Graeme Johnston / 28 September 2023
We have an important release approaching in November, so it seems a good time for a fresh summing up of what Juralio does, and who and how it helps.
For those who want further detail (this is the legal sector after all!), there’s a postscript – sections 4 and 5. This contains a summary of some things we don’t do (and why) and some challenges to adoption (and how to address them).
1. What Juralio does
Juralio is software which helps you do mainly these things, with an emphasis on ease and simplicity:
- Capture what’s going on in complex legal matters as structured-but-fluid work maps which don’t require special expertise to build
- Turn such processes into template maps from which specific matter maps can quickly be created
- Flexibly adjust the map to meet the particular matter’s needs, and its developments
- See and share progress elegantly, reducing reliance on more time-consuming, noisier, less digestible methods
- Link all of this up to other resources such as documents or automations
- Conveniently update status, labels, teams, dates and more
- Give people flexible access: e.g. edit or view, part or whole, direct access or via downloaded reports
- Learn from specific matters so as to improve the templates
Here are some things we know:
- You can use all sorts of tools (in addition to what’s in your head) to manage process and projects: in law that’s most commonly a combination of
- meetings (live, phone, online…)
- documents (Word, spreadsheets, slides, flowcharts…)
- messages (email, chat, comments…)
- Outside law, people involved in specific technical domains often use specialised software (e.g. for various types of engineering, MS Project and for software development, Jira).
- Both inside and outside law, some people use simple consumer-/SME-focused software (e.g. MS Planner, Trello, checklist apps) and workflow embedded into specialist document processing tools (e.g. ediscovery, contract review).
- But most people in law still use meetings, documents and messages most of the time.
- It’s still early days in law, but people who use Juralio tell us that its appeal is in its combination of simplicity, even pleasure, of learning and use with the ability to cope with complexity. Day-to-day, you very quickly get a great ROI on your and other people’s time. And there are some very important long term benefits (more on that below). There’s only so much that words can express: try it to see.
So, that’s the foundation of Juralio as it currently stands. Mapping the reality of work and helping you see it better: beforehand, at the time and afterwards, with experiences being easily seen and fed back so as to improve for the future.
2. Now add numbers
What we’ll shortly (November 2023) be adding is numbers:
- Projecting time and cost for matters – external and internal
- Establishing pricing for the external ones, whether you’re seller or buyer
- Tracking these plans not just against developing time and costs but (and this is crucial) against the underlying realities such as work-completion, milestones and changes in scope or circumstances
- Learning from this so as to make cost more predictable and lower for buyers, while also maintaining or improving profitability for providers
Having spoken with many people working in the area, and who are deeply interested in this topic, we believe that:
- There isn’t anything out there at present in the legal world which offers a truly satisfactory, usable, joined-up approach to these things
- Achieving this will help unlock major benefits (see the next section) that the established approaches, centred around document, email and financial systems, cannot do on their own
- Natural language processing and large language models have serious limitations in this area: while they will help with some analytics and questions, the big problems involve thinking hard about project realities and people, and those are some of the things that Juralio helps with, generating structured data as it goes
3. Who Juralio helps, and how
I’m going to use LSPs as shorthand to mean legal services providers – this encompasses law firms, internal legal departments, ‘alternative’ LSPs and any other kind of organisation providing legal services. Legal departments have a dual role here – representing clients in dealing with external LSPs, but also provide legal services internally with or without external involvement.
The things Juralio can help LSPs, clients and – crucially – individuals with can be lumped into five interconnected themes: insight, convenience, money, risk and life.
The ordering is for flow, not by importance (I appreciate, in business cases, that money tends to come first.)
3.1 INSIGHT: WHAT’S GOING ON, WHAT TO DO, WHAT TO LEARN
By making process easily visible and much less noisy, Juralio helps with the deep challenges of communication about complex work.
It gives insight into
- how to do things
- what’s happening, what’s already happened, what’s planned and how things stand on this matter
- understanding what happened, learning from it and making that available interactively, i.e. as a process template people can use directly rather than yet another document to read
Doing this better helps individuals at LSPs to learn and to get on top of things, both generally (a new type of process you’re unfamiliar with, a change you weren’t aware of) and specifically (this particular matter).
This helps individuals at LSPs personally (less stress and time figuring it all out, more undistracted time for non-process, substantive things) and their LSPs (because those individuals can do their job better, likely resulting in happier clients).
It also helps clients and individuals who work there (or, indeed for other advisers of the client) by providing them with a clear, up to date and easy to understand way to see status without having to wade through manually prepared reports.
