Choosing the Right ELM Solution for the Law Department

by | Mar 22, 2016

Choosing the Right ELM Solution for the Law Department

Peyton Manning’s recent championship win teaches a valuable lesson about how to buy the right enterprise legal management (ELM) solution, according to Jeff Skott, principal solutions architect for LexisNexis® CounselLink®.

Say again?

Although Peyton Manning is a great quarterback, says Mr. Skott, without the support of a stellar defensive and offensive line, the outcome might not be the same. However, by surrounding himself with a great team, together they were able to secure the victory.

Mr. Skott likens this to choosing the right ELM solution for the legal department. In order to ensure inside counsel is making the right decision, the appropriate internal constituencies within the company need to be brought in at the outset of the selection process.

“The number one reason projects fail is people get overwhelmed by the project itself, and someone determines they simply can’t do it.”

By gathering a group of internal stakeholders, who will be affected by the choice, at the beginning of the exercise, the path forward becomes that much smoother.

“Surround yourself with a winning project team,” he added.

7 Steps for Choosing an ELM Solution

He offered these insights during a recent webinar (recording embedded nearby) on the topic. In the discussion, he outlined a detailed, step-by-step approach, for selecting an ELM solution based on the legal department and the company’s underlying business needs.

1. Assemble a Winning Team. Just as Peyton Manning’s big game win wouldn’t be possible without the support of his team, picking an ELM solution for the company requires the right players to be assembled at the beginning of the selection process. These players ensure there’s a clear path from decision to contract and often include:

  • Any attorneys involved in the final decision
  • Legal department operations staff, as needed
  • Members of the IT department
  • An executive sponsor to secure budget for the ELM solution upfront

2. Start with the End in Mind. Now that a winning team is in place, start with the end in mind. In other words, define the company’s objectives for purchasing an ELM solution across the company’s internal constituencies to ensure it is a cross-functional choice. Be sure to vet ideas together. This then becomes a litmus test for all of the legal department’s tools.

3. Secure Budget As Soon as Possible. Get a budget approval for the purchase of an ELM solution as soon as possible. In some cases, the failure to do so can hold the process up for months or even years. By engaging with an executive sponsor early in the game, this builds credibility for the law department and ensures resources will be available when they are needed. To get a good idea about an appropriate budget for the solution, check with consultants, peers and vendors to get a range about cost on the high and low end of the spectrum.

4. Define the Vendor Landscape. Now that a budget is in place, it’s time to do some homework to determine which solution is right for the company. Many IT departments subscribe to technology analysts research; if possible, ask for these reports or look to vendors who have secured rights to publish the latest ELM landscape research.

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5. Conduct an RFP. One of the best ways to compare one solution against another is to invite finalists to do an RFP (request for proposal) or RFI (request for information). This process will provide a clearer picture about which capabilities the solution provides specifically including: 24/7 customer support by phone, which process paper, PDFs, and non-LEDEs invoices, especially for non U.S. and now law firm vendors. This also spells out possible charges to law firms, as well as a myriad of additional useful information about the dynamics of the solution. In essence, it narrows down the field to a “cherished few.”

6. Obeserve a Demo with Finalists. The goal of the RFP process is to glean a short list of final contenders who will be allowed to conduct either Web-based or on-site demonstrations. A good rule of thumb is to limit these finalists to no more than four. This helps keeps things focused as the group tries to chase down a broad spectrum of capabilities. If more finalists are added to the mix, it might delay the decision and be harder make an objective-driven final selection. In the end, there should be only two final prospects let standing.

7. Bring in the Darling Duo. Once demos are done with the “darling duo” it is imperative to bring these individuals in and meet with them face-to-face. Since these are people that will be working and meeting with the legal department and its broader constituents for a minimum of three to five years, it’s important to get a feel for them in-person. A good gauge is to look for a vendor that mirrors the image of the company that the legal department wants to do business with. Ask yourself, do I want to work with these people?

Finally, whether the legal department wants to control risk, reign in and/or measure spending in some way, or gain greater control of the workflow process, any ELM solution worth its weight in gold, must accomplish two critical things, according to Mr. Skott:

  • Provide significantly greater ROI than the ELM solution’s cost
  • Offer a solution that is easy to adopt across-the-board.

This post is by Carla Del Bove, who provides support to the business of law software product line based in the LexisNexis Raleigh Technology Center.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:
3 Tips for more Effectively Managing Legal Spending 

Photo credit: Flickr, Nick Page, Which Way Now? (CC BY 2.0)

Contributing Writer
Contributing Writer

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