Barbal leads the way on new University of Bristol student entrepreneurship programme

Barbal has supported the University of Bristol to deliver the first project involving the Intrapreneurial Knowledge Exchange Enterprise Pathway (IKEEP). 

IKEEP is a new initiative to boost industry by enabling skilled students to take up industry placements and foster growth and development. Launched in February, the Bristol IKEEP Programme is designed for students to engage with industry on knowledge exchange projects as business advisors, developing business model solutions and market awareness whilst enhancing student’s skills as intrapreneurs/change-makers and future employees.

IKEEP Programme Logo

Caroline Graham, UoB’s lead on the IKEEP project explained, “These knowledge exchange opportunities enable regional businesses to develop and grow, while honing the talent of future graduates.  As a new initiative, we are working closely with trusted partners who have previously offered quality experiences to our students and we are thrilled Barbal could take part. We are really impressed with what Barbal and the IKEEP students were able to achieve in just 4-weeks.”

Three students from the University of Bristol; Jaime Castiblanques, Magdalena Jezierska and Marianna Goryainova completed a four-week project to outline a business case for Barbal. Their task involved industry, competitor and market analysis. The team also devised an Operations, sales and marketing plan.

Key Findings

The project members prepared a report which identified universities as a prominent addressable market for Barbal’s software. The team outlined Russell Group universities as the ideal customer for Barbal. The reason for this being that Russell Group Universities focus heavily on research, therefore there is a significantly high demand for document editing software. The report findings describe the largest departments utilising document editing tools are STEM, Law and IT. Upon collecting data for their research through interviews and surveys, they found that 90.2% of respondents said they would be willing to use Barbal’s product. When participants were asked about the main advantage of the product, the respondents were impressed with the “ability to draft in private” and “merging files/text with ease”.

Marianna Goryainova

Marianna Goryainova

Jaime Castiblanques

Jaime Castiblanques

Magdalena Jezierska

Magdalena Jezierska

Theo, Barbal’s marketing assistant, spoke to the IKEEP project members after they had presented their business plan to Barbal.

What were your thoughts going into the IKEEP project? 

Jaime: I was excited and nervous. On the one hand, I really wanted to be challenged and to learn more about management. On the other, I was concerned I did not have the required knowledge to see the project through to completion.

Magdalena: Pure excitement and curiosity. I study Chemistry and have nothing to do with business, marketing, or computer science but I have always found the unknown things the most fascinating.

How was your experience during the project?

Marianna: The experience was great! I really enjoyed working in a team and applying the knowledge from my course. It was great to conduct market research. Hopefully, it would help Barbal to attract new customers!

Jaime: From the beginning, I felt that the three of us were very engaged, and Marianna and Magdalena proved to be ideal teammates. However, there were times where we felt lost or overwhelmed by the lack of information that we had to work around. Thankfully, Tom was always around the corner to help us.

Magdalena: Very positive! I was able to learn about some parts of the mysterious world of business and its various nuances while working with incredibly ambitious and creative individuals, who made the project an intellectually stimulating adventure. The most rewarding part was, without a doubt, being able to see the completed jigsaw puzzle, which in our case had the form of the business plan.

Were there any benefits/limitations of working with a small start-up company?

Jaime: I would say that the biggest advantage was being able to talk to Tom directly, who was the best person to tell us about the company and the product. It also meant that we felt that our job was important and had meaning. However, since Barbal is in an initial phase, it also meant that there were times that there was as much uncertainty on Barbal’s side as there was on ours.

Magdalena: Undeniably, working with a well-established company comes with a richer network of contacts, which can be very handy for some parts of business plan preparation. On a positive note, because our project was carried out within a very short time frame, being able to access so straightforwardly the people behind the company, such as the CEO, was invaluable. It definitely had a very positive impact on the final business plan developed by my team.

Anything else to add?

Marianna: I just wanted to say thank you for the opportunity and wish all the best for Barbal in the future!

Jaime: It was a great experience and I am very grateful for it. All three of us learned a lot and felt supported all the way through.

Our view

Tom Bartley, Barbal’s CEO, said “We were blown away by what Marianna, Jaime and Magdalena achieved in the time they were given and with such a fuzzy brief.  We have benefited from a number of internship programmes offered by the University of Bristol (as well as other universities) and our membership of the setSquared Bristol accelerator has put us at the front of the queue for top student interns. We wish all the students good luck in completing their studies, they’re all set for stellar careers in their chosen paths.”

Finally, Barbal would like to say a big thank you to Jaime, Marianna, Magdalena, Caroline Graham and the whole team at IKEEP. This project has resulted in a new market opportunity that has been outlined for Barbal to pursue in the future. Their business plan has defined the higher education industry as one of the largest markets that utilise software as a service. Not only has their research outlined a new market prospect for Barbal, their operations, sales and marketing plans have given us a headstart to pursue this market in the future.

