Anatomy of a legal matter

When meeting our law firm clients, or prospective clients, I’m often asked which team or practice group would benefit most from HighQ. My answer is always the same—all of them! HighQ is an intelligent collaboration and client engagement platform; with the relevant word here being platform.

Although lawyers might not want to admit it (they’re a fiercely competitive bunch), the fundamental anatomy of most legal matters looks the same—even though the precise process, type of law, and even the jurisdiction may differ.

The HighQ platform delivers core features and solutions that are applicable across all teams and practice groups, so no matter the type of legal work, HighQ has the essential tools needed to optimise the management, collaboration and delivery for that matter.

1. Team collaboration

Law is a team sport. Yes, there are some big personalities, but all legal matters involve a team of people with differing roles and responsibilities working towards a common goal.

Law is a team sport

Team collaboration is both internal (between paralegals, legal project managers, lawyers, support staff and so on) and external (with other key project stakeholders such as clients, banks, accountants, surveyors, foreign counsel, expert witnesses and so on). All of these project participants will benefit from effective communication and collaboration tools, enabling them to break down silos and improve transparency and knowledge sharing.

Thankfully for our clients, HighQ is the engine room of collaboration; it allows matter teams to share files, work together on documents, send private messages, post updates in a blog, manage team tasks, share project calendars, and connect using social collaboration tools. Unfortunately, legal project teams still rely on email for matter collaboration, which is often a problem as information needs to be consolidated in one place to make it accessible by the entire project team. HighQ solves this issue by providing a central workspace for distributed teams to work.

Efficient collaboration also requires teams to connect regardless of their location and time zone. All you need is a web browser to access the HighQ platform, and it’s also accessible on mobile devices, so team members can access files, information and collaborate on the go from anywhere in the world. Easy!

2. Document management

There's no escaping that all legal matters involve documents and files of some kind—engagement letters, KYC documents, contracts, advice notes, exhibits, pleadings, witness statements, reports...the list goes on. As do the document management use cases—data rooms, M&A documents lists, conditions precedent trackers, e-bundles and more. However, how often is there a central online workspace where the whole project team can access and manage key documents, as well as collaborate on those documents? Not very often.

Unfortunately, document management, sharing and collaboration across project teams is still done via email in conjunction with Microsoft Word or Excel indexes. Finding the latest version of a document involves searching through an email chain. Yes, some team members will save them to a document management system, but where is the “project DMS” for all team members to use?

This is where HighQ comes into its own. Our platform allows teams to not only centrally store and securely manage matter documents with indexing, version control, custom file metadata and DMS integrations, but also collaborate around those documents with annotations, comments and tasks. Creating and editing documents in either Microsoft Office or Office Online and saving them to HighQ is also easy—there's even simultaneous editing for collaborative document drafting.

Document access and permissions can be set right down to the file level, and the HighQ platform has full digital rights management and activity reporting so you can control and monitor who does what in the platform. If that wasn’t enough, HighQ integrates with DocuSign and Adobe Sign for electronic document execution, as well as comparison tools for document redlines.

HighQ also has an Outlook integration and a dedicated HighQ Drive desktop and mobile app, which let you work with documents online or offline without having to directly access the HighQ platform. So, whatever you might want to do with a document during a legal matter, HighQ has it covered.

3. Knowledge management

Law can be immensely complex, and a lawyer’s job is to help their client navigate this complexity in order to obtain the best possible outcome. The most successful law firms are therefore those with the best map and guidebook, in the shape of legal experience and know-how.

However, law firms aren't always good at capturing know-how, so they tend to have a shifting body of knowledge that depends on the makeup of their lawyers at any point in time. The challenge for law firms is to capture and centralise their collective intelligence so that the quality of their know-how develops and improves over time. A firm that masters this process, and makes quality knowledge available to all its lawyers at the point they need it, will enable better decision-making and improved outcomes for its clients.

HighQ provides several ways for firms to unlock and capture legal knowledge and share it with other lawyers who need it. This might involve storing and managing precedent documents through the Files module, collaborating with colleagues on know-how topics within the Wiki, or sharing current awareness through the Blog.

Unlock and capture legal knowledge

The social collaboration tools within the HighQ platform also mean that it can be used to share knowledge and opinions in real time, as well as crowdsource knowledge and guidance. For example, just post a question to your colleagues to tap into their knowledge and collaboratively identify the best course of action. HighQ can become the hive mind of your law firm!

4. Legal process

All legal matters, except for perhaps the most unique and exceptional, have a standard process and workflow. Whether it’s a contract negotiation, litigation, stock market listing, competition clearance or property financing, they all involve a series of standard steps and actions. Sure, each process will have its own intricacies and complexities, but the foundational process of a specific matter type will be consistent.

Establishing and following a standard process is essential for law firms—it ensures quality and consistency of delivery and helps to mitigate the risk of error (something firms are keen to avoid at all costs).

However, an automated approach to legal process carries even more benefit—it helps reduce manual intervention in the process, frees up lawyer time to focus on higher value tasks, enables downstream allocation of work, and speeds cycle times. It also produces data and metrics that allow law firms to identify opportunities for process reengineering and improvement.

