Elite Vantage: The key takeaways as Elite’s message hits home

Elite’s first proper London/Europe conference since it split from Thomson Reuters was a fairly packed affair last week, with its product updates, roadmap and client briefings well received by industry experts, as PMS cloud projects gather pace.

While Elite did host Vantage in London last year, it was a hastily put together event immediately after its acquisition by TPG. There were no business partners present and it was largely an opportunity to ask questions after the shock/not shock split from TR. This year, where over 325 people attended, it was a very different experience, and there were some key takeaways worth making a note of.

Product news

One interesting recent development is that Elite is continuing to leverage AI to solve specific pain points in areas of the workflow that are error prone and labour intensive, such as time entry and billing.

In August last year, Elite announced that it had launched new time entry capability for 3E leveraging the Microsoft Azure OpenAI Service, enabling 3E users to create a draft timecard narrative.

Speaking to Legal IT Insider last week, head of product, Elisabet Hardy said: “In the next few weeks we’re coming out with the inverse generation of phase tasks and activity codes. The lawyer writes the narratives and AI selects the code. The lawyer can say yes or no.” It is anticipated that this will result in far more accuracy and standardisation across the firm.”

In November, Elite also announced that eBillingHub users are now able to use Microsoft Azure OpenAI technology to automatically categorise rejected invoices, accelerating firms’ ability to address them.

There are more announcements along these lines coming down the pipeline, so watch this space. Pickering Pearce director and industry strategic advisor Justin North, who was at Vantage, told Legal IT Insider: “In conversation with Elisabet Hardy it was refreshing to hear that Elite are focusing on bringing AI into functional and process areas that we know are filled with significant pain for firms – even though those areas might not initially feel sexy enough for the AI evangelists. Look out for real transformation of today’s outside counsel guidelines (OCG) compliance pain, and the drastic reduction of downstream manual work (and finance headcount) needed to constantly correct errors that lead to reversals and lost revenue.”

Another key theme of Vantage was Elite’s transition from a data warehouse to a data lake model, in which firms are able to store all of their structured and unstructured data, speeding up the conversion process.

In an industry expert briefing, Elite’s CTO Eric Sugden explained that Elite is using out of the box technology from Microsoft (aka its medallion lakehouse architecture in Microsoft Fabric) whereby data is stored in layers – bronze, silver and gold – to denote the quality of data stored. Bronze is raw, silver is matched, merged, conformed and cleansed to provide an ‘enterprise view’, and gold is highly refined and aggregated for reporting. This is definitely one to watch, although see below for observations as to why you should leave your old data behind.

Cloud migration

It is interesting to see the tone of law firm conversations around cloud migration shift from very theoretical to practical in a short space of time. Practice management systems are typically the last area for law firms to look at when it comes to cloud migration, and many firms are still saying it will take years for them to make the shift. However, there is a very notable tone change from ‘if’ to ‘when’.

Aside from the fact that cloud is the obvious general direction of travel, there are many reasons for this acceleration. One is that Elite has been clear that new developments will be available in the cloud long before they are available on premises. In the Vantage industry experts meeting last week, Hardy said of Elite’s cloud and on prem products: “They have already started to diverge, and our cloud customers are getting updates much faster.”

If divergence is the stick, the carrot is increasing ease of conversion and here Elite is encouraging configuration, not customisation, with Hardy observing: “We already know all the third-party systems you work with.”

North told us: “In an off-piste CFO huddle we had with four firms confirmed that one main reason for moving would be the reduction in customisations which would enable a reduction in maintenance overhead. Moving to the cloud will give some firms the opportunity to simplify their current 3E environments. This may allow those firms to move away from “customisation-on-a-whim” legacy approach that subsequently required a higher headcount or cost to maintain. Watch out for changes to Elite’s design and implementation methodology for firms moving from on-prem 3E to SaaS.”

In the run up to Vantage, Elite unveiled 3E Essentials, which enables faster cloud deployment. Speaking to Legal IT Insider at the conference, Sugden said: “It reduces complexity in your onboarding by giving you the ability to easily input information that you already know about your operational set up and your firm. You know who your bank are and you most likely know how you want to set up your GL segmentation. We give you options and once the intake form is completed, your cloud instance is automatically set up and provisioned according to the data you populated it with to avoid long drawn out strategy sessions on fundamental firm profile information.”

Legal IT Insider has heard behind the scenes criticism that Essentials is a watered down version of 3E that restricts firms from bringing across much of their data. Sugden said: “We have simplified some of the complexity of 3E, which is a very sophisticated system that smaller firms might not need. In the past there has been no ability to turn bits off but with Essentials, we said that we are going to give you configuration options starting from a smaller footprint.”

He adds: “Essentials gives you the five most common ways of doing things based on best practice.”

According to Hardy, Essentials is targeted at firms based on complexity not size, commenting: “We don’t box firms by size or revenue because we have smaller firms that have very complex needs, so we ask what is the level of complexity in which you operate (based on things like single currency or single office.)”

