Common challenges with legal data and document management
Is your legal team juggling more responsibilities than ever with fewer resources? Tracking down contracts, managing litigation, and assisting with legal projects are critical activities, but can consume hours of valuable time. If your team would benefit from improved security, centralization, oversight, and collaboration for your legal data and documents, CSC can help.
Join us for a free, recorded webinar as we explore five common challenges organizations face related to legal data and document management, and discuss best practices for enhancing your processes in 2020.
Additionally, our experts will discuss the following topics:
- Contract renewals, searching, and reports
- Litigation routing, response dates, and collaboration
- Document management and data capture essentials
- Information on the right data security questions to ask a vendor
Annie: Hello, everyone, and welcome to today's webinar, "Top Five Challenges for Organizations Lacking a Matter Management Solution." My name is Annie Triboletti, and I will be your moderator. Joining us today are John Bloxom and Andrea Jonaitis. John is a senior director of product management at CSC. He collaborates with customers, prospects, and business stakeholders to shape CSC's product development vision and strategy for several business lines.
Andrea is a sales engineer in the corporate and legal solutions group at CSC. Since joining CSC in 2017, Andrea has specialized in global subsidiary management and entity management, working with prospects to present an accurate and clear scope of services, including helping subsidiaries stay in compliance as well as demonstrating CSC entity management. And with that, let's welcome John and Andrea.
Andrea: Good morning, everyone.
John: Good morning. So thank you all for taking the time to attend our session today. Together, Andrea and I are going to be taking you through a series of matter management related topics as shown here on the agenda. Fundamentally, our goal is for you to walk away from today's call with a better understanding of what a matter management system is, how a solution might provide potential benefit to your law department, and some practical recommendations both with respect to implementation and also selecting a vendor.
We're going to start by defining matter management at a high level. We'll then review common challenges faced by law departments who do not currently have a solution in place. From there, we're going to provide a series of practical recommendations in terms of assessing the different platforms out there, and we'll also cover some best practices relative to implementing this kind of software solution. After there, we're going to talk a little bit about CSC's offering and jump into a quick demo, and then we'll tie everything up with a Q&A session.
All right. So the next thing that we're going to talk about is what constitutes matter management. Many of you on today's call may already be familiar with the term, but in short, matter management refers to software that is used by corporate law departments to manage legal projects. We say legal projects deliberately because the definition of a matter is loose.
It could refer to litigation, either defensive or offensive. It could refer to a contract or a contract request from another business area. It might refer to some sort of a deal or a transaction. It could be a claim. It could be a wage garnishment. It could be a subpoena. A good solution is flexible in this regard. So it's going to allow you to capture data, manage documents, collaborate with others, and run reports based on all of the different types of matters that are relevant to your law department.
Another important thing to note is that whereas matter management traditionally refers to software used by an in-house corporate law department, case management typically refers to software used by a law firm. So there's some overlap. Both types of software cater to different audiences and provide different capabilities. So with that, I think Andrea is going to take us through some of the common challenges for departments that don't have a solution in place.
Andrea: Absolutely. Thank you so much, John. And with the flexibility that you have with a matter management system, there are so many uses and ways that this technology can really help you to create some efficiencies to centralize your data and information to help you with workflow with your matters and your project management. John and I have the pleasure speaking with clients constantly who are considering a matter management platform for the first time, and we hear a lot of common challenges come up in those different discussions as a result of not having some type of formal solution in place for managing these types of matters or projects.
The first challenge that we hear quite often is a lack of a central repository. John just highlighted all of the different types of things that could constitute a matter, and with all of these various types of matters that you could be managing across your business and all of the elements that are included in those matters, it's really critical to have these items easily accessible and preferably all in one location.
You might have data related to your matters. You might be storing documents and files or emails that are critical for the workflow of these different projects. You might have contact information, notes that you need to share, tasks, or workflow that's critical for keeping yourself organized as you move through these projects. And a matter management system is going to help you out with that.
For your contracts, you need to be able to easily identify your renewal date, the parties involved, your contract terms or expiration dates, but you're also going to want to track other details for the other different types of matters, such as your garnishments, your real estate projects, or your deals. And the data and the documents and the tasks that are all associated with all of those different types of matters are going to be different from matter to matter. It's not a one-size-fits-all solution.
