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HighQ Forum, London 2014 – How Allen & Overy Collaborate


Caroline Ferguson, Digital Manager at Allen & Overy spoke at the HighQ Forum, London 2014, giving an inspiring case study about her involvement with HighQ Collaborate at the firm and how it has helped to transform business processes, boost transactional efficiency, engage with clients and promote internal collaboration.

Caroline opened her talk by reflecting on the 2013 London Forum, where she walked away inspired after hearing how other firms were using HighQ Collaborate to improve their business processes and internal collaboration. Caroline could see that Collaborate could be a catalyst for Allen & Overy if they leveraged it properly. She was excited by the prospect of embracing the platform and using it to deliver a better service to clients, be more productive and profitable, and have happier lawyers.

Caroline ran through the progress of collaborative tools within Allen & Overy. She explained that in the early 2000s, the firm implemented an in-house bespoke tool for document sharing, and today, they have a suite of commoditised services through HighQ, which they use for on-deal, team community project sites and multiple business processes.

Last year A&O set up a group looking at creating efficiencies, improving collaboration and working practices across the firm. The focus was on finding ways to better the delivery of client services and provide them with added value. The group concluded that the best way to do this was by pulling together various channels of communication and reducing knowledge silos that existed across the firm. Caroline explained that the answer to delivering better legal services lies at the intersection of people, technology and organisation, stating that these things are 80% people, process and culture, but only 20% technology.

Caroline reported that since they began implementing strategy to encourage the use of HighQ’s tools across the firm, the number of requests for Dealroom (A&O’s name for its instance of HighQ Collaborate) sites has been growing. The number of sites opened has jumped significantly, and the sites requested have become increasingly more complex, with more parties involved and more regulations to be accounted for.

One such site that Caroline showcased was an online partner portal, which is used by 750 partners from 120 firms to communicate information from across firms and jurisdictions. Caroline explained that this site has been a great success, with partners regularly accessing the site and interacting with one another. The wiki module is used for storing static information used for reference, while blogs are more interactive, used for creating conversation. Using blogs, members update their news and connect with one another using the comments.

HighQ Forum Caroline Ferguson

Caroline explained that it took a while for momentum to get going with the site at first, but after two users were assigned as Community Managers to seed conversations and keep content live, other users began to get involved. Today the site sees multiple posts daily from people across the network.

In the next segment of her talk, Caroline went on to explain how Allen & Overy use HighQ Collaborate on-deal. Caroline described the scale of the deals A&O handles, transactions with hundreds of entities, tens of jurisdictions, and tens of thousands of documents all over the globe. The network of teams working together on one deal can be vast and disparate, but HighQ Collaborate enables them to have, what Caroline called, “one version of the truth”. Using iSheets, everyone inputs into one document that is always up to date, rather than emailing a large Excel spreadsheet back and forth, which Caroline stated is a much more efficient way of working.

HighQ Collaborate facilitates collaboration with A&O’s clients too. Caroline explained how the firm uses Dealroom for cross-border surveys, whereby A&O offices create online questionnaires in iSheets which can give clients information about which laws and regulations apply to them. Clients view a summary of the information within the iSheet, whereas the A&O offices have access to the whole suite of information that has been inputted, making it a good way of gathering information as well as presenting it.

Caroline concluded by explaining the plans for the future of Dealroom. She described plans to expand the consultancy skill set away from the Digital team; to enable single sign on (SSO) to make it easier for users to access the system; and adopt system integration to connect Dealroom with other platforms used across the firm, for instance the ability to pull notifications through from Dealroom into A&O’s intranet.

However, there are a number of challenges ahead, which Caroline detailed too. She spoke about the need to build capacity within the Digital team in order to meet the growing demands for Dealroom across the firm. She also described the fact that although there are “pockets of genius” within A&O, there is still a lot of potential when it comes to systemic adoption across the firm. To encourage user adoption, Caroline explained how sharing success stories helps raise awareness of the platform. She stated how Dealroom is becoming a differentiator for A&O in pitches, so it is important to get partners to share their success stories when they’ve won a piece of work thanks to Dealroom.

Caroline explained that it was her goal to empower, enable and engage the wider firm, and in order to do this she wants to help everyone to create their own Dealroom sites with ease. Caroline explained that the Digital team created a toolkit to give everyone in the firm the information they need to get going.

She finished by stating that Allen & Overy have been on a great journey, developing products, enhancing the value they can deliver to clients and building the robustness of how they can leverage the platform further. But, Caroline asserted, at the same time they must accept that they can try things that don’t always work. Her closing statement resonated across the room: “Try and fail, but don’t fail to try.”

HighQ Forum Caroline Ferguson

To find out more about how Allen & Overy use HighQ Collaborate and to hear why the firm chose HighQ, download the full case study. If you are an existing HighQ client, you can watch a video of Caroline’s talk (and videos from the rest of the Forum) on the Client Community.

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