As the role of General Counsel and the law department have changed, so, too, has the solution market evolved. As the market expands, the ELM solution providers have developed new approaches to serve the needs of a multifaceted market.
Indeed, determining the proper solution fit is more complicated than simply gauging the size of the law department. For example, a “small” law department in terms of the number of in-house attorneys or support staff, may nonetheless have thousands of active cases managed by outside counsel. In comparison, a “large” law department may have hundreds of attorneys, yet manage cases primarily in-house with less outside counsel volume. These contrasting scenarios create very different solution needs. The small department will have requirements that focus more on workflow, collaboration and spend management, whereas the large department will focus on internal matter management, attorney utilization and document management.
For ELM solution providers, these scenarios represent just two examples of the diversity in solution needs as well as the increased challenge to develop solutions that meet the broad spectrum of client requirements.
From a historical perspective, the early market was represented by solution providers that focused their solutions on particular segments. The most common segments were either e-billing or matter management. Also, vendors tended to concentrate on either large, enterprise law departments, or on the small-to-medium sized organization. However, as e-billing and matter management capabilities converged, we also began to see the solution providers offering an ability to serve the full range of law department profiles.
To that end, vendors are taking a number of different approaches. Some are turning to a two-product strategy: one product designed for law departments that require greater flexibility and scalability to meet “enterprise” demands, but with the attendant implementation effort; , and a second product designed to provide a more standardized solution that emphasizes ease of deployment and maintenance, without the need for significant investment in implementing and deploying the system.
Alternatively, other vendors pursue a single product approach. These solution providers meet the range of client needs by balancing a certain level of configurability with specialized configuration templates that reduce the complexity in implementation, use and maintenance. In the single solution approach, some vendors also offer tiered packages, offering more customization options and premium support for clients who require more flexibility in their ELM solution.
In 2013-14, this shift has seen a number of vendors pursue a new two-product strategy, with one product oriented towards more “off the shelf” requirements, and a second product that supports complex, customized needs.
For single-product solution providers, the focus is on developing greater sophistication and capabilities to meet the broad range of client requirements, while remaining true to their ease of use principles. Vendors as well have made significant investments in cloud-based infrastructure, usability and administrative tools that are better aligned to non-technical deployments.
For law departments evaluating the ELM solution market, understanding the pros and cons of the various product strategies is important. As a result of the growing emphasis on catering to mid-market and enterprise-market clients as separate “client profiles,” corporate law departments should conduct a thorough and pragmatic assessment of their needs, their values, the nature of their existing data management and their major priorities (including requirements for streamlined deployment, broad “out-of-the-box” functionality, intuitive access to data, or other variables). Doing so will enable law departments to determine where they belong on the spectrum, and how best to proceed with the vendor selection process.