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Template Management: Why the boring relation of Legal Tech is at the top of the priority pile

We track the recent volatility in the template management market, which means template projects need to be elevated to the top of the pile if users are to avoid wasting countless hours on manual formatting.

Amid all the noise and enthusiasm around the likes of generative AI, one topic that often struggles to gain much airtime is document template management, despite that fact that every single day, lawyers are wasting potentially hours of valuable time on unnecessary formatting exercises.

While no-one would currently choose to put a template project at the top of their long list of priorities, the massive flux in the template vendor market means there is little choice, as numerous products are end-of-lifed, and users who are trying to get documents finalised and out the door face a struggle to do so in a sensible timeframe.

The changing template vendor landscape

The template management landscape has never been messier, with a raft of products either end-of-lifed or no longer supported (which equates to the same thing in real terms), having been swept up in a wave of recent private equity-driven legal technology M&A.

Furthermore, outside of this M&A activity, we are drawing ever closer to iManage’s legacy products being end-of-lifed this year, and old templates in their current form won’t work with iManage Work 10.

M&A activity

At the top of the legal tech sector M&A drive is Hg-backed company Litera, which through its acquisition of DocsCorp in 2021 owns Docuble. Docuble, which was acquired by DocsCorp only a month before its acquisition by Litera, enabled law firms to fix styling problems in Microsoft Word. However, it is no longer supported by Litera, meaning that firms must either move onto the likes of Litera Create or find an alternative provider.

Another fast-growing company is Advanced, backed by BC Partners and Vista Equity Partners, which acquired Tikit in March 2020 and will end support for Tikit Template Management System (TMS) in March 2024.

While end of support is not the same as end of life, it is worth remembering that if developers are no longer providing security updates, this increases the likelihood that exploitable vulnerabilities will become known by attackers. The National Cyber Security Centre recommends, where possible, moving off an obsolete product. Certainly in order to comply with Cyber Essentials, applicants must keep all software up to date and that software must be licensed and supported.

iManage Work 10

iManage, meanwhile, announced in 2021 that it would end of life DeskSite, Filesite and IDOL Indexer in December 2023. IManage is retiring all 9.x versions and add-ons, meaning firms have had to upgrade – or are in the process of upgrading – to iManage Work 10, either on premises or in the cloud. The migration of iManage to the cloud marks a new approach to Microsoft Office, and while you don’t need to completely replace your VBA enabled templates, work is required to upgrade them.  

Inconvenient as it is, big decisions need to be made fairly imminently about your template management roadmap. While the remedy doesn’t have to be complicated, putting the user and their needs at the forefront of your decision making will ultimately save a lot of time and money.

Doing due diligence on what the user really needs

When looking for a new template management system the first thing that you are likely to be told is that you need is an all singing, all dancing, cloud-first solution. While that may well be true, the first priority is to do your homework on what the user needs the system for, and how they actually use it. As IT leaders have often learned the hard way, all singing, all dancing is no use to anyone if users continue to do things in a manual and laborious way.

Too often, just as one example, legal professionals receive a document back from their counterparty, only to spend hours manually changing it back into the firm’s house style, without realising that there are tools out there that will reset the style automatically.

End users continue to have a surprising lack of knowledge about the way that Microsoft Word works, and often spend hours inserting boxes and content that cause major formatting issues.

The issue with IT teams being continuously overrun with big ticket projects is that there is little time or resource to learn about these habits and how to remedy them. But without an understanding of what legal professionals need help with, it is hard to help them in a meaningful way.

Conclusion

Document template management is unlikely to ever grab headlines and if you were to ask legal professionals about the technology they care about, they are likely to say generative AI. But when they are struggling to get a Word document out of the door out at midnight and it’s not playing ball, most legal professionals won’t care a damn about bots and ChatGPT. For a relatively quick and easy win, in an increasingly complex environment where quick easy wins are hard to come by, it’s worth having templates on the top of the priority pile.

 

If this strikes a chord why don’t you give Rob Simcock a call on +44 (0)333 202 0971 or email rob@brochet.co.uk