(Corrected to remove Kira Systems from the list of companies listed in the product catalogue below)
Editor in chief Caroline Hill and industry analyst and consultant Neil Cameron report on the beta platform launch and road map of Reynen Court, which for many has generated as many questions as answers as to how its services automation platform works.
While I was at #ILTACON19 in Orlando there was one question that I notably got asked repeatedly by CIOs and vendors alike – what do you make of Reynen Court?
The ‘App Store for Legal’ as we rightly or wrongly dubbed it at its launch last year created waves just before ILTA by launching in beta its software platform, which is designed to help law firms and legal departments adopt new and existing technology, running applications either on prem or within virtual private clouds.
Legal IT Insider caught up at ILTA with founder Andrew Klein and sales head Rich Rifkin for a demo of the new platform but also to get answers to a few of the harder questions that come up on a semi-regular basis. Reynen Court may have garnered huge support from some of the most powerful law firms in the world including its original consortium leads and investors Clifford Chance and Latham & Watkins (who have both have skin in the game to the tune of $2m), but it is nonetheless a player that many of the longest established legal tech personalities still simply can’t get their head around.
At the time of our meeting in August, Reynen Court had 48 apps live with a total of around 100 suppliers signed up and Klein told us that the platform is “well ahead of where we hoped we would be.” Participating vendors include the likes of Hubshare; Doxly; Neota Logic; eBrevia; Ping and Avvoka.
Starting with the very basic cost structure, the model, as you would expect, will see law firms paying to use the platform to access vendor product offerings.
“Think about an app store in the most comprehensive sense: it’s a place you can find apps to buy,” Klein says.
As you would expect, it’s not yet that straightforward, and Reynen Court is positioning itself at the outset as an auditory function where Klein says: “We help the buyers get a sense of should the app work – they are not going to blindly trust what we say, but we help them to move to the middle of the field. Essentially, we do the work and publish the score – we use lots of grading methodology to help law firms evaluate the technology according to their own standards: the point of having a consortium is that they have put their standards in. We provide a curated score of useful information for the buyer.”
That score includes the vendor’s security and compliance position and the market maturity of the application.
Law firms and legal departments can search across the listed apps using multiple taxonomies. You can, for example, compare two transaction management apps by their features. Or you can search by matter type (eg litigation); category (eg case management); purpose (improve operations); practice areas (capital markets) and technology (eg process automation).
The platform currently shows any service plans available and in future the vendor will be able to stipulate a price for the contract and the user sign through the platform. Klein says: “In January eCommerce will start.”
The standard contract terms have been agreed by the consortium and mean that any new vendor contract can be instantly compared with the standard to give a ‘favourability score’ such as ‘above 75%’: Klein says: “You don’t want to find out the hard way that it’s a dud deal.”
He adds: “This isn’t about beating up the vendors but trying to create reasonable terms that are acceptable to both sides and you can accept with just one click.”
In January, Reynen Court will have section called ‘Sentiment’: a user comment and review board.
In terms of delivering the apps Klein says of the platform: “It’s a complete operating system for getting the code out of the vendors’ environment and building an enterprise version. Docker containers allow for an app to be offered in a way that makes it completely portable – a cloud controlled by the client, not the vendor.”
He adds: “The beauty of containers is that each firm gets a containerised version of Reynen Court – all the data in all the apps in a private cloud. None of the law firms content ever leaves their environment.”
While it’s not yet this simple Klein says: “You can double click and instal. It’s up to the law firm – they are free to configure the platform for different types of decentralisation.”
In many cases this won’t be possible until vendors price their software on a pay as you go rather than an enterprise cost basis, but Klein says: “That’s the ambition. For it to be easily operable.” Firms will in theory be able to spin up different tools for different deals as and when is appropriate, although that also presupposes a simplicity and ease of adoption that is currently not in keeping with many legal applications.
This is addressed within Reynen Court’s audit function and Klein says: “The most labour-intensive part is around implementation: how hard the app is to install, configure, customise and train for – that’s the closest we get to opinion.”
While longer established vendors may be required to rearchitect their software in order to make it portable, Klein says he sees Reynen Court working for every vendor.
Where the Reynen Court platform most impresses in these early days is in the audit function that Klein first refers to, which has benefited from enormous consortium input, including in the creation of standard legal terms.
It’s all very early days, but the UX of the platform in terms of splicing, dicing and presenting numerous data points is impressive.
Its strength, as Klein knows, lies in the weight of input from the law firms backing it, without which it is another jumped up startup trying to tell bigger players what to do. Standardisation is a worthy ambition but done badly is simply a mechanism for stifling competition.
Concerns quite rightly exist over whether the Reynen Court platform will be accessible to mid-size and smaller firms – one ILTA member suggests that Reynen Court should open source its list of approved vendors. Klein – who I have to tell you doesn’t struggle with any of the ‘hard questions’ – tells us: “We’re going to attempt to offer the platform to all firms, big and small, and corporate legal departments,” but he adds: “We don’t intend to make it free – we’re spending time and money on it. What we don’t know yet but we’re beginning to think about is how we will scale the pricing to reflect heavy users versus lighter users. Do we look at the size of the firm? The big firms hate when vendors charge them more and we are trying to be thoughtful about it. We first need to understand the usage and value and we don’t know how we’re going to price in year two or three, but in year one it’s a fixed fee for all law firms.”
