Beware (and Avoid) the Vendor Consolidation Merry Go Round

Beware (and Avoid) the Vendor Consolidation Merry Go Round

Consolidation among vendors in the legal sector is rife, and we often speak to law firms who are upset that a particular technology product they use and like is being end-of-lifed.

Rather than settle for the new so-called bigger and shinier (and often far more expensive) offering, they make the time to find an alternative, only for exactly the same thing to happen when that new vendor gets acquired. It’s time consuming. It’s frustrating. And, we’d argue, it’s avoidable.

The Writing is on the Wall

When you go through a due diligence process to select a new product, what are the key factors you look at? The answers are long and varied but aside from ‘does the product do what I need it to do?’, we’d hazard a guess that as a bare minimum you will ask about price; security; integrations; support; service level agreements; and vendor and product roadmap. 

There are other signs that you should be looking out for, however, that indicate you will soon be back in the same very large boat. One of those is hires. 

If a company is looking at merger and acquisition options, you won’t necessarily know about it until you find yourself back at square one. But if a company that can barely afford to invest in their own product hires expensive senior people who have a track record in selling out, this should be a lightbulb moment. If the last two businesses that a senior executive ran have been sold to a VC firm, there is a good chance they have been brought in to do the same thing here.

We have seen this predictable pattern time and again in the legal sector. You should vet not only the product and financial health of a company but their key hires, and that will give you information that the company itself might not.

Other Factors – Listen to the Tell-tale Signs

It’s easy when you’re busy to be single minded when buying new technology and not open your eyes and ears to other tell-tale signs that a company might be in the market for an acquisition. Some of those signs might include the fact that they haven’t hired anyone other than salespeople lately, in an attempt to make their bottom line look stronger. Cutting back on costs can simply be good practice, but it is also common practice if you are looking for a buyer.

While we wouldn’t want to advocate anyone making buying decisions on the basis of rumours, the other important thing is to speak to people in the legal market about what they are hearing about a company. Speak to existing clients not just about how the product performs but what their experience of the company itself is; you may be surprised at how much is known before it becomes public.

What Vendor Value Means to You

The legal sector vendor market is consolidating, and in some cases that may not be a bad thing. Consolidation is a sign of a maturing industry, and for law firm IT teams that are under pressure to deliver a highly automated and integrated user experience, managing multiple systems can be a headache. 

However, one size does not fit all, and it goes without saying that your strategy and your technology stack need to work for you. Amid rapid change, going for the most convenient option is likely to lead to long term problems. Going along with change without thinking about what value you require from vendors in terms of the likes of support, will definitely give you a headache that you can do without. And ending up on a vendor merry go round is a waste of everyone’s valuable time.


Selecting the right technology has always been a fairly time-consuming and complex process, and we emphasise the word ‘right’ here.

More than ever, you need to be unapologetically strategic in ensuring that your needs are met, and that includes listening to the information that you’re told, and the information that you are not.

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Template Management: Why the Boring Relation of Legal Tech is at the Top of the Priority Pile

Template Management: Why the Boring Relation of Legal Tech is at the Top of the Priority Pile

Watching the recent volatility in the template management market, we argue that 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 the 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. 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 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.

Just as one example, too often legal professionals will have one of their documents returned 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.


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.

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Print management: Old habits die hard, along with hard cash

Print management: Old habits die hard, along with hard cash

If there is one thing that we are learning about people’s behaviour post-pandemic, it is that old habits really do die hard. Habits that we thought would be consigned to the dustbin – such as printing hard copy mark ups – are very much alive and well in 2023. In fact, following a widespread return to the office, print volumes are at 80% of pre-pandemic volumes.

Printing is a cause for concern both from a financial and environmental perspective. The solution is nuanced, and the key to saving money is partly to understand user behaviour. While it is sensible to have a strategy that (once again) includes reducing print volumes, the real cost saving could be in cutting the time that users are spending on printing, stapling, shredding, and repeating unnecessary exercises again and again.

Paper-lite can be paper-heavy

It’s a well-trodden fact that going paperless or paper-lite can help law firms to drive transformation and reduce costs. But when it comes to printing, ironically, ‘paper-lite’ set ups are often causing more, not less, paper to be wasted.

