Law firm conflict clearance, Part 3: how to make the move to centralization
This is part of three in a blog series about moving to a centralized model for conflict clearance. In our first post, we described the four types of clearance models we see. In our second, we explored why a shift to centralization makes sense. In this post, we examine what it takes to move to a centralized conflict clearance model.
When does a law firm decide to change its conflict-clearance model? There can be several drivers. A change in the executive team can prompt an examination of processes. A new focus on the bottom line can spur an analysis of how to improve efficiency. Or a firm may expand into a new client base or market size, making its former clearance model for risk untenable and unable to scale.
What’s next? We always advise a firm considering moving to a centralized clearance model to take a step back first and look at its entire new-business model from a more holistic perspective. This includes assessing intake and terms of business processes along with conflict resolution—and taking a look at staffing and technology to boot.
Accepting New Business
Law-firm leaders recognize that making improvements to how they conduct intake, establish and comply with terms of business, and implement conflict resolution has tangible effects on their business. Similarly, executive management teams realize that if new matters can be onboarded faster, billing can start sooner—and with pressure to generate revenue ever-increasing, the desire to start billing faster is omnipresent.
By looking at new-business acceptance as whole, rather than piecemeal, firms can enjoy accelerated billing of new matters simply due to the focus a centralized team offers. Furthermore, a holistic view of new business acceptance means taking on clients strategically. While there is always a push to take any business, the reality is that some clients just aren’t profitable. Having a process in place to weed those out will pay dividends in the long run.
The staffing model for a centralized model for conflict clearance is typically different than what’s needed for transactional, decentralized, or hybrid clearance models. It calls for an augmentation to the risk staff by adding professional, non-practicing attorneys who specialize in conflict clearance. This staff might be different from the current staff, who likely focus on more administrative tasks. While this might sound like an expensive proposition, the reality is the efficiency gains outweigh the hiring of additional staff.
The technology needs to evolve, too. When shifting to a centralized model, it makes sense to implement top-tier tools for clearing conflicts. The last thing you want if you’re looking to increase efficiency is being saddled with a slow, ineffective, or outdated system to clear conflicts. Your technology should be purpose-built for clearing conflicts, have the ability to clear multiple conflict searches rapidly and accurately, and be designed for lawyer use with an intuitive user interface.
The best-in-class tools take it one step further, with automation applied toward conflict identification, the ability to rank and sort conflicts, and ongoing monitoring of events. This last item is critical, because modern conflict clearance is never “won and done;” if and when potential new conflicts arise, a smart tool will alert a risk staffer, who can dive in and determine potential issues.
Finally, the business processes to enable conflict searching must be dynamic and easy to modify by a business user. ongoing monitoring of events. All these capabilities will help make a specialized risk staff even more efficient.
Take the Next Step: Building a Strategy
Once a firm has assessed and examined its new-business acceptance processes, determined the staffing needs, and researched appropriate technological supports, what next? Typically, firms will create a comprehensive strategy and build an associated business case that details the costs, benefits, and impacts to the firm’s bottom line.
If that prospect is daunting, Intapp can help. Intapp Strategic Consulting can advise you on the best way to begin a transformation to a centralized clearance process. Ready to begin that journey? Contact us to take the next step.
Michael Seymour has spent 20 years focused on helping technology firms and has deep expertise in helping firms focus on the customer. His interests cover all of legal tech, and he is focused on helping firms to modernize their front office.