Posted by Phil Whitehead, general manager of alliances at Legal Futures Associate InfoTrack UK 
There has been a lot of talk about integration in the legal tech world for many years now, and lately it has become more of a buzzword for legal service suppliers when discussing a link between their services and the client’s existing software.
The importance of integration is obvious, and when done well, the benefits are many and varied, but it has become clear that there is some confusion around what a proper integration looks like.
In my years as a legal IT director and visiting clients in my current role, it has become clear that integration is a loose term that often means different things to different people. So let’s ‘demystify’ integration right now.
Lawyers have often been ‘burnt’ by promises of true integration.
Several lawyers and conveyancers we spoke to had signed up for services, under the guise that information would be sent into the third-party provider, and pulled back through. Not the case. Many integrations offered are typically one-way solutions whereby you click a link or button, and details such as matter number and name are pulled through.
However, this is often as far as the integration API goes, leaving a gap where the information and disbursement should be sent back.
The primary issue of not having an API that communicates in a two-way format is the leakage of disbursements which ultimately leads to revenue loss, and the possibility of information being missed or entered in error, in effect, making the integration more of a hindrance than a help.
At InfoTrack, we see integration differently. The concept that both systems talk to one another is vitally important, integration should always involve two way communication, without question. While InfoTrack can be used as a standalone website also, it has been an integrated system since its inception.
So what should integration look like? What should you expect?
As a legal services provider, we draw all the relevant information in from your case management system (CMS) and place it into the relevant sections in InfoTrack. That information is then processed along with your activity in InfoTrack, and all documents, results and disbursements are sent back to your CMS and tied to the matter.
The sharing of this information between the two systems eliminates manual keying errors and maintains consistency across all platforms, from your matter through to your accounting ledger.
So the next time a vendor mentions that their offering is integrated, ask yourself these three questions:
- Does it send line items back to the ledger and update the matter history?
- Does it prevent leakage from written-off disbursements?
- Does it actually do something for you – is the change in time/productivity measurable?
The key to successful integration is linking together the various activities and systems required during a matter, and making the transition between these as seamless as possible.
A wise man once said they believed that the future lies in integrated software. People don’t want to access multiple systems, rekeying logins, information, and manually entering disbursements.
It is all well and good to have an integrated system but unless it is actually saving significant time, eliminating missed disbursements and updating the matter history every time – where is the point?