Volterra Fietta finds the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ of secure, easy file sharing with Intralinks VIA

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Public international law firm Volterra Fietta deployed Intralinks VIA as a content sharing and collaboration solution amongst its internal staff and external third parties (e.g. clients, witnesses, co-counsel, etc.). The roll-out has improved data security for cross-boundary collaborations at Volterra Fietta, and improved the efficiency with which information flow for projects is managed.

Case study key facts

Organisation Volterra Fietta
Industry Law
Current goals With its international caseload bringing with it a diverse range of external third parties around the world (e.g. clients, witnesses, co-counsel, judges, etc.), each requiring access to a vast array of legal documents, Volterra Fietta required a solution for secure file sharing to replace email / FTP that would scale and provide easy-to-use access and administration.
Current approach Following a short trial, Volterra Fietta adopted Intralinks VIA for content sharing and collaboration in August 2014.
Outcome Within six months of being rolled out, Intralinks VIA was being used for most of Volterra Fietta’s projects. As well as external content sharing, the firm’s staff has also taken to it for internal sharing too. Intralinks VIA provides Volterra Fietta with peace of mind when it comes to data security, and its easy-to-use / self-service admin characteristics have seen the service deployed without excessive burden upon the firm’s IT resources.
Tools and suppliers used Intralinks VIA

Intralinks VIA(TM), is a registered trademark of Intralinks® Holdings, Inc. All references to Intralinks VIA and other product names throughout this article are acknowledged as such.

Organisation background

London-based Volterra Fietta is a leading public international law firm with high-profile clients that include sovereign states, international organisations, and global corporations. It has been named as the top public international law practice in the UK by the Chambers & Partners and the Legal 500 legal directories since it was founded.

The firm handles complex disputes such as investment treaty arbitrations, sovereign immunity cases, economic sanctions, land and maritime boundary disputes – i.e. high-value transactional matters in every region of the world. Its 20+ legal professionals cover a dozen languages within the team, with most lawyers at least bilingual.

Project background

Volterra Fietta’s international caseload means that its staff constantly need to share legal files and data securely with clients and third parties (such as tribunals, co-counsel, opposing counsel, witnesses, translators, and administration organisations) across the globe – and to do this safely and effectively the firm must balance information availability with adherence to strict data security protocols.

Originally, Volterra Fietta had been using a combination of email attachments and FTP (as required by international tribunals) in order to make documents available to third parties. However, this approach had two main drawbacks: it was subject to the security limitations inherent in FTP and email data transfer (e.g. email attachments in transit being particularly vulnerable to interception); and it didn’t scale well (across multiple projects, many interested parties, and often lengthy timeframes). The firm therefore felt it needed a solution that would deliver external content sharing and collaboration with granular tracking, auditing, and file permission management (to increase the security of the communications and data transfer); and provide such capabilities as a service, to minimise the drain on its limited IT resources and support distant end users from diverse backgrounds with minimal need for IT or paralegal assistance.

Implementation characteristics and status

Volterra Fietta implemented Intralinks VIA as its SaaS-based secure content collaboration solution. Through easy-to-use admin interfaces, staff are able to set up ‘Workspaces’ for each project, allowing internal staff and external collaborators alike to access key legal documents from desktop or mobile platforms anywhere in the world. Roll-out across the firm’s 20+ legal professionals (principally its Associates and paralegals) was completed within six months. After further consolidation of its use in common project scenarios (most end users are covered; for the remainder, the firm continues to rely on other electronic means of communication), Volterra Fietta will consider leveraging Intralinks VIA further into internal workflows. An unexpected benefit was the extent to which staff embraced the tool for internal as well as external document sharing – supplementing its existing document management solution – because of its ease of use.

