It seems like the very minute I got my first general counsel title, I started getting pitches for “great solutions” that will make my professional life so much easier. Starting with a lot of e-discovery companies who really got the whole legal tech world going, there’s been a never-ending stream of sales people pitching me new legal tech. Most recently I’ve gotten a ton of pitches for contract management or matter management software.
I’m always slightly amused by these pitches – given the company I work for, you’d think the sales person has better things to do. But what’s more surprising is that when I do check them out how they all seem to push an out of the box solution that should work for everyone. Most can be customized, but at such high costs that it seems as if they are trying to dissuade any customer for making those requests. It made me wonder if one size does fit everyone?
Now, I’ve always been a big believer that in-house legal practice isn’t drastically different across industries (with a few notable exceptions). Negotiating an agreement uses the same skill set regardless if it’s a MSA for software services or for manufacturing of a widget. It certainly requires some specific industry/company knowledge, but the purpose of an indemnity clause remains the same. Likewise, filing a patent or trademark follows the same procedural practice for the computer company as it does for the medical supply company. Could the legal process managed by a solution be so common that it can be solved without customization?
The answer is, maybe – but not likely. I reviewed one CLM recently that required all contracts be negotiated in their portal for versions to be tracked. Fields were not able to be standardized and were not indexed, so reporting on them was not available. Using this software, I would be unable to run reports for the number or total contract value of contracts for the business as a whole, much less broken down by region/department/salesperson. There was no complete automation of templates (from request to esign) without additional custom development work, and to create a nuanced permission set for visibility requires a very complex and problematic tagging system. Off the shelf, this particular solution would not be scalable for me long term.
Similarly, a matter management system that doesn’t allow me to track litigation not by just legal spend, but by department, matter type or even employees involved without extra (paid for) customization adds more work to my desk rather than making it easier. That leads me to tracking legal spend in one system and duplicating that effort in another. Eventually, I’ll stop using the system and go back to my spreadsheet.
My conclusion? For a solution to be worth the time, effort and cost of implementing something, a certain amount of customization is table stakes. That’s why we designed ALOE to be so flexible without costing an arm and a leg.