Comparing document collaboration types: linear, real-time and concurrent

Drafting documents with others is one of the most important but stressful parts of many professionals’ roles. At a minimum any organisation with a quality management system will have a review process, where someone else will add comments or suggestions to drafts before approval. There are many scenarios where multiple people need to contribute to the same document because they have different fields of expertise or they have different viewpoints that need to be expressed.

Historically document collaboration meant circulating hard copies or disks and receiving comments or markups which someone would need to painstakingly combine. In recent years, many people have moved their document drafting to online methods.  These methods allow for quicker interaction between collaborators, whether that is using email, document management tools, or real-time tools.

Why different types of collaboration are necessary

Important documents are often drafted by teams of people who might have competing objectives for the document. In this instance, it can be beneficial to ensure that there is a clear process for controlling who can draft edits,  create safeguards to make sure unwanted errors aren’t introduced, and manage traceability of how decisions are made. 

Drafting an important document with multiple stakeholders is a consensus-building process. It’s more than just putting the right words in the right order; it requires expectation management, negotiation skills, and good communication. 

five people working at a desk on different devices

We created Barbal because we saw that people working on important documents don’t have the tools that let them collaborate efficiently. Different document editors promote different behaviours between collaborators and we wanted to make something that allows experts to do their jobs and negotiate faster.

A key aspect here is trust. Technical trust means can you trust someone not to make a mistake which can undermine the credibility of the document, this could be competence in drafting or expertise in the field. Even administrative tasks need to be undertaken by someone competent in the field, lest a seemingly minor error causes a major problem.

Another aspect of trust is the alignment of interests between the different parties to the collaboration. 

The concept of the “master document” is how trust is handled in collaboration. Who can edit the master document? Who is responsible for making sure the document is coherent overall? Who can approve changes?

In this article, we explore three different collaboration options available:

  • Linear
  • Real-time
  • Concurrent

Linear collaboration

Description

Linear collaboration involves a single master version of a document that is passed between stakeholders, usually via email, file sharers or a more sophisticated document management solution that allows check in/checkout . This creates a game of email tennis where it’s often unclear who’s holding the ball. A collaborator makes an edit and forwards the document as a file in an email, and another collaborator either revises or accepts the changes and emails the document back or along the chain. 

Great for

  • Personal documents which won’t be shared with others
  • Letters and correspondence
  • Essays and dissertations 
  • Documents where people different people work on distinct sections that can be stored as individual files
  • When only one person will be working on a draft at one time

Pitfalls

  • It is easy for changes to the document to get lost in translation due to a lack of version control and issues with comment tagging
  • High risk of human error when making edits
  • Security risk, as everyone who is sent the document has the master version controlling who has access can be problematic
  • Communication, as there is no real-time communication method with linear collaboration, those who should be involved in a direct line of communication can often get isolated. This can lead to edits made to the document getting overlooked

For large teams co-authoring the same document, linear collaboration is the opposite of a streamlined process. Collaborators spend more time sending emails, chasing feedback and searching for the most recent version of the document than actually working on the document. This leads to quality issues, delays and team member frustration. The entire process is fraught with distractions and complications which can make it stressful, turning experts into administrators, constraining their ability to do the best job they can.

Real time collaboration

Description

Real time collaboration involves multiple users  producing work on the same single document at the same time. Co-authors can make comments, suggest edits and revise documentation in a web application or collaborative software simultaneously in real time. 

Great for

  • Small teams working on informal documents
  • When there is small number of authors drafting in a linear manner
  • When there is a high level of trust between all collaborators
  • Idea generation and rapid iteration 
  • Documents that are drafted or reviewed during a meeting or workshop

Not suitable for

  • Teams with more than five members collaborating on one document
  • Complex documents
  • Asynchronous collaboration
  • When privacy is needed
  • Working with third parties

Real-time collaboration can be great for creative teams that need to collaborate synchronously. For example, when teams are brainstorming ideas and need complete visibility of each other’s work. However, when more than five people are working on the same document the process becomes painful as there is very little control. Co-authors can easily step on each other’s toes whilst making changes to work. This becomes particularly problematic when teams are working on complex documents or working with clients. With real-time collaboration, privacy and control are sacrificed, leading to a disorganised workflow. 

Concurrent collaboration (Barbal’s Solution)

Description

Concurrent collaboration involves co-authors working on their own copies of  the same document, where the editor automatically merges and disseminates updates between the collaborators. Unlike real time collaboration, co-authors have full control over their workflow; granting collaborators the ability to focus on their own work, draft in private and share their edits when they are ready. Everyone has access to the content relevant to them. Contributions are systematically reviewed before they are merged into the master document. 

