About a year ago, Patrick Hurley was an in-house attorney in search of a solution.
Hurley, the first general counsel for the Kansas City Area Transit Authority, also known as KCATA, said he was looking for a product to help him get a grasp on the organization’s overall legal needs.
“I was looking around to try to help, from an in-house perspective, manage the number of matters that I have going on at any one given time,” said Hurley, who joined the KCATA in March 2016.
Through his search, he found Xakia Technologies, a fledgling international software company with a North American arm based in Kansas City.
Xakia software offers a solution to a longstanding problem for in-house legal teams across multiple industries and businesses: an accessible, quick-to-use central repository for information about all corporate legal matters in the hands of both in-house and outside attorneys.
For many general counsel and in-house attorneys, such a system represents a dramatic upgrade from data collection and tracking once reliant on Excel spreadsheets or Microsoft Access databases. Instead, it streamlines storage and coordination of a company’s legal data by collecting and displaying it an interactive, easy-to-interpret dashboard.
It also empowers legal teams to put the data to better use by generating a variety of reports that enable them to make informed decisions, and it arms them with information about the value they provide.
“Xakia provides the KCATA legal team the ability to be more efficient in the organization of legal matters and access to relevant data that allows us to make better decisions about costs and trends,” Hurley said.
Since its North American launch barely one year ago, Xakia already has acquired more than 50 corporate clients across three continents, including the KCATA and a handful of others in Missouri. The company’s North American operations, based in Kansas City, are headed by Senior Vice President Anne Post, an attorney who previously practiced as a litigator in Kansas City for 20 years.
Post, who left the full-time practice of law to help launch Xakia technology in the United States, described its software as a “matter-management hub.”
“What we mean by that is we are designed as a matter-centric place where in-house legal teams can find and see everything that they’re working on, in terms of the type of work that they’re working on, who’s doing the work and who are they doing the work for, in terms of their internal clients,” she said.
The software is cloud-based, and companies pay a subscription per attorney to access it. Subscriptions range from $40 per user per month to $70 and $90 per user per month, depending on the features a company wishes to use.
Post said the name Xakia — pronounced zah-kia — is a play on the Arabic word sakia, a water wheel of efficient flow.
“The idea being, we keep information flowing efficiently through the legal team,” she said.
From words to ‘pretty pictures’
A relative newcomer on the legal-tech scene, Xakia first launched a prototype in Australia in 2016. It’s the brainchild of founder Jodie Baker, a tech entrepreneur who lived in Kansas City for two years before returning to her home country of Australia in 2012.
Post said she became friends with Baker in Kansas City, and when she heard about Xakia, she was interested in joining the company ahead of its North American rollout in October 2017
“I thought it was an innovative, exciting product,” she said.
Post said Xakia emerged from Baker’s research into the needs of in-house attorneys.
“What she would uniformly hear is, ‘We just want to know who’s doing what,’” she said.
Post said the key components of Xakia are visibility and automated reporting. She said the system was designed by lawyers, for lawyers, to be intuitive and easy to use.
“A major challenge for lawyers, especially in-house teams, is that they don’t have time,” she said. “The last thing that they have is time to sit down and learn some complex piece of technology that is supposedly going to make their life easier.”
Xakia’s dashboard gets to the heart of the company’s interest in creating visibility.
Post said a general counsel could open the dashboard at any time and get an overhead look at all of the legal team’s pending matters, as well as information ranging from the identity of attorneys assigned to a particular matter to the status of that matter.
She said Xakia has simplified the information-input process — she noted that many legal teams share the concern that attorneys increasingly spend more time on administrative tasks than on legal work.
Post said Xakia has a 30-second rule for filling out information about legal matters.
“It should never take you more than 30 seconds to fill out this form, and our clients say it’s about 20 to 25,” she said.
Post said when attorneys enter information about matters, the software captures a wide variety of data points — from the size of the matter, to its complexity and level of risk, and also how the work aligns with the overall strategic goals of the company.
That data can be used to create reports showing a variety of data points in charts and graphs. The program has the potential to generate 17 different types of reports.
“The idea is to start taking the legal work from just words and putting it into pretty pictures, which is what the rest of the divisions in the companies are providing from a reporting standpoint,” she said.
Post said one popular report form is the company’s quadrant charts. She offered an example of an external resourcing report, which would break down how the work is being distributed and the works complexity and strategy.
“If you’re sending a ton of low-strategic work to firms, maybe that doesn’t need to happen anymore,” Post said.
“Maybe you save money by keeping it in-house and hiring a lawyer there [who] can absorb that cost,” she added. “You get at least to see the data to make those decisions, whereas before, you’re kind of flying blind, not knowing exactly what you’re working on.”
Post said without that data or graphic representation, it can be hard to show the work of what legal teams do.
“It’s hard to make strategic decisions about what work you should be focused on, [or] what work you could eliminate, if you’re not looking at it in a global fashion,” she said.
“The way the data is captured, the way the reports are structured, it gives you that visual confirmation of, ‘We need to be making some different decisions,’ or ‘We need to hire another contracts attorney.’ You have a picture of it.”
‘Something simple and easy’
Sean A. Power, the Kansas City-based general counsel for BlueScope North America, said his company has used Xakia since its pilot stage in early 2017. The Australia-based company designs, manufactures and erects metal buildings.
At the time, his division of BlueScope had five lawyers in the U.S., seven in China, five in Southeast Asia and a lawyer in Australia, Power said.
A former colleague knew Baker and was aware of Xakia around the time Power was beginning to look at similar products, he said.
“We needed a better way than emails to kind of keep track of what the various matters were and who was doing what,” he said. “With that kind of problem in mind, what I really wanted was something that was simple and easy.”
Power said the Xakia dashboard helps him to better manage his team. In terms of data and reporting, Power said it has helped to translate his division’s work for company executives.
Another useful aspect of the software is that it easily links with other products, Power said. His company uses a document-management system, Net Documents, to retain files. Power said the two products work together seamlessly, and he expects that synergy will continue to be beneficial to his company.
There’s nothing worse than having to dig through a filing cabinet for a contract, Power said.
“If you can’t find the document, it costs you money,” he said. “There’s a real commercial benefit to doing these things.”
Hurley of the KCATA said his agency has used Xakia for nearly a year.
While it takes some time for the program to compile data, he said it’s been valuable in helping him to track how in-house teams spend their time as well as their budgets.
Hurley said traditionally, in-house counsel have used Microsoft Access databases or Excel spreadsheets to track matters and costs. He said the ease of use and the ability to run data-driven reports and searches sets Xakia apart as a tool for in-house counsel.
“It’s kind of that next-generation, that next level of matter management that I think [for] so many businesses — small or really large — it can really help you to have a macro-understanding of your legal operations,” he said.