Legadex’s partnership with legal software specialist effacts, part of Wolters Kluwer, has morphed from a fairly basic database solution into a suite of slick, time-saving, high quality managed legal services that include decision trees, intuitive workflows, comprehensive cloud services and e-signature solutions. We spoke with Maurits Annegarn of Wolters Kluwer and Jacqueline Bloem of Legadex about the evolution of the partnership, where they see it going – and the upcoming expansion of the effacts offering and accompanying rebrand.
The Legadex-effacts relationship goes back 10 years – almost ancient history in software and business services. Yet it remains fresh, because the underlying logic of using smart software to create efficient legal services that shake up an industry remains as valid as ever. But it also remains fresh because the relationship, services and business model continue to evolve.
Logical combination of software platform and service provider
In the beginning, the partnership worked like this: effacts would set up the databases and workflows, and then Legadex would come along and fill the system with content, often at the client’s offices, and train the customer’s paralegal and non-legal staff in how to use it. So how have the partnership and platform evolved?
Jacqueline: “In the early days, we worked closely on projects, but we each had a separate relationship with the client. The difference today is that while we are still two separate firms, we are very tightly integrated in terms of our offering and service to the client.”
Maurits: “The nature of what we offer has changed too. effacts has gone from a pure legal-entity-management solution to a more all-in-one platform for the legal department. Today, it includes dashboards for contract management, data privacy, insider trading, including relevant reporting, alerts, and so on. The effacts platform has become a broad tool for the corporate law department; a dashboard for all legal activities rather than just a database with a single purpose.”
What has driven this evolution?
Jacqueline: Three things. First of all: mutual recognition of how we complement each other. Secondly, the opportunity offered by evolving client needs. And last but not least: effacts’ commitment to growing the functionality of its platform.”
You can find contracts and company structures in just a few clicks, and the software can be tailored to the diverse wishes of our clients.
Maurits: “From our point of view, we benefit from Legadex’s legal knowledge. On the software development side, they can help us to create new features with a logical and legally sound structure. Our consultants are very tech-savvy with the system, but they are not dedicated legal experts. Also, Legadex can advise our clients on how to make full use of the software so that they get the most out of its possibilities. In other words, Legadex can help our clients to realise benefits quickly. And that, in turn, helps us.”
Jacqueline: “effacts is user-friendly software. You can find contracts and company structures in just a few clicks, and the software can be tailored to the diverse wishes of our clients. Our legal knowledge and our experience with effacts means we can quickly assess what a client needs. We have done so many implementations together that we are now really familiar with what it takes to migrate old databases. This usually makes it a simple job for us. We advise which contracts should or should not be entered into the database and what requirements that information must meet. This enables us to add value for both contract and entity management.”
What issues do you typically run into?
Maurits: “One is that, among general counsel and legal departments, we see a fear of losing control. This leads them to put a lot of unstructured information into a database. The problem with this is that it can create a lot of ‘noise’. Also, clients can underestimate the implementation side. They may hire a temp or assign internal staff to cope with the workload, but they forget that the output should be of high quality and their work needs to be monitored. This way of dealing with a project is also extremely vulnerable; we all know the term ‘rubbish in / rubbish out’.”
Jacqueline: “Yes, companies often simply don’t have enough people, or the right people, to get their database and workflow up and running within a reasonable timeframe. We work on the basis of a clear project plan with defined deliverables in terms of output and timing. The work is performed by our internal team of effacts-certified counsel and paralegals. This enables us to complete implementation projects within a couple of weeks, for smaller companies, and several months for corporates with over 100 legal entities. Without such a structured approach, companies run the risk of never getting their database and workflow fully filled, up and running.
And what happens then?
They tend to become disappointed. Also, an important part of the implementation project is to educate stakeholders within the company to work with the platform. If that doesn’t happen, the risk is that the platform will barely be used. We are often hired by companies that have fallen behind with updating their corporate information and contracts, and so end up with compliance and transparency issues. We update all the information and take corrective action. Once that has been done, the company can proceed with its own staff, or we can take care of future work with our managed services team.”
LegadexOnline: the benefit of cloud-based managed services
Over the last few years, effacts has moved from on-premise software to cloud-based services. This has enabled Legadex to expand its offer via the effacts platform as most of the work can now be now be done at the Legadex offices. This flexibility enables more efficient work processes and typically results in substantial cost savings for the client.