Great for

  • Collaboration between distributed authoring and editing teams
  • Engagement with stakeholders throughout development
  • Maintaining a full audit trail of dialogue, decisions and justifications
  • Collaborating with clients or other parties
  • Progress monitoring and reporting
  • Accurate version control
  • Shared ownership of work
  • Instant communication between stakeholders

Not suitable for

  • Synchronous collaboration
  • Intense creative collaboration

Concurrent collaboration allows for decentralised(?)control over different sections of a document. Allowing stakeholders to concentrate on specific sections of a document without interfering directly with the master document. When authors are working on complex documents asynchronously, other co-authors having instant visibility can add unnecessary pressure. Concurrent collaboration supports individual team members working efficiently with each other without explicitly exposing their thought processes. 

Conclusion

Although both linear collaboration and real-time collaboration certainly have their respective advantages, when teams of over 5 members work on the same project their pitfalls can not be ignored, when compared to concurrent collaboration. When teams collaborate in real time the workflow can become abrupt and chaotic. When teams use linear collaboration the process becomes stagnant and unnecessarily time-consuming.

Barbal was created to bridge the gap between linear and real time collaboration by adopting a concurrent methodology. Incorporating a catalogue of all contract drafts, version control and comment flagging directly into the user interface. The software eliminates any security or privacy risks keeping a full audit trail of contributions and changes by all parties in one place without the need for any exterior tools. Barbal frees teams from needless admin and waste, ensuring business-critical documents get signed-off faster.

How lawyers can save time and money with Barbal

As the COVID-19 crisis continues, The Law Society indicates that law firms are forecasting a 10 – 20% drop in revenue for the 2020/2021 financial year. The commercial practice area has been hit hardest by the pandemic only behind the property sector, with Chambers Student reporting that the start of 2020 saw the slowest rate of deal-making in seven years. These forecasted falls in revenue heighten the need for commercial practitioners to track down and eliminate the processes where they are leaking time and money.

So how can we make sure that solicitors keep their unbillable hours as low as possible to boost your firm’s bottom-line?

A pile of coins with a clock in the background

A survey by Clio outlines that administrative tasks can take up to 48% of a commercial solicitor’s time, time spent manually keeping track of contract changes and issues that still need to be addressed, escalating into version control chaos. Our own research found that 20% of a commercial lawyer’s time is lost to activities that could be spent on billable work. A whopping 65% of legal professionals identify time lost on administrative tasks as their biggest pain point. As well as the usual office administration, this also includes keeping track of comments, revisions of contracts, and chasing clients for clarity when flagging issues. The pertinent issue many commercial law firms are facing is their solicitors are simply not practising enough law.

Today, we take a look at how Barbal addresses these pain points to help you save time and money.

Document collaboration without the chaos 

To address needless time-consuming tasks that are losing law firms revenue, Barbal is a cloud-based software solution providing collaborative document drafting without the chaos. Barbal’s platform provides a single knowledge hub for drafting, commenting, and revision tracking which can help contract negotiations come to a swift conclusion. This eliminates disparate versions of negotiations flying around between Microsoft Word and email. Barbal keeps all contributions and comments in one place to avoid duplicating documents, moving between systems, manually transferring and losing the connection between elements. Providing a tracked catalogue of drafts streamlines the contract lifecycle, speeds up litigation and erases the need for administrative tasks. Allowing solicitors to focus on new enquiries and billable work.

Full audit trail for contract negotiation

Barbal provides a full audit trail, version control, and records, saving time for future discovery or litigation. Once your partners receive a contract, they can easily redline, add comments, or approve changes. Through alerts, you can track any action and get notified once your recipient opens a document, rather than having to consistently chase parties down. Instantly share how comments have been addressed and allow them to compare changes between versions, so nothing slips through the gaps.

These features also eliminate the tug of war between parties chasing each other to review comments and drafts, resulting in a faster negotiation process. Reducing the security or contractual risks by keeping a full audit trail of contributions and changes by all parties in one place means there is no need for any exterior tools to support the process. Barbal’s software results in a streamlined process, creating firm-wide consistency during contract negotiation. 

Concurrent negotiation 

Barbal provides a simple way to compartmentalise negotiations into different sections for review. This streamlines co-authored documents allowing negotiations to progress fluidly, as opposed to a constant battle between parties chasing actions. Involved parties can manage, share and compare document versions simply and control permissions on each version, whilst maintaining a single source of truth.  You save more time by helping people focus quickly on what they need to do, boosting solicitors’ productivity and prioritising billable tasks. 

Solicitors that use word processors such as Microsoft Word broadly use the same process, copy and paste, make alterations then email, to produce an updated contract. There is a high risk of human error using this process. This process creates unnecessary long negotiation cycles, poor visibility, and inferior process control and compliance. Which in turn wastes both time and money. Barbal provides the reliability, security, and transparency that other document collaboration platforms simply can not maintain. With Barbal, solicitors can manage the negotiation with ease to get the best terms for all parties, without unnecessary waste or delay. 

