Gowling WLG Differentiates Client Service Through Digitalization

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Law practice is not typically associated with technological innovation: customer experience has been largely the same for the past few decades. Its foundation is based on abstract concepts including philosophy, economics, and sociology. For thousands of years, the law has been critical to the structure of our society. Thankfully, we have come a long way from the Code of Hammurabi. Despite its long history, most of the advances in law practice have been conceptual, and until recently, law firms were not driving customer experience innovation through technology.

Gowling WLG, one of the top 100 largest international law firms by revenue, employs over 1,400 lawyers across Canada, the UK, continental Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Using low-code, digital innovators at the firm have created public portals for their clients to access documentation related to the services Gowling WLG provides. These portals enable access to the instruction of legal work, such as power of attorney documents, as well as managing internal processes including conflict checks. Gowling WLG is breaking from the pack and leveraging technology to bring the future of how we interact with law practices.

Emails, Phone Calls, and Paper, Oh My!

A necessary component of the many services that Gowling WLG provides its clients is managing instructions, which includes directions, orders, or recommended rules for performing specific work. One of their clients, Network Rail, approached Gowling WLG to handle legal matters related to selling parcels along railway lines for retailers and other consumer businesses. Each sale of a parcel, typically an individual archway, produces a myriad of instruction documents, including information about the space such as rental costs, rental periods, or tenancy agreements. With hundreds of archways made available, the amount of paperwork was staggering. Gowling WLG needed a way to efficiently track these instructions to perform their services for Network Rail, which would eventually be extended to other clients with similar needs.

In addition to challenges related to managing instructions, clients would call or email Gowling WLG to request specific documents, including employment contracts and sub-contracts from external companies. Portals that Gowling WLG previously created were developed with standard web technologies such as .Net using C#, vb.net and other web standards, making it challenging to iterate their solution to accommodate increasingly inefficient processes.

Gowling WLG’s Digital Innovator

Ben Randall, Senior Software Developer at Gowling WLG, introduces and implements disruptive technology within the international legal sector. Before Randall joined the firm, Gowling WLG adopted Mendix to move away from their older way of developing solutions that were meant to solve for these processes.

Before Randall’s team takes on a project, the business improvement team discovers problems, either through their research or via the ‘Ideas Portal.’ The team then carries out lightweight requirements gathering from their colleagues to determine the best way to solve the problem. The leadership team will then review the problem and proposed solution, at which point they will (hopefully) approve the project. After approval, the business improvement team then takes the project to Randall and the wider IT leadership team, who then advises on whether an off-the-shelf solution will suffice, or if Mendix is appropriate. Once a project is approved and a platform has been chosen, the business improvement team conducts additional, deeper requirements gathering from the end-users as well as from the assigned product owners for the specific project. Randall and his team get someone technical involved early on in the requirements gathering phase to help deliver their best work, leading to more effective solutions.

Delivering the Application Landscape Their Clients Need

Whether Gowling WLG’s clients need legal advice, to purchase land, or hire external companies or contractors, their portals allow access to a simple form to submit their request. One of the applications Randall has developed, DevalApp, addresses client requests for updates on documents. Randall explains that the Gowling WLG legal team was “tracking the status of contracts in a single Word document that was color-coded, opening it each time to find what the current status of [the requested documents] was.” This application has significantly reduced the time it takes to field phone calls and provide the information their clients are requesting and allows clients to access status updates independently.

DevalApp receives high praise and is helping Randall and his team to drive innovation within Gowling WLG by providing direct access to their clients over legal documentation. Because of the sensitive nature of this information, Randall has implemented robust security policies. From architects to project managers, each user has different access depending on their relevance to the work Gowling WLG is performing. Their clients can retrieve documentation without compromising standard security measures.

Archway, the application that was developed to help The Arch Company with selling their parcels and to manage the portfolio of properties which were purchased from Network Rail as part of a £1.46bn acquisition, also helped Gowling WLG to win its contract with The Arch Company in the first place. Its integration with Contract Express, a document automation program, provides additional functionality that The Arch Company required, saving them time during legal work related to selling their parcels. Randall explains that this “showed the power of just being able to integrate over REST services with these other external services that we had.” Previously managed over email and phone calls, Randall and his team have since provided Gowling WLG with the ability to track and automate tasks related to instructions. Beyond optimizing this process, Randall has enabled automation for other tasks, such as creating and signing heads of terms documents, as well as agreements.

The applications that Randall’s team developed also have integrations Gowling WLG’s property management system (PMS), helping to streamline legal issues related to their clients’ properties. To ensure integrations are built securely and consistently, every developed application leverages Apigee, an API management and predictive analytics software provider, to ensure a secure route into their network.

Paving the Way for Further Innovation

The technical benefits of a low-code platform have allowed Randall and his team to better focus on improving collaboration within Gowling WLG. He explains that “the product owner was really into [the development process] and would often, if [they] had spare time, sit with [his team] and give ideas… the partners involved in that project were impressed after the first week or two when [Randall’s team] could turn around and show them a website running.” Mendix has enabled Randall and his team to collaborate more effectively, impressing partners and product owners now that they can show weekly progress. The adoption of low-code has enabled Randall and his team to embrace rapid application development (RAD), enabling a faster response to the problems of their business. With Mendix, Randall is driving innovation throughout their firm, winning new business, and streamlining internal processes for improved client satisfaction.