Neil Cameron reports on his findings below.
ILTA Report: Reynen Court
Caroline and I were given a tour of the current beta software, and a discussion on how it is expected to work early next year when it is released.
The challenge with Reynen Court is to describe what they are about without using the term ‘App store’ as a metaphor. So, I shall say this, Reynen Court was founded in September 2018 by ex-Cravath, Swaine & Moore associate Andrew Klein with the aim of providing law firms with a simplified mechanism for selecting and implementing software designed for them with a minimum of expenditure of time and effort.
The simplification operates on two levels:
o procurement / due diligence.
On the technical level the system works by ‘containerising’ (I tried not to use that term either, but it is too difficult) the software such that it is established in an infrastructure-independent form and can be readily spun-up for use by a law firm in its own technical environment. Such environment could be on premise (in virtualised data centres) or in private or public clouds hosted by AWS, Azure, Google or others.
As Klein said at the time: “The important point is that by running containerised applications, firms get all of the benefits of modern cloud computing without having to trust content to third party SaaS platforms.”
It may be though that these technical pre-packaging advantages and simplifications would be benefit enough to subscribe to such a model – assuming it worked. Arguably, however, at least of equal benefit to my mind is the pre-packaging of the procurement process and its related (and tortuous) due diligence activities.
Any procurement of software in a law firm nowadays has to be accompanied by a plethora of contractual, compliance, financial, reputational and regulatory hoops that both take up a lot of time and resource and can take ages.
The Reynen Court platform includes a ‘best practice’ implementation of all such hoops, up front – including contracts and licences, ISO quality standards, general data protection, GDPR, employee equality policies etc etc – and soon to include diversity.
In addition, it also includes what Reynen Court calls ‘curated’ subjective content such as a qualitative review of the software’s capabilities and reputation, the vendor’s financial health and reputation and so on.
Reynen Court argues that this can reduce from months to minutes the time it takes to source and safely deploy new technologies
That was the premise, and the promise, of the business case. The business model is that both vendors and subscribing law firms will pay an annual fee for the service.
It has proven interesting enough to attract $10m in funding, including, $2.1 each from the two consortium co-chair firms, Latham & Watkins and Clifford Chance. Other consortium firms include:
o Paul Weiss
o Cravath, Swaine & Moore
o Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
o Gibson Dunn
o Ropes & Gray
o Skadden Arps
o White & Case
o Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton
o Davis Polk & Wardwell
o Debevoise & Plimpton
o Simpson Thacher & Bartlett
o Weil, Gotshal & Manges
o Slaughter and May
Currently, the product catalogue includes software and services from more than ninety legal tech vendors including:
o Neota Logic
o Iridium BI
o Digitory Legal
o Elevate products ContraxSuite, Cael Project, Cael BillPrep
90 is a lot, and they are very confident that this number will continue to grow apace.
At the moment it tends to include discrete ‘tactical’ software of a certain size and scope, and not the monolithic strategic enterprise-wide systems like Elite 3E or Aderant Expert. These would be far more difficult to containerise (oops) but Andrew Klein was insistent that – in the end – and given enough time, no software would be too big for the platform.
However, implementation issues are not just related to scale, they also relate to complexity. Whereas one might imagine that apps like Doxly and Workshare Transact would be easy to implement, some others – like sharedo and Clarilis – absolutely must be accompanied by a degree of configuration, integration and other implementation services. This makes some of the containers easier to ‘spin up’ than others.
Some of the integration burden can be alleviated because the Reynen Court platform has an element of standard off-the-shelf integrations between and among third-party software applications built in. It was explained to us that by the time it launches, the service will have additional features that will further enhance interoperability, including a comprehensive data hub, workflow engines and other utilities.
Reynen Court takes the integration and interoperability future so seriously that they have just announced the appointment of a new senior executive, Tim Klem, with responsibility for that function.
Priyadarshi Lahiri, Reynen Court’s Chief Technology Officer describes the interoperability and integration challenge and the opportunity thus:
“Every third-party legal tech application has a unique data model. Many solutions have some element of a built-in work flow manager. As a result, getting applications integrated, and then teaching and training users, are enormously taxing activities. A common data hub and universal work flow tools are both on the roadmap for the next version of our platform. Stable, reusable point-to-point application connectors also represent useful low hanging opportunities.”
This all sounds very ambitious, and extremely complex – and easier said than done. However, I must confess that when I first heard about the Reynen Court objectives my initial thought was that it would be very difficult to get as far as they apparently have in the time available. Either way, the proof of the pudding will be apparent early in 2020.
Other useful features that we saw advance beta versions of included similar product side-by-side feature comparisons, and indications of usual forms of terms that have previously been negotiated in the past. The former will initially be done at a relatively high level of feature definition but could be developed over time to simulate elements of a traditional RFI.
The other helps consumers of legal apps to identify where the vendor can be pushed to accommodate their contractual requirements. There are a few interesting themes about these two facets of the service; firstly, they both operate in favour of the buyer over the seller, and secondly, they both potentially spell doom to procurement consultants – like me.
Overall, the current beta looked well thought through, feature rich, well presented and easy to use. I can’t wait to see the release version.