May 13, 2020
Who’s doing what across my matters and how’s it going?
In the process of building our initial beta release, we’ve spent a lot of time listening to lawyers and industry professionals around the world. General counsel. Legal counsel. Legal ops. Partners. Associates. In fact, we didn’t put down a single line of code for the platform until we’d spent many months in listening mode.
We learned a lot from those conversations. So, in the first of a series of posts, we wanted to share some of what we learned, and how we factored that into Lupl.
The situational awareness challenge
“I don’t manage situational awareness of my matters very effectively. At all. I mean, who’s doing what? And where? And how’s it going? These are the things I need to know when I’m picking up my phone first thing in the morning. But there’s no real-time way to get that stuff.”
“For us, even looking at each type of matter has become overly complicated with the things that people ask for and then what they actually need to do the job. I don’t know what the right balance is, honestly. But the things that you need are, whose hands is it in? Where is it? What’s the ETA? Are there blockers? Where do I need you? Where do you need me?”
“It’s what I call the ‘subway platform mentality’. When I’m standing on a subway platform, waiting for a train, I’m pretty relaxed as long as the information board is there showing me what’s happening and when my train is coming. But if that board is broken, I freak out, because I have no idea where things stand, or how long I’ll be waiting.”
These are extracts from the notes of some of the earliest conversations we had with lawyers and legal ops folks about Lupl. We could share a lot more because this was a consistent thread throughout all of our conversations. It’s about the need to manage situational awareness of legal matters, to get that real-time, 360-degree view of what is happening right now.
So if everyone wants that, why is it proving so difficult to get it?
Why it’s harder than it should be
Here are some of the reasons we heard…
1. Workloads increasing and resources are stretched.
This is the most obvious reason. The international business environment is more complex than ever. There’s GDPR. There’s Brexit. There’s the US/China trade war. There’s COVID-19. The demands on lawyers are growing – there’s just a lot going on, and it’s tough to stay on top of all of that.
2. Too many tools and systems.
There’s a general feeling that there are too many places to look to find what you need. If you have to check across your email, your Slack, your Teams, your intranet, your law firm portals, and your messages, it’s no wonder that everything feels spread all over the place. “Did I send it to you, or did you to send it to me? Or did Jeff send it?”
3. An allergic reaction to anything that looks like “busy work”.
One GC put it like this:
“So this is the impossible wish. Every time we’ve asked this question around our network of lawyers, they just say literally ‘they want to know exactly what’s going on everywhere, instantaneously’. The flip side of that is…nobody’s prepared to contribute.”
There’s a feeling that getting visibility is great. But spending a ton of time pulling together status reports? No thanks, not worth the effort. They’re out of date almost as soon as they are written.
4. An increasingly distributed team.
When we first started working on Lupl, we heard from a lot of users about a shift towards more mobile working and distributed teams:
“I think the way of the world is that more people will be working remote. And potentially in different offices. The days of the whole team sitting in the same office, or building, or even the same city, seem to be increasingly behind us. Being able to pop over to someone’s desk and ask how that Term Sheet negotiation is going starts to get a little bit harder.”
And clearly the COVID-19 crisis has accelerated this shift far quicker than anyone could ever have imagined.
So what does this all mean for Lupl?
We spent a long time thinking about situational awareness of matters. After a couple of weeks, a lot of coffee, and several conversations with our Advisory Board, we came up with a couple of ideas for things that might help.
The first is what we call “matter synchronization”. What does that mean? It means bringing everything for a legal matter together in one place, rather than all over the place. By bringing together all of those moving parts – the people, the conversations, the documents, the systems – our hope is that situational awareness becomes easier.
It’s important of course that Lupl doesn’t become “yet another channel” that you need to check to figure out what’s happening. That’s why Lupl is a totally open industry platform – bridging multiple solutions to enable users to plug in their systems and get everything they need in one place. This open approach is the core of what we’re trying to do with Lupl and we’ll be sharing more about it in the coming months.
The second feature is something we call “Matter Pulse”. The initial inspiration for this came from a discussion with a startup GC and Head of Legal Ops in San Francisco – and it grew from there as we bounced it off other parts of our community. The goal with Matter Pulse is to enable users to easily capture and track where a matter is at and how it is going.
We hope these things go some way towards making situational awareness around matters easier. But we’re under no illusion that this is perfect or solves everything. We’re always on the lookout for more ideas. One of the things we’re thinking about is automating some of matter status visibility. If you have some suggestions about how to make this easier, drop us an email at email@example.com. We’re all ears!