So, of course, the documents, the emails, the tasks, those notes, all of those other components, they're also critical for your storage. And it is not helpful for you if you have all of these different silos, which can make your oversight incredibly challenging. It also opens your business up to risks associated when you don't have the proper visibility or oversight into the matters as a whole.
If you have to go into all of these piecemeal locations to look for the different components of your matters, it just complicates your processes. It reduces your efficiencies, and again, it makes that project management quite difficult, not to mention the incredible waste of time that you'll spend kind of sifting through all of these different various storage places and trying to identify all of the components of your projects.
And hand-in-hand with that comes confusion. Do I have the most recent version of a document or a contract? Did my colleague complete the task that I requested of them? Who is addressing a particular need, or perhaps worse, are multiple people working on the same thing and we're losing efficiencies in our process? These types of projects overlaps, and manual processes can be avoided with a proper matter management solution.
Ideally, the type of platform that you select for your matter management will help you to automate the distribution of matters to your teams. It's going to help you keep your colleagues informed with the ability to assign work or track tasks and keep your dates organized. It can help you to have complete visibility on the lifecycle of any matter, such as staying on top of a contract from the initial draft to the final execution and even beyond that. Also, when multiple people are working on these different pieces of these legal projects, Excel, Dropbox, share drives, these are common resources that we hear for managing your matters, but they might not be the right resources for your collaboration needs. They lack the functionality to assign or track your tasks to share emails, to exchange notes seamlessly, or to get automated reporting that you might need.
So that brings us into the next portion of this area for concerns over security, access, and audit visibility, and the reporting. Who has access to these projects, the data, the components, the documents of these various matters that you're managing? Perhaps some people only need to have a read-only visibility or access into your projects or contracts or matters versus the team who actively manages the data components or the documents of those items. What changes are being made? When are they happening? Can you easily discern who's making changes throughout the workflow, who made the last set of changes or have that peace of mind that only authorized people are making adjustments to, again, your data, your documents, and the components of these projects?
Reporting is critical. As you know, having your data, your documents, tasks, emails, notes, all of those items assemble them together is important, but is it functional when you need it to be? Do you have an analytical accessibility that you can quickly understand? Can you quickly understand, for example, your answer dates for your litigation or again contract expiration dates? Do you have a way to take that analytical view of your matters without having to manually collect that information from each of your different data sources?
And we touched on security a bit, but it's so critical, with all of the changing regulations, data breaches, privacy concerns, security, confidentiality, accessibility of your data and information is of the utmost concern. Not only do we need internal security within our own organization or the ability to control user permissions, we might also want to collaborate with third parties on these matters. It's imperative that your matter platform provides you with an appropriate ability to do so, bringing your outside counsel or your auditors into these projects, and allowing them to collaborate with you in that role-based provision that you define.
Emailing litigation or contracts or matters to your outside partners can open a company up to other risks and challenges, not to mention a slew of security concerns. A quality matter management platform, not only allows you to email your data or documents or information from a platform, but, again, it's going to provide you with that appropriate level of access for bringing those third-party people into the application in that limited capacity, not just to meet your collaborative needs, but also to address those security concerns that are so prevalent when you're utilizing some type of a system like this.
Let's move into some considerations when you're evaluating matter management solution. John's going to take us through some of those considerations that we hear most often that you might want to think about as you're going down this path of exploring a matter management system.
John: Thank you, Andrea. So what we're going to get into specifically are some of the decision criteria that come into play for departments that are out there looking for a provider in the matter management space. In front of us is a checklist which underscores some of the important items to consider, and we'll unpack each of these in more detail throughout the course of today's presentation. At a high level, to run through this list, you'll want to consider the following. So first and foremost, technology that meets your needs.
Ideally, you're going to want to select a platform that meets your needs today but also has the capacity to grow with the evolving needs of your law department. More specifically, is the solution able to scale in terms of your user base, your data capture requirements, your ongoing need to collaborate with other business areas and outside counsel and so forth? Additionally, is it the right fit? Our implementation team and our product managers often hear from middle-sized organizations who have purchased a top tier sophisticated system, but it turned out to be difficult to implement effectively and might be overblown and costly with respect to their needs. And we're going to dive into that specifically onto the next slide.
Security is something that Andrea brought up. This factor becomes more and more relevant with each passing day. Does the provider that you're looking at have a credible security stance? Will their solution provide you with granular controls around who can do certain things and access certain content? If you have external auditors or an in-house information security team, will it satisfy their increasingly stringent requirements?
