Workshare’s technical evolution to successful Transaction Management software

We’re very pleased to welcome Simmons & Simmons to the rapidly growing family of law firms using Workshare Transact. It’s going to transform their transactional drafting and closing processes. This is a major area of growth for us and comes as we continue to deliver on our promise to change the legal desktop by reducing the clutter. 

I thought it might be useful to explain in a little more detail about Workshare’s journey to delivering our Transaction Management platform and how it leverages our years of experience in file comparison, security and sharing.

Inefficiency comes from all the tooling

My previous article on the cost of overcrowding on the legal desktop was about giving end users a single platform with all the functions in it, crafted into an experience legal professionals recognize and can easily adopt.

The transaction closing and bibling process today is full of multiple discrete tools from which files have to be collated and transferred. This leads to significant inefficiency, as admin teams move documents and use discrete tools to manage their own part of the workflow. It’s what leads to substantial write offs, in our experience this is between 10-20% that law firms have to swallow on every single transaction.

Taking a closer look at some of the tools used in the process, you can see why these write-offs happen: 

  • Email - getting files into the hands of relevant deal participants
  • File comparison and redlining
  • Document or case management and storage
  • Metadata cleaning, as versions are sent via email
  • Ethical wall and access control restrictions
  • Secure file transfer of the most confidential and large documents
  • Task tracking and project management tools
  • Summary and status report production
  • Signature page assembly and management
  • PDF conversion and binding software

To bring the greatest adoption and, importantly, transformation, these shouldn’t be separate tools. They should be a series of services crafted together into a single application and experience for transactional teams, which reflects how they work.

And that’s what we’ve crafted over the last two years with Workshare Transact.

We’ve baked Workshare technology into the application, so document comparisons can be run automatically, metadata can be scrubbed as files are uploaded, PDF binding technology is standard, so the final bible or closing binder and indexation can be done. The list goes on.

The result is not just huge efficiency for end users and transformation of the client experience (as demonstrated by 12 of the top 20 UK firms currently signed with us on pilots), it also means big efficiency gains for IT with fewer desktop products to support, secure, manage and maintain. 

The nearest course to big short-term gains

While many firms are investigating AI solutions, identifying ways to fully automate laborious processes, the well-trodden path of simply removing process bottlenecks created by all these systems can deliver significant savings for a firm in the shortest time possible.

It’s no surprise that there are a series of market entrants, besides ourselves, moving into this sector traditionally occupied by the likes of Virtual Data Room provides, like Intralinks or Merrill. Competitors in this space are all firms fueled by frustrated end users, making the move from practice to building their own software and attempting to sell it back to the firms they used to work for. 

So, how did we get here?

We’ve had all the components of Workshare Transact for the a very long time. To build out a single platform, replacing the multitude of legacy desktop solutions sold today was the obvious next step.

While our path hasn’t always been smooth or transparent to the market, it’s one we’ve been very focused on. And, it comes down, really, to four key areas: 

1. Hiring and acquiring domain experts

Our journey started down this path two years ago when through the acquisition of Deal Rooms, which was started by Owen Oliver and Ben Ridgeway. They were transactional lawyers, frustrated with the waste and inefficiency they saw in the closing process. As Workshare absorbed their technology into our sharing platform, we went into the market very early and worked directly with foundation customers, like JAP and CKBR, who could provide feedback to ensure we developed and add all the features necessary to remove inefficiencies from the process.

We then hired Fiona McClune, formerly of Merrill Corp, to lead our sales effort for Transact. Having spent years working with transactional groups, she had extensive knowledge of the pains felt by individuals in these teams and could see how best to take the solution to market.

Finally, we hired paralegals and law graduates, like Ravinder Barn and Joe Collerton, to provide support and customer success programs to end users. They give training at all hours and they know how time critical support and assistance is to deal success. 

2. Security as a priority

With security at the heart of such a business-critical process, we recognized functionality was one thing, but also that our security credentials and scale needed to support globally executed transactions. This meant using the highest levels of cloud security available.

We’ve been able to leverage our extensive $20m investment in cloud-sharing infrastructure, blending it with the functionality brought by Ben and Owen through acquisition. So now, not only have we delivered the user experience demanded by transactional teams, we have the ability to store files in multiple geographies to meet various data residency requirements of firms across Europe and around the world.

We also have complete auditing and encryption across the solution and, importantly, we have the scale to build a fully redundant infrastructure to ensure availability and service levels of the highest standards. 

3. Driven by client feedback

Delivering groupware solutions, where you require teams of people to work together in a single platform, changing behavior in the process, is notoriously difficult. From the outset, Workshare has been working with transactional practice groups in some of the world largest firms. We’ve continuously taken onboard their feedback, evolving features so we could provide every nuance and feature a transactional team might need in throughout a workflow. By replicating real deal experiences and transferring them into the application means professionals can automatically see it makes logical sense to use it, therefore Transact is easy to adopt.

4. A sensible commercial model

We played around with the commercial model, and we’ve done away with models that simply don’t work for collaboration-based tools. Charging per user is inefficient when user volumes can be hard to predict, charging per page or per GB is old hat and not always reflective of the value being generated by the deal the tool is supporting. Certainly, paying for a multitude of point tools, in whatever combination, is wildly expensive and inefficient. So, we settled on a ‘Per Deal’ model, where firms pay only when live deals are processed via the application. The charge relates to the size of the deal and therefore the value, which can be easily packaged and recharged to the customer a single cost. That way, Workshare are always aligned with our customers’ success, and the cost easily and transparently recovered from their client.

So that’s how we got here!

But, truly all that matters for now is welcoming another new client. Thank you to Simmons & Simmons for choosing us, we’re proud to be working closely with you and helping you continue to lead the market.