Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The GPS for every legal matter - Catch us at CodeX Lightning Round & Booth 512

The GPS for every legal matter

Every legal matter is like a journey - it has a beginning, middle and end.  What if every lawyer had a co-pilot to help plan and navigate their legal journeys? A co-pilot that could automatically map out matter specific budgets, timelines and risk?

 " This [would] bring a level of discipline into in-house legal budgeting that hasn't existed before, making GC budget proposals credible and improving relations between in-house legal departments and senior management."                                                                                                                                                                                      Former GC Corporate,                                                                                                                                                           Salesforce.com

Along the legal journey wouldn't it be great if all teams, inside and outside, had up-to-date status on the matter? What if the team could be alerted when tasks take longer than expected, deadlines are missed or costs run over budget? Or if everyone had the same data and tool to analyze the impact of a change in scope and make more informed decisions about altering the plan?  Than the matter would be easier for everyone to manage. The teams could avoid painful budget overruns and arguments. All would be equipped with the tools needed to make adjustments on the fly to keep in alignment with business objectives.

One of the biggest problems facing corporate counsel and law firms today is estimating what a specific matter should cost based on client objectives.  Unfortunately many legal matters routinely run over budget. It's estimated that budget overruns add up to $40 billion a year worldwide.   

We've all witnessed how easily a matter can veer off course. Early in the matter the client has an understanding of the risks, desired outcomes and business objectives. The lead corporate counsel discusses these with the partner in the law firm. The partner communicates to a senior associate who then assembles and informs the team at the firm. Depending upon the size and scope of the matter, multiple firms may get involved. As more time and staff contribute to the matter, it's more difficult keep everyone in alignment with business objectives and to track task plans and budget.

External factors and miscommunications easily lead to matter scope changes that do not get accurately analyzed. The in-house lawyer doesn't have the time or the tools, and often isn't fully informed of the changes in scope until it's too late. No one has time to run what-if scenarios and analyze the impact to risk, cost, timeline.  Tasks and costs quickly get out of alignment with business objectives.

Take for example a patent infringement matter. The client may have a number of potential outcomes and goals. If the plaintiff is a competitor or patent troll the corporation may have a settlement limit in mind, or desire to pursue cross licensing. If the patent impacts a product line within a division of a larger company, the GM of the division may want to settle quickly to avoid distracting the operating team. If the suit is attacking the core IP of the company, the CEO may want to send a message to the marketplace to back off, but avoid a lengthy suit that impacts sales and brand.

In theory the business objectives will drive the size and scope of the matter plan, budget, timeline and resources required. The firm will identify multiple lawyers to support the case. More than one firm may be required. The corporate lawyer supporting the business on this matter has little visibility or time to dig into the details of who does what.

If the business objectives of the client are to stand their ground and send a message to the market, the matter will have a larger budget and more risk than if the objectives are to settle quickly and avoid distraction. But how much more should it cost? How many lawyers and what level of expertise are appropriate, for how many weeks or months or years?

At Align one of our key goals is to make it easier for in-house lawyers to negotiate costs with law firms and keep everyone on the same page. To make it easier to negotiate lawyers need better matter specific estimates such as budget, timeline and risk. We crowdsource legal experts with 20+ years of experience in a practice area or type of commercial transaction to build the models that underpin Align. The models estimate matter metrics based on business objectives, scope and other client driven factors.

A GPS uses transportation models built by experts combined with real-time data to estimate journeys. Align uses matter models built by legal experts combined with real-time data and business objectives to estimate matter specific metrics. Like a GPS Align will continuously update the timeline, flag issues and show the impact of taking alternative routes and side trips (think expanded matter scope and deposing additional witnesses).

One of the things I love about Align is that the user never types in tedious data. The product displays options, the user selects options and the model builds out the details. The lawyer gets matter specific estimates based upon business objectives and other factors such as jurisdiction.

Sound to good to be true? Please visit us and we'll show you Align. We are located in the CodeX Start-up Showcase (512) in front of the Grand Ballroom. email align@alignmatters.com or text 415.317.1537.


By Guest Blogger: Deborah Baron, Align Matters