Costs, data analytics and the transaction lawyer

September 26, 2015


Many argue the billable hour is now dead in the water, placing transaction lawyers under increasing pressure to drop their rates and find more effective ways to manage their costs.

Given the unpredictable nature of their occupation type, for many this presents an emormous challenge. 

The good news is that there is a plethora of new and emerging technologies which are providing these professionals with highly sophisticated mechanisms to maximize the way they work and how they run their practices.  

Having the right tools, data search and analysis is one of the few areas transactional lawyers in firms and the legal in-house teams of financial institutions can effectively manage costs. 

Legal technologies and transactional work

Advanced legal technology now brings us tools to more effectively manage information sourcing, data and analysis costs, including those relating to information such as company and securities data. 

Developed by specialist technology firms, these tools are especially relevant given that the legal fraternity currently spends millions of dollars each year sourcing, gathering, and analysing this data. For transactional lawyers involved in advising on the documentation of syndicated financing, debt financing, asset based lending, factoring, and other financing arrangements - where rapid access to  commercial information is critical to key decision-making - this represents a significant drain on resources.

These advanced technologies have the potential to significantly lessen this spend by halving the time allocated to traditional sourcing, search and analysis.

For banking and finance lawyers looking at utilising such technologies, one thing to really look out for is the capability to gather up company and securities' data from multiple sources and pull this together into a concise upfront summary report. This not only prioritises critical information but flags issues that may require further research.

So rather than painstakingly trawling through government extracts and reports, performing separate ASIC, ABR, PPSR and other searches, then conducting detailed and drawn-out analyses of this data, banking and finance lawyers in firms or working in-house can access the information instantly in a way that supports existing business processes.

They can quickly confirm details about a company, its identity, ownership, directors, registered interests and other securities data  and rapidly understand areas of potential risk, ensuring nothing has been overlooked -not even difficult to retrieve extracts tucked away in PDFs.  

In choosing a suitable technology solution for their team, lawyers should focus on what in the marketplace can meet this need.

Better still, they should focus on finding a suitable technology solution they can rely on to quickly understand the connections and relationships between people and companies, transforming their ability to see the bigger picture and enabling more rapid decision making. 

It is these technological capabilities that have effectively brought search and analysis into the 21st century by presenting the data in a way that cuts through the complexity of traditional search and interpretation, making it quick and easy to understand and offering it in a way that enables professionals to work with it more easily. 

It is these capabilities which are valuable to any banking and finance team.

Software with transaction lawyers in mind

Some developers have gone as far as integrating these search technologies with their information broking platforms and sibling search visualisation platforms - providing users with a state of the art workflow solution.  Many busy transaction lawyers may not be aware of the existence of such software.  What I am highlighting below would be food for thought for those who are looking for more effective ways to manage costs as well as manage work load.

Once within the search visualisation platforms, users can access a visual map of the relationships between people and companies, securing more detailed search insights such as people residing at the same address or an organisation's relationships and the strength of those relationships.

Users can also add additional searches or add their own relationship links such as 'Trusts' and 'Beneficiaries' to complete the full picture of an organisation or view and access stored original registry documents and a spreadsheets of PPSR results.  

These archives also come with an inbuilt audit history, solving a long-standing problem plaguing transactional lawyers: how to consistently store and retrieve historical search material which can be difficult to locate after initial use.

Now users can be confident their search history will be  preserved in the one place, reducing the opportunity for vital information to be lost, significantly mitigating unnecessary risk.

Cognisant that legal technology should be designed with lawyers in mind, the new search technologies are capable of intergrating with a user's practice management software for billing purposes to ensure that all disbursements are captured, resulting in a better financial performance for firms.

Concluding comments

There are now new technologies that have significantly 'raised the bar' for commercial search and analysis in Australia.

They have also enabled banking and finance lawyers involved in transactional work to price their services more optimally and to discover that so-called 'win-win' pricing that allows them to operate at a profit while still being affordable to their clients.