In May, the Association of Corporate Counsel named several “Value Champions”—legal departments that, through legal operations efforts, including improved use of technology, have found a way to fulfill the mandate facing many in-house lawyers today: Do more with less.

One of this year’s winners was Ricoh USA. The ACC honored the imaging, printing, copying and document management company for its partnership with outside counsel Reed Smith. The two developed a shared software tool to track employment litigation matters and create a “knowledge center” accessible by in-house employment lawyers and select employees from Ricoh’s human resources and risk management departments.

Corporate Counsel recently spoke with Ricoh senior paralegal Kimberly Corbin and vice president and general counsel of the employment law group Jami Segota about the software tool, which is colloquially called “ouRSite.” The following conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

In embarking on this project, what were you trying to improve?

Kimberly Corbin: I’d been with the company for about two years, and one of my responsibilities was to track our employment litigation. When I came on board, it was being tracked through Excel, which wasn’t efficient. We would have to print out these 12 by 18 logs, if you can imagine that. And, I would have to do different types of internal reporting, not only for our legal department, but for our human resources department and our risk department. It got time-consuming. It was an administrative burden. So this was something where I had that “aha moment,” where we were looking at outside software programs—[and we were] interested in maintaining our budget. … Why not try to leverage our outside counsel on this? That’s how this project started.

Jami Segota: This was a way of lifting a lot of that administrative burden so that we could work smarter and better within our own group, so that we could also share the information that our business partners needed and wanted from us in a way that was more efficient and more easily accessible for them as well. Rather than just having to get information from us or wait or put their own reports together, we were able to leverage the ouRSite, which already existed at ReedSmith.

Reed Smith customized ouRSite for Ricoh. Had the firm done this customization process for any other clients?

JS: They had not, so this was a big undertaking both for us and for them. We owe a lot of the success of how ouRSite has worked for us through their commitment in working with us. There is the financial and the resource commitment it takes to changing this software platform to customize it for us. It was a true partnership. It works for them, too. You can imagine, they’re our national counsel and they have a pretty large legal team over there, so they all have the same access to this information that we do in one place. That’s obviously helpful to them, but it’s also allowed them to customize it for their other clients, as well, as to what it is they need.

This isn’t a typical legal matter, so how was it paid for?

JS: They did not actually charge us for building out the ouRSite. They viewed it as a partnership and that there was commitment to us, and us a commitment to them, as to how this was going to be developed. And they saw the benefits for them in their broader business. On our invoices, we see some charges for the different IT aspects of the things that we have needed from them, but to answer your question, there was no additional charge to us for development of the ouRSite.

KC: Reed Smith was really interested in expanding this kind of client-focused technology. That’s what I consider ouRSite, a client-focused technology. And they were willing to give us the benefits because, once we would see the benefits, then they get a benefit. From our standpoint, it increased our efficiency, it reduced routine tasks, it improved collaboration and our service with our business partners. But in turn, for them—and it may not be a monetary value—but in turn, by them doing that for us, it increased our client-side satisfaction, and now we have a higher dependency on Reed Smith, which creates client loyalty. And the customization now becomes a legal marketing tool for Reed Smith. It was a win-win solution for everyone.

What was important to include in the design of this project? What needs did you want addressed?

KC: First thing was to get rid of the 12 by 18 logs. The first priority was to get rid of those large, internal reports and to have that information in the extranet—which is ouRSite—and be able to generate the same report through there. That was resolved within probably two to three months; those 12 by 18 logs disappeared. From there we started focusing on the actual case management of it, the security of it and the ability for us to access it 24 hours a day and be able to have instant access to case status and documents and trends. The third part of it would be the knowledge management. We started focusing on: “Yes this is helpful for us, but how can we help our HR and risk business partners?” That required me to go out to them and find out what type of internal reports they were creating in an attempt to reduce redundancy.

Once we resolved that, we were also interested in a making sure we had some type of calendaring feature, because as you can imagine with litigation, there are due dates, and we wanted to make sure that we would get electronic notifications and reminders for those due dates. We launched ouRSite to our HR and risk departments and they began using it in January 2016.

JS: One of the most important parts of the original setup of ouRSite that Kimberly and our whole team were focused on was this idea of getting rid of paper. … Now, everything that is either filed or exchanged with counsel is now accessible to all of us on ouRSite, rather than having hard copies and having to maintain that. That’s been a huge money saver, as well as a timesaver for us. The other piece Kimberly worked hard to add for everybody, meaning the attorneys, HR and risk management, was the training, educational and seminar opportunities. We have a page on ouRSite where we can look for articles that Reed Smith attorneys have written about developments in the law, or developments in legislation, as well as either webinars or physical seminars that they are hosting or participating in, so that everybody can look at them and see if there are any they want to sign up for.

KC: I just wanted to add: We did reduce our active case files by 90 percent. Also, with that internal reporting time, the time that it took for me to do reports for the legal department, for the risk department, for the HR department, that was reduced by more than 60 percent. It has allowed me to work on more substantive legal work.