The approach

Volterra Fietta partner Patricio Grané Labat had experience of working with expensive specialist litigation support software for internal information sharing earlier in his career. Although he’d found such systems to be secure, their use would tend to be confined to staff within the firm, since licences would typically be required for every user, whether internal or external. In other words, there was no concept of a ‘public’ or ‘partner’ user. In addition these tools were often complicated to use, and the range of people Volterra Fietta’s lawyers commonly need to share information with (e.g. expert witnesses, co-counsel, judges / arbitrators, senior government ministers, and even the presidents of sovereign states) would be unlikely to use them without significant (and expensive) IT support.

The firm therefore relied on more traditional forms of data-sharing, including email attachments and FTP. However, projects could take years to complete and this could cause problems if someone was expected to trawl back that far in their inbox to retrieve an unsaved attachment. On top of this, the tribunals or their administrating institutions sometimes closed down FTP sites, meaning that links to large files that hadn’t been emailed would fail to persist and the documents would become unavailable – quite apart from the security and support angles.

Grané Labat had looked at consumer IT cloud-based sync-and-share solutions as an alternative, but – although being undoubtedly easier-to-use (for end users) than litigation support software or FTP – these were often regarded as unsanctioned and contrary to IT policies because they tended to be unmanaged, unmonitored, adrift from enterprise systems, and devoid of robust enough security features. Volterra Fietta was therefore looking for a way to balance enterprise-level security and monitoring with consumerised IT sensibilities that lend any deployment an easier adoption path, given the diverse end users it would need to serve. It wanted a solution that was in the collaboration ‘Goldilocks zone’ – affordable and easy-to-use for clients, secure and manageable, but not over-engineered.

As chair of the firm’s IT committee, Grané Labat was aware of Intralinks’ specialist secure collaboration solutions for regulated industries but not the capabilities of its VIA tool specifically. At first he tried out the service himself to get a feel for what the capabilities were, and after a couple of months expanded his trial by bringing in some of his ‘tech-savvy’ colleagues who each had clear needs for a solution to support their collaboration with third parties in ongoing projects. This extended user group of externals brought into the mix a broad group of potential adopters (by geography, age, and IT expertise), typical of the make-up of a Volterra Fietta project. If Intralinks VIA didn’t work here, it was unlikely it’d be right for the firm; but if it did, then there was a good chance of it meeting needs across the board.

On the strength of Intralinks VIA’s showing in the trial, and assured by Intralinks’ global support (in 140 languages) and mobile capabilities (which would suit Volterra Fietta’s highly mobile staff and more remote end-users), Grané Labat “reached a conclusion pretty soon” to go ahead and deploy it across the firm. The decision was taken in July 2014, and Volterra Fietta’s roll-out then started in earnest the following month.

Strategy

Volterra Fietta’s focus is public international law, but its strategic use of IT to improve the experience of those it collaborates with in the course of its legal projects, and improve its efficiency in managing those projects, isn’t a million miles away from the business requirements of any organisation seeking to derive both top-line and bottom-line benefits from the application of new technology.

The firm was clear from the outset that any new content collaboration solution needed both to satisfy the user experience expectations of a diverse, disparate, and often remote collection of collaborators (clients, witnesses, co-counsel, etc. that typically span the globe), the security considerations of the firm itself (with its data governance and risk management concerns), and the practicalities of deployment in a scenario where IT resource is often limited.

These imperatives have driven Volterra Fietta’s strategy to focus on a sweet spot of cloud-based and consumer-savvy, but still highly secure and enterprise-friendly, solutions for its content sharing options. It’s a familiar requirement, and one which a number of vendors are seeking to play into – though each comes from a different heritage (some have evolved from enterprise stables, some from consumer-focused brands; some are breaking out into the mainstream from a strong position in regulated industries, some are looking to make inroads the other way); and each brings different inherent strengths and foci because of their different perspectives. Which one is right for a particular customer depends a lot on their use case, their existing IT investments, their culture ‘as-is’, and their aspirations of what sort of an organisation they want to become.

