Current or pending reviews by DWF and DAC Beachcroft; BLM writes out FloSuite; startup Maluma makes headway extracting data from Progress/OpenEdge databases
Twenty years ago, CMS was what one longstanding CIO describes as “all the rage”, but it has suffered from a serious branding crisis thanks in part to difficulties in the implementation of early-to-market legal products and lack of real innovation or (in newer entrants case) productisation, leading to firms attempting to build their own systems, sometimes getting their fingers badly burned in the process. CMS also has the unfortunate connotation of turkeys voting for Christmas – a truly successful system is a tough sell, encroaching as it does on work that lawyers typically regard as too specialist to automate.
Attitudes die hard but there is an undeniable and clientdriven wider cultural shift in play. Pressure is growing on firms – no longer just those with volume businesses such as bulk insurance work – to create more efficient workflows, improve their margins, and to provide clients with new intelligence and analytics.
In 2018 we will conduct an extensive review of the CMS market, including who is using what (and why), and speaking to vendors about updates to the products available on the market and their roadmap.
In the meantime, we can reveal that at least two major law firms – DWF and DAC Beachcroft – are either midway through or preparing to review their CMS arrangements, while BLM has nearly written FloSuite out of the CMS/BPM systems it bought nine years ago and Maluma Solutions – founded by former LexisNexis Visualfiles technical consultant David Hartley and architect Martin Reid – has begun winning business helping law firms to manage and leverage data within Progress and OpenEdge systems.
DWF is currently reviewing its patchwork of CMS arrangements led by CTO Richard Hodkinson.
The UK top 30 firm, which has merged more times than many CIOs have had corporate hot dinners (ok, who are we kidding,) inevitably uses a mixture of systems including LexisNexis Visualfiles; KIM from Riverview (just about to go into production after a pilot); and Liberate from Linetime.
As part of a wider holistic IT strategy review kicked off last year that will see the firm become a cloud-first organisation, Hodkinson and his team are now looking at a number of different CMS including sharedo; Thomson Reuters Elite Mattersphere; Visualfiles; and Gartner BPM leader Appian.
Reflecting a current trend towards using more of what you’ve got, Hodkinson says: “CMS needs rebadging – Gartner call it Intelligence Business Process Management. Personally, I think it’s been underrated: some of the systems have been poorly implemented, but whereas a lot of people over the last 18 to 24 months have been looking at AI, they are overlooking the core systems they have, which still have a strong play at creating greater efficiencies. They are being overlooked and are a force to be reckoned with.”
DWF is looking to consolidate its CMS but it is unlikely that one solution will address all the needs of the UK top 30 business. Hodkinson says: “Our current CMS have been extensively developed and over the years it’s become quite complex. There are workflows and documents that may not be appropriate or defunct. With the help of techniques such as Six Sigma, we are starting to re-work some processes, so they are now more effective.”
While LexisNexis is the market leader and the CMS sector continues to be dominated by the likes of Thomson Reuters Elite (Enterprise and, increasingly, MatterSphere), Eclipse, Linetime, DPS Software, Tikit and SOS Legal, Hodkinson says: “There is space for the likes of Appian or sharedo – if they can get critical mass the market is wide open” adding, “I can’t help thinking that CMS will come back into fashion, but it needs vendors and products that are more modern; mobile and ready to be 100% hosted in the cloud. The market is ripe for a big new innovative supplier, maybe with an AI engine woven in that can interface with existing document repositories to help adoption and reduce data silos. The trick will be positioning itself so it’s not threatening to lawyers who are nervous about the march of automation, but creates capacity for them to work on higher value activities; the intellectual work, client relationships, etc.”
It is interesting to note that as part of its overall IT strategy, DWF has done a wholesale review of its applications to see whether it needs to continue shopping in the legal market or if there are vendors outside with efficient workflow systems. Hodkinson says: “We’ve no interest in anything on premises. Anything with mobile capability gives it an edge. And talent – how easy is it to hire and maintain staff to programme and support our future.”
He adds: “The firm is changing shape and model – while we continue to look at the legal market place, other sectors have done workflow to a better degree than we have.
“We are behind the curve for a large firm not having multiple data centres across the globe, so we are cutting to the chase and moving everything into the cloud, both in private installations and Azure. If a vendor has a cloud option like iManage, we’re exploring that.”
DWF is looking at cloud in part because its aggressive growth strategy can mean offices appear at a moment’s notice and currently it can be a struggle to get mobilised, as opposed to simply requiring “a computer with internet connection.” Hodkinson says: “It’s a no brainer to me and I struggle to understand why some people are more reticent. From a security and risk perspective, I can’t compete with a cloud provider in terms of tools, monitoring and talent.”
When it comes to access to talent, the proprietary nature of many legal CMS can be limiting, Hodkinson says, commenting: “We have trouble with access to talent. If you’re a programmer, why would you programme a proprietary system when you could programme Java, .NET or C Sharp? So, we’re looking at solutions to improve our speed to market and possibly to change to a low code or no code system that should be easy to mobilise. Whether that’s a pipedream or not remains to be seen.”