Many smaller and mid-sized companies lack a professional legal information and workflow platform as they feel that it is too complex and too costly, or because they simply don’t know what is available. Many companies, especially SMEs but large corporates as well, also find it difficult to attract the right people, often experienced paralegals, to do this type of work. Or, there’s simply not enough of it to create a full-time position.
This is where LegadexOnline comes in. Legadex’s HassleFreeLegal concept supports such companies in a flexible, professional and cost-effective manner with effacts-certified paralegals. This enables companies to outsource their commodity legal work to Legadex and use the effacts platform and license as part of their Legadex managed services. LegadexOnline provides clients with 24/7 access to entities and contracts, an always up to date single source of truth, qualified and dedicated legal support, compliance and auditability, and predictable fees and savings.
We benefit from Legadex’s legal knowledge and effacts’ expertise. Our consultants are very tech-savvy with the system, but they are not legal experts.
What triggered effacts and Legadex to integrate your services?
Maurits: “We see that legal aspects are generally not the primary focus in startup and scale-up companies. Sometimes, these only receive attention when there is a legal conflict. Or they find themselves having to deal with a backlog. We often see that financial directors at such companies need more insight into compliance and risk management on a legal level, but there is nobody in the company who is responsible or equipped to do the corporate housekeeping. LegadexOnline, because it supports exactly the kinds of services these companies need, is an excellent solution for this category of companies.”
Jacqueline: “The LegadexOnline concept was developed for smaller and mid-size companies who either have no in-house legal counsel or just want a small legal department. It is flexible, low cost and reliable. The appeal for Private Equity investors and their participations is especially strong as not only can we manage their daily legal needs via LegadexOnline, but they can use the database to pull information together, ready for a future divestment. When you collate and structure basic information with an eventual sale in mind, it becomes a lot easier and quicker to set up a virtual data room whenever the moment comes to prepare for a corporate divestment. This makes this offering particularly appealing for Private Equity participations, and we already have quite a number of happy clients in this category.”
Coming soon: more functionality and a new name
Since effacts was acquired by Wolters Kluwer in 2015, the company has been able to step up the pace of software development and has added many functionalities in the last couple of years. Effacts can now integrate with more solutions than ever, including the most popular e-signature solutions, but customers can also choose to make their own connectors.
How do you see effacts developing?
Maurits: “First, we are expanding our portfolio with new products in 2019. The first of these is Legal SmartDocuments, a document automation solution. The integration of Legal SmartDocuments offers the ability to create documents and contracts by using information already in effacts. This changes the work of a legal counsel from being reactive to proactive. It makes them a strategic part of the governing body rather than a hurdle. These new product developments are all in addition to the current, more basic templates our software offers. Very exciting developments for our new and existing customers.”
The other big news is that effacts is to be rebranded as Legisway Essentials. The move follows Wolters Kluwer’s recent acquisition of Legisway, a French legal software provider for mid to large-sized corporate law departments. In the coming months, Wolters Kluwer will launch Legisway Enterprise (the Legisway product formerly known as Contrat’tech) in several more countries, including the Netherlands. Legisway Enterprise is similar to effacts but expands its functionalities with an advanced legal management solution featuring dynamic workflows, embedded legal expertise, contextual data entry and much more. In a way, it is the perfect step up from effacts for a Legal team that is looking to truly take control of all legal operations.
What are your plans regarding Legisway and effacts?
Maurits: “The decision to rebrand effacts as Legisway Essentials was made in order to highlight this journey. With an expanded portfolio under the Legisway brand, Wolters Kluwer is now able to cover all the different needs of the corporate legal department.”
What impact will the rebrand from effacts to Legisway Essentials have on your clients?
Maurits: “It is business as usual. Your usual dedicated team will remain your point of contact and we will not change anything in the software and related materials, besides the logo. This change will be done in a phased approach, and you might still see effacts popping up now and then this year, but that’s it. Beyond this, we are looking forward to expanding our partnership with Legadex to include the entire Legisway portfolio.”
After studying notarial law at the University of Utrecht, Jacqueline joined Legadex in 2012. As Team Leader Corporate, she is specialised in project management relating to corporate housekeeping and contract management, in addition she coaches and trains 20+ young support lawyers / paralegals within Legadex.
Maurits joined effacts in 2011, becoming its seventh employee and first business consultant. After Wolters Kluwer acquired effacts in 2015, Maurits became part of Wolters Kluwer’s global Legal Software organisation. Today, as Segment Manager for the Corporate Legal market, he is responsible for the launch of new software solutions and making sure the Wolters Kluwer Legal Software portfolio fits the needs of the modern Legal professional.