Lawyers value their time by the hour, so an IT modernisation project that saves 42,000 hours of their time is always going to be a worthwhile investment.
That’s the saving MinterEllison forecasts it will see in the 2023 financial year due to the replacement and automation of its business process management system.
That’s no small feat for the largest Australian-headquartered law firm, with more than 2,800 employees and 265 partners providing a broad range of services to government, private and public clients.
The company’s previous business process management system was ten years old and had reached the end of its useful life. In addition, MinterEllison wanted to reduce its level of risk further by enhancing automation of its systems. Automation is an opportunity to improve efficiency, but also lower risk, and provide better client services.
However, MinterEllison faced a twofold challenge in planning its move to a new system. Firstly, despite its faults, it was looking to replace a deeply embedded system familiar to the lawyers.
“It was important that we invest in a platform that had a look and feel that the lawyers would be used to,” MinterEllison Chief Digital Officer Gary Adler said. “It would be difficult to drive uptake of a new platform that had a complex and confusing interface. When there are client pressures, and you’re working in 6-minute billing increments, learning a new system from scratch has its challenges.
“However, by creating custom applications that have a familiar look and feel to what the lawyers use in their personal lives, and making the automation an invisible process running behind the scenes, we’ve ended up with a healthy queue of legal teams that want to be moved on to the platform immediately.”
The second challenge is related to the broad range of activities in the firm. The new platform had to be flexible, as some parts of the firm would be working on hundreds of conveyancing matters each year, while other parts would be focused on just a few significant M&A activities.
Adler said that finding a solution that could consolidate all these activities to a single platform was a challenge. “We wanted everyone to access all of their matters from a single location easily,” he said. “The diligence process to find the right platform for our needs, with the broad and varied requirements that we had, was a long one.”
MinterEllison turned to a low-code business process automation solution based on Appian technology, named Beacon. Beacon was sold internally as an opportunity for efficiency in legal teams to create substantial time savings.
It has been successful. By the end of the first year, Beacon managed 8,000 legal matters. For the next financial year – FY23 – the company expects to have over 20,000 matters logged and managed using the system.
This has been measured in time savings of between 10 per cent and 30 per cent per matter, and MinterEllison has calculated that the total time savings for the coming financial year will be the equivalent of 42,000 hours of lawyer and support staff time.
“In addition to the internal savings, our clients are being given access now to a new value-adding service,” Adler said. “They can now see what exactly is going on with their matters in real-time through the digital portal. They can generate their reports, access the legal documents parallel to our lawyers working on them, and take advantage of 24/7 real time access through this digital channel.
“We see this as a genuinely differentiated digital service for our clients.”
MinterEllison took the long road with its modernisation strategy. Rather than undertake a lift-and-shift approach to move existing functionality to a new platform, built the business process management system from the ground up.
The advantage of doing this, said MinterEllison Process Automation Manager, Ryan Saul, is that the company can now take a forward-looking approach to further transformation, and continue to build out a competitive advantage.
“In the time since we started using the Appian technology, there have been multiple new features and functionality added, such as intelligent document processing, RPA, AI and data mining,” Saul said. “From here, we're going to start exploring how we can apply further intelligent document processing methods to our existing processes.”