This story first appeared as breaking news in our January Legal IT Insider/Orange Rag newsletter
Fieldfisher is in the process of rolling out Workshare’s deal collaboration and checklist platform Transact across its corporate department and is taking it on a US roadshow to promote the software to law firms and clients alike.
The UK top 30 law firm, which is positioning itself as a first mover for new technology, started experimenting with Transact in 2017 and is now using it in its London and Manchester offices, having also carried out a live demonstration before Christmas to its M&A lawyers across the Continent.
Speaking to Legal IT Insider, Fieldfisher corporate partner Tim Bird said: “Workshare is going to visit Germany and our other European offices, and they’ll hopefully roll it out and get using it this year.” Transact is charged for on a per deal, not license basis. Bird says that while some of the projects Fieldfisher is working on are targeted at systemic changes to the way the firm works, “Projects like Workshare are not changing what we do fundamentally, but they are definitely enhancing the way we go about our day job.”
Bird adds: “For years we wasted money pinging multiple drafts to and fro in a negotiation. Particularly where you have clients with large internal M&A project teams linking with finance, HR, etc. We find some clients can have teams of upwards of 30 people involved, all with slightly different interests, and trying to keep everyone up to date by emailing the latest versions of documents is a nightmare. What I like about Transact is that the client can get an update by opening the latest version a document on the platform, which automatically creates a blackline against previous versions and a checklist gives you a snapshot in red, amber, and green of where you are with documents at any given time. It’s great to produce a PDF internally, rather than constantly having conversations with different members of client teams only to find they don’t want to pay you for that. It’s about breaking down some of the friction points and always having an update.”
Transact has built in drag and drop capability to enable fee-earners to create a bible at the end of the transaction and Bird says: “For a trainee to create a bible can take a couple of thousand pounds and clients won’t pay for that. That’s an astonishing amount for something that can just be spewed out by this system. It’s about reducing wastage because clients want constant updates and we want a neat record.”
Fieldfisher hasn’t been using Transact long enough to calculate the savings made but Bird says: “I guarantee you we will be saving a lot.”
Fieldfisher will shortly take Transact on a roadshow to the US with co-founder and former Fieldfisher lawyer Owen Oliver. Bird tells us: “We’ll show Transact to a few of the teams we work with and in-house teams. Live demos are useful and form part of my attempts to aggressively overhaul the M&A process. My view is that the only way we will maintain margin is by being more efficient and this is about being up front with client about where we add value. Time is not well spent rummaging around to find the latest version, only to find out that you’ve marked up the wrong version: these are things we deal with day in, day out.”
Transact shows who has worked on a document and is a way of the client keeping track of the level of seniority of its deal team. Bird says: “I’m one of those who for years have shared the entire narrative of time spent with my clients and my view is that we should share it with the client: it keeps us on our toes and helps us to provide a better service for less.”
While Bird is a strong advocate of Transact and hopes that eventually both sides of a deal team use the software, he says: “We can choose to use it on our side even if we’re dealing with a smallish team on the sell side and they might not want to participate. We have seen circumstances where people continue to ping the latest draft over by email. Which is where I come to back to where I started: we want people to get more familiar with these tools.”
Transact also helps junior lawyers gain a much broader picture of a deal and the various stages involved. Fieldfisher is also using Transact within its London finance team for conditions precedent. When in the US Bird will be talking to his clients about Transact and says: “I tend to go to the US a lot, both East and West, so while I’m there it’s nice to talk about something practical and clients always want to talk about cost savings. I see benefit in me taking time to educate clients directly and will be surprised if we don’t win extra business as a result.
Fieldfisher recently rolled out LexisOne, has entered into partnership with SeedLegals and won the FT Innovative Lawyers Award for Condor, it’s alternative legal services platform. Other firms using Transact include Simmons & Simmons, which announced it was using the technology in September 2017.
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