Legal departments tend to run fairly lean. This means relying on external parties to accomplish any task is the norm. But when you are managing dozens of outside counsel on different matters, it can be nearly impossible to keep abreast of email traffic, calendars, and the status of any given task. Thankfully with a little bit of technology and some organization, this issue can be solved. This blog will share some tips on how other legal departments have solved this challenge.
- Select a technology platform to support organization and collaboration. The technology should allow internal and external parties to edit documents, view and manage calendars, organize task lists, and make comments and/or send messages to each other. There are many technologies that organizations use, such as Microsoft Teams or Google Workspace, that work well for this type of collaboration internally, but are not necessarily set up for external collaboration. With some additional work, you can also set these tools up for external collaboration. However, given all the privacy and data management considerations for internal use, one can imagine how high the hurdles are to set this up for external use. If you are facing those hurdles, there are several third-party technologies, such as Joinder and HighQ, that work well for external collaboration. These third-party cloud technologies are fairly low cost and quick to implement. The most important thing here is to choose a single platform. You want to make sure that you are able to minimize switching platforms with every new matter and/or outside counsel. Imagine the ease with which you can get an overview of all your legal work if you can log in to one platform and see your litigation ediscovery deadlines, patent filing deadlines, and third-party subpoena response deadlines. You can then seamlessly edit the associated documents and assign a task to the next reviewer. You can see how selecting a single platform provides greater visibility and efficiency.
- Ensure each third party has a person responsible for maintaining the records inside the shared technology. Although you will likely have multiple people working on any given matter, you want to make sure there is at least one person from each third party who is responsible for updating the system. This should be someone knowledgeable about the matter, the deadlines, and the tasks. This should also be someone who is highly organized and comfortable with the technology.
- Agree upon a common organizational structure. The hardest thing about managing hundreds of matters is staying organized across all of them. If you choose a way to organize that remains consistent, it makes it much easier to find what you are looking for quickly. For example, you may choose to folder documents and tasks by matter type or by the department of origination. Either way, make sure it is a structure that makes sense across your legal portfolio. Here are some considerations to ponder when deciding how to name your files.
- Write the above into your outside counsel guidelines. A third-party collaboration tool and the organizational system are only as good as the adoption. By writing a requirement to keep it updated into your outside counsel guidelines, you are increasing the chances of success. Here is some sample text for your use:
[Company name] uses [software name] as its third-party collaboration tool and asks that each of its outside counsel use [software name] for all work on the matter. On at least a weekly basis, outside counsel shall update [software name] with important dates in the matter, an updated list of tasks in the matter, and any final versions of key documents in the matter.
The benefits of having all your legal documents in one platform increase over time. You create a system of records that can be referenced at any time. I hope that these tips will help you implement a solution for third-party collaboration so you can reduce the time you spend searching your email for the last version of the contract.