Document management and searching is another important consideration, and what you'll want to know here is whether the system offers you robust document management capabilities and a simple way to search, things like check-in, check-out, version control, as well as searching the contents of the documents themselves.
Ease of reporting. Is the system going to offer you the flexibility that you need in terms of creating and scheduling reports?
Collaboration. Can other areas of your business partner with you on a given project? Can outside council be permissioned in?
Integration is another important consideration. So how simple is it to get information in and out of the platform, either with respect to your email, client, your service or process, or other downstream applications that need to talk to it for lack of a better term?
The ability to configure fields. So are you able to easily implement changes yourself to capture new information or to change the information that's being captured by your team?
Emailing is something that we'll get into in a bit more detail as well. But when you engage outside counsel, there's a spend management element that needs to be tracked. Is the solution going to allow you to do this and provide you with meaningful ways to reduce your legal spend and your operational in-house expense?
Cost is another important variable. Of course, obviously, with any buying decision, there are budgetary considerations. This is particularly applicable to those law departments that don't have existing system in place today.
Expertise and support. So with regard to prior implementations for organizations like yours, what expertise does the vendor offer? What training is available, and does that come at a cost?
And then lastly, on this slide, we have cancelling service. So this is an interesting thing to consider, and it's something that quite frankly is often overlooked. If things don't work out with your provider, is there an expense associated with extracting your data and documents? We've seen law departments hit with some hefty price tags in these situations, which often come as a surprise.
So we're going to unpack now kind of the technology aspect of your decision. And this slide distinguishes between the two common approaches employed by matter management providers. Fundamentally, there are two options available. You have installed software and you have browser-based.
So installed software is often referred to as on-premises deployment. Browser-based is also known as cloud-based or software as a service. The latter term also has an acronym that you may have heard, which is SaaS. And we're going to take a few minutes kind of breaking down the distinctions between those two approaches.
So with respect to installed software, this refers to a vendor installing software that you maintain in your own network environment. This affords your organization greater control over the underlying infrastructure but at a substantial cost. So deployment is often costly. It's also often time-consuming and dependent on internal IT resources within your company. And it may pose challenges with respect to access being limited to certain computers on certain networks for certain individuals.
Another thing to consider here is that enhancements and upgrades will likely need to be deployed by your internal IT resources, and that could entail weeks or months before you realize the benefits of new feature, bug fixes, and the like. In many respects, this is kind of the older traditional model of software installation.
On the right-hand side of the screen, you can see a reference to browser-based solutions. By comparison, this is something that we've seen corporate law departments gravitating to in mass quite some time. And rather than deployment on your company's infrastructure, this is more of a plug-and-play approach. So through a username and a password or through single sign-on and a mouse-click, you connect to our web-based software in an online manner. There's not any operational expense associated with hosting and maintaining the software. There's no complicated installation process. And upgrades are typically deployed in a seamless manner, meaning that your department can realize those benefits immediately. So whether you refer to it as browser-based, SaaS, or a cloud solution, this is where we've seen the market heading for quite some time.
Security. The importance of this particular factor simply can't be understated in today's environment. Nobody wants to be on the front page of "The Wall Street Journal" because of compromised data. And at the same time, most law departments need fairly granular controls with respect to what actions each individual user can take, what information they can see, and how each of those actions can be audited should the need arise.
As a quick plug, CSC's solution is used by some of the largest financial institutions on the planet, and we picked those boxes. So specifically, we have a
SOX type certification. We have stringent data access processes and controls. We have secure server environments. We have a business continuity plan and disaster recovery processes. And we also undergo third-party application penetration testing on a regular scheduled basis. So we could speak volumes about security today, but that's not the explicit focus of today's call.
So on the screen in front of you, you'll see a couple of different questions that you should certainly ask when evaluating a matter management provider. And before you make a buying decision, you absolutely need to explore each of these. If you're considering CSC, we'll be happy to talk you through this with your information security team and kind of talk about how we measure up.
Andrea: And this is a great segue into our next section, which is considerations for your document management and your searching within a matter management system, because all of those areas that you just responded on are so crucial, especially when it comes to, again, accessibility, visibility, the reporting capabilities, not to mention, of course, that disaster recovery system.