To sum up, Barbal provides a secure platform for contract collaboration and negotiation, whilst bridging the gap between current collaborative processes such as Microsoft Word and email. Barbal ditches the administrative tasks that take up so much of their time, paving the way for solicitors to do more law.

If you would like to learn more about how Barbal can save you time and money, watch our product video here or contact us for a demo.

What’s happening in LegalTech to improve client engagement

If you’re looking to find out what’s happening in LegalTech to improve client engagement, we’ve gathered our 2020 views to share with you. And in our next article, we’ll look at what we can expect in 2021. First, it’s important to point out why LegalTech has developed at the pace it has up until 2020. The adoption of legal technology is now accelerating, but historically has been slow. Law is an ancient practice, with processes and traditions that have evolved over several hundred years in the UK. It’s natural to expect lawyers to seek progress, whilst also holding back from testing every new thing, to ensure they protect relationships and reputations with clients. However, client engagement is THE reason to do more innovation: LegalTech helps partners, solicitors and barristers improve how they work with clients. It speeds up their processes and makes negotiations run more smoothly. With the ‘Magic Circle’ of five top law firms based here in the UK, and plenty of investment available for new technologies, it’s no surprise London is seen as a hub for new law technology developments. So, why has LegalTech been such a hot topic?

Use-cases: why LegalTech is in demand

Like in most knowledge- or service-based industries, legal professionals face a number of challenges in their working practices where technology can help. We see three immediate issues:

Contract drafting takes time because complex data is required to underpin the contract, yet many of the terms and paragraphs have been developed already. Much of this work feels like administration yet requires a level of legal knowledge. Automating the administration, digitally dictating changes and using intelligent search enables a firm to ‘learn’ together and focus on the finer negotiations to reach consensus and close the deal.

New law firm recruits have to be highly skilled, but they still have to gain more experience through ‘grunt work’ to hit the deadlines, which can affect their enthusiasm for the job. Working for an innovative firm who is adopting LegalTech means less manual processing work and fewer all-nighters.

Client relationships are key, but the internal processes of legal advisers remain opaque – causing some clients to question why fees are so high. Technology enables better client engagement, greater transparency and faster processes, meaning firms can retain good relationships at a satisfactory profit level.

Where LegalTech is making a difference

Different technologies make up LegalTech, all of which are capable of transforming legal practice. This comes with a challenge for the technology decision makers, because a lot of LegalTech startups are small innovators, looking to break into the sector by improving one part of the process and they’re not yet working globally. That’s why some legal firms have set up their own incubators, to be first in the race to improve client engagement overall. The technologies which have made a difference so far are:

Automation and workflow

Legal firms are using contract lifecycle management and case management systems for internal collaboration, record keeping and practice management. This helps automate their work and prepare documents using forms, standard templates or common precedents. Automation in the contract lifecycle helps gain control over productivity whilst counteracting human error.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML)

AI has the potential to read, withdraw and categorise the information from huge numbers of contract documents, in turn, helping legal firms manage data more effectively. LegalTech, Kira Systems has established that companies lose an average of 5-12% of contract value due to lapses in the administration of contract obligations. Their study showed that firms adopting their AI tool can complete tasks 40% faster when users adopt it for the first time and up to 90% faster for more experienced users.

Data visualisation

Case history is significant to investigations, disputes and complex negotiations, however, lawyers need time and support to find the relevant information. Data visualisation helps the legal counsel gather and analyse all the facts from multiple sources and data sets. Firms like Tableau and Qlik are leading the market with their capabilities, although Microsoft offers Power BI in the same space.

Voice recognition software

Lawyers have relied on digital dictation for many years, however, with the advent of voice recognition software, they’ve benefited from much cheaper and faster transcription services. The technology is still developing, because some legal terms are misunderstood and have to be corrected by a paralegal or secretary – adding to the administrative processes.

Online collaboration and secure video-conferencing

With cloud-based infrastructure services, legal firms have begun to rely on online collaboration – either through their case management software or tools such as document sharing portals and extranets for collaborating with clients and the other side. However, many firms still rely on creating word documents before uploading them into a contract lifecycle management system or case management software. Barbal offers an alternative – a fully cloud-based platform for drafting and reviewing technical documentation, with built-in version control. (See more about our product here).

The world of LegalTech is changing rapidly to meet the demands of the industry. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, lawyers have had to significantly adapt to working remotely, including holding trials online – leading to an increase in demand for secure video conferencing in every office.

In our next article, we take a look at the gaps in the LegalTech market and what to expect in 2021.

Theo Tay-Lodge is Barbal’s Marketing Assistant.