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Kin + Carta Linklaters Elasticon award

Modernising an enterprise search product with Elastic

When a legacy backend reaches end-of-life and the quality of the user experience is under threat, a business transformation decision comes into play. Do you continue with legacy technology, rebuild the entire stack from scratch or do you migrate to a newer, faster and more agile platform and keep the experience running smoothly for active users?

Linklaters, a leading global law firm and longstanding Managed Services client of Kin + Carta, faced precisely that dilemma in 2020. Its Knowledge Management platform, One Legal Se@rch (aka Se@rch), is the central resource for all legal documentation for users, but having existed on the same platform for a number of years, it was ripe for modernisation.

Our decade-long partnership meant we could have a raw look at the lifecycle of the product we helped build. Together, we soon resolved to replatform it to the Elastic Cloud Enterprise (ECE) stack with a raft of business and IT rationales to back up the transformation.

The outcome not only enabled Linklaters to future-proof Se@rch and better serve its users, but it also secured us an ElasticON Elastic Excellence Award within the Enterprise Search Business Transformation category.

The success is a testament to the fact that, when managed correctly with real-world user needs as the nucleus of the strategy, a product can undergo many iterations to remain relevant (19 to date, in this case). The new platform improved performance for users with better UX and helped modernise an organisation with reduced server footprint and lower operating costs.

The benefits of business transformation

  • Greatly improved performance - up to 10x faster query response
  • Collapse in server footprint (67% reduction) - lower operating costs
  • Simplified architecture - improved uptime, easier maintenance
  • Rapid and automated deployment of enhancements via modern development tooling

Delivering outcomes for end-users with a product mentality

The crux of our relationship with Linklaters is in the two-pronged approach of our Managed Services offering: not only do we help its products run as smoothly and efficiently as you would expect from a global law firm, but we also help them grow by continually iterating and improving them to deliver user experiences that adapt to the changing landscape upon which they are built.

This relentless focus on the desired outcomes for the end-user and iterative approach to delivering them are what define our product-first mentality. We don’t refer to a product as something you would buy off the shelf, but rather as a set of outcomes for users. What do they expect from the product experience? Indeed, what do they demand from the product experience and how easy is it for them to choose another product provider if they don’t get it? In a world with endless digital options, we work on the assumption that it’s easier now than it ever has been...

That’s why Linklaters and Kin + Carta opted to modernise Se@rch with Elastic so we could create a leading search experience that delivered on high user expectations.

By employing some of Elasticsearch’s advanced relevance ranking features, including dense vector fields and BM25F, we’ve improved the precision with which we deliver legal knowledge to the lawyers. And Elastic’s ranking evaluation features allow product owners to easily understand result scoring, providing further opportunities for improving results. And crucially, we delivered query response times that were 10 times faster than the previous legacy platform.

James Pilgrim, Senior Knowledge Systems Manager at Linklaters, said: “Working with K+C, we stripped the existing, end-of-life search engine out of Se@rch and replaced it with Elastic, breathing new life into a well-established system. This delivered several benefits to our lawyers, including a faster search experience and better handling of multi-lingual collections to support our global teams.”

“Elastic’s openness and transparency help us understand how relevance is calculated in specific queries, so we can ensure our lawyers see the most useful results. This is very powerful, and ultimately what good search is all about.”

The outstanding benefit of the modernisation is the newfound ability to iterate and orchestrate improvements over time, which was not a luxury that the legacy platform afforded Linklaters. New collections like intranet content and third-party data sources have since been added and, thanks to centralised DevOps deployment, updates can continue in a rapid and timely fashion, much to the delight of lawyers, business owners and Linklaters leadership.

James Pilgrim added: “The migration itself was silky smooth, causing no disruption to users and no need for retraining. Best of all, with Kin + Carta at the wheel, the move to Elastic has increased the potential of Se@rch as an evolving product, giving us a better footing for planning and delivery of future enhancements.”

The award for our work on Se@rch with Linklaters and Elastic goes to show how important it is to continually improve upon your assets. No matter how established a product might be as part of your organisational portfolio, we don’t believe in just managing the status quo, there’s always an eye to be kept on modernisation and business transformation opportunities. That’s what Managed Services are all about at Kin + Carta.

Karl Hampson - CTO Data & AI, Kin + Carta

Ensuring long-term product value with Managed Services

Linklaters’ Knowledge Management platform is a fantastic example of how data products need to be properly managed during their active life. Search is particularly notable for how the quality of results and user outcomes can rapidly deteriorate if not. As a data platform matures there will also come a time where modernisation becomes a distinct option to extend the life of a data product. For Se@rch, a simplification of the architecture alone led to better uptime, fewer outages and easier maintenance, which is a direct outcome of our Managed Services approach and expertise at Kin + Carta.

If you have any questions about enterprise search and how to modernise it

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