By Chris Crowe, Editor of TheKnowList.
At the HighQ Forum on 29 March, HighQ unveiled the stunning new features, functionality and design that are coming with the imminent release of HighQ Collaborate 2.3 and then HighQ Collaborate 3.0, which will be released towards the end of the year.
At the Sky Bar in the Grange Hotel, overlooking St Paul’s Cathedral and the River Thames, 62 members of the legal and legal technology community gathered to discuss a range of topical issues and challenges that are being faced by the legal profession and learn more about the development roadmap for HighQ Collaborate as well as the capabilities of HighQ Publisher, HighQ Dataroom and other products. Forum attendees included representatives from law firms such as Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Linklaters, Simmons & Simmons, Berwin Leighton Paisner, Bird & Bird and De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek.
Forum discussions centred on Legal Project Management, Internal Collaboration, Client Demand, Consumerisation of IT and the Legal Services Act. Ruth Ward, head of central KM at Allen & Overy also delivered a keynote speech on initiating internal collaboration within a large international law firm.
The forum revealed a number of challenges that attendees were facing. Many forum participants were enthusiastic about Legal Project Management (LPM), but were concerned about “cultural resistance” and partners preferring to manage a deal or case by “gut instinct”. Forum participants recognised that LPM is about control, defining what is required and managing necessary changes, but acknowledge that lawyers are generally “reactive” and prefer to manage things as they go along. Attendees believe that the economic downturn has put a downward pressure on costs, with an increased focus on alternative fee arrangements, and that LPM can certainly help manage matters more effectively and deliver “more for less”.
“It is always reassuring to talk to your peers and understand their issues and challenges.” David Fitch, Knowledge and Learning Director, Simmons & Simmons.
“I was impressed with the range of different people around the table and they all brought different perspectives to the discussion.” David Boulds, Head of Development, Berwin Leighton Paisner.
Forum participants are eager to embrace social tools for Internal Collaboration. Email was classed by one delegate as a “de-productivity” tool, because it pushed an issue onto someone else. In any case, firms are thought to be relatively serious about internal social collaboration because the younger generation are used to using similar consumer platforms and they can deliver genuine value inside the enterprise. Forum delegates said that lawyers are able to share knowledge and collaborate with colleagues in disparate locations on important pitches and other necessary tasks.
Forum attendees questioned the productiveness of scheduled conference calls and suggested that collaboration sites could be better at setting an agenda and delivering a conclusion. Delegates indicate that internal collaboration sites help to focus minds on the task-in-hand and that they generate more constructive discussions. One commented: “We have monthly partner calls from around the world and nothing really happens. With a collaborative site, partners can post anything relevant or interesting on the subject, or just not bother. It is about driving the business forward rather than merely talking about commercial law.”
“It was good to validate with like minded folks, the challenges and opportunities offered around the mobile and social toolset space.” Mark Dibble, Head of Online Services, Allen & Overy.
Amongst a number of other key discussion points, delegates pointed to clients’ increasing demand for firms to provide a personalised or tailored perspective on topical issues. There is a recognition that a one-size-fits-all alert or memo is not a way to generate a greater connection between the client and firm. Firms must successfully reveal what something means to the client rather than merely detailing the minutiae of a piece of legislation. Client extranets or knowledge portals are viewed as an effective way of publishing matters across a variety of platforms as well as personalising it to the individual or company.
“It was interesting to hear about the big firms and how they are organising their projects, particularly as we are facing the same challenges.” Esther Albers, Head of Legal Analysts, De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek.
To complete the forum programme, HighQ Director Stuart Barr provided a detailed overview of HighQ’s development and release schedule. This included the imminent release of HighQ Hub, a single sign-on solution to be used on any instance of HighQ Collaborate.
Stuart also demonstrated the integrated publishing and marketing platform HighQ Publisher, a tool that has been adopted by several of the largest City firms. This allows firms to get information out to clients quickly and effectively through a variety of formats and channels including publications, video, events, microsites and email campaigns.
In addition, HighQ is to release HighQ Dataroom for clients that prefer on occasion to set up a data room on an ad hoc and pay-per-use basis.
Finally, the stage was set for a revealing update on HighQ Collaborate.
HighQ Collaborate 2.3 is to be rolled-out imminently and will include over 40 new major features. It includes a redesigned documents interface, a completely new task management module and an improved editor function. It also includes a document preview function that removes the need for the user to download large documents in order to view them.
HighQ Collaborate 3.0 is scheduled for release towards the end of 2012. It is a complete redesign and major leap forward in functionality. Crucially, it is optimised for smartphones and tablets. With its responsive design, it will adapt to the device in use. This new version also introduces micro-blogging and focuses on heightening internal collaboration within a firm. Furthermore, it provides additional features for deal rooms and data rooms.
“The HighQ Collaborate roadmap looks incredibly visionary. It takes the best ingredients from all these services in the market and has created something incredibly special. I’ll certainly spend a few months salivating in anticipation of 3.0.” Andrew Neil, Global Programme Manager for Business Transformation, Withersworldwide.
“I think 3.0 looks hugely interesting. It has massive potential for internal collaboration and to replace the law firm intranet. I just have every confidence in HighQ as a company to deliver something that is workable.” Kathryn Pearson, Knowledge and Learning Manager, Bird & Bird.
“I’d have to say a big wow. There is so much stuff to digest and there are so many more buttons. All credit to HighQ for seeing where their clients are going.” Ruth Ward, Head of Central KM, Allen & Overy.