Customer story – university-related foundation
This university-related foundation (that wishes to remain anonymous) is the contact point for endowment and fundraising for one of Illinois’ universities. The counsel includes three in-house legal professionals and administrative support personnel. Together they are responsible for administering and overseeing the legalities across a vast range of scholarships, grants, sponsored research agreements, cash donations, stock securities, and investment bonds along with farmland and properties gifted to the university.
Being the primary contact point for endowment and fundraising presents the foundation’s in-house legal team with a diverse range and significant volume of matters, matter types, contracts, and documents.
Setting up for success
When Brett Lemons, manager and paralegal joined the in-house legal team, the opportunity to embrace change and leverage his experience in implementing legal technology arose. Lemons sought to source and implement a new approach to the way the team had formerly managed their day-to-day work.
“There was an unwieldy combination of paper files, networks, share drives, and a godawful amount of emails and physical filing cabinets. There was very little way of organizing or relating materials between employees and between topics and within the task itself. It was often a nightmare to try and wrangle all the paperwork, and the problem with all of those is that unless you have your hands on the email or the physical document, you don’t actually have it at all,” said Lemons.
One source of truth
It was Lemons’ responsibility to research and adopt the legal technology best suited to his team and the essence of the foundation’s day-to-day caseload.
“In our flavor of law, and generally speaking across university-related foundations, we’re known to manage a high volume of contracts. It doesn’t matter what it is or what it’s for, all contracts come through our offices, and that’s a lot of contracts or physical paper to manage in-house. Having one centralized repository for all our contracts is invaluable and we knew that was what we needed.”
Already familiar with case management software, Lemons knew that rather than a point solution, he was determined to source a streamlined solution purpose-built for in-house counsel, one that was able to support and enable the vast and varying range of work managed by their team beyond contract management and documents.
“In vetting a number of legal technology platforms, LawVu came in first place for in-house counsel. The others were very much geared towards private practice, and in-house is very different. LawVu was best placed to help in-house lawyers deal with the variety of things that in-house lawyers deal with – which is vastly different from the repetitive nature of private practice.”
Lemons explained that LawVu’s legal workspace provides a foundation for continued optimization. “The customization and the uniqueness for our flavor of law could happen with LawVu, but also the framework and structure provided by LawVu channels us forward rather than backward in the way that we approach our work.
“LawVu is the best of both worlds, giving us some flexibility to customize, control and utilize features that matter to us and to turn a blank slate into something bespoke to us when we need to. LawVu hits that sweet spot right in the middle.”
Manage contracts and matters together, all in one place
Having one centralized location for all contracts, matters, and supporting documents was a priority for Lemons.
“The clearest win besides ditching the filing cabinets was having one centralized location for all our case files, so we didn’t have to worry if person A had the email or person B had the email. We didn’t have to worry about who had removed the paper file from which filing cabinet. We now fire up our browsers, fire up LawVu, navigate straight to the matter and you’ve got it. It’s a lot easier to look in one cabinet [LawVu] than it is four or five cabinets.”
Lemons shared that LawVu has also helped the team to better memorize and recall the status and state of their matters. “They don’t have to track down that email in a five or ten email chain to find its status; now they rely on the status updates in LawVu at first glance in an instant.”
Optimizing productivity and gaining total oversight
Beyond the efficiencies gained in streamlining workflows and adopting just one centralized location, LawVu has benefited both their in-house team and the wider business thanks to the team now being quicker and more responsive.
“Our counsel is quicker now because we can easily track our work and track how long things have been sitting for and how quickly they’ve been progressing. We can also track when matters close so we can mark it as completed and we can move it to the back of the ‘filing cabinet’ and not have to worry about if it’s sitting on someone’s desk and if it’s actually being dealt to or not. Now, once we’re done, we can mark the matter as complete and we can move on. So in that respect, it’s made us quicker with our turnaround times. LawVu has also helped us track what needs to be done, and what is still outstanding,” said Lemons.
An easy implementation process
While Lemons was new to the team, his colleagues had long experienced the inefficiencies of paper files, shared drives and emails, so the change was welcomed and they were supportive of the implementation and adoption of LawVu.
“The implementation and adoption of LawVu was easy and very high because there were three of us and we figured it out very quickly with the added support and help from the LawVu team.”
Unlike Lemons, what his team hadn’t previously experienced was the painstaking process of designing workflows and matter fields from scratch, rather than spending six or seven hours a week just designing what was needed and understanding the programming itself was something Lemons was determined to avoid when it came to implementing new legal technology at the foundation.
“The implementation process of LawVu was far easier than I expected it to be,” said Lemons.
Paramount to this was ensuring that their investment in a legal workspace would provide the support they needed both in implementation and the ongoing relationship with LawVu.
“The LawVu team was experienced and well placed to help us understand where and how the customization and uniqueness for our flavor of law could happen within LawVu.”
Contract management for the whole business
Now that the legal team is proficient in utilizing LawVu daily and has experienced the impact of their new legal workspace firsthand, Lemons said the biggest goal the counsel is working towards is implementing contract management to the wider business.
“We’ve been really excited about LawVu’s contract module within our team, and so we’re looking forward to rolling that out to the wider foundation business units and sharing those efficiencies and benefits as a result. The feedback so far has been uniformly positive.”