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If you’re continuing to rely on email, legacy systems, disparate datasets, ad hoc ways of archiving client notes, and disjointed searches in your conflicts check process, you could be putting your law firm at risk. Upgrading your software can greatly reduce that risk.

Why law firms need to modernize their technology

The current law firm risk climate necessitates that law firms establish a robust conflicts check process to prevent the potential consequences associated with conflicts of interest. But many firms lack the right technology, people, and processes. As a result, they’re encountering numerous pitfalls, including:

Wasted time
Some firms take a narrative-oriented approach to checking for conflicts. They don’t search for specific data points; instead they are searching full text descriptions of prior firm relationships, resulting in long, narrative reports. Whenever someone must decide whether to work with that party, he or she must read the entire report.

This is a time-consuming process. Many firms use data point search functionality in their conflicts check process, which is an improvement over the narrative approach. But to ensure their searches are effective, employees spend extra time creating Boolean search strategies, which is outdated now that natural language searching is available. They could better spend this time analyzing search results.

Subpar results
A surprising number of firms check for conflicts by sending emails out to their staff saying, “We just landed this new client. Does anyone foresee a conflict of interest in working with them?” The responses are likely to be anecdotal and inconsistent.

Again, using software with sophisticated search functionality is a better approach. However, firms using broad and complex search strings tend to generate an enormous volume of raw results passed directly on to the requesting attorney. A billing attorney must then sort through this output to find the relevant information.

Most conflict search systems allow analysts to apply filters to reduce the noise in their search results, but across a team of analysts, there’s rarely consistency in applying filters or search strategies. This means 10 different analysts could generate 10 very different outputs when performing the same search.

Increased risk
It’s easy to see how much risk a firm faces when it relies on anecdotal emails and inconsistent searches in its conflicts check These approaches may help firms demonstrate due diligence in looking for conflicts, but they don’t generate the consistency of results that will protect firms from potential liability and penalties — and that’s the main point of the exercise.

Rising costs
Processes that revolve around manual effort won’t scale well as firms grow. These processes are also becoming more expensive as the cost of high-quality employees rises. Rather than continuing to rely on emails and complex searches, firms need software that delivers better results at a lower cost.

Seven key considerations for your next conflicts check solution

With the right technology, you can modernize your conflicts check process. Many software companies offer potential solutions, but can they meet your needs in an evolving landscape for conflict checks? The ideal conflicts check platform will be fast, easy to use, and capable of producing high-quality results.

Here are seven attributes to look for:

  1. Increases efficiency for your staff. Your conflicts check platform should be easy to use, deliver results quickly, and present search results in order of potential business impact so your staff won’t have to waste hours sifting through results to find the most important information.
  2. Increases uniformity in your searches and shares your teams’ institutional knowledge. Too many systems only work well when individual analysts have lots of institutional knowledge. While an analyst who has been with the firm for 20 years may excel, the rest of the staff is left powerless to generate the same quality of results. A good solution can leverage its users’ experience to continually improve search results for other users.
  3. Offers flexible functionality. As valuable as default filters and search settings can be, there will be situations in which your firm wants to generate more raw data so that your attorneys can take a deeper dive for potential conflicts. Your solution should be able to adapt quickly and easily to meet the needs of the search being performed.
  4. Offers transparency. Your team should never be left wondering why certain items appear in searches and why other information is filtered out. A good solution will explain what’s in the search results and why.
  5. Helps your search team learn. An extensible solution will let your conflicts team collect and record feedback on the searches they run. Over time, this information will help them find relevant information quickly each time they search the same names in the future.
  6. Produces actionable results. A search solution that generates a 2,000-page report won’t help your firm mitigate risk. Look for a conflicts check solution that produces complete results but does so in a well-defined report filled with actionable results. The solution should offer interactive clearance options that make it easy for attorneys to respond to issues.
  7. Integrates with your key financial systems and third-party data repositories. Running searches in a vacuum only creates more administrative work for your staff. Look for a solution that fits into your client onboarding and management processes.

What should you look for in a vendor?

Now that you know what to look for in a conflicts check solution, think about the type of software provider you’d like to work with. Your next partner should be willing to work with your team to tailor their solution to your firm’s unique business processes and needs. They should take the time to understand your firm’s culture and ensure that the solution they ultimately deliver will support it — not work against it.

But most vendors in the market today don’t offer this level of configurability backed by years of in-house experience. They may offer implementation services for their off-the-shelf product, and they may allow some degree of customization, but they won’t build you a solution that’s configured to the exact needs of your firm.

The bottom line is that any solution you implement should make it easier to get new clients in the door while also increasing your confidence that you won’t run into conflicts of interest along the way.

iManage Conflicts Manager is a solution that meets all these requirements — and more. Find out more in this free white paper.

About the author

Manuel Sanchez

Manuel Sanchez is Information Security & Compliance Specialist at iManage with extensive professional experience in information security, governance, and compliance.