We kind of highlighted the fact that a quality matter management system is going to provide you with a centralized repository, but that repository is not just for the data that's associated with your projects. It's also information about your documents or your documents themselves, the other elements that are associated with those legal matters.
It's crucial that the centralized database provides you with that easy access to all of your documents and files, enables you to collaborate and have different ways to search within those documents, also is going to perhaps report upon the data elements about your documents. So not only do you need to report upon your project level details, but all of the subdocuments and files that are critical and associated with those projects.
You'll want to have some considerations when you're managing your documents. You'll consider, for example, how long can you expect documents and files to be stored? If you upload a document, is it perpetually stored? Is there a date limit, when the document expires and would be purged from the system? In our conversations with clients considering CSC's matter management platform, John and I, unfortunately, have heard from companies who were surprised or caught off guard when receiving a notification from their incumbent provider that their documents and files are going to be purged.
This situation can leave you in a scramble. Having to act quickly, trying to back up your document system, ensuring that your data and your documents and files aren't lost, that's certainly is not a good position to be in when you find that your documents are going to expire after a certain period of time. Also, consider the indexing system, the way that the documents are associated to your projects or how they're organized within the system. Are they organized in a way that makes sense to you?
Do you have the ability within the system to associate documents or index them directly through the relevant legal matters or the projects, or are they just kind of lumped together in one folder or one disorganized place? Would you prefer a linear view of each document that's uploaded into the system, or would you rather see, for example, subsequent pleadings that are grouped all together under one case?
You also need a system that supports all of the document or file types that you're going to want to be storing. Are you restricted to just the most common types of files, or can you really store any type of document and file that needs to be captured? We're living in a world where it's not just PDFs and Word and Excel documents but a tremendous number of file types you might need to store. And your system needs to be able to work with that.
For those experiencing challenges with your documents searching, don't just settle for any type of a matter management platform. There are so many solutions available, and they all have their different nuances and features. Solutions will be available to allow you to search your documents in a variety of different ways. Some of those ways are things like a document title search or a keyword or a phrase within the contents of your files. Perhaps there's a company or an individual name you need to be able to find or some type of an upload or an edit date, but also any other type of documents attribute or a piece of information.
Some platforms, such as CSC's matter management platform, for example, they'll allow you to not just customize the fields of information that you store about your projects but again to capture custom data elements that are tracked or reported about your documents and files. So that will give you the flexibility to really search by any other document attribute field that's important for you.
And it goes without saying that data is crucial to managing your business and that data drives success and allows you to make sound and educated decisions when running your business. Getting data into your matter management platform is great, but once it's in there, what can you really do with it? Consider the functionality that's provided from a reporting standpoint and be sure that the system that you pick will be able to meet those various reporting needs.
How is the data in the platform accessible? Again, when you try to extract your data through your reports in a meaningful or analytical way, do you have the ability to complete that process seamlessly in a user-friendly fashion, or does the thought of building reports in your system sound daunting and just very time-consuming for you? Nobody wants to use a system that's difficult to update, difficult to understand, and difficult to pull out those meaningful data elements through reports.
Are you able to report upon your custom needs? Really, matter management platforms cannot be a one-size-fits-all solution. You have to be able to add in your components of your projects that are important for your own tracking and reporting purposes. And from company to company, those needs are different. Also, in the future, those needs are going to change. So the system that you have today and the way it's organized today is not going to be the same as what you need from a system tomorrow or next year. So keep that in mind.
Can you report upon those custom fields, including the custom data elements, or are you really just limited to canned reports based on the standard fields or the standard stagnant setup of a matter management platform? Do not pigeonhole yourself into a system that is not flexible to meet those needs.
You also want, of course, a solution that allows you to dynamically build new reports on-the-fly, not just those canned reports, but having administrative power or super users that have the ability to modify those existing reports and to provide that oversight for your key team members and stakeholders while you're simultaneously controlling, again, that access to that type of information through the role-based permissions.
If your system has role-based permissions, then reports should also be role-based. That seems pretty simple to say. If there's a user that only sees a subset of your legal matters or your projects or your contracts, then when they run a report by virtue of those security settings, they should only have access to that same information through the reporting modules. You would want to make sure that all of the data in the solution is reportable, whether you need to report on legal spend with an e-billing component if you want to get a sense for your volume of garnishments that have been received in the last quarter, for example, or you need to know a list of your contracts that are due to expire in the next 90 days and what the renewal terms of those contracts are. There should not be limitations within your platform that would hinder your ability to understand or report on those points in a meaningful way.
