ServiceNow: ‘Legal Matter Management is a Massive White Space’

ServiceNow is a $4.5 billion revenue workflow company that has set its sights on the legal market, in particular legal matter management inside corporates. Artificial Lawyer spoke to Nagib Tharani, the person responsible for launching their Legal Service Delivery product line.

Tharani, who is based in Santa Clara, California, and in the past has worked at Clio and Simple Legal, is clear on the opportunity for change among inhouse legal teams.

‘Internal matter management is a massive white space and we can create a lot of value here,’ he stated.

To do this they are providing pre-built workflows that can then be customised by the users. These can cover things such as:

  • Simple Contracts: templated contracts with eSignature support
  • Privacy Impact Assessments
  • Digital Forensics Requests
  • Employee Share Sale Pre-Clearance

Tharani noted that they don’t present these as ‘no-code’ solutions, although they are – in theory – meant to slot into a company’s enterprise environment without too much trouble.

Nagib Tharani, Product Management Director

Now, if ServiceNow was a startup one might be a bit more dubious about any claims of ‘Hey, this is easy to use’, but the company does have a track record of providing workflow systems to companies across the world. For example, around 80% of the Fortune 500 already use ServiceNow in one way or another across various departments.

One example he gave was the frequent challenge of handling employee share options. For example, a giant company may have thousands of staff with shares and share options. They want to know how and when they can sell their shares. When they can do this is a legal issue, as companies have to control this carefully to ensure staff only sell at times when the company isn’t about to do something that could significantly change the share price.

So, staff end up contacting the legal team – a lot. This can become a very laborious exercise, and the employees generally are always asking the same questions – again, and again. Tharani explained that they built a workflow for this inside their own company to handle the Q&A and triaging of the enquiries.

The process used to take about eight days, with emails going back and forth to legal. Now the process can take just a few minutes, as all the key steps have been formalised into a digital workflow. So now the employee gets clearance to sell and moves ahead with it, or not, but the legal team can get on with other work.

Another aspect that Tharani highlighted was that ServiceNow approaches legal matter management in terms of it being part of the whole business. He stressed that what lawyers may see as a legal matter will often originate in HR, or sales, or procurement. ServiceNow are used to connecting these workflows across the business – because, well, that’s what they’ve been doing since the company started in 2003 and they have always had an enterprise mindset.

And this leads to another point. Tharani argued that workflow management is one of the great enterprise technology pillars that all large companies should have.

‘The average (large) company has five or six strategic platforms, such as email, a database, CRM, and ERP, and systems like this. And then there is workflow, and we are that enterprise system,’ he explained.

Then he focused on legal as it is now. Tharani is well aware, given his past legal tech experience, of how things are.

‘Legal still lives inside of Microsoft, and the pandemic has exposed the pain of not working more efficiently,’ he said. I.e. lawyers are stuck with email and shunting Word docs back and forth across the business, even for relatively simple matters.

And on that point about process work, he noted they estimated that around 35% of all work inhouse legal teams handle is ‘low or very low’ complexity work, that nonetheless soaks up the time of these highly paid lawyers employed by the world’s companies.

So, can ServiceNow make an impact? They already work with dozens of large companies; expanding into the legal matter management side of things should not be a stretch – at least in theory. Also, Tharani has spent the last three years developing the new range of products and has a good knowledge of how the legal world works. So, they have that going for them.

They will however be running into a bunch of other companies that are already in the legal space, from no-code platforms such as Neota Logic, Josef, AUTTO, BRYTER and Autologyx, to the more expandable and adaptable CLM companies where you can also build approval workflows.

So, although it’s true that most inhouse legal teams haven’t really grasped the efficiency benefits of crunching their more routine work into digital workflows, and this represents a largely ‘massive white space’ still in terms of opportunity, the market is not without competitors, and those competitors would no doubt argue that they can do many of the same things in their own way.

That said, with such massive resources available to them, plus the fact that many potential customers for their Legal Service Delivery products are using the company’s software elsewhere in the business, then ServiceNow has a very good chance of making a lasting – and growing – impact in the legal market.