October 2022

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Absolute Interoperability Can Make Your Firm More Efficient

It’s now common practice for law firms to have a number of different systems for various business functions. However, there’s a disparity between firms that have integrated the art of systems and the data they hold — otherwise known as absolute interoperability — and those that haven’t. Those that haven’t either work in siloed systems or only use their business information in isolation despite the applications themselves being integrated.  

Tony Pullman

The bottom line is interoperability is complex, but it can be broken down into two key components: technical interoperability through working integrations and data interoperability. The former means connecting technology systems so that they seamlessly transmit information; the latter means ensuring that data can be accessed and used across systems and departments without losing its meaning. Most law firms have had considerable success technically joining systems up, but to achieve the real potential of interoperability, they need to take further steps to have good data interoperability. Those that fail to consider absolute interoperability risk exposure to costly business problems and bad decisions. 

So why should you care about interoperability? For starters, absolute interoperability gives law firms an unmatched power. It allows them to combine integrations and data, giving them a greater business advantage and a higher level of business intelligence.

Firms that do it well have better knowledge about the business overall, and more importantly, can trust that the data they have before them is correct. It also means that teams across all departments can increase efficiency rather than logging in and out of various systems trying to find the data they’re looking for.


Due to the nature of having intelligence across each system, the main area where interoperability can go wrong is when only the first, technical component is addressed. Stopping here instead of progressing toward absolute interoperability means law firms risk failing to consider the most effective ways around how and where data is captured, passed on and kept up to date in their application ecosystem and how it can work together.

This exposes them to being in a place where the data is different system to system. However, because of the integrations being in place, they are under a false assumption that it is the same. For example, if your risk system — which typically feeds into your finance system — holds different clients, your firm might miss a conflict even through an otherwise thorough clearing process. The list of consequent problems is long but most importantly, the financial and reputational risk is enormous.

Data issues like this can have an incremental impact on the business and its finances. Even the culture of a firm can be impacted if the data can’t be trusted and decisions are made more by gut instinct.

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In business, data is king. When a law firm has access to good quality cross-departmental data, they can do so much with it: strategically and operationally plan for growth, improve efficiencies and ultimately enjoy better financial performance. 

Seamless interoperability also opens firms up to a range of positive opportunities and outcomes. Not only are they able to generate a greater return on the investment for the applications they’re using, but they are able to build stronger relationships with clients. It allows firms to access information across all departmental systems easily so that they can have more productive conversations with clients, showing them that they truly understand what they need today, tomorrow and beyond.

Plus, at an operational level, firms can understand the basis behind management decisions internally, and how efficient the firm is across different departments. With this information, they can make the business more efficient, strengthen their teams and make good business decisions.

“Interoperability gives law firms an unmatched power. It allows them to leverage integrations and data, giving them a greater business advantage and a higher level of business intelligence.”

How can you make your system integrations ready for data interoperability?

Many firms will spend time building a case for a Microsoft-first strategy because they have seen another firm use it, or they assume it will be what’s best for them because it’s the core technology they rely on.  

But the most important thing to consider is how to join data from disparate systems in a way that creates insights that would otherwise be unavailable through a single system. Another factor to consider is whether the firm’s existing applications are the right ones to go forward with. This can bring with it challenges for interoperability, especially when a law firm has a number of different applications in the cloud and on-premises.


To figure out what they need and what needs to be done, firms need to reverse the planning process. Instead of approaching it from a technical point of view, look at the end result that they want and go from there. Your desired business outcome will help to illuminate the steps you need to take to get interoperability right for your firm.

Having powerful systems is great, and joining systems is even better. That said, law firms also have to establish the quality of their data and how to surface that data. Interoperability of systems through integrations needs to allow you to use the power of your data better than you could through a standalone application. You need an effective data strategy to understand how you’re going to use the data joined together from multiple systems.

When working on a data strategy, ask yourself, “What’s the information I want to surface to my lawyers, and what’s the information I want to surface to the business stakeholders?” Work out your knowledge performance indicators (KPIs) and management information needs for both internal and external reporting. Once you’ve done that, you can understand how your systems need to interoperate to deliver the information.