Another bullet on this slide here is public versus private, again, ultimately controlling who has access to the reports that you're designing within the solution. And then lastly, the ability to save reports and run them again, saving reports templates so that you don't need to rebuild your criteria or parameters over and over again, and even having the ability to schedule reports can help you to automate and streamline your reporting processes. It serves as a way for proactively receiving insights about all of those components that you're managing throughout the lifecycle of your projects.
One of the most popular features of CSC's matter management platform that I hear from clients or prospects when I provide demos of our tool is the ability to not only design those reports but to schedule them to be delivered in an automated fashion. Who doesn't want to come into work on a Monday morning and have all of the insights and information that you need proactively in your email box without even having to log into your platform to run that report or to remember to execute those items? Our solution allows for organizations to build those reports and then dynamically email them on a routine basis in a secured fashion so that really that scheduling capability turns into that automated alerting, again, of having that transparency and oversight into your legal projects.
John: Well stated, Andrea. So reporting is certainly a core consideration. Integration is another thing that you need to factor into your decision in evaluating a provider. Ensure the platform that you select is not going to be effective if it's an island unto itself. Your department uses multiple tools, and the folks that you interface with in other departments also use multiple tools. And information really needs to flow freely between them. If it doesn't, your colleagues are likely to throw up their hands in frustration.
So at a high level, some of the important things to consider are things like how information enters the system. To that end, is there a lot of manual routine? Do you have the ability to do automated imports or synchronization of information on a periodic basis? How does information flow out to other downstream systems that might need to consume it? So to frame these questions in a practical way and to bring it into focus, I'm going to spend a minute or two talking about how CSC's system accomplishes this. We're going to talk about three or four different examples.
The first of those is email integration. So a tremendous amount of correspondence comes through via email, whether you're working in Outlook or another email client. It's very nice to have the ability to save the message and its associated attachments to a matter. Oftentimes, this is a series of time-consuming manual steps that requires you to manually download an email, upload it to the matter management solution, you know, can basically take a lot of time to accomplish. So having kind of native integration with your email client is definitely a value-add.
Second, we have service or process integration. So this is something that's unique to CSC and other registered agents. In our role as registered agent, we're on the frontline of receiving inbound litigation and other legal documents, so things like garnishment, subpoenas, bankruptcy pleadings, and the like. Taking those documents and making them available electronically in our solution occurs automatically, and it's based on the instructions that you provide with respect to who should receive them. So we build a matter when the document is first received in the matter, and then as subsequent pleadings are served, they're automatically channeled to the appropriate contacts with no effort required on your part, which again is kind of a time-saving mechanism.
Third, we have outbound document feeds. So if there's a certain type of documents that need to be transmitted to a downstream system, whether it's a payroll team that handles garnishments, a subpoena compliance group that's handling inbound records request, or an ELM service provider that percentages high-profile litigation, our solution allows you to accomplish that.
And then fourth, we have the e-billing component. So this is a classic example where a platform should not only give you the ability to receive, manage, and approve inbound invoices, but it should also allow you to transmit those approve invoices to your accounts payable system. Once those invoices have been paid, our system provides you with the ability to pass the information back for kind of a complete and holistic picture of your actual legal spend. And naturally, that feeds downstream reporting and analytics.
So we went through a lot there, but all are important factors to consider when evaluating a solution. To summarize, you don't want your team or other areas of your business rekeying or manually uploading information if you can avoid it. At the end of the day, integration refers to the seamless intake of data and documents and also the ability of the platform to have a seamless exchange of information with other downstream systems. Any credible solution in the marketplace is going to bring those capabilities to the table.
So moving on to our next topic, we're going to unpack collaboration a little bit. We hit on this topic briefly earlier during the presentation, but it warrants a bit more exploration. One of the core benefits of a matter management solution is getting folks to collaborate in a more efficient and effective way, on a practical level, getting out of email exchanges that pile up with subsequent replies and document revisions, getting out of spreadsheets, and getting out of battling access to files on a shared network drive.