With little or no office storage, users who prefer working on paper often mark up, shred, and then print a document again, as when they need it.

Perhaps worse still from a print cost perspective, they are often printing in colour, which is 10 times as expensive as mono. Law firms can in many cases recover reasonable print costs, but if the costs look expensive, they probably are, and partners often just write them off before getting to the rejection bit.

Arguably the biggest and most overlooked cost of paper-lite offices, however, is wasted fee-earner hours. There has never been less physical training on MFD printers, and users, often with no idea that there is a better way, are repeatedly wasting their time on basic things like stapling, when most modern printers have in-built stapling functionality.

Similarly they are often unnecessarily battling with printer settings, wasting time and money in printing documents with the right format, double sided or not, and on letterhead or not.  

All of these things may seem small, but cumulatively, in both print costs and wasted billable hours, they add up to a really big number.

What’s the solution?

Where facilities teams used to assume that going paper-lite would solve the printing problem, it is now clear that the solution needs to be multi-faceted.

Similarly, simply removing printers in a business that is document heavy and where time is of the essence is also not the solution if you want happy staff. There is a risk that with insufficient printers, fee-earners will waste time queuing or looking for their printing, which will become the IT department’s headache.

Instead, applying clever print management software and training people how to use it is likely to save them many, many hours a year.

Software such as Kappris from Kutana+Brochet can help law firms to save money by reducing and managing printing, including building in smart workflow automation and electronic signatures.

Kutana Sheep

In cases where you do have to print, intelligent print drivers know, for example, that a letter is to be printed on letterhead, or that certain types of documents need to be double sided, without multiple attempts.

More interestingly you can in many cases avoid printing completely and use in-built eSignature workflows.

Good print management software and MFD printers should be fairly simple to use but . It also helps to raise awareness among staff about the cost of printing, and how improving their working practices even by a small margin can save money and help the environment.


The Butterfly Effect is a well-known and understood principle of business, which sees small changes have a much bigger impact in the long run.

When it comes to print management, paying attention to how your staff do their day job, training them to do it better, and shaving off time and costs, are small, easy wins that can, over time, make a big difference to your margins.

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eSignatures: Practices borne out of crisis are no longer good enough

eSignatures: Practices borne out of crisis are no longer good enough

There is little doubt that one of the most positive technological advances to arise from the Covid-19 pandemic was the widespread adoption of eSignatures, which drive efficiency, create a digital audit trail, and are good for law firms’ ESG credentials.

However, the speed of adoption in some quarters means that there is also little in the way of sensible best practice, with law firms still operating in a way that was borne out of crisis. The next, important step in the evolutionary journey for law firms and corporate legal teams is to analyse the way they are using eSignatures, and whether, from both a cost and liability perspective, they have the most appropriate technology stack and processes in place.

Using a sledgehammer to crack a nut

The category of eSignatures encompasses many different types of electronic signature and TechCrunch has described DocuSign as having helped to define the category of digital signatures, which are unique to the signatory and apply cryptographic encryption. Users create a DocuSign envelope to electronically sign and seal a document, or documents, in the knowledge that they cannot be tampered with or altered.

While DocuSign envelopes are a gold standard for eSignatures, there is a real term cost per envelope, and too many firms are using envelopes for all eSignatures – including on the likes of invoices – when a more nuanced approach would both comply with the latest regulation and lead to dramatic cost savings.

Furthermore, simplifying the eSignature process where appropriate would lead to a reduction in the risky practices that are emerging, including shortcuts that potentially invalidate eSignatures altogether.

The latest regulation and guidance

The 2019 Law Commission report on the electronic execution of documents – which has been endorsed by the UK Government – makes it clear that multiple forms of eSignatures are valid, not just the digital signatures generated by electronic signature platforms. These alternatives might include a person typing their name into a contract; pasting an image; or using a touch screen to write their name.

The guidance builds on an authoritative 2016 eSignature practice note, which found that if the authenticity of an eSignature was challenged, the English Court would accept the document was authentic unless evidence was produced to the contrary.

The guidance also refers to the 2010 case of R (on the application of Mercury Tax Group and another) v HMRC [2008], which is widely referred to as the 2010 Mercury practice note” and sets out the different options for virtual signings and closings for different types of agreements.