The HighQ platform contains tools that enable standard legal processes to be systematised. With the iSheets module, you can create process checklists to help walk project teams through a project framework. These checklists can be made “smart” through the use of conditional logic. Notifications can be built into the checklists so that team members are regularly notified about process status and risk.

However, workflow is more than tracking progress through checklists, which is why we are working hard on process automation capabilities. Our workflow engine will enable users to create a fully automated legal process by identifying a series of triggers and actions—if this, then that. For example, if a user uploads a file to Folder X, then the system creates a new task in List Y and adds an event to category Z. This functionality means that process automation can be “baked” into a HighQ site, enabling the automation itself to be seamless and discreet. This is going to be a game changer for efficient legal process delivery!

5. Project and matter management

Legal project management (LPM) is not a new discipline, but it remains a fairly nebulous concept for many lawyers. Several law firms now have LPM functions or methodologies. However, despite clients crying out for greater efficiency, consistency and transparency in legal projects, many firms haven't found a way to institutionalise a best practice approach to the management and delivery of legal matters.

Whenever I talk to our law firm and corporate clients about LPM, one thing is clear—they all believe technology has a big role to play in helping to drive adoption of project management techniques in legal. When I was a lawyer, I was involved in a project to create a LPM methodology for transactional work. What was interesting was that when we distilled it down, LPM was actually quite straightforward.

It's about efficient engagement, planning, delivery and closure of projects. The tools involved are also fairly simple—project plans, timelines, workstream and milestone trackers, task lists, status updates, integration checklists and so on. It's all about establishing a plan, and then delivering against that plan whilst at the same time providing full transparency for the client.

LPM is a core focus for HighQ. Our platform is built for agile project management so that legal matters can delivered on time and on budget. A core element of LPM is transparency, and HighQ provides the online workspace to consolidate project content in one place and make it accessible to everyone (lawyers, clients and other advisers).

Our Tasks module helps keep team activity organised and aligned. You can assign tasks and track due dates and statuses so that everyone has a clear overview of project progress. The new timeline view of tasks allows you to view activity across days, weeks and months, giving project teams a view of the complete project schedule. Our Events module can also be used to track key milestones and meetings, as well as manage team availability.

The iSheets module is perfect for systematising traditional Microsoft Excel project trackers, including budget, WIP and billing information, project portfolios, key issues lists and workstream reports, as well as project-specific trackers such as due diligence issues for M&A, negotiation points for commercial contracting and witness evidence for litigation. Another key component of LPM is simple transparent reporting, and this can be achieved by using our dashboard builder. Take data from both the iSheets and Tasks modules and visualise it in graphs and charts in the Home module.

With all of this awesome functionality, there's no doubt that HighQ enables a smarter way to manage matters, and is the go-to platform for efficient legal project management.

6. Legal service delivery

Lawyers help their clients mitigate and manage risk as well as achieve value, and they do this in many different ways, for example, negotiating and drafting contracts and agreements, documenting arguments and defences, providing advocacy, performing due diligence, sharing legal know-how and current awareness, reviewing information and advising on the best course of action, and so on.

The HighQ platform supports and optimises the delivery of legal services in several different ways. Taking a literal approach, the HighQ platform enables secure file sharing for the delivery of legal documents to clients, with tools to enable online collaboration around, and execution of, that document.

HighQ platform enables secure file sharing

However, HighQ offers further scope for transformation. Our document automation functionality in iSheets can help lawyers easily generate agreements and reports. But it's not limited to lawyers; more forward-thinking law firms are opening up the platform and document automation directly to their clients—creating legal self-service portals for document generation as well as advice and access to legal playbooks.

These portals can be developed into full client relationship portals that contain client engagement documents, matter management reporting, financial information, know-how and e-learning, event diaries, regulatory and compliance trackers, lawyer directories and help-desks.

Last but not least, our new AI Hub allows lawyers to leverage AI tools, including our new HighQ AI service, directly in the platform. This helps lawyers with the heavy lifting of contract categorisation, review and analysis. It also cuts down the chargeable hours, delivering work to clients more efficiently and cost-effectively.  

When you sift through the mystique of law, you quickly realise that there is a clear and consistent framework for legal service delivery across all legal matters. With clients expecting more efficiency, transparency and value from their lawyers, it's time for law firms to reengineer their legal service delivery into a real competitive advantage. The starting point is to health check the anatomy of your legal matters, diagnose the source of the pain and discomfort, and then seek treatment.

In any event, the prescription is clear—one dose of the HighQ platform to transform and optimise your legal service delivery. Your firm will be fighting fit in no time!

Rob MacAdam

Vice President, Corporate Legal Solutions at HighQ
Rob is an experienced legal technology and innovation leader specialising in the design and creation of digital solutions to empower corporate legal teams and transform the delivery of legal services. As a former M&A and private equity lawyer for some of the UK’s leading law firms, Rob is passionate about the use of technology to create smarter legal service delivery methods as well as innovative new legal products. 

Rob leads the corporate legal solutions team at HighQ. Before joining HighQ in 2017 he was group innovation manager for Pinsent Masons as part of their award-winning SmartDelivery team. Rob is an active member of the LegalTech community, regularly contributing for organisations and publications such as ACC, CLOC, The Lawyer, Bloomberg, Corporate Counsel and Law360.
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