You really need to consider the needs of your law department and who your team interacts with on a frequent basis. That could include other areas of your business but also the law firms that you retain for different types of matters that come through the department. Namely, do you have the ability to grant other departments access? Can you control what they're able to do? Do you have visibility into the actions that they perform through an audit? Do you have the ability to farm out important work and set expectations and deadlines that generate notifications to the folks managing those tasks?
For outside counsel, do you have visibility into their work product or they're drafting on your behalf? Can you see their correspondence with opposing counsel? Is there a way for the firm to provide periodic updates to your in-house legal team without it becoming buried in email? So those are some of the things that you'll want to kind of bring to the forefront as you evaluate different providers in this space. I think with that, Andrea is going to take us through kind of another consideration, which refers to the long-term scalability for a solution.
Andrea: That's right. And scalability is critical, and I kind of gave a little teaser for scalability and the importance of scalability. The product that you select to be your matter management solution, it needs to be a long-term solution. And as the needs of your organization change, your system needs to be able to change as well.
You do not want to be stuck in a system that stays rigid and inflexible or cost you more money in order to make those necessary changes that are going to be taking place as your business grows. That's just a given. There's no getting away from the fact that your needs will change, the needs for your product will change, and hopefully, that's not going to cost you more to have that natural growth. What happens down the line if there's a shift in your processes and a new need arises for tracking or managing your projects differently?
Some things to think about relative to scalability include things like the ability to update your custom fields or to track new data points. Not only do I want to set the data elements that are captured today with my needs today, but I want to be able to change that a year from now or two years from now and add new things. Can you modify that yourself or are you at the mercy of your vendor to help you with that? Do you need some complicated process of syncing up with your vendors' IT team or support teams? Is there a cost that's associated with that? Is that going to be an unforeseen cost that, again, the natural growth of your needs have changed and now that's going to cost you to fix it? We certainly hope not.
With document retention, is there a limit to the number of documents or ultimately a storage capacity that you can use? Are you going to reach that threshold or is it truly unlimited? Can you make it so that the right parties can see those documents? And if those parties change, can you easily adjust that as necessary, or again, do you need the vendor to step in and reassign those role-based permissions or the level of access for those users? Hopefully, not, but again, there might be the license fees or other complicated procedures for fixing that. So keep that in mind.
With document retention, again . . . I'm sorry I already talked about document retention. Let's go on to your document search capabilities. Do you have the ability to filter your criteria, or can you search in lots of different ways, or is it limited to just kind of a very common basic search functionality? And again, touching on collaboration with your internal groups and outside counsel, how easy is it for you to permission those folks in to give them the level of access that they need and to make those changes?
Finally, flexible and fast reporting. Is it easy? Do you have to constantly spend an exorbitant amount of time to build or edit your reports? And that e-billing component, of course, which is an option with matter management platforms, does pricing change? Do you need to pay more money as you have more vendors that are going into the system or as you require new features and functionalities of e-billing? All of those items really add up to your bottom line when you're implementing these different systems.
So in the last slide, we were talking about the scalability and your changing needs, but we want to highlight a little bit more this concept of self-service versus vendor assistance. Vendor assistance can be incredibly valuable, but it can also lead to an increase in cost or a loss of time for your projects. Again, we know down the line that a client's needs are going to change with this type of system. Before you find yourself in that type of situation, it's really important to have clarity from your partners regarding how much input or help you're going to need from them once you get this type of solution in place?
It's not always convenient to implement a system that requires continuous vendor assistance to achieve your basic needs in the platform, again, such as changing the type of data collected, adding new fields, tweaking your reports, or getting data a different way, or making certain fields required. If you find yourself in a situation where the vendor has to provide you with some kind of assistance with your matter platform, it's critical to understand how much does that cost.
From a monetary perspective, will this process add time and cost, or does the vendor include that service and support with your purchase? Is this going to increase your time frame for, again, utilizing your system or continuing to collaborate or manage these products or these projects, I should say? These questions can provide you with greater budget certainty as well as understanding how to dedicate your resources and your time and getting a better understanding of how sufficient you really will be with the product that you've selected. So let's move into that e-billing component here because that can also greatly assist your organization with your spend management.
John: Thanks, Andrea. So we're going to shift gears and talk a little bit about e-billing and legal spend management. We've touched upon this concept several times during the course of today's discussion, but we want to go through it in a bit more detail. So going back to kind of our underlining definition of a matter as a legal project that's being tracked by your law department, there are certain types of projects that require you to retain outside counsel. And so when outside counsel becomes involved, naturally, there is a spend component that becomes part of the equation.