And the LSP people have to spend less time preparing such manual reports. A virtuous cycle.
And at the system/knowledge/design/process/pricing/LPM/legalops teams within LSPs and clients, individuals can get better insight into what people actually do, as opposed to just
- The substantive (non-process) artifacts they produce
- What they say they do
- The simplest numerical elements which have long lacked sufficient ties to what’s actually been done
3.2 CONVENIENCE: INTERACTING WITH COMPLEX WORK
One thing I don’t think many lawyers fully appreciate is how the legal comfort zone (expressing things in nuanced words, usually in emails, documents or meetings/calls) can be a problem
- for people who aren’t lawyers
- even for people who are, when issues of project management and group communication arise
I’ll simply quote this September 2023 piece by Andrew Cooke, a UK general counsel:Total ignorance of the criticality of convenience/ CX
My decade in private practice led me to understand, 100% incorrectly, that what clients wanted was a high-touch service – when in fact convenience always trumps everything.
It’s worth reflecting on that. As a busy person, what do you want at the end of the day from your advisers?
Juralio helps with that by making the experience a lot more convenient and interactive in the software sense.
Of course it doesn’t do away with the need for those magical human words, but it helps everyone to rebalance in favour of convenience, giving the really valuable words more space to be formulated and heard.
3.3 MONEY: REDUCING COST AND MAKING IT MORE PREDICTABLE, WHILE INCREASING PROFITABILITY
The third thing Juralio helps with is money: helping to reduce ill-spent time, the financial cost of which ends up with either
- an LSP which has to write off time which could have been spent on something more valuable
- a client which is billed for things which would have been better not to have been done, or done more efficiently – with communication/coordination/learning inefficiencies being a major part of this
Of course, there is a tension here in work billed on a time basis, so obvious that I won’t spell it out. But that’s not the whole of the market and even where it is, times now seem to be changing faster at the moment than I can remember in previous years, even coming out of the 2008 crisis. You’ll have your own view about that, no doubt, but the point to make here is that there is a mutual benefit to be gained for LSPs and clients:
- more predictable, efficient process leads to more predictable pricing – accepting, of course, that it’s never 100%
- it may involve lower pricing but also higher margins for the LSP (because less has to be written off)
- it can also lead to more business (because the proposition is more attractive)
- and it helps create better relationships for both (because less time and money spent on parsing bills and debating costs)
One thing you might like to consider is what the alternatives are. If you’re under no pressure to change, great
3.4 RISK: REDUCING IT BY IMPROVING UNDERSTANDING WITHIN A MATTER AND AT A HIGHER LEVEL
The problems discussed thus far impose such costs that the result is sometimes not the incurring of time and money but the acceptance of risk.
For example, one nightmare for partners in LSPs and clients alike is not being able to stay on top of what other people in the team are doing, and mistakes being made. The noise of emails and documents exacerbates that. Something that can cut through process and status is really helpful in reducing noise and risk.
One of the things I did from time to time when I worked as a lawyer was handle the defence or settlement of cases in which professionals had made a mistake, including ones where partners hadn’t been able to supervise a team effectively. It can be excruciating for everyone involved and harmful for the client, the LSP and the individual professionals. There’s no simple solution, but being able to better see what’s going on is part of the answer in increasingly complex work.
Another aspect of the risk problem is how to ensure that new team members know what they are doing, and how more established team members understand new or improved ways of doing things.
Both problems are significant. Juralio’s functionality for capturing process knowledge and resharing it as interactive templates (not just documents) helps with that.
3.5 LIFE: IMPROVING IT FOR EVERYONE
The problems already discussed have an impact on individuals’ lives. I’m not naive enough to promote Juralio for that primarily, as that’s not how LSP and corporate IT budgets work. But let me put it lightly:
- There’s increasing emphasis on healthier approaches to legal work
- Juralio can contribute to that by helping with the other four things mentioned above
I hope that’s been a useful, realistic article. If you have thoughts or questions, please let me know. Likewise if you want to speak or try it out (there’s a free trial you can sign up for via the Juralio website).
A postscript follows, covering – for those interested in more detail:
- What Juralio (deliberately) doesn’t do, and why
- Some challenges and how to meet them
What Juralio (deliberately) doesn’t do, and why
Our focus is on integrating with, not duplicating, six major types of software.
