The lawyers work hand in glove with the actual GT docs team, so it is a collaborative approach. It is centralized, and it is the custodian of knowledge around document review. We also have search capability within those teams, so whilst we might have a core team of, let’s say, nine people onshore, we can scale up that to 20, 30, 40, 50, depending on our needs. And similarly, through our offshore team, through Elevate, the same principle applies.
Really it was delivered to streamline and scale document review on a day-to-day basis, certainly a large-scale change project. The reason I mention that is because along the way, we’ve certainly done a couple of large things, but we’ve also done a lot of incremental change. I think there are differences in the way in which you deliver innovation internally within an organization. It can be incremental, and it can be quite disruptive. GT Docs is a unit where we leverage both onshore and offshore resourcing through Elevate, which was unique to the firm. So, a lot of consultation was required. Any change in practice, particularly when we’re talking about a large piece or phase of work within a broader regulatory or disputes matter, it will be quite, as I said, disruptive to how the lawyers were operating.
For me, this particular piece was relatively disruptive in how lawyers operate, but certainly quite a significant change within the organization. We had enormous growth in litigation and regulatory work within the firm over the last few years. As a result of that, we needed to investigate a model for our document reviews that were both sustainable and scalable, but at the same time delivered the quality that Gilbert + Tobin are known for. That was critical in how we thought about why we needed to implement this change and how we needed to implement this change. We certainly needed to have surge capacity within the team to deal with the ebbs and flows of our matter work. At the same time, we needed to deliver a solution that maintained the quality but delivered efficiency.
Stephen: In terms of how that surfaced, first, there was a need, then what a possible solution would be. How did you go through the process before you even got to the design piece to garner input, thought, etc.?
Caryn: This was something that we had thought about for more than a year. We identified the need, and that need only became larger as our disputes and the regulatory team grew. The overall planning, before the launch of the project, took about ten months. So, it was a decent piece of time. We were quite purposeful in how we approached things in that we wanted to have the required and in-depth consultation upfront because my view has always been that if you invest in the planning, typically, the end result works well. I looked at it in three different buckets. One is consultation, and obviously, it is critical to do that extensive consultation in a partnership. A lot of point solutions in the past were quite a large change in how we’re going to deliver the work.
We had initial sessions with a huge volume of partners in the regulatory and the disputes team. We obviously took it to the board as well. We did lots of consultation with the lawyers, and that was really to understand and help define the scope of the problem, identify best practices that they had seen in the past. As the project developed, we sought additional feedback from a broad range of stakeholders. We invested a lot of time. Some meetings were great, some were difficult, but that was part of the learning. That’s what we wanted; we didn’t want to uncover those issues once we had launched the actual GT Docs unit. We wanted to uncover them at the outset, and we wanted to understand what we were managing and what we were trying to deliver on.
In terms of the operational design, we had many drafts of the operational design that we shared with the stakeholders very early on. The detailed operational design, development of playbooks, and the like occurred over about a two-month period up to launch. That’s when we started finessing what the actual unit will look like. That included the Elevate team traveling from Gurgaon to Sydney to be with us in workshops, which was important because it had buy-in from both sides. Obviously, there are learnings from the G + T side, but then there’s also learnings from Elevate. They’ve worked with a lot of large organizations globally in this space.
For me, the most critical component, in addition to the consultation, was the change management piece. We thought long and hard about that and educating our lawyers on the new working model. We addressed that through Change Champions. We had Change Champions within the organization who focused on this unit. They could talk at meetings about it and our progress. We had lots of electronic communications. There were pamphlets, and we had drop-in coffee sessions towards the end. By the time we implemented that unit, I think people felt they were well consulted and that the change management components were dealt with. There were no surprises.
Stephen: No surprises is so important. When you went to launch, did you soft launch? Did you launch for a smaller group first to control flow?
Caryn: That’s an interesting one because I’m very much a proponent of a pilot, but given this was an innovation as a service, it was very difficult to do that because we were standing up a team. We have a core team in Sydney. We’ve got a core team through Elevate in Gurgaon, and that has been fantastic and instrumental to our actual design, in that we have one GT Docs unit. We don’t think about it as the Elevate Team and the Gilbert + Tobin team. We think about it as a combined team, and then we’ve got surge capability and capacity across onshore and offshore team members. Because we were standing up as a team and putting all the processes in place, it was very difficult because you don’t know what matters could come in. Typically, the matters that do come in require a significant number of people in a very short period of time. We have a new matter come in, and we might need to stand up 20 or 50 reviewers to enable us to deliver on that work within 24, 48 hours.
We launched the unit on the 20th of August. In fact, we had a demand for the unit before the 20th of August. I think we even had two matters running before the 20th of August, which is highly unusual but indeed indicated the need for the unit and the level of comfort resulting from the consultation that took place prior. But no, we didn’t do a pilot on this; we went straight in. But I think because of the amount of time we invested upfront, we were quite confident in how we would deliver the solution for the lawyers.
Stephen: Definitely a testament to the planning. How is it being viewed now? It’s been running for some time. I suspect in some ways it’s become the norm. People have forgotten how radical it was, which is always a testament to a successful change project. Are there any lessons or surprises that came out of that, that you’ve had to recalibrate or adjust?
Caryn: Absolutely. The unit has been incredibly successful by all measures, certainly from our perspective. We had some estimates around utilization and the like, and I think in the first nine months, we surpassed those initial utilization estimates by more than 150%. We had an enormous demand for the unit. It had allowed us, particularly at the back end of last year, when we had so much regulatory and litigation work to continue through COVID.
We’ve been in a pretty fortunate position. For example, it allowed us to scale up 25 local resources and I think 24 offshore resources within 48 hours. The key thing for us, as I mentioned earlier, was the quality. The prior challenge around standing up a group, whether it be casual paralegals or trying to find resources within the firm to meet the demand, was not sustainable given the work volume. It certainly has been an incredibly positive move for the firm.
The area that I was certainly surprised at is just how quickly the lawyers adapted to this particular unit, and I think there is a lot to be said for the phrase “necessity is the mother of invention.” I think it certainly is true in this particular circumstance, given the work volume that the lawyers had, and even though you would expect, there might be an incremental change that happens within an organization. As I said, it was disruptive to the way in which we work, but the lawyers felt compelled to use this new offering because it delivered enormous benefits to them. To be honest, given the volume of work and given the fact that the lawyers were quite stretched in the way they needed to operate on a day-to-day basis, this was a fantastic alternative for them.
Our lawyers are still intricately involved in the review process. There is no doubt about that – and they’ve worked hand in glove with the GT Docs team, given that they are ultimately delivering on legal review. But certainly, for the administrative tasks, finding resources, and working out what one needs to do on a day-to-day basis, it is something that’s we’ve enjoyed.