Building a culture of innovation - an Irish Times report
This article was first published in the Irish Times, 31 January 2019.
The development of technology-based solutions by legal firms often needs to be rapid and bespoke to the situation at hand. Responding to a case in 2017, the team at A&L Goodbody (ALG) were instructed to locate collateral documentation and perform due diligence on a large portfolio of loans to be brought to market within an aggressive time frame.
“Technology is a core strategy of the firm,” says Joe O’Sullivan, Client Technology Director at A&L Goodbody, “and we work hard on building a culture of innovation within the firm. We have done a lot in terms of our internal programmes to get people to suggest ideas, and we take those ideas and make them come to life. But we also get our clients to look at those ideas and validate the outputs according to their needs.
“The client in this case required real-time reporting and insight to inform business critical decision making. The interdependency of multiple workstreams demanded a new and centralised solution. In response, using only internal resources and expertise, we developed a bespoke, proprietary and intelligent database platform – ‘ALGorithm,” explains O’Sullivan.
The aims of developing the platform were to optimise the traditional approach to security reporting for large loan sale due diligence, to centralise and structure the capture of data, and to present the data in a clear way providing real-time analysis and insight to inform business decisions for the client.
The development was spearheaded by ALG’s Legal Project Management (LPM) Unit, which comprised a blend of IT specialists, legal expertise and project management. With a history of operating on 90 per cent of all portfolio loan sales in Ireland, the LPM unit had an understanding of market expectations and insight into the life cycle, data capture and end-to-end delivery requirements for portfolio loan sale transactions.
“The LPM unit challenged itself to leverage this insight and provide an alternative, cost-efficient, service delivery solution for our clients. Understanding market demands and listening to our clients’ needs were core to the thought process behind ALGorithm,” says O’Sullivan.
A methodical approach through using ALGorithm saved on time and expenditure, reduced errors, and most importantly provided the real time data that was necessary to the client. “This gave the client substantial cost efficiencies, a strengthened negotiation capability and accurate progress reporting,” says O’Sullivan.
The development also offered benefits to the lawyers and legal professionals working on the case, such as the ability to input and present information on one screen, rather than spread across several systems. This resulted in a more efficient and consistent means of delivering work, and the activity of multiple teams working in different roles could be more closely monitored to minimise errors. For project managers working on this case, ALGorithm facilitated the management of multiple teams, and easier mapping of progress against the project plan.
“We engage with our clients and understand exactly what their needs are,” says O’Sullivan. “We look at legal services delivery first, and complement that with our technology-based solutions – and we offer it as a toolkit to our client to be able to combine both the legal service expertise that we have with our internal capability in technology space.”
The development of bespoke due diligence technology was one of the firm’s standout areas highlighted within the FT Most Innovative Lawyers report, and A&L Goodbody was named the Most Innovative Law Firm in Ireland by the Financial Times Innovative Lawyers Awards 2018.
Date published: 31 January 2019