What e-billing or legal spend management refers to is a way to manage that financial component of the matter, and it provides you with the ability to do a couple of different things. First and foremost, it's an opportunity to retire what in many cases is a manual or paper-based process. So you'll no longer need to receive invoices and channel them around via email, for example.
Secondly, and more importantly, it provides you with the ability to validate invoices based upon your established billing guidelines. And effectively, those are the rules that govern the terms of engagement with outside counsel and effectively state what vendors can and cannot bill. So, as a practical example for a particular firm or a particular timekeeper, you may have a negotiated hourly rate for the services that they provide. Taking that a step further, that may be something that's specific to a given matter in terms of an alternative fee arrangement. There might be certain things that your department does not pay for. So, for example, photocopies, travel-related expenses, legal research, things to that effect.
And what validations do is that when an invoice comes through rather than relying upon a human to read each of the time entries and catch those violations, whether that's, you know, a discrepancy in terms of being overcharged or being charged with something that you shouldn't have actually been billed for in the first place, the system catches it. And an e-billing system will generally provide you with a couple of different options. So first and foremost, it could be an outright rejection of the invoice back to the vendor. It could also be that the entry is flagged for review so that you have the opportunity to investigate it, or it might be an automatic reduction in that particular line item to a specific threshold that you've established.
Another thing to consider here is that e-billing applications may also provide you with the ability to go through what's referred to as an appeals process. And basically, what that means is that when entries are flagged for review, you can exchange comments and potential adjustments with the vendor in a back-and-forth manner. Ultimately, the goal of that type of workflow is to reach consensus with the firm in terms of what should be paid.
Another benefit of e-billing is the opportunity to automate the routing of the invoice through different stages of approval. A very simple and kind of classic example of this is limits of authority. So invoices above certain dollar amounts may have additional layers of approval. You may have, you know, two, three, or four levels of approval based on the thresholds that you established.
Generally, there's a workflow where the first approver receives notification on submission of the invoice. When they approve the invoice, the second approver receives notification and so on and so forth until the invoice is ultimately approved in totality at which point it's transmitted to accounts payable with the cost center allocation.
As we touched on earlier, in many cases, approved invoices at this stage of the process are then transmitted through an AP system through an outbound data feed. And there can also be a return trip data feed, so to speak, from that system so that eight invoice details are transmitted back into your e-billing solution.
From a reporting perspective, once you have that paid invoice data, you can compare your actual spend with any budgets that you've defined. At the end of the day, that's going to provide you with oversight, traceability, and complete transparency into your legal spend. That's really kind of the core value proposition of e-billing.
So also on kind of a financial tangent, we're going to talk a little bit about cost and budget associated with purchasing a solution, and this one is always fun. You know, law departments traditionally have been viewed as cost centers by the folks in your finance department, and it's no secret that buying decisions and selection of a given platform are often influenced by the bottom line. If you're in the market for a solution, you know, cost is a question that you're obviously not going to forget to ask.
But at the same time, there are some things that you should know in order to kind of uncover the complete picture when assessing different providers. So for starters, what's the fee structure? Is it based on the overall number of users in sort of a seat license capacity? Is it the number of documents that you store on the platform? Is it a tiered pricing schedule based on the number of matters? Many of the solutions out there opt for the seat licensing model. This can hinder adoption both inside and outside your department because, as you roll the solution out to increase numbers of users, you're basically paying the price tag for bringing those folks on.
Other cost considerations include the availability of new features and the cost of upgrades. So do you stand to incur additional fees to take advantage of new capabilities and features that are being released for the platform or are those rolled out free of charge? This kind of goes back to that on-premises model versus the cloud-based model. There may be considerations in terms of involving your IT to realize benefits whether or not these are assessed. And in that scenario, you might actually be competing with other IT projects in your organization in order to kind of update the solution that you're using. So those are certain hidden costs that you might need to consider. Other hidden costs might exist relative to implementation, to training, to support, and I think Andrea is actually going to dive into that in a little bit more depth.
Andrea: So training and support is often one of the highest contributors to an increased cost of a matter management platform. It's really important to understand the type of training you can expect to receive and the costs and inclusions of that training. Does that training include multiple people? Is it limited to only a small group of your team? Is the training and support ongoing, or is it only available upfront at the time of implementation? Are you going to find yourself years down the road with new team members who need to understand the solution you have in place, and they just can't get that help unless you pay more money?
