Code of Conduct For Technology Providers
Author: UKLTA Tech Providers Sounding Board
It was suggested by the LawTech provider membership to compile a ‘Code of Conduct’ that members could agree to abide by to help promote the innovation and procurement of such products.
The below Code of Conduct was produced by the UKLTA Tech Sounding Board and agreed by the Executive and Members Board.
One of the main aims of the Code of Conduct is to make it easier and fairer for law firms to procure legal technology. Consequently, we aim to support buyers in making our products and services as transparent as possible, whilst still maintaining our commercial freedom and fair competition.
We suggest that Law Tech Providers should provide:
- Open API’s – Publishing API documentation in a clear and industry standard manner and ideally available to everyone. If not commercially viable to openly publish such API detail, at least be committed to providing such information prior to sale under the protection of a suitable Non-disclosure Agreement. Also to work with other vendors under a similar manner of openness and cooperation.
- Transparency about integration ability/expertise – Each vendor will take an honest approach to their integration ability and experience. They will provide confirmation of previous integration examples that the buyer can rely upon. The vendor will also be clear about exactly what resource they will provide for integration and what any charging rates will be incurred for any work outside of what was agreed. The vendor will also look to provide an accurate timetable relating to any integration and make clear any responsibilities of the law firm. Ideally a full project plan would be provided to the firm as soon as possible with clear expectations of what work will be done and likely costs.
- Transparent pricing – Before any contract is signed, the vendor will make all costs/charging rates/additional costs transparent and as easy to understand for the buyer as possible. The vendor will do their very best to make sure the law firm’s expectations around costs are understood and agreed prior to entering a commercial relationship. Any ongoing costs such as PAYG options, subscriptions, rolling contracts will be made clear to the vendor before the sale. Additionally, the vendor will make any third-party costs as transparent as possible.
- Complaints Procedure – Vendors will have a written policy that can ideally be published on their website.
- Dependencies planning – The vendor will look to create a project/onboarding plan with the law firm as soon as possible that outlines each parties’ responsibilities, the timetable for actions and the dependent relationships between each action. Delays on the provider’s side will be communicated immediately and plans/expectations adjusted. Delays on the law firm’s side will be recognised immediately and any dependency issues communicated to the client at the earliest opportunity.
- Tech Trials – Vendors will try to provide, where possible, trials of their products free of charge for the law firm to assess its suitability. Vendors will also provide clear specification documents detailing exactly what they are agreement to provide to the law firm.
- Proposal Document – The vendor will look to send out a ‘Proposal Document’ to the law firm before contract, setting out the known costs and expectations.
- Pricing Increases – The vendor will communicate any contractual price increases to the buyer in an open manner and will make any increases reasonable.
- Existing Customer Testimonials – Where possible, the vendor will provide existing/past customer testimonials to the law firm. Additionally, the vendor will try to arrange an introduction to an existing/previous law firm if possible. Start-up vendors need to be honest about their level of experience so the law firm can make an informed choice.
A real pain point for law firms is not understanding the ongoing support levels that they will receive once the technology has been purchased. This creates frustration and also hinders the overall adoption and innovation within the industry.
The aim of the UKLTA is to facilitate innovation and as a part of this Code of Conduct, help both parties provide transparent expectations over customer support.
We suggest that all vendors:
- Provide a full explanation of support available – The vendor needs to provide clear details surrounding the ongoing support the law firm will receive. This needs to include, where possible, any limitations for the support and any additional costs incurred.
- Provide a simple and easy to understand service level agreement at the Contract stage when possible – Ideally this should form a clear part of the agreement.
- Full details of the Support communication process – Details of how support requests will be handled by the vendor and information about any ticketing system used.
- Treat all customers fairly and consistently – Vendors will aim to treat all customers fairly when it comes to support and will not be dependent on size or volume unless different support levels have been purchased.
Generally the contracts vendors supply for their products are well reviewed by their law firms. However we feel it important to provide a guide as to what our agreements should contain to help promote more law firms utilise technology without hindering the ability for vendors to be commercially flexible and competitive.
What you should expect to see in a contract from a UKLTA member::
- Explicit contract lengths (Rolling/Annual) – Vendors contract terms will be explicit where possible and clearly defined.
- Reasonable Notice Periods – Vendors will be encouraged to provide mutually fair and reasonable notice periods in their contracts.
- Clear Dates – Vendors will look to manage the law firm’s expectations regarding payment, integration and ‘go live’ dates as much is possible.
- Termination Process – Vendors will provide a clear and transparent ‘off-boarding’ process.
- Clear Payment Terms – Payment terms will notify the law firm when due, the amount and be as clear as possible.
- A Clear Cancellation Policy – Contracts will hold a clear cancellation policy that defines the process for cancelling the contract.
- Clear Language – Contracts will be drafted with the intention of being as clear and easy to read as possible, i.e. not overly legal/tech-based language.
- Glossary/Summary – Contracts will highlight key points and terms on a cover/front page.
- FAQs – Vendors will provide a Frequently Asked Questions document that details needed information pre-contract.
Data is the most valuable asset a law firm will provide a tech provider with. As such, all tech members recognise it needs to be handled in a secure and robust manner. Additionally, as providers we need to promote assurance at our data handling to help adoption of our products to the wider industry.
Therefore, our expectation is that all vendors should provide details to law firms in relation to:
- Data Sharing – Clear data sharing agreements between the provider and the law firm that clearly define what basis data will be shared.
- GDPR – A full understanding of GDPR by the provider and a clear written statement to the law firm about what responsibilities each party has under GDPR when sharing personal data.
- Data Security – Clear data security standards/policies need to be implemented by the provider and communicated to the law firm. Providers need to have data security as their top priority as the risk of not doing so will hamper confidence in legal technology generally. We need to promote, as an association, the highest standards of data security and support our fellow members in this regard wherever possible.
- Accreditations: ISO/Cyber Essentials – We feel that our provider members should either have, or be working towards, relevant data security standards such as ISO or Cyber Essentials kitemarks. Achieving these standards will help reassure law firms and provide confidence in the adoption of legal technology.