Eric Laughlin is the CEO of Agiloft, the global leader in contract and commerce lifecycle management (CCLM) software. Eric has over a decade of leadership experience running legal software and tech-enabled services business serving Fortune 1000 clients. Prior to Agiloft, Eric was the global leader of Legal Managed Services at Ernst & Young, LLP. His organization, including the Pangea3 and Riverview Law teams, provided EY clients with technology and service solutions in the contracts, e-discovery, and compliance domains globally. Before EY, he was managing director of the Corporate Segment within Thomson Reuters, responsible for information, software, and service offerings for corporate legal departments. His career at Thompson Reuters included posts as general manager for Serengeti (e-billing & matter management software), consultant in the Global Strategy function, and marketing leadership roles.
What was the impetus for your involvement in the legal tech space?
I did not go to law school. In fact, I never considered it. But, by happy accident, my first job out of college saw me consulting with West Group, now Thomson Reuters, and I have been around legal ever since. It has been fascinating and inspiring to see a profession in the spasms of change, and I feel lucky to have been a part of it. I spent the last decade running legal software and tech-enabled business services, primarily focused on serving in-house departments.
Prior to joining Agiloft, I was the global leader of Legal Managed Services at Ernst & Young, LLP. Where my team included the Pangea3 and Riverview Law teams, who provided EY’s clients with technology and service solutions in contracts, e-discovery, and compliance. Before EY, I was the MD of the Corporate Segment within Thomson Reuters, where I was responsible for information, software, and service offerings for corporate legal departments. Our solutions included Serengeti, now Legal Tracker, an e-billing and matter management software, amongst others.
Interestingly, I got to know Colin Earl, Agiloft’s founder and CTO, and the team over the past 18 months, both as a customer and as an adviser. When our team at Thomson Reuters was brought into EY, I discovered EY was using Agiloft for its contract management. I immediately recognised the value of Colin’s flexible, no-code approach to CLM and set about forming a partnership with Agiloft, to provide consulting services and implementation services around the platform.
Coming from the services side, I saw how the technology was helping my own team and our clients manage our contracts. I had also seen how important it was for any tech solution to be configurable and flexible enough to evolve with the needs of its users. Agiloft is scalable, flexible, and easy to use. So, when Colin asked me to become CEO, I jumped at the chance.
A lot has been said about the barriers to adoption of legal tech. Now as the leader of a legal tech company, what are your thoughts on the barriers and overcoming them?
As I mentioned above, I believe that anyone involved in a digital transformation project should be looking for a platform or provider that can live and grow alongside the evolving needs of their business and their team, without that solution costing a fortune.
For me, the critical part of that is the acknowledgement by project sponsors, vendors, and users that whatever a system looks like at ‘go-live’, it will need to change. Approval routing will change, companies will acquire and divest, legal departments will respond to new compliance requirements. Legal users know this, and they expect their chosen tech to respond to those changes quickly. A poor or delayed response means their usage wanes, and they eventually feel let down by their original choice of technology.
Part of the beauty of a no-code platform, like Agiloft, is that it can flip this downward spiral of ‘business change with poor tech response leading to disillusionment’ into a positive cycle of ‘business change with fast tech response leading to user engagement.’ No-code approaches are particularly useful because they do not ‘hard code in’ yesterday’s processes or data, and with training can be manipulated effectively by company administrators as a business’s needs evolve.
This is exactly why Colin built Agiloft. He had seen too many enterprise technology implementations fail. So, he decided to build a no-code platform, before no-code was a buzzword, by the way, so he could avoid the ‘custom coding / custom bugs’ issues he had seen cause so many other failed implementations. Built on that same no-code platform, our CLM now comes with fully customizable best practice functionality for buy and sell-side contract management.
How do you see the pandemic permanently changing how work gets done by legal teams?
While the last few months have been a test for many legal teams, whether they are in-house or at a law firm, many will have learned valuable lessons from the crisis that will enable them to future-proof their organizations and build resiliency into their systems. For some, the last quarter has been a chance to review priorities and accelerate parts of their digital transformation journeys related to contract management, for example.
Visibility into contracts has only grown in importance for many companies, as they adapt to the new reality and look to build the resiliency required to deal with another crisis in future, or even to help manage the risks of a potential second wave of COVID-19.
In the face of a COVID-19 economy, many legal teams are paying close attention to contract stipulations and clauses to save costs. Investigating what is in their contracts and what their liabilities are. If they do not have a CLM tool it is going to take them a long time to figure that out.
As a result, many providers, like Agiloft, are seeing a ‘surge’ of interest in their solutions. However, it is also important to remember that CLM was ‘hot’ before the pandemic hit. With Forrester reporting that while only 15% of businesses currently operate a CLM system, over 85% envisage utilizing some sort of contract lifecycle management in the next 2 to 3 years.
As a prior member of a Big Four company, what are your thoughts on their forays into the legal tech space?
The truth is that the Big 4 are already major players in global legal services. We might not see that here in the US yet, so we have some blinders on, but I am happy that Agiloft is partnering with EY and Deloitte, so we can take part in their growth. Moving forward the Big 4 have an opportunity to provide more and more services around legal technology, which will help solutions spread faster and be better utilized.
The Big Four bring several assets, but none are more important than their amazing networks and credibility. Their ability to get a seat at the table in most large enterprises means that they and their technology partners will get more and more opportunities. Extending other related projects into the legal sphere, in ways that smaller organizations just cannot match.
To those lawyers resistant to the use of technology, what do you say to them?
Unsurprisingly I am biased towards a tech-forward approach. However, I will continue to applaud sceptics, as long as they are taking other actions to try to get to a better place, and are honest about how their results compare with their peers, who are trying a more tech-centric approach. There are many ways of innovating on a model, and we should all be looking to each other for clues about what works and what does not.