DAC Beachcroft primarily uses LexisNexis Solcase and Visualfiles as well as Proclaim from Eclipse in its Newport office and Tikit P4W in Glasgow.
DAC’s looming CMS review is interesting because it deliberately doesn’t feature in the four-year IT strategy put in place by IT director David Aird, with the intention to put some clear blue water between the firm and its pre-Aird unsuccessful CMS self-build, which led to a £4.39m write off.
In the next 12-18 months Aird says he will revisit the CMS issue, having made process changes to eliminate unnecessary repetition and duplication.
Echoing other CIOs, he says: “We’ve made quite a lot of changes to our processes, which will create efficiencies in themselves. We met with several other firms and we agreed that it’s not the systems at fault – they do what we need – but it’s about better process and management.”
He adds: “We’re doing a lot of work on our processes across the whole group but in the case management system, you might find 10 different ways to do things and multiple documents. We’re stripping out what has been devolved rather than designed, working with one or two consultancies who are helping us with what we’re trying to achieve. That means when we do move to a nice, shiny, web-enabled single system, that system will work better.”
DAC is currently engaged in a review of its practice management system and as we revealed in January, expects to make a decision by the summer, so Aird has a fair amount on his plate, but he says: “We’re looking at reducing the number
of case management systems we use and if we’re getting rid of some why not move to something bigger? In the meantime, we are making the most of what we’ve got before moving to something more sophisticated.”
In 2009 BLM bought BPM and workflow tool FloSuite, building a case management tool within it before IT director Abby Ewen joined the firm.
For the past 18 months the UK top 40 firm has been writing the FloSuite engine out and the system is, Ewen says, pretty much a bespoke CMS now.
Writing your own CMS has proved to be a risky business and risks reinventing the wheel but Ewen tells us: “There’s still nothing on the market I can see that would give us the flexibility we need. I’m sure there will be one day, but when you’re in insurance you have to be so customer centric. Mattersphere is great, but for collecting MI it’s not going to work for us.”
She adds: “If I bought another system we would be starting again to fit the firm.”
While choice is normally a good thing, one of the issues in the CMS market is the overwhelming number of providers and systems. Ewen said: “If you work in insurance and want a new claims system you buy Guidewire. That’s not the same in legal.”
The likes of slicedbread is doing some comparatively cutting-edge CMS work with Keoghs but Ewen adds: “slicedbread is entirely bespoke: I can’t say ‘sell me what you sold to Keoghs’ because I would be going back to the beginning with a different bag of spanners. If you want to review your practice management system there are a small number of providers you can go to and in the likes of digital dictation it’s the same, but case management is a nightmare.”
Ewen and the team are just getting to a point where they are seeing a return on their FloSuite investment and she says: “It fits our purpose and we can now create a client rule in half an hour when it used to take hours of programming. We’re creating a more self-service environment and we will get to the point with MI where the end user can translate what the client needs.”
And with case management set to spread beyond volume work, Ewen observes: “Case management gives you certainty and governance over all the stuff overlaying what lawyers do. If you embed legal project management into case management it makes it more obvious where you’re spending money and who is doing what at what price.”
Feeding off increasing client demand for management intelligence, David Hartley and Martyn Reid left Lexis to found Maluma in 2013, focusing on providing data services for Visualfiles and Solcase but also any Progress or OpenEdge system. In the past 18 months they have launched two solutions: ‘Fusion’ consolidates data and documents from cases and practice management systems that don’t talk to one another into one centralised application, allowing it to be searched and managed; while datasync makes OpenEdge data available for interrogation inside a SQL Server database.
Speaking to Legal IT Insider Jon Roscow, managing director of Laureus Consulting, who is helping Maluma to raise its profile, said: “Firms large or small with one or more case management system struggle to get stuff out of them. How do you manage and leverage them from a business perspective? Also, with the likes of GDPR people are having to be more thoughtful about how they manage data.
“Maluma isn’t trying to replace case management systems, but they understand how to manage data through the cycle and help manage business effectively and not breach GDPR. From chatting with law firms, the issue is that they need better BI and information about how cases are performing.”
While Maluma doesn’t yet have sign off to publicise many of the law firms it is working with, in January it announced that Edinburgh based law firm Lindsays has selected Maluma Solutions’ DataSync to aid them in the transfer of case management data from their Visualfiles environment into their Microsoft data warehouse.
On Maluma’s website, Paul Morris, Solcase/Visualfiles team manager at the Bank of Ireland notably says: “Maluma have some of the most talented developers I have had the pleasure of working with and hope to continue to work with in the future.”
We have already begun engaging with vendors for our in-depth CMS report: if you would like to discuss your CMS offering and roadmap, or you are a CIO and want to share your views or plans, please contact editor Caroline.email@example.com
This story first appeared in our February newsletter.