What is clear from this regulatory guidance is that one size does not fit all. There are many documents that should be signed using digital signatures. But for others, all you need is an eSignature, ideally with some reporting and an audit trail, so that you know who signed the document, from where, and on what date.

More recent guidance includes a Q&A from a working group of the Company Law Committee of the Law Society, setting out how to use electronic signatures and complete virtual executions.

What is clear from this regulatory guidance is that one size does not fit all. There are many documents that should be signed using digital signatures. But for others, all you need is an eSignature, ideally with some reporting and an audit trail, so that you know who signed the document, from where, and on what date.

Not only will eSignatures suffice, but in many ways, they are safer: the downside of always using a gold standard is not only the cost, but the fact that users will cut corners.

Avoiding risky practices

Both DocuSign and its eSignature challenger Adobe create a time stamped eSignature, which is supposed to be electronically signed by the signatory themself. 

The issue here is that for routine and voluminous documents such as (but certainly not limited to) invoices, senior managers often hand over this administrative process to others.

While electronic signature platforms such as DocuSign do provide some ‘Send on Behalf Of’ functionality, it is limited. Too often, secretaries or administrative assistants are tasked with dragging and dropping a signature into a document that legally requires the signatory themself to sign. While it would be difficult to challenge the authenticity of a document on this basis, and the spirit of the English Courts is to find a document authentic unless it is proved otherwise, it’s not impossible and more importantly, for a profession built on doing things ethically, these risks are easily avoidable.


The amount of money being spent by law firms on digital signatures is extraordinary. While it has been reassuring to see the uptake of eSignatures, and their adoption was long overdue, we are no longer in crisis mode. In the same way that firms are revising their hybrid working arrangements to create optimal efficiency, they need to look at the technology adopted during the pandemic and analyse how to use it better, and in a more sustainable way.

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Don’t forget the day job: Is transformation holding your users back?

Don’t forget the day job: Is transformation holding your users back?

If you speak to any law firm IT department about what is on top of their to-do list right now, you can almost guarantee that it will involve a long list of projects around upgrading their document management system; moving their data to the cloud; achieving a Cyber Essentials certification; or any variant of the above.

There is no question that these big picture projects are essential to help firms modernise and take advantage of functionality that in many cases will only be available in the cloud. With one big caveat. In amidst the noise of digitisation and innovation, ensuring that users are able to undertake what should be the simplest of tasks is being forgotten.

A Tidal Wave of Change

Technology by its nature is always changing, and anyone who has worked in the legal sector for a long time will attest to the fact that ‘change’ per se, is not new. What is new, is that we are now facing fairly seismic change, with IT departments overrun with demands from the business to provide the latest generative AI solution, while having to undertake complex, and in many cases long overdue, infrastructure upgrades.

All of this is set against a backdrop of economic volatility – and in some cases budget cuts – as well as the lingering effects of Covid-19, particularly the need to facilitate long term hybrid working. Is it any wonder that IT teams attest to being completely overwhelmed by their day job?

The more important question, however, is whether the users – who, after all, this technology is there to benefit – can do their day job. And the answer is that they often can’t.

Too often, law firm users are battling with basic tasks, such as editing PDFs, redacting documents, or formatting documents in Microsoft Word. Ask your users how they are redacting documents, and it is quite likely that you will find there are people who are printing documents off, redacting them manually, and scanning them back in. This is a monumental waste of time which, played out across an organisation, represents hours of time that could be better spent. With fee-earners increasingly undertaking this work themselves, it also represents hours of unrecoverable time and lost billable hours.

Digital Strategies – Putting the User First

In McKinsey’s State of Organisations 2023 report, one of the 10 shifts that organisations are identified as grappling with is that they often announce technological or digital strategies without having the right capabilities to integrate them. For an organisation to perform better than their competitors, they need to identify work that is integral to their output and create an ‘institutional capability’ around it that includes people, process, and technology. McKinsey says:

“When well produced, such capabilities become a lasting edge, leading to consistent outperformance and growth in competitive advantage over time.”

For law firms, ensuring that users are able to deliver their work product quickly and effectively should be treated as an institutional capability, with the right resources, technology and workflow dedicated to it.

