All parties collaborating on a client’s prospectus documentation can cut swathes through the time it takes to draft and annotate with the process automation power of ScribeStar, says Leon Miller, partner overseeing the work for international law firm Womble Bond Dickinson
The shift to hybrid working – people often being in the office for perhaps just a couple of days each week – has focused much business attention on tools that might improve a project team’s overall productivity as they continue to complete complex tasks to tight deadlines, but from multiple locations.
A case in point is the cloud-based platform ScribeStar, for example – which digitises and automates the journey of the highly detailed documentation needed for capital markets transactions such as listings, rights issues, loan facilities, and indeed mergers. Applying process automation to a deal’s structured data and due diligence, it enables collaborative document templating and drafting, ‘checklisting and verification’ for regulatory purposes (explained later), negotiating, revisioning – and even private messaging between the relevant collaborators about all these processes – right up to the point of regulatory submission.
Leon Miller, a partner at law firm Womble Bond Dickinson who specialises in UK equity capital markets and M&A transactions, is one of several key stakeholders currently in the midst of collaboratively using ScribeStar to produce a prospectus for one client’s readmission to the main market’s standard list.
The ability to change
Miller explains the key differences this makes to how work progresses. “First, all the supporting documentation accompanying the prospectus, such as the checklisting and lists of verification notes for sourced materials that are needed, is integrated within the one platform,” he says. “This has been particularly helpful as many have been working from home at different times over the past year – as has the presence of a continually updated single master version of the document.
“The accountants, us lawyers, financial advisers, and also the client – all parties that are granted access – can view this latest version all the time to stay updated, and we’ve found that to be really useful.”
While different people involved in the work can also be logged in and working on different parts of the document simultaneously – clearly speeding up parts of the process
Miller says it’s the automation introduced to the organisation of checklisting that really stands out as an efficiency gain. He explains: “This is usually a very labour-intensive process. You’re cross-referring content from the prospectus with the rules so you can satisfy the Financial Conduct Authority or nominated adviser.”
Before bringing in ScribeStar, this would have meant building a separate document with annotations to accompany the main one. “However, the really clever thing here is that where you need to move sections of text around as you draft, the cross-referencing automatically follows the text.”
It’s the same with verification of facts, which is another regulatory requirement – there is no need to update these sets of notes manually with subsequent drafts. The evidence remains linked to the relevant parts as any changes are made. “The page-numbering references are all automatically updated,” Miller explains. At the end, you are presented with a complete set of notes and the materials they refer to.
Another aspect of working differently is then the communication between all the parties about exactly what’s changing. “There are fewer emails with proof attachments for the whole team to open and check,” Miller says – which is the way that this would have been handled in the past. “The document is moving in real-time all the time – a continuous work in progress – and you can potentially allow anybody to make amendments during that time.
“There is the ability to limit authorisation, however, giving some individuals limited editing rights. In this case any amendments they make are then visible to somebody with more control, who can either approve or reject the changes.” There’s also no risk of losing a detail from a previous version in the drafting process, with a full audit trail.
And for law firms committed to either improving or preserving their ‘paper-light’ credentials – an area of change that has clearly benefited from more homeworking and digitisation in general – there is no need to send multiple rounds of markups off to a printer and waste time waiting for their return in order to correct and move on.
“We’re not quite at that stage of our transaction yet, but it ought to be an immediate turnaround – it’s clear you can turn your documents into a pdf and typeset within the system very quickly,” says Miller.
Finally, it’s not just the tool supporting the work – the overseeing team at ScribeStar have themselves been very supportive on this particular transaction to date, he says. “They’re very responsive with any troubleshooting and resolving formatting challenges for us as they arise – even accessing the document in their own time to address something if needed. “ScribeStar has been highly attentive throughout, and it’s a very good productivity tool – it’s definitely the future.