Managing: Product Review
Ctrl+Alt+Repeat: ClariLegal Refines Vendor Management
Consider the many things that make normal life easier. Like buttons. There haven’t always been buttons, you know. What if you had to button your shirt without buttons? Literally impossible. (Button up, by the way.)
I had a professor in college (he was the kind of guy who would wear an ascot) who didn’t take a salary. He didn’t need the money: His family invented some small rubber coupling that was used between railcars, and that was it. He never had to work a day in his life, even if he did.
Small things can have a big impact. Simple changes can create massive efficiencies.
ClariLegal Does Something Very Simple, Very Well
ClariLegal is a vendor management platform for law firms and legal departments. Now, that might not seem like a big deal; and a layperson may think law firms have vendor management on lockdown. Only they don’t.
As with many things lawyers do, vendor selection is often handled on an ad hoc basis. Sometimes, it’s more important that a company sends a fruit basket (and what kind of fruit basket they send) than that they do good work. In many cases, the people making purchasing decisions do so without much input from managing attorneys. More often than not, a review process is nonexistent.
On occasion, firms will express ambivalence toward the whole process: it’s just getting billed to the client anyway. But with consumers demanding more productivity at a reduced cost, that attitude can be dangerous. The stakes, of course, are often higher for in-house legal departments and large law firms, where the projects are bigger and the third-party vendor is more expensive — by several factors.
ClariLegal is sufficient in that it facilitates development of a purchasing process where there was no process before; ClariLegal is necessary in that it offers a robust platform for managing that process.
Controlling the Purchasing Process
While it’s easy to think of ClariLegal as a litigation-based tool, the way the software works means it can positively change the relationship of any law firm or legal department to any vendor. ClariLegal is an introduction engine with a firm handshake.
First, ClariLegal automates the vendor RFP process. It provides an honest-to-goodness system through which vendors and lawyers can communicate on projects (potential and existing) in a clearly defined way. ClariLegal features customizable proposal forms that lawyers and staff can complete and use, outlining project details. It will then search among participating vendors for a “match,” and those vendors can submit a proposal based on a baseline corpus of information. During the selection period, law firms and law departments can memorialize negotiations, and otherwise archive all system-based data related to the decision-making process.
Once the bidding is complete and a service provider has been selected, ClariLegal can be used to manage discrete project components, through access to detailed project histories. When you work with a ClariLegal vendor, both attorneys and staff can efficiently manage workflow for a variety of projects through a single repository. In addition to monitoring ongoing projects, the system provides a mobile and flexible way for lawyers and project managers to access and share data related to a project or vendor.
ClariLegal’s usefulness, however, does not meet its end after a project is completed. Each project, from vendor selection to close, is archived in detail. This means that you can develop and implement processes for determining the success rates of various vendors and particular project types. Review of process can and should lead to process improvement. Based on the results of projects, you can designate preferred vendors within ClariLegal — but then, that decision will have been made based on tangible factors, separate and apart from the frequency and quality of fruit basket delivery.
What’s more, since all participating vendors get vetted by ClariLegal staff, the companies ultimately ranked highest by law firm users could be described as the “best of the best.”
Beyond the Bid: Controlling Costs
ClariLegal is, really, a measurement tool. It provides real-time data that monitors the success of a vendor relationship at any point in that relationship. Since ClariLegal brings order to the vendor management process, the process improvements derived from that order will increase efficiency, and thereby productivity, all positively affect the bottom line. Because ClariLegal is a shared database, it also facilitates delegation, so that attorneys can do less of the rote work, and more often practice at the top of their law licenses.
ClariLegal continually tracks costs to provide recurring snapshots of present value. At the outset, a law firm can select the lowest bid from a group of proposals. That’s a pretty clear cost savings; but, it’s not always the right decision — a higher-cost proposal may include services or incentives that make it the better value. ClariLegal’s software empowers effective choice around questions of value.
There are other cost advantages to using ClariLegal. In emergencies, you can quickly locate a solution provider from a selection of vetted experts. You can track projects to avoid potential cost overruns and scope creep. ClariLegal can also help to reduce litigation costs, including for eDiscovery, through its apples-to-apples comparison modeling.
Transparency is generally a good. Unless you’re Dez Bryant, it’s usually better to know than not know. That’s especially true in business environments, where open internal processes can lead to effective change management, greater productivity and cost savings.
If the modus operandi respecting vendor management ultimately leads to the conclusion that “even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes,” then ClariLegal gives eyesight to the blind (squirrel … well, in this case: lawyer). The ability to identify and catalog every aspect of a transaction through a shared database means that ClariLegal gives law firms and their business partners clear results about the nature of their relationships and engagements. That should mean that everyone involved is making better, more informed choices, and that all parties (including the clients the work will ultimately benefit) save time, effort and money.
ClariLegal is a system for achieving repeatable, predictable results. For law firms and law departments bogged down by uncertainty, that level of sophistication can be a game changer.
To learn more about ClariLegal, including pricing information (it’s free for law firm and legal department purchasers), visit the website and read this review at Bob Ambrogi’s LawSites Blog. Also, check out my interview with CEO Cash Butler at Legal Talk Network.
Jared Correia is CEO of Red Cave Law Firm Consulting, which offers subscription-based law firm business management consulting and technology services for solo and small law firms. Red Cave also works with legal institutions and legal-facing corporations to develop programming and content. A former practicing attorney, Jared is a popular presenter and regular contributor to legal publications (including his "Managing" column for Attorney at Work). He is the author of the ABA book "Twitter in One Hour for Lawyers," hosts the Legal Toolkit podcast, and teaches for Concord Law School, Suffolk University Law School and Solo Practice University. He loves James Taylor, but respects Ron Swanson.
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