Volterra Fietta is expecting adoption of Intralinks VIA to change practices for the better – and with that, lay the groundwork for future developments (whether that be further leveraging Intralinks VIA, or using the experience as a springboard to assist with IT projects concerning other areas of the business).

For now, though – in the sphere of content management and collaboration – the Intralinks VIA deployment is well-enough bounded in scope and expectation so as to confer measurable and realistic goals in a relatively short space of time.

Organisation and people

Adoption

Within six months of adopting Intralinks VIA, most of Volterra Fietta’s projects were able to use the service for secure document sharing amongst external parties – the remainder being those which have a justifiable need to continue to use email “in extreme cases”, where the end users would be unlikely to use Intralinks VIA. For the most part, Volterra Fietta’s staff, clients and other stakeholders have taken to Intralinks VIA with minimal training. External collaborators are able to access content simply by virtue of being invited to join a shared ‘Workspace’ on the service. Staff have found Intralinks VIA’s administration console easy to use, bringing consumerised IT self-sufficiency to Workspace management and thereby reducing the load on the firm’s internal IT resources.

The firm’s Associates have embraced Intralinks VIA enthusiastically with no issues reported. The reaction from Volterra Fietta’s clients using Intralinks VIA has also been very positive. For the most part, they (and other external collaborators) have embraced Intralinks VIA for its security and ease of use.

Roles and resources

Volterra Fietta was searching for a cost-effective but efficient and secure solution, so a SaaS was an obvious option. As the Partner responsible for Volterra Fietta’s IT resources and policy, Grané Labat orchestrated the Intralinks VIA trial and roll-out, which happened swiftly right across the firm (so there weren’t prolonged stages where staff were left waiting and requesting to join). People are mostly able to set up Workspaces for their projects themselves, and IT has only had to step in where people haven’t had administration rights granted to them.

Governance

Volterra Fietta’s operating environment is that of international law, where its clients and interested parties include sovereign states and global corporations, all of whom expect the firm to guarantee adherence to strict security and data governance practices in order to safeguard legal records of fact and testimony.

IT administration policies governing sharing privileges are in place for shared Intralinks VIA Workspaces (Intralinks having provided a clear way to control and monitor sharing within its purview).

Technology and infrastructure

One of the key considerations for Volterra Fietta was that any solution must be easy to implement, and cost-efficient for its clients, so exposing an in-house system was out of the question – it’d have to be cloud-based, delivered as a service. It also needed to be a service that suited enterprise deployment (and could integrate with the firm’s existing systems, and security policies); which ruled out those with too much of a consumer orientation.

Volterra Fietta uses Intralinks VIA primarily as a provider of secure external content sharing services. It’s used the tool’s analytics capability only on an ad hoc case-by-case basis to monitor how Workspaces are used by end users. As yet this hasn’t resulted in regular reporting, or anything that has been used to tweak the firm’s workflows – though it might consider this as adoption matures beyond a ‘consolidation of practice’ phase, to where the tool is leveraged to achieve more transformational changes in the way its legal processionals engage, collaborate, and get work done.

The results

Volterra Fietta is already seeing advantages over the firm’s previous, predominantly email-based, system of external content sharing. Intralinks VIA is more secure and efficient at managing docwuments and the firm has more control over versioning and sharing protocols. IT able to restrict, and report on, how documents are being used (read, printed, copied, shared, altered, etc.) and when – even after they’ve been downloaded, making use of Intralinks VIA’s Information Rights Management and ‘unshare’ features. From a compliance and management perspective, Volterra Fietta’s partners have peace of mind about the firm maintaining necessary security levels to protect its data; and its staff have greater confidence in documents reaching (only) the intended audience. Staff can also be alerted as to whether and when the file is accessed, so they know who’s informed and who’s not.

