The History of the Enterprise Legal Management System and How Today’s Innovators Use It

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The enterprise legal management system (ELM) has evolved significantly since its first iteration more than 40 years ago. Before ELM solutions, paper ruled every aspect of legal operations, overrunning critical processes like matter intake and bill submissions. Processes that powered critical legal operations workflows lacked visibility and efficiency.

Now, ELM systems digitize and automate legal operations, analyze legal spend, minimize company risk and drive process efficiency – all while helping corporate legal departments better support their businesses.

How did ELM software become critical to today’s corporate legal departments? And how are innovative GCs, in-house counsel and legal operations professionals using it today? Read on to find out.

The Enterprise Legal Management System – Introducing Matter Management

Enterprise legal management solutions trace back to 1978. Equitable Life’s legal department saw the potential for their new WANG VS word processing system to do more. They determined that it could be used to manage the details of each legal matter, outside counsel and many other things that the company needed to monitor for day-to-day legal operations.

Equitable developed a matter management system that ultimately became a product called Corporate LawPack. Over the next two decades, Corporate LawPack was ported to a variety of hardware and software platforms. This led to its eventual adoption by the legal departments of many Fortune 100 companies, government agencies and financial institutions.

During the 1980s and 1990s, matter management was broadly adopted and refined to facilitate the administration of corporate legal practices. These solutions provided a matter database and served as reporting tools but had little effect on overall efficiency. They required manual entry for a large amount of data to create meaningful value, which meant the systems were operated by support staff and not widely used by lawyers.

The Rise of Legal Spend Management

In the mid-1990s to the early 2000s, legal spend management – the companion to matter management and an essential component of an enterprise legal management system – made its debut. The DuPont Legal Model (1992) drove its development. DuPont partnered with outside counsel to manage the data provided on legal invoices, theorizing that it would lead to significant operational efficiencies and reduce legal spend. This led to the Uniform Task Based Management System (UTBMS) initiative and spawned the new class of spend management software.

Legal spend management systems gave clients visibility into the details of what law firms were billing and it became the primary means of exercising more control over how matters were managed by outside counsel. This transparency began a shift in the way legal business is conducted that continues today, with clients having more opportunities to require alternative fee arrangements, enforce billing guidelines and reduce costs.

The Modern Enterprise Legal Management System

Today, technologies like the cloud, workflow automation platforms, AI and business intelligence platforms have allowed for greater advances and enabled the execution of visionary thinking.

Corporate legal departments no longer want systems of record – software that merely tracks data added to them. Instead, they want systems of engagement for ELM. These systems move the needle of productivity, streamline and accelerate workflows and provide greater transparency and less risk to the legal department and the enterprise it serves.

Even more importantly, these legal leaders – both for operations and the practice of law – want to address larger challenges, ones that might be felt across the enterprise. Adopting a no-code platform approach for all solutions means legal departments can solve any needs, including enterprise legal management, NDA creation and distributionlegal holds and legal service requests. The no-code platform also makes it incredibly easy to create solutions that solve intradepartmental and cross-departmental needs. For example, this catalog shows how corporate legal departments have built their own Apps and solutions to work with HR, IT, compliance, marketing and more.

Innovative Use of ELM Solutions

How are innovative legal leaders using enterprise legal management solutions?

BT’s innovative approach, which combined matter management, legal spend management and a business process automation platform, won the 2021 Legal Innovation Awards in the category of “Future of Legal Services Innovation – In-House Legal Operations.” According to the awards program, “BT’s new platform, ‘My Legal,’ allowed the legal team to overhaul how it managed external spend, as well as several other process improvements. Judges agreed that this winner stood out, not only due to the speed of their roll-out of the platform, but by taking an existing process and migrating it into a streamlined, efficient platform.” You can hear David Griffin, Head of Legal Technology and Change at BT, talk about the company’s award-winning transformation in this Onit podcast.

Christine DiDomizio, Legal Operations Lead at Jaguar Land Rover North America, shared the company’s story about implementing an enterprise legal management solution, digitizing processes and how collaboration changed after ELM. As a bonus, the solution also prepared them for the onset of the COVID crisis by providing a seamless transition from in-office to virtual work.

In this blog post, legal technology experts discuss four exciting ways in-house professionals are leveraging enterprise legal management, including workload management, diversity and inclusion, proving value and enterprise-wide operations.

You can find more ELM innovation and digital transformation stories in this Quick Start Guide: Advice on Legal Digital Transformation from the Leaders Who Created It.

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