Founded in 1842, Notre Dame is the nation’s leading Catholic university, providing a distinctive voice in American higher education that is at once rigorously intellectual, unapologetically moral in orientation, and firmly embracing of a service ethos.
The Office of General Counsel provides legal support for the University’s broad range of institutional concerns. Team members strive to work with the University community in a proactive manner, practicing “preventive law” where possible to minimize the University’s exposure to legal risks. The office also provides day-to-day legal support of the University’s operations and, where necessary, protects the University’s interests.
The office’s seven attorneys as well as professional and administrative staff work together in carrying out its mission of legally representing the University.
The Office of General Counsel was using a centralized file share system, but its legal professionals were not content with this run-of-the-mill scenario. They wanted to achieve a better organized and more efficient operation. With some IT experience in his background, Associate General Counsel Timothy J. Flanagan was tasked with searching for a legal matter management system for the office.
“I did some general searching on the web,” Tim said. “After some research, we identified three systems we thought could meet our needs and put them through their paces. In the end, we selected Legal Files because of its web based nature, which gave us the ability to access our data from anywhere, plus it offered minimal intrusion on the rest of the Notre Dame’s IT environment.”
Legal Files has become the “backbone of the office,” Tim said, “not just for legal matters, but office administration as well. Now we have the ability to integrate all the different elements regarding a case. Before it was impossible to associate email with a case; now we can, and since Legal Files handles all types of documents – everything related to a case can be found in one place.” Equally important, he added, was Legal Files’ ability to provide a “snapshot” of case. “We can get up to speed quicker and get a better handle on the status of a case. We have a better focus on our resources.”
Legal Files’ tight integration with Crystal Reports is just one feature Tim finds particularly helpful. This integration allows customer developed reports in Crystal to be “embedded” into Legal Files. These reports can then be executed directly within the application as if they were “standard” Legal Files reports, “We desired more than what the standard reports offered us,” he said. “With Crystal Reports we have a built-in way to have a better view to see who’s doing what and how it’s being handled.”
And Then Came Contract Management
After the office started using Legal Files for matter management, Notre Dame realized its investment could be leveraged further by using Legal Files as its contract management solution. “Using Legal Files as our contract management solution is probably the most inventive way we are using the system,” Tim said. “For the first time, we’re able to quickly and easily identify who our authorized signatories are. It’s been a real step forward.”
Outside of the Office of General Counsel, the most visible piece of the Legal Files implementation has been the creation of a central contract repository which other business units can use as needed.
The University Contract Repository or UCR is maintained by the Office of General Counsel. Acting as a centralized database, the UCR is used to store executed contracts deemed to have a certain level of institutional significance. Beyond its standard storage and retrieval functions, the system also offers the ability to provide metrics, track certain contract milestones and send notifications.
Tracking Outside Counsel Expenses
Looking for additional ways to leverage Legal Files, Tim said the office has begun to more fully explore Legal Files as a way to track outside counsel expenses. “Although there may be other software more perfectly suited for tracking some of the accounting, I don’t feel we need to pile on another cherry. Why buy something if we don’t have to?” he asks.
“We’re really happy with our purchase of Legal Files,” Tim said. “There’s no question about that. But what has been most surprising, or maybe ‘rewarding’ would be the right word, is the relationship that has been built during this whole process,” he said, citing a “highly knowledgeable” Legal Files trainer and an “accommodating” account manager “who both understand us and our problems well” as just two examples. “The Support team is patient and extremely helpful, and I like that I don’t have to explain who I am every time I call. We really appreciate that.”