53% of global law firms are now using HighQ, a cloud based file sharing platform by Thomson Reuters, which allows its users to upload and share documentation with others. At Thomson Snell & Passmore, HighQ has become an integral feature of our work for clients, in particular for teams within the Commercial group at the firm, as it allows our lawyers and clients to share large volumes of documentation with each other that is easily accessible when required. HighQ works in a similar way to other cloud based storage and retrieval systems, but has the added benefit of being a secure site which can only be accessed by our invitation. This is, of course, essential when dealing with confidential client matters.
HighQ allows users to set up a 'Data Room', whereby the creator can invite others, via a direct invitation to their email address, to join. A new data room will be set up for each new transaction or matter, so that the appropriate users have access to the documentation uploaded to it. Throughout a transaction or matter, users who have been given the necessary rights are able to upload documentation to the platform, which will remain on the site unless it is deleted. This means that law firms and their clients have a shared point of access to important and relevant documentation throughout a matter, claim or transaction, which can be regularly accessed when required.
A key feature of HighQ is that data rooms can be split into folders, allowing documentation to be stored in the appropriate section of the data room and easily located by those wishing to view it. There is the ability for the administrator of the data room to hide certain folders from particular invitees on the site, which might be important on a deal or transaction whereby accountants, or lawyers acting on the other side of a matter, have been invited to the data room but should not have access to certain information found within particular folders.
Clients find HighQ very user-friendly, and are comforted by the fact that documentation can be directly uploaded to the site and instantly accessible by their lawyers. Clients are able to see which information they have uploaded by looking at the site, rather than sending various emails to their lawyer and perhaps not knowing whether they have been received. HighQ sends daily updates to users of a particular data room letting them know when new files have been uploaded, so that everyone involved on a matter can keep track of any updates.
Because we prefer to use HighQ for the benefit of our clients, they do not need to give us user access and passwords to their file and date storage systems, which preserves the integrity of their systems as being only accessible by employees and officers. From a GDPR perspective as data controller this is important. However, passing us information is exempted from GDPR data subject access request disclosure, as any information uploaded to our HighQ data room is legally privileged.
In the context of employment law, HighQ is a very helpful feature when we assist clients in making or defending claims in the Employment Tribunal. As part of our advice, we often need to review documentation and correspondence which spans over many months, or even years, to ensure that we secure the best outcome for clients. HighQ allows clients to start uploading documentation from the moment they have received their invitation to the site, which may include email correspondence, contracts of employment or letters, that are integral to the claim itself. This makes life easier for both us and the client in getting key documents into our portal for retrieval, meaning we can start reviewing and preparing cases earlier from the moment the information is dropped into our portal, without waiting from information to be emailed to us.
In claims where we act for an employer, we are able to provide access to many different individuals of the employer which assists in terms of efficiency. For example, we have many clients in the education sector, whereby relevant information to a claim sits with different people within the organisation. By providing access to HighQ to each of the individuals, this avoids the need for information to be organised internally and passed to lawyers by one person over email, and allows each individual to separately upload the particular documentation they have to the site.
In Employment Tribunal claims, there is a duty of disclosure on both parties to the claim. This means that both parties must disclose all documentation in their possession that is relevant to the claim, and not just the documents that assist their case in particular. In some cases that concern employees who have been with an organisation a long time, or perhaps where there is a considerable amount of correspondence, clients will have hundreds of relevant documents that need to be disclosed. The HighQ platform allows both clients and their lawyers to see exactly what documentation is available for disclosure when that becomes necessary, without having to go through hundreds of emails to check that all important documentation has been sent and received.
To reassure clients, at the start of a matter, we provide clients with clear instructions on how to access the data room and how to upload and view documentation, so that it appears in logical and chronological order. Data rooms are easily navigated and user-friendly, and continue to assist us and clients to deal with matters more quickly and efficiently.
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