Legal process management software products are becoming indispensable tools for in-house legal teams. Harsh Aggarwal and Roma Arora explain how they work
With general counsel now positioned within the highest ranks of company management, there has been a revolution both in terms of their responsibilities and what is expected of them.
This, coupled with an increasing complexity of the legal and regulatory environment that confronts companies, in-house legal teams rely more and more on smart information technology (IT) solutions to efficiently provide advisory and legal support to departments within the company. The digital tools also assist in-house teams in making substantial contributions towards business strategy, risk planning and mitigation, budgetary control, and in other areas.
The market for IT-enabled tools for in-house legal teams in India is now well developed with tailor-made solutions and off-the-shelf options such as PracticeLeague and Thomson Reuters’ Legal Tracker and Contract Express. While off-the-shelf solutions are typically used for litigation, agreement and compliance purposes, the sky is the limit for software that is customized to a user’s requirements.
The benefits of any of these solutions are their almost instant deployment with neither any development time involved, nor any requirement to test them beforehand. But a major drawback is that they may not cater to specific functions and requirements, which will vary by industry and by customer. For instance, the legal department of a financial institution will need to manage cheque-bouncing cases, while the consumer durable business will be more focused on consumer litigation.
Legal process management software (LPMS) provides the ability to effectively manage any type of matter or file, be it a contract, registration or renewal of an intellectual property (IP) asset, or a general advisory matter. LPMS can also provide efficient movement of original documents within an organization, and keep track of legal expenses.
Customizing LPMS for an organization requires an in-depth understanding of the business of the company, and the processes and activities of the legal department.
An LPMS system will typically allow for the following tasks to be undertaken efficiently.
Deadline management. This is a critical task undertaken by in-house teams and timely alerts ensure adequate preparatory work can be undertaken before a deadline. The system has the ability to trigger automatic alerts, which are sent as emails and text messages to stakeholders ahead of:
- Court hearings
- Expiry of agreements
- Dates for renewals of registrations for trademarks, designs, patents, etc.
- Dates to respond to notices
- Dates for statutory filings and other compliance-related deadlines
- Overdue invoices of service providers
- Delays in movement of documents and files within the legal department, with an option of creating alerts on the occurrence or non-occurrence of events
Document retention and retrieval. While physical files cannot be entirely dispensed with, they can be digitized and stored. Emails can be automatically identified and filed by LPMS in virtual folders that contain all correspondence and documents relating to a particular matter.
Financial management. The billing module keeps track of costs incurred by legal departments allowing for easy calculation of expenses incurred in a particular matter, or billing done by law firms during a particular period. LPMS can manage multi-currency international payments and trigger alerts when budgetary allocations are being used up.