I try to look cynically upon any slick new marketing campaign from the GRC software vendors, but occasionally something appears that does seem to have real substance. That may have happened in New York earlier this month at LegalTech 2015.
The conference was a coming out party of sorts for Wolters Kluwer and its newest subsidiaries, Datacert and TyMetrix. Wolters acquired both companies last year and spent much of 2014 integrating them. LegalTech was the new division’s first tour on stage, complete with a squad of executives hammering home Wolters’ vision for a new market: enterprise legal management.
I can’t welcome the prospect of yet another acronym, ELM, creeping into the compliance community’s vocabulary. But the idea of where Wolters believes the market is headed, and how compliance and legal officers alike will try to navigate through it—well, there’s something to it.
The concept behind ELM is that through better identification of your legal and compliance risks, and better tracking of the information that explains those risks, you can make better decisions with the help of analytics software instead of expensive lawyers. Managing your legal processes becomes more a matter of smart software and IT deployment, rather than billable hours to a law firm.
Or, to paraphrase Jim Tallman, general manager of Datacert & TyMetrix said at LegalTech: When the legal analytics give you the right information, the decisions you need to make about legal risks become apparent; you can rely on ELM more, and lawyers less.
I probably can’t give much comfort to lawyers reading those lines above and wondering what all this means for their careers. But two other thoughts do strike me.
First, Tallman’s ideas and Datacert’s vision are not new. They are part and parcel of a future sketched out by people like Richard Susskind, a sharp-minded lawyer who has been writing about changes to the legal profession for years. Partly spurred by what I heard at LegalTech, I picked up Susskind’s book from 2013, Tomorrow’s Lawyers. He paints an intriguing picture of legal risks managed in the era of Big Data and Big Analytics, where lots of legal work will be automated and litigation work is more often a project to be managed among many “legal service providers” rather than handed off to a Big Law firm to settle the case at huge cost to you. Here is the money quote from Susskind:
“…Legal risk managers [will focus] on anticipating the needs of those they advise, on containing and pre-empting legal problems. Their preoccupation will not be with specific deals and disputes but with potential pitfalls and threats to the business. Legal risk managers will undertake jobs such as legal risk reviews, litigation readiness assessments, compliance audits, and analysis of contractual commitments.”
Second, substitute the word “compliance” wherever you see “legal” in the above paragraph and then re-read it. Everything still holds true. This is the future of the compliance department just as much as it’s the future of the legal department.
Compliance Week has talked before about the future of the chief compliance officer, moving from someone who assembles the building blocks of a compliance program to someone who helps the business achieve better outcomes. You achieve better outcomes by making better decisions, and better analytics is what gets that done. We should all start thinking about how we can build the proper IT systems to dig deeply into compliance, audit, and legal risks, and then boil that data down into actionable items CCOs, CEOs, board directors, and even mere mortal employees can consider.
Datacert and TyMetrix aren’t the only vendors peddling the idea of ELM and software to meet that need. Mitratech, Thomson Reuters, CSC, and others are all jockeying for a place on the stage.
The volume of corporate data and risks out there will only get bigger in the future. We’ll all need powerful software to manage them. So maybe we need the ELM acronym in the compliance community after all.
(Full disclosure: I spoke on a panel discussion at LegalTech about the roles of compliance and legal officers that was hosted by Datacert, which paid for my travel to New York.)