Innovation is a buzzword that lots of businesses toss around.
For all its use, the act of innovating rarely comes easy. But there are trail blazers. Firms who always seem one step ahead of the rest. They embrace behavioral change and technological advances like few others.
At Thomson Reuters, we often see those firms turn to HighQ to enable their most mold-breaking innovations. To understand how and why, we asked Ben Firth, Sales & Client Management Lead, Software Solutions for Thomson Reuters in Europe.
Ben, let’s start at the beginning: What are firms usually looking for that leads them to HighQ?
Generally, they’ve already struggled with legal tech challenges. They’ve maybe built their own, or they’ve been looking for something to solve a specific problem in the past. Either way, they didn’t find what they’re looking for yet. The beauty of HighQ is that it has flexibility. It can solve a lot of problems and it’s not intimidating to use. Someone without deep tech experience can still build a solution without needing to know coding, and they can do it quickly.
The other thing to keep in mind is that innovative firms watch their competition and take note of how they’re solving these same problems. They see HighQ in other firms and they consider it “best of breed” among legal tech platforms. HighQ does it all – LPM, transaction management, portfolio management, billing, etc. – and it has the flexibility to bend beyond what you originally thought you’d do with it.
Is there a particular need that arises more often than others?
I suppose, at the most basic, the majority do say they need a secure collaboration tool. Fundamentally, they need to take their information, put it in a safe space, and allow clients to interact with it in a secure platform.
The thing is, while clients do want a collaboration platform, they also have large portfolio management challenges, for example. What we find is, after their original need is met, they start to understand the tool and their use cases evolve quickly. No limits.
Let’s talk about that next step: Where do the best firms go once they’ve got a taste for doing things differently within HighQ?
Once established inside the firm things can step up rather quickly. Law firms often start using the platform as a means of selling their own client experience. “Choose us, and you’ll be benefitting from a 24/7 private cloud, secure platform.” It’s what their clients want to hear and it’s how these firms now do business, and they leverage it successfully.
Does it take a long time for firms to move beyond their initial implementation?
Not really, no. The beauty with HighQ is, the time from signature to go-live is so short. We have new firms using HighQ to transact with their clients in a matter of days. Not weeks or months to get started. We don’t need to have a huge project plan and implementation team. You can get results with HighQ very quickly.
Do you have to show the firms something new to get them thinking outside of the box?
The most innovative firms are actually showing us what’s possible. That’s not just because of HighQ though. The industry has changed significantly. Three years ago, we felt like we were educating the client with ideas. Nowadays, firms invest in legal tech expertise themselves.
Those are the firms doing things in the HighQ platform that we don’t even know about. I’ve even seen new uses show up in a firm’s social channels. They’re touting their own capabilities and, if you didn’t know HighQ personally, you’d never know how they pulled it off.
Let’s talk about that moment when the lightbulb goes on. What causes that?
There are two elements of the platform that really seem to spark ideas for people. The first is iSheets – structured databases that allow you to collect data from within the firm, but also allows your clients to add to that data. And because it’s clean, standardized data, we can build off it: visualizations, workflows, document automation, triggered actions/alerts.
The other big idea starter is Workflow, which allows us to link the modules within the platform. That might be something seemingly basic like “If this document gets signed, then that lawyer should get notified.” That’s really not that sophisticated, but once you see it and start thinking in those terms, it unlocks a massive amount of possible outcomes or efficiencies.
The thing is, “innovative” firms hear about these things and immediately see where it could have been used in a recent case or a challenging pitch. It’s intuitive and no harder to use than your average social media platform, so it’s easy to see the ideas start flowing once people make it their own.
As firms expand their use of HighQ, does the sophistication scale up as well? Or can they do more without necessarily adding complexity?
The sophistication increases, but it does so naturally. We see firms come to us with a lot of ideas, but we might actually rein it in and choose one or two starting points. Once we get them set up for success, discussions about scaling-up happen naturally. But by then, the firm themselves understand the tool in such a way that they’re creating their own new solutions using HighQ.
How much does leadership’s appetite for innovation drive their adoption of technology? Is it a top-down initiative, or are the users driving the change?
It’s not necessarily top-down. It’s more like “middle up.”
Many of the most innovative firms have innovation manager roles. These people are tasked with change. These people aren’t just driving “up” but they’re driving the adoption “around” the firm. So innovation, for them, is less about convincing leadership to change, it’s about rolling out their ideas successfully.
Leadership gets it too, of course. The role of the IT team has changed dramatically in the past 10-15 years. Because clients demand tech expertise, and they want a tech experience that matches what they have in the rest of their lives.
Tech departments and innovation managers help facilitate that experience, but it’s important to remember, with HighQ they don’t have to be hands on in every aspect of the project. The lawyers themselves can drive change within the platform.
Getting people to act differently is often noted as one of the hardest parts of innovation. How do successful firms address the on-boarding task?
HighQ is usually brought on to address a challenge, and that challenge is built around a team. That’s your core user group. Once that team starts solving their challenge, the growth is organic. If the firm gets that first implementation right, the success story starts to spread around the firm. Other lawyers and teams want a piece of that success.
Suppose you’re a firm that wants to be seen as an innovator. What’s the first step?
First of all, look at your current situation. What do you own already? What are you trying to solve? Nobody wants to buy software or platforms and not use them. So, I think firms need to look at what they’re using already and contrast it with their legal tech challenges. Ask if you already have something that solves that need. If you don’t – or if it’s there, but not working – then it’s time to change. And that motivation is what will drive the innovation you’re seeking.