Unfortunately, John and I have spoken with organizations that were using other providers who ultimately found out that that vendor they selected didn't support that ongoing training for the platform with no additional cost. Matter platforms can be very robust and complex, and it's really unreasonable to expect that training won't be required after your initial training session or the initial implementation.
The last topic here is cancelling the service. This is perhaps a slightly uncomfortable topic to think about, but it's so important to understand, "I love you today, but maybe I want to break up tomorrow. What happens if it doesn't work out?" Really, the right time to be asking that question is before you engage with the product or the vendor. Implementing any kind of service is a tremendous investment on your company's time, on your money, your resources. And while you'd likely prefer not to cancel your service and start all over again with a new partner or a new solution, it is really prudent to understand what would happen should you find yourself needing to exit the relationship.
First, you want to understand if there's a contract or a set term required in order to use the system that you're selecting. Make sure that there are no additional fees or penalties for early termination. Also, get clarity regarding who owns the data and the documents that you entered into the system. Understand that if you extract the data on your own or are you able to extract the data or documents on your own, or are you going to need vendor assistance to get those documents or other items out of the application? This sounds totally ridiculous, a ridiculous notion, but too often I've spoken with prospective clients that are telling me horror stories about the way other providers have essentially held their documents or their data hostage and charged them extra money to export the data from the system or otherwise complicated the process of extracting the data and ending the relationships. So let's get into some tips for implementing a system.
John: All right. So the slide that we have in front of us provides a series of practical recommendations for departments that are implementing a solution. Here at CSC, we've onboarded more than 450 corporate law departments onto our platform, and based on their experience and their feedback, these are the most common themes that tend to kind of bubble to the surface.
To foster a smooth transition and drive adoption within your department, the first recommendation is really a simple one, which is to assign a project lead. By no means will this be the only person involved, but someone does need to be designated as the point person in terms of ongoing dialogue with your provider and rallying the folks in your department.
Once you assign a point person, you'll want to debrief on exactly what outcomes you hope to achieve, what your success metrics might be, and whether there are best practices within your department that ought to be standardized. So as a practical example, there might be a piece of information that you want to track. Let's say it's a contract expiration date. A consideration there would be whether or not that field should be required so that team members always populate it for reporting purposes.
Next, set the intention. What are the expectations of your legal team? What we've sometimes seen are scenarios where decision makers purchase the solution but fail to articulate to their teams what exactly the business outcomes they hope to achieve. Ideally, that can be part of the debriefing process. You want the general counsel or VPs involved to provide perspective on kind of what those high-level objectives are.
Another thing is to start organizing your data. You may already have this, but if not, begin to compile relevant matters into a tabular format within a spreadsheet. What's the type of matter? Who are the parties involved? Is there a case number or another pertinent identifier? For contracts, what type of agreement is it? What's the expiration date, and what parties do we need to list? If you have this information in a flat format, most vendors have the ability to import it for you.
Another thing is to discuss the data points that would be valuable to track. You're going to want to consider what reports you'd like to create, what the appropriate field type is for each of those pieces of information. You know, is that a drop-down, a radio button, an open text field, a date, etc.? Lean on your provider's implementation team to provide guidance and recommendations and really leverage their experience.
So I think the last thing that we're going to do before we jump into a quick demo is talk in a bit more detail about CSC matter management. The demo itself is going to be abbreviated in length. If our solution piques your interest, there will be a final poll question, which will allow you to let us know that you'd like to be contacted for further information.
But really what we have here is two quick slides on CSC matter management. Our solution is a legal project management tool, which caters to the needs of corporate law departments that allow you to manage data, manage documents that have a strong collaboration component. And it has a very powerful reporting engine, which provides transparency and oversight. It's also a very versatile solution. Flexibility is at the core of the platform. And this is important because, as we touched on, a matter can be so many different things.
In terms of the capabilities that we bring to the table, CSC offers that e-billing or legal spend management component of the product that we discussed. You have the ability to integrate with your email client. You have direct integration that we discussed relative to service of process documents by way of our role as registered agent. And there's a very robust document management component with checkout, check-in, and versioning capabilities. You also have the ability to upload unlimited number of documents in our . . .