Legal Departments Of The Year: Subway's Software Is A Powerful Litigation Tracking Tool
Until recently, Subway restaurants' legal department used a litigation database that was a lot like their signature cold cut combo sub without the toppings. It was serviceable, but it could be so much better, with just a little more attention to detail.
The old system identified legal matters by store number, and the legal department could access all the cases related to a particular store. But the detail was lacking. Sometimes a case name would be attached. Occasionally there was a short description of the case. But there was no consistency.
"We were trying to develop a more robust database for five or six years," said John P. Pfannenbecker, the managing attorney in the finances and investments department, who is in charge of purchasing new technology for the Milford-based legal department. "It was taking too much time and the beta versions didn't have an invoice processing component."
That's when Pfannenbecker went searching for a system that could track and manage all legal matters for Franchise World Headquarters, which is the support company for franchises operating under the Subway, Taco Del Mar and Mama Deluca's Pizza brands. Its legal department has 37 employees worldwide, 31 of them in Connecticut. It's divided into 12 groups that handle an array of matters, including litigation, real estate, contracts, international law for overseas franchises and much more in support of 39,300 retail outlets, so there are plenty of ongoing matters that need to be followed.
Pfannenbecker tested software called Serengeti Tracker and convinced Franchise World Headquarters' officials to purchase the system over several similar products. They've been using the software since last summer, and their successful implementation has earned them the Connecticut Law Tribune's Legal Departments of the Year award for Best Use of Technology.
The program processes legal billing electronically and allows legal departments and outside counsel to track the status of any legal matter. Its technology includes a powerful reporting functionality that, for instance, can show a general counsel whether a case is taking too long to complete or nearing its budget ceiling. In short, it's a comprehensive tracking tool that Franchise World Headquarters uses to manage its legal work and its relationships with outside counsel in a central location.
One of the primary benefits has been the invoice management component, Pfannenbecker said.
"Our old invoice approval system was paper-based and manual, and the lag time for receiving and paying an invoice was typically 60 to 90 days," Pfannenbecker said. "Now it is shaved down to 30 days with this system."
Plus, Franchise World Headquarters has agreements with outside counsel to receive a 2 percent discount if an invoice is paid within 30 days using Serengeti's e-billing function. Overall, the company has reduced its outside legal spend by 25 percent over the past 12 months.
"That 2 percent discount over time has provided enough savings to pay for the cost of implementing the system," Pfannenbecker said.