In the past few months I’ve been introduced to some impressive information-technology tools. (Click here, here, here, and here to see the related posts.) My introduction to Litera IDS has been particularly memorable, given its functionality, the need it aims to meet, the lack of any real competition, and the fact that I had no inkling that it existed. Deepak Massand, Litera Corp.’s CEO, was kind enough to take the time to speak with me.
Q: Please tell us a bit about your company.
A: Litera Corp. was started in 2001 by seasoned executives who had experienced in their own work how time-consuming and inefficient the process of handling document change can be. Regarding my own background, I was an executive director at Johnson & Johnson and CEO of Merz Pharmaceuticals. We’re a privately held company headquartered in McLeansville, North Carolina, and we have offices in India, Singapore, and Eastern Europe. We have several patents pending on our technology.
Regarding our products, we currently offer next-generation technology in a range of areas, including redlining tools for Word, Excel, PDF, and compound documents; metadata removal; and PDF conversion and editing tools. But for purposes of this discussion, the product you’re interested in is Litera IDS (Intelligent Document System), which is a collaboration platform that greatly facilitates the process of receiving comments on, and making changes to, a given document.
Q: What, in a nutshell, does Litera IDS do?
A: Stated simply, Litera IDS is the only synchronous collaboration platform that allows unlimited people to work on a document together, whether live or offline, from anywhere in the world, with the submitted comments and revisions being stored in a database. When the user views a given section of a document, the screen will also display the comments and revisions to that section offered by all reviewers. (In the screen shot below, reviewer comments and revisions are to the right; click on it to open a new window with a bigger version.)
The user can then accept or act upon some suggestions and ignore the rest. The user can also choose to allow all reviewers to see each other’s comments and revisions.
Q: How does Litera IDS improve on how lawyers currently handle the comment and revision process?
A: Most of us have suffered through the traditional process of sharing a document with others. You send a draft out to a dozen people. They each review the document independently, then send back their comments and revisions by personal delivery, facsimile, or email. Their input is either written by hand (with varying degrees of legibility) or incorporated in a Word document. You then have to shuffle through a stack of drafts to determine which overlapping comments and revisions you want to incorporate in the next draft. The stack of drafts grows with each succeeding version, and figuring out how and when a given change came to be in the document becomes an utter chore.
Anyone who has gone through this process will appreciate the benefit of being able to view and manage an up-to-date set of all reviewers’ comments while working on the original document. And anyone who has to review a document will appreciate the benefit of being able to see comments that others have already made.
Q: What’s the payoff?
A: By allowing you to work more efficiently, Litera IDS can help you improve substantially the quality of your documents. But perhaps even more importantly, Litera IDS can cut by more than half the time you spend reviewing and incorporating comments to complex documents. Any given transaction can involve repeated rounds of drafting and negotiation that drag on for months, with comments being solicited from the parties, their advisors, and their attorneys. The more time this process takes, the greater the cost, the less time those involved have to devote to other important matters, and the greater the chance that the transaction won’t close, perhaps because delays in finalizing the documentation have given a competitor time to put in a bid. Anything that can cut to days rather than months the time this process takes would be invaluable to both the client and the law firm.
Q: What’s the difference between Litera IDS and Workshare Professional?
A: Workshare’s methodology is an extension of their redlining and works by email attachments being sent and returned, with changes being extracted by their redlining tool. It lacks the key features of Litera IDS—the way the user and, if the user wishes, all reviewers can work synchronously on one live version, with comments and revisions being stored in a database for future reference or audit.
Q: Who could particularly benefit from using Litera IDS?
A: Anyone who has to coordinate review of a complex document by a group of people. In terms of lawyers, that means not only lawyers running the documentation for a given M&A or other deal, but also, for example, lawyers putting together a registration statement or annual report. And the greater the number of people involved, the greater the benefit of using Litera IDS. But Litera IDS’s usefulness isn’t limited to the legal profession—it can also be used to produce marketing and strategic plans, RFPs, and comparable documents.
Q: What’s involved in implementing Litera IDS?
A: We offer our clients the option of using our ASP or installing their own servers. If a client uses our ASP, the client can be up and running in a day—essentially the time it takes to compile a user list and create the user accounts. If the client wants to install its own servers, it would need two of them—an application server and a database server. Once the hardware is on site, installation takes two to three days.
In either case, a thin client needs to be installed on the desktop of each user who’d be using the system to control changes to a document . Users who want to review a document rather than control it can click on an active-control link to gain access without the need for an “install.” (Technically, even launching an active-control link constitutes an install, but most people don’t see it that way, given that it’s so unintrusive.)
Whichever option a client chooses, we offer users a combination of web-based and on-site training. Users generally need only two to three hours to get familiar with the main functions of the system. We also offer different packages of ongoing support.
Q: Is Litera IDS compatible with contract-lifecycle-management solutions such as UpsideContract?
A: Litera is commited to adding whatever compatability and integration a client needs.
Q: Where do things stand in your marketing of Litera IDS?
A: Litera IDS has gone through extensive development and quality assurance and is now ready to be launched commercially. We are in talks with a couple of large technology companies and may enlist partners to launch the product. We expect to have a marketing campaign in place over the next three to four months. In the meantime, we are working with a few marquee clients and expect to roll out the system in the every near future.
Q: How important a role will information technology play in how the contract process is handled in the future?
A: All aspects of the contract process are people and documentation intensive. Information technology solutions have been devised for different stages in the contract life cycle processes, but most of them apply only after a contract has been signed. The real challenge is to bring technology to bear during drafting and negotiation, as those two processes drain much more time and money, and are much more knowledge-intensive, than any other stage. We think that Litera IDS represents a significant step towards addressing these needs.
Q: How can readers find out more about Litera IDS?
A: Our website, www.litera.com, is a good place to start. You can also call me at (336) 375-2991, extension 220—I’d be happy to provide more information or schedule a webinar.
Q: Deepak, thank you very much.