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ProjectCRAFT, Thompson Coburn

Law Firm Business Changes

In June, Thompson Coburn launched ProjectCRAFT to help its banking clients handle some of their tedious but necessary tasks. Already, the firm’s innovation is poised to spread to other industries.

Todd Rowden

Rowden

ProjectCRAFT (short for “Citation, Review, Analysis, File Submission and Tracking”) originally was designed to help banks address the numerous legal filings they receive each month. For instance, a party that wins a monetary judgment typically will turn to the creditor’s bank and file a citation or garnishment that requires the bank to provide information about or put a freeze on the creditor’s assets.

Those legal obligations take a lot of the bank’s time, energy and effort, and failure to follow through can cost the bank in legal fees or even leave it liable for the amount of the judgment. At the same time, responses to such garnishments are a cost center for banks, distracting them from their core business.

ProjectCRAFT is a web platform that streamlines that legal process. Banking clients can upload citations to a secure platform and fill out information about the accountholder. Thompson Coburn attorneys handle the process from there.

The law firm initially launched the project in Illinois, where electronic filing through the state court system allows citation answers to be handled anywhere in the state. The platform also includes such features as a customized citation tracker, data analytics and a Q&A module that allows clients to communicate easily with attorneys. Also, the firm charges a flat fee per transaction rather than an hourly rate to make the costs of the citation-handling process more predictable.

“We’re very excited about taking it to the market and sharing that efficiency with our banking clients and other banks that might not yet be clients,” Todd Rowden, the managing partner of Thompson Coburn’s Chicago office and one of the developers of the project, said at the time.

ProjectCRAFT can expand to any state where Thompson Coburn has offices and the state courts use e-filing, including Missouri. But the tool also has potential outside the banking industry.

Bill Rowe, Thompson Coburn’s director of business development, said the firm is working to finalize an agreement with a large organization that wants ProjectCRAFT to work its magic when the company is required to garnish its employees’ wages.  Rowe said the organization would be able to use the software and, as needed, contact the firm’s attorney for additional help.

Rowe said ProjectCRAFT is now being used by “four or five” institutions, with more potentially on the way. Law firms, he said, need to apply an “innovation lens” to the problems they encounter.

“How can we leverage what we’re doing here and simplify the process so that we can help them accomplish their goals, and frankly be able to do it at a rate that would be attractive to them?” he said.

Rather than just work within existing systems, Rowe said, sometimes it’s best to get to the root of the problem.

“We’re saying, wait a minute, let us tear this process apart, build a process map and see where technology and legal expertise is actually required,” he said.

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