Firms can, apparently, bring all of their data if they wish but Sugden said: “That makes for an expensive conversion.”

Taking this several steps further, North said in the experts briefing: “Most law firms have a huge number of recipe books but only use one recipe and that is a 1970s prawn cocktail. Leave your old data behind.”

Capacity and Resourcing

The momentum of clients moving to Elite’s cloud platform will be somewhat dictated by the capacity of the services market and it was during Vantage that Elite announced the launch of a premier delivery partner program, which will enable its customers to work directly with service partners on end-to-end implementations of Elite’s 3E cloud solution. The first two service partners in the program are Harbor (which now includes Pinnacle) and Helm360.

You can read more about that, including our interview with new chief customer officer Martin Linusson, here: https://legaltechnology.com/2024/03/06/elite-launches-new-partner-program-to-enable-direct-customer-implementation-services/

Law firm internal resourcing was also conversation, and David Sparkes, former CEO of Burlington Media Group and now founder of professional services M&A advisor Millbourn Ross, observed to Legal IT Insider after Vantage: “There’s an educational piece to play out around what ‘moving to cloud’ actually means in terms of resources in law firms. The sentiment is that moving to cloud is as significant as a PMS change, yet the vendors suggest this isn’t the case and the path is less onerous.”

He added: “As firms do move to cloud, there’s a consideration around resourcing and available skill-sets – should firms be thinking about more testing skills internally.”

The client journey

Last but definitely not least, it was interesting to hear at Vantage from clients as to where they are in the cloud journey, during a panel chaired by head of global support, Patrick Hurley.

Mike Giles is UK top 50 law firm HFW’s new chief financial officer, Barry Stanton is interim managing partner at UK top 200 law firm Boyes Turner in Reading; and Anthony Stables is CIO of UK top 100 law firm Forsters.

Forsters is about to go live on the Elite Cloud and you can read that story, including the firm’s cloud journey in full here: https://legaltechnology.com/2024/03/07/london-law-firm-forsters-set-to-go-live-with-3e-cloud-and-ebillinghub/

Stanton said that Boyes Turner’s first move to the cloud was with Microsoft 365, commenting: “We had aging infrastructure and decided the best way to upgrade was to move to the cloud. It made everything much more stable and efficient. We get upgrades on a regular basis.”

The firm has been on 3E since 2010 and signed to move to 3E Cloud at the end of 2023. Stanton said that the firm has outsourced its IT team and uses an MSP to help us to save on costs. It is hoped that regular updates will help take the pressure off its small finance team.

Giles, who has not long been in the role and joined from LexisOne customer Fieldfisher, observed: “HFW has a cloud-first policy and everything is being moved. We already have Outlook 365 and are migrating to M365. We are still using 3E on premises but have a programme to move that to the cloud. We have had little resistance from clients to having our data in the cloud.” Giles observed the importance of HFW’s data being hosted in Western Europe.

HFW is on an old version of 3E and upgrading later this year with the end goal to move to the cloud. Giles said: “Having moved from a firm where the PMS has long been in the cloud I have a clear idea of what I want and using data lakes and being able to bring in data from other systems is exciting.”


Vantage overall gave the impression of a company on the right track. There was unsurprisingly no reference to the redundancy rounds of the past few months and we will be tracking the impact of the cuts on customer service levels. But advisors seem largely happy with the new delivery partner programme.

Peter Owen, founding director of Lights-On Consulting, said: “Elite has clear direction, they know what needs to be done, and they have a unified, cohesive management team. Like all systems there is some way to go on restful API access to everything, but they are on the right track.”

North concluded with a call to action, observing: “The industry needs to evolve faster and advisors need to do a much better job at articulating the commercial drivers for finance transformation to their clients. Change is coming and the law firm finance team of tomorrow will look very different to the one of today.”


1 thought on “Elite Vantage: The key takeaways as Elite’s message hits home”

  1. Simon Jarrett

    For firms on older versions of 3E or firms with complex integrations and customisations that were developed for on-premises 3E systems, the move to the Cloud can be a daunting prospect. For those on older versions of the platform, a key question becomes “do we upgrade on-prem first and then move to SaaS later, or go “big bang” and move to the Cloud as part of an upgrade?” Having integrations with 3rd party systems, plus the inevitable customisations, can introduce significant re-work, for example to go from SOAP API (which is not currently supported for use in the Cloud) to REST API, or discovering that direct SQL queries (for example via stored procedures) are not permitted in a Cloud environment at all. Most firms recognise that the direction of travel for everyone is towards SaaS and the Cloud, and there are obvious benefits to that, but it’s never as simple as “lift-and-shift” – even for firms whose systems and integrations aren’t massively complex. It will be interesting to see how momentum builds and what types of other issues arise as more of the big players start to move to the Cloud.

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