Cottage Industrialist, a founder or top executive of a leading vendor to law departments: Rob Thomas of Serengeti (#2 in a series)

As part of my series, here are the comments of Rob Thomas, for years the voice and pen of Serengeti: “Serengeti was founded in 2001 with ten employees. It arose from the ashes of ELF Technologies, a legal website company that failed for lack of funding in the aftermath of the Dotcom Bubble in 2000. ELF had developed Serengeti Tracker and gained about a dozen users, all of which were enthusiastic supporters. Ten of us decided to buy the company assets out of foreclosure, kept Serengeti going, added new features, and quickly ramped up new customers. Serengeti’s unique offering of both matter management and e-billing in a single online system, its ease of use, and its low cost all helped to fuel our rapid growth. It wasn’t long before Serengeti became the most widely used system for managing legal work in the world. Last year, Thomson Reuters acquired Serengeti to be the heart of its new technology platform for corporate law departments and their law firms.”

“Currently more than 420 law departments manage their legal work through Serengeti. Serengeti currently has over 25,000 individual law department users, and over 125,000 law firm and other vendor users, with an average of more than 3,000 new users joining Serengeti every month. We are particularly proud of the adoption of Serengeti across law departments of different sizes, from law departments with solo GCs working on their own, to some of the world’s largest law departments (e.g., American Express, Capital One, Disney, etc.).”

“A couple of weeks ago we released Serengeti Intelligence — which for the first time aggregates live key performance data across the hundreds of companies and thousands of law firms that work in Serengeti. Serengeti users can now compare their own benchmarks with those of their peers related to spending, budgets, rates, allocation of work, etc.”

“One specific function incorporates a patent pending process that was created by the American Express law department to evaluate annual hourly rate increases from their law firms. Rather than taking the firm’s estimate of the percentage increase, American Express would run the new proposed rates through their bills from the past year to determine the likely real impact, assuming work at about the same level by the same teams. They would often find that these impacts would be significantly higher than the rate increases stated by their firms.”

“In addition, Serengeti Intelligence compares the proposed rates with those charged by similar firms across all clients on Serengeti. For example, it can tell a client that (assuming work performed during the coming year is similar to the past year) the impact of what the law firm claims is a 5% rate increase will actually be 8%, and that the firm’s new rates place it in the 96% percentile of rates among similar firms.“

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