Interview with James Connor (HighQ / Thomson Reuters)

Digital Collaboration:
Key Factor
For Legal Departments & Law Firms

Digital collaboration in corporate legal departments and corporate law firms is becoming a success factor due to pandemic and efficiency needs. For example, one of Germany’s largest law firms recently decided to use the “HighQ” platform promoted by Digitorney in Germany. James Connor, Vice President Sales – EMEA at Thomson Reuters explains why this makes a difference in competition these days.

James, how did the Covid19 pandemic affect the demand for digital collaboration platforms?

Connor: Even before Covid19, we faced strong demand because legal tech is of general interest. Meanwhile, this has increased significantly as many corporate legal departments and corporate law firms look for ways to improve their digital interaction due to contact restrictions in light of the Covid19 pandemic and the permanent trend towards remote work.

Why does this require a special platform?

Connor: Because practical experience shows that email, phone, or video calls are not enough to replace physical contact. Especially if day-to-day business has to be fast or when many documents are being drafted in the course of complex transactions, the common working approaches are insufficient.

Can you give an example?

Connor: When lawyers work on an M&A transaction, they often create a variety of documents that are interlinked. This includes, of course, the Share Purchase Agreement and, in addition, a Shareholder Agreement or Transition Agreement, often in conjunction with comprehensive appendices. The drafts go back and forth between the involved law firms, in-house lawyers and consultants. Prior to Covid19, contents were coordinated in physical meetings and negotiated iteratively. This has now become more difficult because of Covid19, especially in cross-border transactions. You can discuss the contents by video call or phone. But especially when the participants do not know each other well, details are often lost, not all are on the same level and lose track.

How can a digital collaboration platform help?

Connor: With our HighQ platform, lawyers can control the entire project in transactions by digitally allocating the tasks for individual documents and bundling the latest version of each document in one place. In addition, lawyers can work on a document in parallel in real time and make comments on the contracts without having to leave the platform. In the day-to-day business, HighQ leads to greater efficiency and productivity, because everything is centrally bundled and complex research for suitable templates is not required anymore. It is also used for quality assurance if only the valid template, which has been approved by the legal department, is available on the platform at a time.

But you could also use other software solutions that come with the operating system…

Connor: HighQ is clearly the better choice because our platform is specifically tailored to the needs of legal work and can be designed by the legal department or law firm on its own without having to involve the IT department. In addition, legal departments can seamlessly collaborate with other internal departments as well as external law firms through HighQ, while many other tools are not or only to a limited extent able to do so. In addition, no other system provides for integrated legal tools such as Contract Express for document automation. Furthermore, it is possible to integrate other software solutions, which almost every legal department or law firm usually already makes use of, directly into HighQ via API interfaces so that one does not have to completely discontinue the existing software. Ultimately, of course, security also plays an important role. And we are at the forefront of this with local servers in Germany and the highest security standards in the market.

Recently, one of Germany’s largest law firms has decided on HighQ. What additional role does this play for law firms and legal departments?

Connor: We often hear that HighQ is chosen also because it is helps push forward digitization of legal work in general. The Covid19 situation has certainly accelerated this. It’s about improving virtual work among absentees – which is an important point, especially for international teams, frequently travelling lawyers or lawyers working from home. They want to create a “digital mindset” and ensure that the teams adopt virtual work as the new normal. This also includes the digital chatroom or internal social media – with HighQ you can even create your own intranet for the team and communicate news about projects or new colleagues there in real time. In addition, digital collaboration is advantageous because it makes you more efficient and quality-assured.

What are Thomson Reuters’ plans for HighQ in Germany together with Digitorney?

Connor: We are convinced that the Covid19 pandemic will significantly reinforce the trend towards digital collaboration in legal work as well. That is why, together with Digitorney as our sales partner, we will significantly expand this business in Germany, especially with regard to legal departments in 2020/21.

James Connor is Vice President Sales – EMEA at Thomson Reuters and in this role responsible for the sales of HighQ in the EMEA region.