Innovation, led a discussion focused on strategies for process automation and the emergence of the ELM platform. Joining Dan were Jennifer McCarron, Head of Legal Operations, Netflix; Monica Andrews, Vice President, Global Legal Operations, Equinix; and Sharath Beedu, VP of Products, Elevate.

Process Automation and the Path to Digital Insights

The panelists agreed that when seeking to automate processes, deliberation and a thorough evaluation are crucial. Andrews emphasized the importance of adhering to a “go slow to go fast” approach that begins with formulating goals and assessing readiness for change. Next comes determining how information moves and how work flows within your organization. It then becomes possible to roadmap a new process that lends itself to automation, efficiency, and measurement. As part of the process, it is crucial to think through the implications of the changes you intend to make before you launch into making those changes. Change management is a consideration.  As Beedu put it, if users do not adopt a new solution, the money spent has been wasted.

“Frankenstein” vs. Integrated Solutions vs. the ELM Platform Paradigm

The session included a discussion of the merits and drawbacks of various approaches to process automation. McCarron jokingly referred to the Frankenstein approach, whereby an organization adopts a best-in-breed solution for each workflow and then works to enable those independent systems to interoperate and share data.

This approach allows organizations to approach the process automation challenge in stages but inevitably results in siloed data. An organization must then figure out how to exchange data across these independent systems. One should not underestimate the challenges of solving this problem. There are no guarantees that custom-built connections between systems will work or work reliably.

An alternative approach is to use an integrated platform that ties together solutions across workflows. This approach lessens the challenge of connecting solutions from multiple vendors together.  However, an organization that adopts a suite of solutions becomes wedded to that particular platform.

A third approach is the emerging ELM platform paradigm – an ELM that supports solutions for all aspects of the business of law workload, including matter management, e-billing, contracts, workflow, analytics, and risk management. An ELM platform enables an organization to connect existing technology solution investments, bringing data together from across the technology-enabled environment.

How to Proceed

The session concluded with a discussion of what organizations should consider in sorting through these various options. McCarron advised organizations to resist the temptation to aim for comprehensive solutions and instead focus on solving 80% of the organization’s requirements. She also emphasized the importance of iterating, particularly since every 18 to 36 months, the technology will advance considerably. It is critical to take an evolutionary approach whereby your systems and processes change as technology, needs, and resources change.

Andrews underscored that the degree of a law department’s maturity is another key consideration when deciding among options. Young law departments starting with a blank slate will have more latitude to select different solutions; in a more mature law organization, existing systems and technologies will constrain its choices.

The panelists agreed that organizations are gravitating towards safe bets – established companies – rather than newer companies that may offer more advanced solutions. Either way, it is critical to pick companies who will be good partners – no feature is worth working with an unresponsive or unreliable organization.