Image courtesy of Thomson Reuters
This story has been updated from Wednesday's initial report.
Thomson Reuters has jumped on the cloud-and-mobile bandwagon, Wednesday announcing two new products and revamped stalwarts that will be officially debuted at LegalTech New York 2013 at the end of the month. At a day-long session at its Eagan, Minn., campus, long home to its legal division, the company previewed updates to its Elite line of time-and-billing productivity software and its growing portfolio of litigation offerings, and introduced two web-based interactive practice management systems.
"It's the beginning of a new era," for Thomson Reuters, declared Mike Suchsland, president of the company's legal division, as the program began at 8:30. TR, he said, is revamping its vision and its offerings to embrace the explosion of mobile work options, and offer easier integration of the company's products with third-party offerings. "Thomson Reuters will give our customers a smarter way to work," he said, by providing both "both legal expertise and technologies. We are evolving away from 'content is king' and adding technology and expertise."
The company's five-year plan for a paradigm shift addresses three key elements, he said: mobile, cloud, and connectivity options. "Mobile has to be at the heart and center of what we do," said Suchsland. The dramatic emergence of BYOD (bring your own device), with four major operating systems running mobile devices Apple's iOS, Google's Android, Research in Motion's BlackBerry, and Microsoft's Windows has changed the legal terrain. "Customers need to be able to access our content from anywhere," he said. "We are no longer in a stage of evolution where we are [creating] a product, and then redesigning it for mobile. It's now mobile from the ground up," he said. TR plans to exploit its strong data centers and focus on "connectivity. You will see tools and applications connected as never before," he said.
Suchland acknowledged that TR's customer service needs improvement, and promised that the company would "listen to our customers," and "become a company that is a pleasure to work with." He pledged that TR would continue to support core legal research, (which has been the backbone of both Thomson Reuters and its long-time competitor, LexisNexis), but would pivot to the new priorities that focus on cloud-based, mobile-first offerings that integrated not only with TR's own products, but with third-party offerings most notably, Microsoft's popular Office suite. "We are going to tear down boundaries," he said. The shift in priorities, he said, began with the company's 2010 acquisitions of Serengeti Law, a matter management tool for in-house attorneys, and Pangea3, a legal processing outsourcing company that targeted both firms and corporate law departments. "In five years, we think we will be more of a software company than an information company but we still need to support core legal processes, said Suchsland.
Bob Schukai, TR's global head of mobile technology, continued Suchland's theme. "We are changing our mindset. We now engage with Apple; the iPad is the most important product in the enterprise space. It's security is decent, and the iPad is setting the benchmark," he said. "Consumer pull is dragging enterprise along. Consumer impact is fundamentally affecting how Thomson Reuters is designing products. We are thinking two things: how do we make it personal and contextual," he said.
The presenters then turned their attention to the upgrades and products they would be unveiling at ALM's LTNY, January 29 to 31 at the Hilton New York. The splashiest revelation was TR's new practice management dashboard for corporate counsel Concourse, a name inspired by airports. "It's all about the connections," said Jeff Hodge, general manager of Serengeti.
The cloud-based dashboard (See Figure 1) is designed to serve as a central workspace hub for corporate counsel, allowing them to easily call up everything they need to do their daily work, said James Jarvis, senior director, new product development, Serengeti. Lawyers can configure Concourse to suit their individual work habits, adding both TR and third-party elements, he explained. Typically, that would mean choosing among TR's portfolio of services, such as WestlawNext research service, as well as matter documents; and most important to most users, the heavily used Microsoft Office suite, including email, contacts, and word processing. "People say they live in Outlook, they write in Word," declared Jarvis. Other TR products that can be integrated into the dashboard include SerengetiTracker, Capitol Watch, Reuters News, and a "drafting assistant" tool for transactions, he said. A legal hold tool will be offered in the near future.
At the core of Concourse is Serengeti, a matter management and billing software created in the late 1990s by Seattle's Donald Murray one of the first companies to offer legal performance analytics. Serengeti was one of the legal pioneers in the cloud, but back then, it had another name application service providers. In 2002, only 14 percent of lawyers had used ASPs, wrote attorney and blogger Robert J. Ambrogi, an attendee at the TR event.
The same motivations remain from Murray's days at the helm. Corporate counsel are frustrated by technology, need to be able to work efficiently, and face pressure both from their corporate stakeholders and their outside lawyers, said Jarvis. And in-house practitioners must deal with legal challenges (regulations, contracts, litigation, and complex transactions) as well as department management (staffing and training, budgeting, vendor management, and reporting).
So putting resources and tools in a central dashboard helps lawyers reach the goal of working better, faster, and cheaper, leaving more time for the life side of work-life balance, explained Jarvis.
"It's connecting the tools you use today, connecting the people, connecting actionable data," he said. For example, users can permission colleagues into Matter areas (See Figure 2), allowing speedy collaboration.
Of course, security and client confidentiality are always a high priority for risk-adverse lawyers using any form of technology. "The magic of Concourse is the Thomson Reuters private cloud," he said, citing its security strength.
Thomson Reuters' description of the dashboard seemed a bit like how many firms use SharePoint, as a way to organize the tools they use during the course of the day, so LTN asked whether Concourse was viewed as an alternative to the popular Microsoft offering. "We are not trying to replace SharePoint or your document management system," Jarvis said.
The day concluded with a demonstration of Firm Central, a similar dashboard product that targets very small firms. I will report more details about Firm Central in Monday's edition of LTN's "Tech Circuit" column.
Fifteen legal journalists and bloggers accepted Thomson Reuters' invitation to the event; the company offered reimbursement of travel expenses. (LTN does not accept travel reimbursements). Among the attendees were attorney Robert Ambrogi (who writes Law Technology News' Web Watch column), Toronto's Simon Chester, attorney Lisa Solomon, and U.K.-based Jane and Charles Christian.
Monica Bay is the editor-in-chief of Law Technology News and a member of the California bar. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @lawtechnews @LTNMonicaBay.