One example of this is that any cloud migration project needs to build in an assessment of how the user experience is impacted. While there are many advantages in moving to the cloud, often the cloud version of an application is quite different to the desktop. Users can find it slow and unfamiliar, and there may be favourite features that are no longer available. It is important to know who in an organisation is engaging with users on this, and what processes are in place to decide what users experience of the cloud should be.

Users’ needs have to come first in any cloud implementation strategy to ensure adoption and efficiency. Legal professionals aren’t ‘stupid’ if they don’t understand technology, it just means that the technology, and dare we say the organisation, has not done its job.


Change is only good when the reasons for doing it remain at the forefront of decision-making, and the end user doesn’t get left behind.

You can have all the cutting-edge technology you like, but if the people creating your work product don’t know how to use it in their day-to-day lives, then that represents an institutional failure. With a shift in focus, this can very easily be flipped on its head to become a competitive advantage.

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Electronic and digital signatures – what is the difference?

Electronic and digital signatures – what is the difference?

In the UK, the use of electronic and digital signatures on documents has become increasingly popular as technology has advanced. However, many people are still unsure of the difference between the two. This article will outline the key differences between electronic signatures and digital signatures, as well as their advantages and disadvantages.

What is an electronic signature or an eSignature?

An electronic signature, also known as an e-signature or eSignature, is a symbol or process attached to or associated with a document in order to indicate the signer’s agreement to the contents of the document. Electronic signatures can take the form of a typed name, a scanned signature, or a graphical representation of a signature. Electronic signatures can be used for a variety of purposes, including contracts, forms, and consent forms.

What is a digital signature?

One of the main differences between electronic signatures and digital signatures is the level of security they provide. A digital signature is a more secure form of electronic signature than an electronic signature. It uses encryption and digital certificates to verify the authenticity of the document and the signer. Digital signatures are considered to be a higher form of security than electronic signatures because they use encryption and digital certificates to verify the authenticity of the document and the signer.

This means that the document is protected from tampering and the signer’s identity is verified, reducing the risk of fraud or other malicious activity. Digital signatures also provide a clear record of who signed the document and when making it easier to track changes and detect any potential issues.

Differences between electronic signatures and digital signatures

Another key difference between electronic signatures and digital signatures is the level of legal recognition they have. Electronic signatures are legally recognised in the UK under the Electronic Communications Act 2000, which states that electronic signatures can be used for the same purposes as traditional signatures, provided that the electronic signature is reliable, and the signer’s identity is verified. The use of digital signatures is regulated by the Electronic Identity Verification Regulation 2016 and the Electronic Identification Regulation 2017 in the UK, and these regulations set out the minimum standards for digital signatures and ensure that they are secure and reliable.

Digital signatures are considered to have a higher level of legal recognition as they provide a higher level of security and authentication.

It is important to note that not all electronic signatures are considered to be secure enough to be used for legal purposes. In order to ensure the security and reliability of electronic signatures, it is important to follow best practices for document security and signer authentication. This includes verifying the signer’s identity, using secure communications channels, and storing signed documents in a secure location.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of both?

In terms of advantages, electronic signatures are faster and more convenient to use than traditional signatures, as they can be completed electronically from anywhere with an internet connection. They also reduce the risk of paper-based errors and increase efficiency by allowing multiple parties to sign a document simultaneously. Digital signatures, on the other hand, provide a higher level of security and legal recognition, they provide a hight level of authentication as well as a clear record of who signed the document and when. Electronic signatures have a lower level of authentication and are more vulnerable to tampering.

A disadvantage of digital signatures is that they can be more complex and difficult to use, as they require a higher level of technical knowledge and access to digital certificates. There are also costs associated with obtaining and issuing digital signatures which need to be factored into a business’s operating costs.

How can we help you with your electronic and digital signatures?

Both electronic signatures and digital signatures have their advantages and disadvantages, and the choice between the two will depend on the specific needs and requirements of the individual or law firm. Electronic signatures are faster and more convenient to use but provide a lower level of security and legal recognition. Digital signatures, on the other hand, provide a higher level of security and legal recognition but are more complex and difficult to use. When deciding which type of signature to use, it is important to consider the level of security and legal recognition required, as well as the ease of use and convenience. Read more here about our electronic signature solution and contact us if you would like to discuss it further.