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Legal Takes on the Corporate Challenge for Greater Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration

By Jennifer J. Salopek

As in so many other organizations destined to become ACC Value Champions, a major acquisition and a corporate transformation initiative aligned to drive significant change in the legal department at Ricoh USA. Long known as a copier sales company, Ricoh USA is transforming into a services company, acquiring one of its largest dealers and associated field force to bring momentum to the change. In the effort to integrate the new acquisition in the early part of this decade, "It became all about efficiency, cost savings, and collaboration," says Bill LaSalle, who joined the company as senior vice president, general counsel and secretary in 2011.

Ricoh & Reed Smith Group Photo

R to L: Peter Ellis (RS), Bill LaSalle, John McDonald (RS), Della Beaver, Krista O'Connor, Becky Bemis, Kimberly Corbin, Meghan Waler, Lisa Claus, Jen McGlinn, John Kuprevich, Quinn Martin, Andrew McReynolds, Nakul Warrier, Anthony Bragoli, Cameron Loyal

LaSalle manages a legal department of about 30 people, who are dispersed across several locations but mostly work at corporate headquarters outside of Philadelphia. One of those team members is Senior Paralegal, Kimberly Corbin, who joined the company in 2013 and whose job included tracking the Employment Law group's major litigation milestones and decision points. Finding the beleaguered Excel spreadsheet subpar for the job, Corbin sought a better way. Learning of a matter manager SharePoint solution offered by outside employment litigation counsel Reed Smith, known as ouRSite, she began to investigate whether it could help meet her objective to get the information she was already capturing into a consistent accessible system.

"We had seen other attempts to build out the platform and had discussed its potential, but Ricoh USA was the first to address it from a true business perspective, and therefore became our first large-scale customization," says Peter Ellis, National Chair of Reed Smith's Complex Litigation group and relationship partner at Reed Smith, a global law firm with 1700+ lawyers in 27 offices worldwide. "Part of Ricoh's DNA as a technology company is that they are open to improvement." Reed Smith's Client Value and Knowledge Management (KM) Practice Innovation teams worked to customize the site in an iterative process over the course of a year, creating five categories of content:

  1. Process management
  2. Knowledge management
  3. Calendar
  4. Document retention
  5. Professional development

The result is a customized extranet housing electronic case files, event notifications, and statistical reporting tools for employment law matters. It is accessible to members of multiple groups including Ricoh's human resources and risk departments, and employment law group. It is designed with an automated permission process makes case information available only to specific individuals on each team.

It was quite a challenge to enable collaboration and information sharing across the various parts of the Ricoh enterprise in a strategic way, says Ellis. To map out appropriate access pathways, the development team considered: What does each department need to see? Who should have access? How do we maintain control?

The site is used not only to store information but facilitates a proactive approach as well. It tracks employment cases and claims in real time, allowing Ricoh professionals to identify areas of concern in human resources and employment law and possible training opportunities.

Since the implementation of ouRSite, Ricoh has reduced its active paper files by 90 percent, and reporting time by more than 60 percent. "Our goal was to enhance collaboration across the company," says LaSalle. "We are quite proud of this tool which enables us to work more efficiently with outside counsel."

The legal department also relies on Ricoh's internal website, RWorld, which runs on the Jive Software platform, as a collaboration tool to improve efficiencies and empower its employees. The department's landing page includes contract forms, non-compete information, FAQs, training materials and policies—a true knowledge repository that can be updated instantly and managed in real time.

From the Judges

"Innovative approach to roll out of knowledge management platform and blog to reduce queries to the legal team and educate the business to enable them to self-service some types of legal advice and information."

"Impressive results on hits to the knowledge management sites and productivity gains."