Professional services software needs to be something lawyers 'enjoy and want to use'
Ari Kaplan speaks with Barrie Hadfield, the co-founder and chief technology officer for Workshare, a software company focused on professional services.
This Q&A has been condensed.
Ari Kaplan: Tell us about your background and the genesis of Workshare.
Barrie Hadfield: I founded Workshare in 1999 with my brother and a very good friend. We founded the company because we didn’t want real day jobs, and here we are 18 years later with a business and hundreds of employees. We were quite lucky at the time because my brother met somebody on one of his trips to America who he subsequently married, so he formed the U.S. operations. 70 percent of our revenues come from the U.S., although our headquarters is in London.
Ari Kaplan: What does Workshare provide?
Barrie Hadfield: The cornerstone of the business is document comparison. Millions of users around the world at thousands of companies use our comparison technology to understand the differences that happen in documents, which is really critical to providers of professional services whose work product is often a document that they’re selling. The second pillar is our security software to which we’ve applied our deep understanding of the internals of documents. We are essentially looking at all communication and deciding whether it’s risky or not. If it’s risky, we apply some sort of policy to it, which might be to convert it to a different file format, block it, or record it. If it’s not risky, we just send it straight through. The third pillar is our productivity application called Workshare Transact, which is a deal management application used by large law firms and banks.
Ari Kaplan: What differentiates Workshare’s approach?
Barrie Hadfield: A lot of it comes down to the core ethos of the company. We put a lot of time recently into thinking through our values. We invested a couple of years in the quest to find out what really mattered to us as a group of people, and one principle that our team chose is craftsmanship. We care deeply about the craft of creating really beautiful software that people enjoy and want to use, rather than enterprise software that’s forced on them. That’s something that differentiates us, and there is a lot of love and passion put into the business software that we create.
Ari Kaplan: At ILTACON 2017, your team announced partnerships with Google and HiQ. What is driving the shift toward integration?
Barrie Hadfield: In the past, people would just use software or the system that they were given. But since anyone can now go to iTunes or the Google Play store and install any application that they want, suddenly people are much more demanding. They want to use things that are beautifully integrated and don’t create a headache. Our Compare Everywhere philosophy reflects our understanding that comparison should be integrated into every system that one uses. So, if a person moves away from his computer to Google Docs, where the client might be working, he needs to have document comparison there. For those same reasons, we aligned with HiQ so that it is available on his desktop back at the office. Even though I’ve spoken about our internal principles and our craftsmanship, our job is really to service our clients’ needs, and we can’t lose track of that.
Ari Kaplan: How has the legal industry evolved since you co-founded the company almost two decades ago?
Barrie Hadfield: Professionals used to think they were selling hours. When a vendor approached a law firm with productivity ideas, it was sometimes negatively perceived because if you had ways to make them more productive then you were reducing their ability to bill their clients. That has changed. Now law firms are really focused on reducing their costs as much as possible because their clients are demanding that.
Ari Kaplan: Where do you see the legal tech sector headed?
Barrie Hadfield: I think software is going to evolve to help people do their jobs better.
Listen to the complete interview at Reinventing Professionals.
Ari Kaplan regularly interviews leaders in the legal industry and in the broader professional services community to share perspective, highlight transformative change, and introduce new technology at his blog and on iTunes.