Although Volterra Fietta does still have a document management system for its system of record, and internally staff can use this to share documents, Grané Labat has found, unexpectedly, that people also gravitate towards Intralinks VIA for in-house sharing (setting up a project Workspace just as they would for external parties to access). This is a bonus, since Intralinks was brought in primarily to solve a cross-boundary sharing need. Intralinks VIA’s adoption by Volterra Fietta staff for in-house file sharing, together with its consistent cross-platform desktop / mobile support, has meant that its lawyers are able to securely gain access to legal documents equally well on laptops in the office, and Android tablets / iPads in the field with witnesses, etc.

It’s this combination of improved sharing for both internal staff and externals which has helped Volterra Fietta become even more efficient than it was at managing its cases. Staff have become less reliant on IT and paralegals for support, and the firm has reported a significant rise in confidence for managing documents whilst using Intralinks VIA because of the inherent risk reduction and its easy-to-use interface. Going further, Grané Labat has started using Intralinks VIA with personal productivity tools. He is planning to raise awareness of these capabilities to encourage people to get the most out of the solution – though is focusing on the main issue (i.e. content sharing) for now.

The firm sees its ongoing relationship with Intralinks as one that will help it leverage the platform in the long term to improve its collaboration capabilities with external parties worldwide, while doing so in a secure manner that complies with evolving government and client security requirements.

Recommendations for adopters

In our conversations with Patricio Grané Labat for this case study, he offered the following recommendations for organisations embarking on a similar initiative.

  • Use credible champions to challenge ‘non-believers’. Although generally light-touch, Grané Labat’s adoption strategy involved a small number of hand-picked Associates whom he could rely upon as champions to ‘sell’ Intralinks VIA to the wider organisation. They were able to refer to their own experiences in scenarios indicative of common use cases to overcome the natural resistance that usually accompanies the adoption of a new IT tool.
  • Problem solution can trounce brand recognition if the product is right. Although Intralinks VIA isn’t well-known in consumer circles (and hence, for the most part, adoption amongst third parties required a ‘push’ from Volterra Fietta, rather than riding a consumer adoption wave where people may already have been be using the tool in a personal capacity), the fact that it was nevertheless still easy-to-use – and provided an improved end user experience when compared with trawling through emails for attachments, and logging into FTP sites – meant that it soon gained acceptance. However, that’s not to say that things might have gone even smoother / swifter if Intralinks had more of a recognised name outside of security-conscious enterprises and regulated industries.

Best practice insights

The plethora of people with whom Volterra Fietta’s legal professionals must share documents takes in a diverse range of demographics and IT literacy – and some of whom, such as witnesses, may only have a transient relationship with the firm during a project. To continue to serve increasingly data-savvy clients, it needed a solution that provided a robust security framework (to place stringent access controls upon content where necessary, safeguard against data leakage, and provide audit trails that track actual usage, etc.). However, to be viable it also needed to be a practical solution that the firm’s external collaborators not only trusted but would also learn how to use.

Volterra Fietta selected Intralinks VIA because it struck the right balance for them between enterprise grade information management and consumer IT ease-of-use (for access as well as for administration). Both were key characteristics – the former, because it gave the firm peace of mind; the latter, because the remote status of many end-users meant that they’d need to be largely self-sufficient in using whatever tool was deployed (and the firm’s IT resources were limited).

The use of champions to spearhead a wider roll-out of any new system or service isn’t uncommon, but it’s worth highlighting the consideration given in Volterra Fietta’s case to ensuring that these people had a number of particular characteristics. Firstly they needed to be tech-savvy enough not to be put off by any teething problems, and prepared to help Grané Labat work out any kinks before rolling it out to colleagues. Secondly, they need to be representative examples of common user types across the firm. Thirdly, they needed to be credible as ambassadors – so that their experiences carried weight and they could be deployed to overcome opposition by explaining how the new processes worked better for them (and hence would also work for their colleagues).

Ergo, it’s not simply enough to select champions who are keen and able; they also need to be able to speak to and on behalf of the constituencies that make up the wider target adoption audience.

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