Skip to main content Skip to footer

Law firms can reduce the risk associated with conflicts of interest by empowering their valued experts, including new hires, with modern technology that connects data sources seamlessly and reduces manual work to produce clear results for fast decision making. We’ll tell you how.

The process of checking for law firm conflicts of interest is often tedious, costly, and labor-intensive. But it doesn’t have to be. Technology built for law firms can help them automate processes and eliminate inconsistencies so they can work more efficiently without sacrificing the accuracy of their results.

Here are the top seven challenges firms face and how the right technology can help you overcome them. 

1. Corporate complexity

Challenge: Today’s companies have a complex array of investors, investments, and corporate family entities. Law firms must navigate these ecosystems thoroughly as they evaluate whether they can represent new clients or maintain existing relationships.

Solution: The right solution, designed to identify law firm conflicts of interest, should allow users to apply both the latest and customized corporate trees to map out relationships for their clients. This functionality adds precision to their search and narrows results to the most relevant. Readily available through data vendors, these corporate trees are loaded into the application through connectors to return the results that law firms need.

Benefits: Firms get instant results that help them avoid making decisions that would damage current client relationships. Teams no longer have to copy and paste massive amounts of purchased corporate data into their searches, reducing the risk of errors while dramatically increasing the accuracy of their results. Relationships are automatically identified by using purpose-built connectors to automate the process.

2. Jurisdictional regulations

Challenge: Typically, law firms must demonstrate compliance with regulations specific to their geography or practice area. Their conflicts checking procedures must also enable them to efficiently provide accurate results and analysis while protecting their data.

Solution: A good law firm conflicts of interest solution allows firms to configure their searches based on the type of work the firm is performing. It also lets the conflicts team sync data automatically with data from other parts of the firm, streamlining the compliance process.

Benefits: Conflicts analysts have access to the data they need (within the boundaries of appropriate security controls) and pull it into their projects automatically. Other departments don’t have to maintain separate data sets for conflicts searches. Everyone saves time without putting sensitive data at risk.

3. Client and contractual obligations

Challenge: More and more clients are dictating terms to the law firms they retain. They may stipulate requirements for billing, security, staffing, and treatment of entities in their corporate family tree. These complexities make conflict checking more important than ever.

Solution: An intelligent conflict checking solution allows firms to associate all documents from any system with a client matter record. From there, the solution tracks attributes around each contract and easily spots issues pertaining to a client as they arise. 

Benefits: Constant visibility into the attributes of each client’s obligations means law firms avoid making business decisions that violate the terms of a standing contract. If a potential issue arises, conflict analysts can instantly see the relevant contract term involved and determine what action the firm needs to take.

4. Financial pressures and overhead

Challenge: In addition to placing greater demands on law firms, clients are also driving harder bargains when it comes to fees. They’re increasingly likely to ask firms to absorb the overhead on projects, including the cost of conflicts searches.

Solution: A proven solution can greatly increase the efficiency of a centralized conflicts team. For example, it can automatically track all search results so that team members don’t have to backtrack and put them in a file folder later. It can also auto-tag search results to give conflicts teams a head start determining which results are actionable.

Benefits: Armed with the right law firm conflicts of interest solution, firms can avoid hiring more administrative staff to keep up with conflict analysis. Instead, they can trim precious hours from each search and deliver accurate results without increased costs.

5. Drowning in data

Challenge: Law firms today must maintain an overwhelming amount of data, which is often stored in multiple systems, making the conflicts process more complicated. Overworked conflict analysts who lack the time or expertise to uncover actionable items often present partners with 200-page reports that can never be read thoroughly — leaving the firm at greater risk of a missed conflict.

Solution: The right solution eliminates the tedious work around preparing conflict reports by collating and analyzing data to enable analysts to produce high-level reports complete with actionable results. It formats the reports exactly the way analysts prefer so that the information presented to attorneys has the maximum impact. The best solution providers work closely with their clients to understand their internal processes, provide guidance on how to optimize them, and help their users to get the most out of the solution. 

Benefits: Automating conflict checking tasks free conflicts teams from relying on Post-It notes and spreadsheets to keep the most important information on their radar. By filtering search results, the time needed to find actionable items is reduced considerably, enabling conflict teams to produce far more manageable reports.

6. Onboarding staff

Challenge: There’s more competition than ever to hire the best conflict analysts. And even the most talented people require considerable time and training before they are producing effective reports.

Solution: The right conflict checking solution can make a firm’s processes feel intuitive to new hires from day one. Newly hired analysts can benefit from using the same search terms and same technology as their more experienced teammates, rather than having to navigate a series of ad hoc processes.

Benefits: Firms get a faster payback on each new conflict analyst they hire. New hires contribute immediately by leveraging intelligent search functionality.

7. Trusting search results

Challenge: Conflicts staff may spend a lot of time re-checking their own results and those of their teammates because there's no common practice in place to carry out and verify searches.

Solution: A good law firm conflicts of interest solution is transparent about how it performs searches. It makes searches more uniform by providing default filters that apply to the entire conflicts team. Everyone can trust that the results meet certain standards of accuracy.

But a good solution is also flexible — giving team members the option of toggling filters on and off to generate broader or narrower search results as the situation warrants. The solution tracks and displays the filters used for each search so that everyone reviewing the results knows the context and assesses them accordingly.

Benefits: Law firms that use a modern solution to manage their conflicts checking process achieve uniformity across their search results. Conflict analysts find that they can trust the results because they know exactly how they were generated. At the same time, they can easily re-run searches using slightly different filters when circumstances change. They save time and effort without increasing risk to the firm.

Identify and assess the risks of law firm conflicts of interest with iManage Conflicts Manager

iManage Conflicts Manager, part of the iManage platform, is a modern solution for identifying and assessing the level of risk a conflict of interest can present for a law firm. More than 2,000 law firms and 500 corporate legal departments rely on iManage solutions to deliver high quality work and the best client experience.

Using iManage Conflicts Manager, you can:

  • Reduce the time needed for conflict searches while increasing accuracy. Advanced sorting and filtering facilitate the efficient and comprehensive identification, evaluation, and clearance of conflicts, with an auditable tracking of the process.
  • Track corporate families easily. With its embedded rules, algorithms, and automation, iManage Conflicts Manager can dramatically reduce the time and analysts it takes to search corporate structures. And it can automatically access a variety of in-house and third-party data sources to improve the accuracy of your results.
  • Reduce staff training time from months to hours. An intuitive user interface and powerful one-and-done search make it easier to onboard conflict analysts.
  • Go mobile for fast, interactive clearance of conflicts. All correspondence between relevant attorneys and the conflicts team is stored automatically and available on mobile devices. This dramatically reduces the time needed for conflict evaluations and resolutions.
  • Get insights for business development and personalization. The connection between corporate data and firm data allows other departments to mine corporate trees for leads.

iManage estimates that law firms can achieve time savings of up to 90 percent in identifying conflicts and up to 75 percent in clearing conflicts, just by using iManage Conflicts Manager. Find out how your firm can achieve these remarkable results

About the author

Manuel Sanchez

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