Heritage-Crystal Clean (HCC) is a leading provider of parts cleaning services, oil recycling/ re-refining and waste management in the automotive and manufacturing industries. Headquartered in Elgin, Illinois, Heritage-Crystal Clean operates through 90 branches and 45 states, serving over 91,000 customer locations.
Years ago, the legal department at HCC had employed a simple computer system that was only being used to generate file numbers for legal matters. Eventually, the system stopped being used entirely; and no formal legal management or contract management system was in place. Legal Operations Manager Samantha Corso explains the situation. “Prior to our new general counsel joining the company, there had been a very random way of organizing information by folders (some on computer, some as hard copy files) with a random numbering system.
Notes, documents and email were all over the place,” she said. “It was manila folders and file cabinets.” No automated reporting was being done. Gathering data was a manual and time-consuming process. Locating documents and accomplishing routine tasks were taking a tremendous amount time from the workday.
Identifying Needs to Find the Right System
The process to find and implement a matter management system kicked started when a new general counsel joined the company. Before contacting vendors, the department went through a very important step. “We sat down with each section and specifically documented each requirement and want. What our general counsel needed the program to do was going to be different from our contract administrators’ needs. Also, we needed to gain a comprehensive understanding of how people did things and why,” Samantha recalled.
“We eventually developed a detailed outline of the data we wanted the new system to capture. Take agreements for example,” she said, “with a new contract management system, we knew that we needed to be able to determine things like: Can it quickly tell us what is being paid and who is paying for it? Will it let us track and report by type of agreements, such as a software agreement versus a services contract? Can it immediately identify and retrieve the final, signed version of a document? Can we get an abstract of the contract terms? Can we sort/filter by parties, type of issue and include all amendments, statements of work, terms, industry etc. For matter management, we wanted to track data, such as the number of files opened and closed, the number of matters worked on by a specific user or the number of bids (proposals) that we won and lost.”
In the end, the work they did internally paid big dividends. “Identifying our needs was not only paramount when we went to customize and implement the program, but also during our selection process,” Samantha said. “Otherwise, how would we have known what was going to meet our needs? When we first saw Legal Files, it made so much sense to us immediately, because we knew it was going to meet our needs.”
“We took a phased approach to implementation,” Samantha said. “It was important to keep it simple at first. We knew if it became overwhelming, we wouldn’t get it done. What was important was that the people at Legal Files helped us stay on the
right path and build a strong foundation. We knew with Legal Files, that we could add more functionality ourselves later if we wanted.” Once the software was installed and configured, and the administrative users were trained they took some time to experiment to ensure the software would do what they required, as well as how they wanted it done. “We had the program set up the way we liked and two months later we rolled it out to everyone.”
A Versatile System
“What’s great about Legal Files is that depending upon the needs of the different sections, we use it for multiple types of work,” Samantha said. “Our general counsel typically uses Legal Files for mergers and acquisitions, as well as litigation. Compliance uses the software for board of directors and governance work, the contract administrators use it extensively and I use it to help with legal operations. “We all use Legal Files for different things, and yet it meets all of our needs.”
“As an example, one of the ways I use it is to track time,” Samantha said. “If the company needs to know how much time, on average, this merger or acquisition will take to complete, I use Legal Files to determine the time requirements based on past projects of similar size.
One of the general counsel’s favorite things, according to Samantha, is Legal Files’ mobile application which allows him to dictate notes immediately after a meeting. “There’s no more trying to decipher handwritten notes, and no more scanning hard copies in the system,” she said.
Legal Files is also used for bids, as many of their contracts are done through an RFP (request for proposal) process. Legal Files tracks bid deadlines and prompts them about deadlines. It also reminds them if they are still waiting to receive to a particular piece of information from the service reps in the field. “Legal Files a great, versatile product,” Samantha said.
“Our contract people love Legal Files because it keeps all the relevant email and documents in one matter file,” Samantha said. “It’s great for searching documents too, because we can search one file automatically and don’t have to manually look through hundreds of emails to see who said what. Document version is important for us since we not only can keep track of what changes were made, but capture the reason we made the change in the first place.”
Legal Files reporting also plays a key role in contract management for the company, Samantha said. “For instance, someone may ask, do we have a contract regarding XYZ and in a minute, I can tell him, ‘yes, we have seven contracts, which location do you want?’”
One of the best tools Legal Files has provided is its automatic notification system, especially when it comes to contract management. “It’s the department’s responsibility to manage the details of their contracts, but the responsibility for the renewals and expirations is shared between the legal department and the branch (business user).”
Thirty, 60 and 90 days before a contract expires, “we’ve set it up so that Legal Files notification system will automatically send reminders to people at our branches—people who don’t even use Legal Files,” Samantha said. “We save a tremendous amount of time not having to do follow up, repeatedly calling or emailing someone. Legal Files does that for us, allowing us to focus on more meaningful tasks.”
Legal Files’ automation tools, both external and internal, are probably the “best part” for the entire team, Samantha said. “We all benefit from having ticklers and reminders for all our important tasks. We are a small team in one location, serving 90 branches in 45 states. There’s a lot going on.”
Tools When You’re Ready for Them
“I knew we were not using this program to the fullest,” Samantha said. “So, just this year I starting using Legal Files for expenses. Before, we would use Excel spreadsheets for budgets, expenses and invoices. We would have to update them constantly and errors occurred all the time. Now, we can even budget by matter. Now, we can know in a minute—by matter, by type, by year-to-year trend, those expenses.” Using Legal Files for expenses makes reporting to the board much more detailed and accurate, as well. Legal Files helps create better budgets, and helps more accurately separate out which matters and matter-related expenses belong to which department.
Two Big, but Nice Surprises
Surprise is not always a word you want to hear when talking about software implementations. However, the legal department enjoyed several nice surprises when it came to Legal Files.
“First, the system was surprisingly easy to grasp,” Samantha said, “much easier than what you think. We did have one person who was somewhat reluctant (about bringing in a new technology), but at the end of the day, it was a very easy transition for all of us.”
Second, “it’s great to be able to step into someone else’s shoes. As I mentioned before, we are a small department, and before, when someone was out, we couldn’t always do that. It was, ‘I don’t know about that; I don’t have access to that, you’ll have to wait until they return.’ Now we use Legal Files to tell us the status of anything and we are able to be much more responsive to requests from throughout the company. Now that we have that ability as well as the automated external notifications, Legal Files has improved our department’s reputation throughout the company.”
Legal Flies is “awesome,” Samantha said. “It touches everything in our life; we even use the Microsoft & Adobe plug-ins so we can edit documents directly in the system. We use it for matter management, of course, to track everything we do, including the various matter types and all accompanying data, such as discrete tasks, notes, reports etc. We’re able to save (and retrieve) documents and email from the same matter file within the system.” Additionally, Legal Files automated triggers and notifications have not only had a very positive impact on contract management, but internal tasks and workflow as well, she said.
The process of implementing Legal Files has brought clarity to the department. “Legal Files has unified us. We have different responsibilities and may work with different kinds of files or documents, but we have the same procedures all laid out in Legal Flies. Our legal department touches every other department in this company, and Legal Files touches everything we do. We appreciate the program; it’s made our life so much better.” Implementing and using Legal Files “has been nothing but a positive experience.”