Cowen Cafe: Trying to move on

On Thursday, August 13, 2020, 40 participants gathered for another Cowen Cafe Zoom meeting, sponsored by Integreon, Ipro, Lineal Services, and NightOwl Global, a Haystack company. As usual, we started with a 30-minute group chat, separated into five breakout rooms, and reassembled for a final recap. This week, participants seemed focused on trying to move beyond the disruption COVID to getting things done.

Trying to move beyond disruption

We tried a poll this week, asking participants which topics they wanted to discuss: People, process, technology, budget, or other. (As a side note, using the poll function in Zoom was easy and quick, not the time sink I have experienced with some platforms.)

Per one in-house attorney, at her company they are giving up on the idea that the world is going to go back to normal. Instead, they are rewriting their processes for a post-COVID world. That means they will need technology to do things that they did not need to do before (think Zoom calls and so much more), which means adjusting their budget, which then means everything that goes with that.

One corporate participant is in the middle of a merger and another just went through an acquisition. They both have been focused on how to get their merger/acquisition work completed when so much has to be done remotely. They still need to do all the usual things – bring processes together, get new people in new positions, deal with ongoing litigation and e-discovery demands – but this year they have to do all this without meeting face to face.

Getting outside help

For many, getting there means using more outside resources – and potentially taking a hit on the budget for doing so. For one person, this has meant sending drives via FedEx instead of walking down the hall to get electronically stored information – and consequently a huge increase in FedEx expenditures. For another in-house participant, it has meant lining up that very special (and more expensive) technical partner who can successfully get on the phone with senior executives and walk them through the steps of collecting content from their phones.

Who they are turning to varies. For some, they anticipate that they will be outsourcing more to outside counsel and changing up which outside counsel they use in the process. Others thought they would not be relying on law firms so much as on vendors.

Even though in-house folks are outsourcing more work, they are finding that they also have to be more involved than ever with the people to whom they outsource work, again thanks to the disruptions brought on by COVID.

Getting more out of what you already have

Folks at two law firms said they are looking for solutions that will allow them to add new capabilities without adding new costs. One firm is enhancing client extranets to make it easier for their clients to interact with them. Another firm is working across various law firms areas – especially practicing attorneys, marketing, and business development – to help those different areas work together more effectively using tools they already have so they can better field client requests for help, craft and sell potential solutions, and the deliver the resulting work.

The rise of business analyst

One corporate participant brought up the value of business analysts: “Written requirements are so important when selecting a solution. I am curious how many people have official business analysts to handle interviewing and documenting those types of requirements.”

Other quickly chimed in. One law firm participant notes that “I have a team of BAs at [my firm]” which he uses. A corporate participant wrote, “We have a BA focused on the legal area, and certainly in a formal RFP process we have BA involvement. We also use a BA in process development in many cases. Our BA is in IT. The legal team is a customer, more than a provider of these services.”

Another corporate participant commented, “As the result of merger, how do you decide which systems to keep? Ideally, you have written business processes, but that often is not the real world. When you have the luxury of someone who can formally analyze the business process and write it down, that helps, but that is not always possible. For us it mostly is done internally between IT and RIM rather than with outside help.”

A second law firm participant said she has been lucky enough to have a real business analyst. She saw a lot of benefit from using that person when looking at new solutions and vendors for those solutions. Having guidance from a business analyst has helped them decide whether to spend time looking at a demo, for example, or whether to move on.

Register now for SOLID Fall

David Cowen opened and closed the meeting with a pitch for folks to register for SOLID Fall, which he also runs. SOLID (the Summit on Legal Innovation and Disruption) will be held on October 1 and 2 from 11 am to 3 pm ET each day. The format will be Tedstyle Talk, Table Talk and Town Hall.  Some of the faculty members are past and current cafe participants.

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