Exigent was included in the FT Intelligent Business report’s list of the best-integrated services providers, shining a light on the importance of breaking down silos in the way legal services are delivered
By David Holme
After years of producing the FT Innovative Lawyers report, RSG Consulting launched this year the FT Intelligent Business initiative, a ranking, and report aimed at recognizing changes in the legal industry, where convergence between law, data, and technology is shaping a new landscape of integrated legal services. It’s a fitting shift: from looking at how lawyers can be innovative (yawn, they’ve been almost constantly failing for the past 20 years) to finally looking at where momentum really is: on the commercial side, outside of traditional law and into technology and smart people.
As the FT says, their report highlights “the integration of people, processes, and data to solve business’s operational challenges.” We’d argue this is not just operational challenges: the future of the industry is at stake and as we predicted last year, the Big Four are well ahead of the game in terms of integrating legal services.
The FT report says: “Over the past decade, the accounting firms have sought not to replicate the large law firm model but rather to refine an integrated services model that operates at the intersection of tax, finance, consulting, strategy, information technology, and project management.” And we agree, as we stated in our predictions for 2018: “Expect the Big Four to continue to focus on data and technology, as many of the challenges are not simply legal, but also financial. Some of these providers already have managed services capability. In a sense, they are the apex predators.”
The ability to see past old categorizations of what a lawyer does and think holistically about the legal function, with its pivotal role in the business- with the financial implications and opportunities-, is what will make a difference. That’s what Exigent has been focusing on since its founding almost 15 years ago: taking legal out of its box, unpacking it and rebuilding multidisciplinary models that transcend risk and compliance and look at commercial opportunities. We’ve been doing this with whatever tools fit the purpose: contract management technology to bring order, spot patterns and optimize processes to bring about change.
In the context of integrated legal services, data has to be the first step to any form of innovation. Put data at the centre of everything you do and not only will you be saving millions of dollars but you will also create value through a smart analysis of the data you collect and store. At the FT/RSG Intelligent Business Forum last week, I was on a panel discussing just that: tapping the power of legal data. Everybody agreed data is fundamental, but the question on everybody’s lips was ‘How? Where do you start?’. Like with anything else in business (and life, you might argue) you need a strategy. Define goals, build a taxonomy that empowers you to reach those goals and then execute a company-wide strategy that brings it all home. This can be done by embracing a so-called ‘data lake’ (or data estate) approach: store raw data in its native format until it is needed. It’s a flat architecture that will allow for more flexibility and longevity. In the era of integrated services, a data lake approach is the only one that makes sense.
Transparency and visibility are two of the other core concepts we discussed with the FT and RSG Consulting last week. Contract data was at the center of the discussion, of course, but so was breaking down silos: from recruiting for integrated services to combining cross-departmental stakeholders in order to deliver company-wide impact. With our clients (like Hub International and Anglo American, both included in the FT report as examples of good practice) we always start with a set of questions. We ask them to come up with 10 things they’d like to know about the business as a whole (not just the legal function), including verifying if some of their assumptions about certain areas of the business are right. We then extract data sets from across the company (finance, legal procurement, HR or any other area of the organization that requires scrutiny) and build a dynamic visualization of what that data means in relations to the parameters we selected in the ‘top 10 things I’d like to know’ phase. Being able to see the data behind the performance is an incredibly powerful wake-up call. All of a sudden, decisions are easier. Everything makes sense: numbers, strategies, and people click in place.
There are many more examples in the FT Intelligent Business report that show just how fast things are moving in this traditionally ‘sleepy’ industry. It’s sleepy only if you took a pill 20 years ago and have yet to wake up (many law firms are still snoozing!). It’s time you wake up because the smart players out there (the Big Four and, well, Exigent: we’ve been included in the FT list too, so it’s not too arrogant to say it ourselves) certainly haven’t been dozing.
Driven by an urge to reshape the legal industry, Exigent’s CEO and co-founder David Holme has been injecting innovative thinking into the way legal services are provided for the last 15 years. David founded Exigent in 2003, focusing on workflow efficiencies first and then continuing to move the needle of alternative service providers from the low-cost camp to smart, data-enabled business partners.
David provides the strategic direction and plays a key role in developing partnerships globally for Exigent, an inherently cross-cultural, progressive and borderless business.