K&L Gates to stay with Elite after SAP U-turn

From a bullish start that saw then chief information officer Scott Angelo claim that K&L Gates’ successful rollout of SAP would be a turning point for the legal industry, a year and a half and a change of management later, the top US firm has shelved the project and decided to stick with Thomson Reuters Elite.

K&L Gates announced in May 2016 that it had selected SAP as its financial management system, with NTT as its systems integrator (SI). NTT is a SAP global services partner but has no known experience to date of SAP roll outs in the legal sector, with Angelo having looked for a SI with experience of implementing SAP in professional services firms.

K&L Gates had plans to implement SAP’s financial and business planning and consolidation software, and in 2016 was trialling its customer relationship management module. However, the SAP selection coincided with a string of partner departures, staff layoffs and a senior management change at the Pittsburgh-headquartered global giant.

Above the Law claimed in an article in February 2017 that 200 staff had been let go across the firm, while in September 2016 K&L Gates announced that Peter Kalis would step down as chair and global managing partner, with the firm electing Michael Caccese and James Segerdahl to succeed him on 1 March 2017 as chairman of the management committee and global managing partner respectively.

In January 2017, Angelo took up a new position as CIO of Fragomen. In January 2018, COO Joe Palermo took up an equivalent position at Lowenstein Sandler. Speaking to Legal IT Insider, Neeraj Rajpal, who took over as CIO in May 2017, said: “A lot of the people involved with the project are no longer here but all I can tell you is that the plan is to stick with someone big in the legal market and to stay with a proven vendor that is entrenched in the Am Law 100 – and that is Thomson Reuters Elite.”

K&L will remain on Enterprise for the time being but has decided to move to Elite 3E, with that move now confirmed on its product roadmap. Rajpal said: “It’s not a question of if we roll out 3E but when.”

He added: “We had a change of management and the new management’s goal and vision is to stay with a more traditional legal technology provider. There is nothing bad or negative about SAP or the company or its product and nothing to do with the efforts made but the new management’s vision is to stay with a traditional legal provider.”

The K&L Gates experience will be a stark reminder to the legal industry that SAP is an ERP beast to be handled with care. The U-turn may also turn out to be a boost for Fulcrum Global Technologies, which remains the only consistent thread in the few successful rollouts of SAP in the legal sector to date.

Fulcrum is credited with saving Baker McKenzie from a failing SAP rollout in 2015 and was the SI at Norton Rose Fulbright, which went live towards the end of 2017.

This story first appeared in the January Legal IT Insider/Orange Rag – if you don’t already receive a free monthly copy you can sign up for your here: http://legaltechnology.com//latest-newsletter/

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