Head of Product at StructureFlow, Owen Oliver, discusses the growing interest in using visualisation tools for deal structuring, creating coordinated tech ecosystems and the role of data to enhance transaction management processes for both lawyers and their clients.
Owen Oliver is a corporate lawyer-turned legal technologist. After 10 years’ experience as a transactional lawyer with Fieldfisher and Ingenious Media, Owen co-founded Workshare Transact in 2015, the legal transaction management application now known as Litera Transact that is used by global law firms such as Clifford Chance, Norton Rose Fulbright and Simmons & Simmons.
In his current role as Head of Product at StructureFlow, Owen leads on the development of the StructureFlow product to help users think, communicate and collaborate more efficiently by visualising transactions and matters with their software.
Learn more about StructureFlow:
Owen contributed to our recent Transaction Management eBook. You can read his insights on how visualisation tools are changing the game for deal planning and structuring by downloading the book here.
In this Transaction Management episode of Shieldcast, Owen and Geoff discuss:
Geoff: On today's show, we welcome Owen Oliver, Head of Product for StructureFlow. Welcome on Owen.
Owen: Hi there. How are you doing?
Geoff: Owen is another lawyer turned legal technologist; founder of Workshare Transact, which was acquired by Litera Microsystems in 2019 and is today used extensively by international law firms, such as Clifford Chance, Simmons & Simmons, and Norton Rose.
After this success bringing to market a legaltech platform, he's dived right back in and joined Tim Follett on the StructureFlow team as Head of Product.
I've had a chance to play with StructureFlow over the last few weeks and it's a really great product. As a transaction lawyer, I would have loved to be able to use that as a tool and I think I have lots of applications in mind for it for today. I think it's the wide raging number of applications and possible extensions for the product that is incredibly fascinating. I urge all listeners to have a look and we'll post some links on that below.
I'm excited to talk to you more about the product, obviously, but more broadly around the topic of this series which is the transaction management lifecycle - something that we're both trying to tackle, or potentially not tackle - we'll talk about that a bit.
Welcome to the show.
Owen: Well, thank you very much. And thank you for saying those kinds of things about StructureFlow.
Geoff: To begin with, could give us the 30 second elevator pitch? What is StructureFlow? How did it come about and your role?
Owen: Absolutely. I mean StructureFlow, first and foremost, it's about visualisation. It provides this visual toolkit for lawyers, and really any sort of corporate or transaction professional, and it can be used for a wide range of use cases, but it's particularly strong and it was primarily created for creating corporate and transactional structures.
It's an intelligent solution. What we mean by that is when you're creating your structure within StructureFlow, it understands what you're creating and it sort of builds up this data model of the structure underneath. It recognises that you're adding entities and assets, and it understands the relationships between those different things. Then you can add more information about those entities and assets and you can link documents.
At one level it's like a PowerPoint replacement tool for structures, so they're taking away a lot of the pain that professionals suffer today when using those tools to do the diagrams that they create today. But it is also more than that. It becomes an interactive interface for information on a deal, for example. It means that it's more of a structuring and modeling tool and it becomes this valuable information resource through the course of a matter or transaction.
Geoff: I liked PowerPoint and I use a number of other visualisation tools already, but it is really great. How are you seeing it being adopted at the moment? Who’s using it? What type of firms, what types of teams and how well is it being used?
Owen: We have a really great customer base already. The one I can mention is Slaughter & May - we had a really good press release last week with them. It started out within their corporate and tax teams but it's now being rolled out to anybody across the firm that wants to use it.
And I think that demonstrates the breadth of usage for the tool. There is a focus on structures and transactions, but it can be used in litigation. You can use it for flow charts, you can use it for timelines, if you're drafting a complex clause in a commercial agreement then you can use it to create visualisation of that. So, yeah, it really is very wide. And we've actually created this really nice marketing document recently about the use cases with about 30 different slides of examples of diagrams and structures that lawyers and other professionals are creating.
I think there's a need for visualisation and it's growing. What we're providing is this really nice, straightforward tool where a lawyer who's not used to, you know…you said that you're good at PowerPoint and some lawyers very much are, but others are terrible at it and really struggle with it.
I think this is something that everybody can use just to get their thoughts. It helps them think, it helps them get stuff down on paper. So, whether it's a massive, corporate structure or whether it's white boarding an idea that they've just chatted to their clients about, it's something that anybody can just pick up and use.
Geoff: And I guess there's the sharing and collaboration options. Are you finding in the usage of it that the stakeholders of transactions, or in the matter or the case or whatever it is, are interacting on the platform and helping each other, moving things around and engaging in that visualisation exercise?
Owen: Yeah, our goal is to make StructureFlow this collaborative platform where people from all different organisations involved on a matter or transaction can come in and get that view of the transaction - not just the visual but all the underlying information and data that they need to understand.
As a typical user, you go through this journey where you pick up the tool, you recognise it as a replacement for PowerPoint maybe, creating that structure that you did, and maybe your image goes into a due diligence report or it goes into steps plans. But then, as you get more familiar with the tool, you get confident and you can start inviting your client to get that first-hand view of the project within Structure Flow and then it progresses out from there.
But that's our goal, it’s to create this collaborative environment for deal structuring and for engaging people to understand how a transaction is going to work.
Geoff: There are so many tools that law firms and lawyers use at the moment and that number is increasing. Obviously, it is just a very useful thing to have, but everyone's always effectively looking for a return. So, what are firms going to gain from an efficiency point of view? Is that what lawyers are looking for when in your sales process or is something else the driver behind the adoption of the solution?
Owen: I think there's a few different things there. From an outreach perspective, it's quite easy for us because you speak to a partner and if they're a partner that has problems or can see problems within their team with the creation of diagrams, it's quite an easy sell as it is much more efficient for creating structures. So that sort of aspect is there.
But it's also quite fun to use. You said at the start it's something different from your regular toolkit. Most lawyers are working in Word all the time and this is something a little bit different and, as I say, it helps them think. All of those sorts of bonus points are there.
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