Three of them are the main established ‘pillars’ in which legal work is done:
- Document management, collaboration and processing. There are plenty of great products for that already. Most ‘legal tech’ involves document processing. We have standard ‘out of the box’ integrations with Google Workspace and Microsoft 365. These allow you easily to add links and interact with documents without leaving Juralio. Other standard integrations will follow later. For enterprise customers with their own Juralio instance we can also integrate with most
- Financial systems (i.e. practice management system (PMS) for law firms, related time entry systems, matter management / ebilling system for in-house legal). These are huge products, highly specialised around the time-based billing model. Our emphasis is on feeding time entry data from Juralio into PMS and to combining PMS data (e.g. billings) with the data in Juralio (e.g. work planned / done, costs projected).
- Message-related / chat system (e.g. Teams, Slack). Teams, in particular, has quickly become the dominant messaging platform in many law firms and corporates. It would be foolish to replicate that functionality. We already make Juralio to use within Teams and will integrate more deeply in future.
Three others are:
- Rule-based automations (including document assembly). There are many great products for doing this already. They’re great if the particular flow has the volume and high degree of predictability which can justify building and maintaining such rules. Our emphasis in Juralio is on the kind of process which is more fluid. But you can link in Juralio tasks to rule-based resources such as documents to assemble during a matter.
- Spreadsheets and data visualisation platforms. There’s so much you can do with these. It would be pointless for us to build a version of Excel, Google Sheets, Tableau or Power BI when they are readily available. Juralio has strengths which they don’t, and vice versa. Our functionality will remain quite focused.
- Calendars. You have one already. We’re not going to try to replace it.
Some challenges and how to address them
I want to be realistic about challenges. We’re building a fourth fundamental pillar of legal work (a work-centric one) in addition to the three existing ones in LSPs (document-centric, message-centric and finance-centric): that’s not trivial in terms of change.
Some challenges to adoption which we’ve seen are:
- Not aligned
- Habits and incentives
- Concerns it will be counter-productive
- Not sure others will get it
- Integrations and feature requests
Here are our thoughts and experiences about these issues and how they’re overcome.
The short answer to all of it is that if you’re in a large team or organisation, there will be some change management to think about but it can readily be done.
5.1 NOT ALIGNED
We’ve found that
- fairly junior lawyers typically get the problems, the general nature of the solution (process, transparency, ease of use, joining-up etc) and our implementation very quickly
- so, often, do people who’ve have experience of working outside the law using some sort of work management platform
- people who’ve been working in law for years, are very embedded in email/Word workflows sometimes don’t grasp what it’s all about as the problems of that way haven’t really been felt by them
- for people who are doing work that is highly individualistic (rather than involving meaningful team collaboration), keeping it all in their head and simple docs/messages can of course still work – the value of Juralio increases once you’re working in a team
- similarly, if people are only working on high volumes of a very cut-and-dried process flow (the kind that can be automated as if/then flows and forms) then we suggest they look at rule-based technology
- but if people are working on things with a bit more process/team complexity, and recognise the problems that we address, they tend to get it quickly
Our response to this challenge is to explain it in different ways and be clear about the kind of work and people it can help most:
- teams of two or more people
- processes which have some non-trivial complexity, so that they tend to become non-transparent if handled solely with word-based technology yet aren’t predictable enough to be handled satisfactorily with rule-based technology
To give some simple examples:
- If you’re one person giving advice on something with no significant process complexity, you might very satisfactorily handled it in your head with the help of documents and email
- If you’re handling something modellable as very predictable ‘if/then’ process and in high volume (let’s say SARs, or some types of property transaction) you might like to look at rule-based tech
- If you’re working in a team, or on something with some element of process complexity (which need not be huge), you might consider Juralio
5.2 HABITS AND INCENTIVES
One challenge is along these lines:
Helping with these things at the organisational, economic level is all very well. But what about individuals acting within the constraints of complex organisations, siloes, perverse incentives, agency problems and all that other messy stuff?
Let’s start with some ‘cliché-because-it’s-true’ points:
- If it’s to be adopted widely, software must help make individual lawyers’ daily life easier as well as improving things for the LSP or its clients
- Many lawyers have the habit of ‘living’ mainly in Word documents and emails (often Outlook), with some increase in use of chat (increasingly MS Teams)
- It would be unreal to think that economic incentives – for example, on time recording and billing – don’t have any impact
- A classic example of that is the tendency to prioritise urgent client work (now, now, now) over investing in more strategic improvements
- If you’re working in a culture with a certain way of working – even if your personally don’t like it – it can be hard to break out of it, so you may feel you either need to conform or leave
- There are some different interests between junior, mid and senior lawyers – for example, in the relative importance of learning, coordinating, managing and winning work
- There are also some different interests between private practice and in-house lawyers – and between lawyers and their lay or business clients, or clients’ representatives
- There’s a tendency of lawyers to over-work
- Despite it being easy to use, Juralio, like anything new, requires a mental leap and habit-change of doing some things outside Outlook/Teams and Word.
