Well hello, Project X!
“Game-changing” is an overused term wheeled out by copy writers when they run out of different ways to say “new”, but in the case of Thomson Reuters’ legal workflow solution “Project X” – which today (27 February) finally sees the light of day after three years in development – that term is justified.
‘Panoramic’, as we now know the worst kept secret under the sun is called, has been designed to meet law firms’ complex needs on pricing; cost and process; project management; and knowledge and data. It leverages TR’s deep resources in everything from practice management to practice notes.
The brainchild of PLC editor David Rawson, Panoramic enables fee-earners to plan how a transaction or case will be resourced, how much it will cost and what it should be priced at. Once those figures have been decided (the UI is impressive) the system will track and flag the impact of any changes down the line so that they can be revisited as a transaction or case twists and turns.
Created with heavy input and testing from law firms throughout its development, Panoramic includes brand new customisable matter maps created in conjunction with the PLC editorial team, which breaks down the stages it takes to execute a legal matter, with embedded guidance both in terms of practice notes and links to precedents – both PLC/TR’s and the firm’s own previous documents.
TR has invested a lot of time in creating out-of-the-box sequential matter map tiles, but firms can also switch tiles around and create their own maps from scratch.
Once a matter is planned, partners can assign tasks and there is a dashboard that gives them easy visibility into the projects currently on the go and where those projects sit against budget.
No wonder, then, that during our ahead-of-release demo, Elizabet Hardy, vice president of product management, told Legal IT Insider: “A lot of our clients, when they see Panoramic for the first time, say, ‘This is the holy grail’.”
Law firm partners
Panoramic has been developed in conjunction with two major law firms – LeClairRyan and K&L Gates, which Thomson Reuters has turned to over a long period and refers to as their “co-design” partners. There are a further 10 firms in beta testing across the UK and US and, out of those 10 firms, 108 fee-earners are using the product.
A further 22 law firms took on the role of innovation adviser, giving lighter touch input on the product and its development.
Hardy said: “Having a process like this with our clients has helped us to validate pain points and informed the design. Both we and they believe this is a game-changer – it’s a product like no other – it really has been designed and built by lawyers for lawyers.”
She added: “This gives us the ability to connect the business of law with the practice of law through data and we believe that we’re uniquely placed to do that. We’re incorporating data from our financial system coupled with guidance and providing a new way for lawyers to work. It doesn’t replace PLC or 3E but our clients have been long saying ‘you have great business operational systems at the same time as the best know-how and content that helps lawyers practice more efficiently. You should bring them together’: in Panoramic that's something we've done.”
Who is it for?
Partners, fee-earners and pricing directors.
Thomson Reuters has spent time working out what each of those groups needs and has come up with this:
– partners need the ability to communicate with the client; manage their team; focus on high value activity; scope and price new matters; and achieve matter profitability.
– Fee-earners, on the other hand, need to deliver work; master precedents; find guidance; track and report their time; and show value.
– Pricing directors need to support the firm’s profitability; help to achieve the goals set; and develop best pricing practices.
Who is behind it?
Rawson describes Panoramic as “my life’s work.”
He tells us: “I came up with the concept six years ago when at Eversheds and joined PLC to set up the restructuring and insolvency practice: part of the reason for that was that I had a belief that we ought to be able to benchmark knowledge.”
How does it differ from what’s out there?
There are a number of workflow solutions and case management systems available in the market but Rawson describes them as “sausage machines” that work within high volume scenarios but break down in complex M&A or litigation where there’s no defined methodology and you have to react and adapt to change. Or, as Rawson puts it, “where you don’t know what you don’t know at the outset.”
He adds: “We’ve seen a fundamental shift from the lawyer saying, ‘here is my bill and it’s more than we agreed, please pay up,’ to the client saying, ‘tell someone who cares’.”
“Lawyers need in-the-moment financial information and a multi-disciplinary team that is able to respond immediately. How they handle that, well that’s what this is all about.”
More about the workflow tools
From Thomson Reuters Elite 3E the fee-earner is able to see the budget and deadlines – or what Rawson describes as “what’s on fire”: where a task is against budget and the time agreed for completion.
If there is an alteration along the way and someone takes £8k of work out of the matter, the budget and work plan are connected, so you will be notified of the impact that will have on the final figure.
The realisation breakdown really is presented in a way that lawyers can understand (TR consulted with a UX team and have even used a colour scheme that’s “not boring”).
The work plan consists of a “tile a task”, e.g. one tile equates to one step in litigation. You can drag and drop the tiles, and each block retains its own reactive guidance – if in a piece of litigation you stipulate that there is a single expert, the nuanced matter engine will adapt to that automatically. The same applies as you discover more information about the case or transaction.
Assigning tasks appears to be fairly easy, and each tile comes with a check list (for example, to remind fee-earners they will need a cheque for court at this stage of filing). Task guidance, precedent and best practice are neatly woven in.
A sophisticated search tool enables fee-earners to search for similar documents of their own.
One of our favourite bits is that you can start a timer against a task that will then automatically be entered into your 3E time sheet. A graph shows how near or far you are off your billable goal.
In-built analytics means that the system can help you price more accurately next time.
Which practice areas are covered by Panoramic so far?
Initially the deepest content will be in private M&A and dispute resolution with less detailed content across an array of other practice areas. This will obviously grow over time.
Where will it live?
The second half of this year will see TR look at integration with Microsoft Office and how the platform hooks into Word.
Perhaps one of the other coolest things is that TR has realised that tech often fails not because of the tech itself but because of the lack of resource and project time within law firms to roll out said tech.
Hardy says: “We’ve carved out a separate set of senior editors from PLC that are focussed on building matter maps. Nothing about creating the matter maps is difficult but we can help: lawyers can teach lawyers.”
We’ve tracked Thomson Reuters’ restructure over the past year and at times it has been anything but smooth sailing as the publishing giant refocuses along customer segments, as opposed to product lines.
The restructure has shaken the market’s faith in TR and in some cases left giant holes in customer plans, but we predict that Panoramic will prove hard to resist.
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