- If your clients are happy enough with a documents-only approach and you’re under no competitive or pricing pressure, and no threat of substitution, then there will be little incentive to do anything different.
I’ll assume from the fact that you’ve got this far that you and your organisation have some meaningful incentive to address the relevant issues.
The major question then is one of habit change. That’s a big topic and I won’t attempt to be comprehensive, but examples of ways to get over the initial hurdle and form new habits include:
- Leadership and championing by those who do get it, so as to promote adoption of it as the central tool to manage process in matters
- In a big organisation, starting in small, focused groups and using their examples to spread adoption more widely
- Spending some time on initial template (we can help) and devote some knowledge / legal ops time to building and maintaining content
- In an LSP, involve clients and feed back in how they’re feeling about it – this helps both to validate the value for LSP team members, and to make improvements in how you use Juralio
These are only examples of the sorts of thing that can help. Change management needs to be addressed intentionally but needn’t be too complicated.
With our new financial functionality coming shortly, we have also had various conversations with people who expect that having an interactive model of cost projections and pricing at the outset will help them unlock better approaches in their organisation, as the Juralio map built for that purpose can be used by the team(s) handling the work in an ongoing way, in contrast to the realities of Excel spreadsheet (or similar finance-/project manager-only artifacts).
5.3 CONCERNS IT WILL BE COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE
We do sometimes hear, directly or indirectly, in a time-based billing LSP context, that people fear it may be against their rational financial interest to adopt something that will give more transparency and perhaps reduce the amount that can be billed to clients who aren’t very cost-sensitive. A variant is the view that clients won’t really care that much about the sorts of things Juralio helps with, or a questioning of whether it can really help.
You’ll no doubt have a view, but suffice it to say that
- I’ve sought to outline how it can help but the way to find out (if you think the pitch is interesting) is to try it.
- We think the number of people who can afford to disregard these issues is quite small and reducing
- Good questions to ask include whether clients will be happier if you do this (get a free trial and ask them), and what they and others are doing by themselves
A different kind of concern from some lawyers is whether work collaboration software will be stifling, assigning work to you oppressively or enabling micromanagement. Some workflow software can be like that. But this is not what Juralio’s like: try it and see. No technology can completely save you from micromanagement or other dysfunctions, but Juralio’s focus on flexible transparency can help by, for example, reducing the kind of anxiety that can feed micromanaging tendencies.
5.4 NOT SURE OTHERS WILL GET IT
We sometimes hear this from more junior lawyers in the more conservative organisations who think their seniors are stuck in their ways. Sometimes they’re right. Sometimes they go ahead and use it anyway, other times they become discouraged. The answers here are to acknowledge it, for senior people to reflect on what they need to do, and actions similar to those mentioned in the ‘habits’ context above.
5.5 INTEGRATION AND FEATURE REQUESTS
We have a number of valuable standard integrations already, including various types of single sign-on and document systems. Others will come over time. In the meantime, you can often link to other resources very easily, with Juralio matters and templates providing an action-oriented framework for directing people to resources exactly when they’re needed.
We often have requests for more integrations and specialist functionality or UI (e.g. colour scheme) changes. Some are hugely valuable to a wide range of people, others reflect either a niche or ‘super user’ need or a very individual preference (e.g. a particular UI or approach they’ve personally used before). We listen to and consider such ideas on their merits.
- Sometimes we take the underlying need on, though often – after a proper design assessment – not addressing it in the precise way suggested. It’s too easy to build bad features or make the overall design too complicated: we take that very seriously.
- Sometimes it involves some specialist integration, where the customer has a niche or bespoke system.
- Sometimes we suggest alternative approaches, for example linking the relevant Juralio template, matter, workstream or phase to a spreadsheet or other resource in which a niche need can be handled.
These approaches usually go down well where people’s understanding of the problems we’re addressing is aligned with ours. Occasionally nothing is acceptable to an individual with a very particular view on something (or, more often, many things) – at that point, the discussion tends to shade into the ‘not aligned’ / ‘habits and incentives’ areas. You can’t please all the people all the time.