Thomson Reuters Sees Double Digit Departures Across HighQ and Elite

Thomson Reuters has since September 2020 seen over 10 senior legal departures, including the last of the HighQ senior executives and a number of senior Elite sales staff. The exits come as insiders tell us that TR is a ship constantly in flux and that there is disappointment at the speed of integration with HighQ, which was acquired by Thomson Reuters in 2019. Questions are further being asked as to the progress that TR Elite is making in rolling out TR Cloud. TR strenuously denies all of the above.

While the pandemic caused a pause in departures that naturally occur in a large organisation – and there may be an element of people playing ‘catch up’ subsequently – exits within the last eight months in the legal professionals vertical run well into double figures, including, most recently, Stuart Barr, former chief product and strategy officer at HighQ, who is the last of the HighQ C-Suite to leave.

Others in the public domain who have left TR include Carlos Gamez, who left in January 2021 for Frontline Managed Services (formerly Intelliteach); Andy Wishart, co-founder and CTO of Contract Express and a driving force behind the acquisition of HighQ, who left for CLM platform Agiloft in January; Scott Norby, senior sales manager for Elite, who left in the tail end of 2020 for ECFX; Val Reece, director of legal professional services at Elite, who left for sa.global in December 2020; and Vinnie Scarinci, director of sales at Elite, who left in September 2020 for sa.global. There are six further senior legal departures that are not yet in the public domain.

The departures are set against a backdrop of multiple senior leadership changes and a new Change Programme designed to streamline the business that was introduced at the start of 2021. It aims to transition Thomson Reuters ‘from a holding company to an operating company, and from a content company to a content-driven technology company.’

One ex-TR employee told us:

“Thomson Reuters is one of those organisations that never settle.” Another said: “Change is constant at Thomson Reuters, they are always switching things up. There was a new CEO, CPO and CTO in the last 15 months.”

He is referring to the arrival of CEO Steve Hasker and the appointment of CFO Mike Eastwood in March 2020. Leadership hires since then include chief product officer David Wong, chief operations and technology officer Kirsty Roth, and president of corporate sales, Sunil Pandita.

The Change Programme follows a wholesale restructure in 2018-19 that saw TR overhaul its business completely. It sold its finance and risk business and restructured the remaining company along customer-focussed segments. Four senior executives left as part of that restructure, including US chief strategy officer Brian Scanlon; president of the legal business Susan Taylor Martin; president of the global growth organization Gonzalo Lissarrague; and chief communications officer Gus Carlson.

Despite the volume of change, it is fair to say that remaining senior executives including the likes of head of legal professionals, Paul Fischer, have been with TR for many years. Furthermore, within legal professionals, the heads of the customer segments and large law sales have stayed constant. You can find many of them listed here: https://legaltechnology.com/thomson-reuters-wholesale-restructure-the-facts-you-need-to-know/

Responding to the allegations of flux, a spokesperson for TR said:

“Starting from our position of strength as the market leader, we are transitioning from a holding company to an operating company. We have a very talented and capable team of long-tenured Thomson Reuters executives and new talent to execute our program to deliver a best-in-class customer experience with new and innovative ways to serve our customers.”

There are further suggestions that insiders are unhappy with a lack of progress in integrating HighQ within the TR platform, although there is no question that HighQ is central to TR’s strategy.

During TR’s investor day in March, Andy Martens, SVP & global head legal product and editorial, said:

“We are seeing strong traction with HighQ adoption, particularly in the UK and with Large Global Firms, that are on the leading edge of adopting new technologies.”

The roadmap is to expand across jurisdictions and penetrate smaller firms in the US, and Martens pointed out that within twelve months of the acquisition, TR integrated Practical law insights and Contract Express document automation capability into HighQ, commenting:

“This software solution has been very well received by our customers.”

One explanation for the discrepancy in some of the feedback we have received is that HighQ had a ‘move fast and break things’ culture that is at odds with a larger corporate such as TR. A CIO at a large UK law firm said:

“HighQ was small, hungry, and energetic, and that is always a risk.”

When it comes to Elite, the pandemic has been unhelpful in its bid to convert sunsetted Enterprise and Envision PMS clients to 3E, and the competition is fierce. However, to date the 3E Cloud has been unavailable to large law firms, which is at odds with an increasing demand for a SaaS PMS product.

Thomson Reuters in March unveiled a raft of enhancements to HighQ, 3E, and Marketplace, and the latest version of HighQ includes over 60 new customer-driven features. See the press release on that for more.

The spokesperson for TR told us:

“HighQ, foundational to our legal workflow solutions strategy, and Elite, the industry-leading financial and practice management solution for larger law firms, are critical to the journey our customers are on, and we’re prioritizing our significant investment in these products.”

“In 2020, HighQ grew at 24% organically and we are investing heavily in our multi-tenant cloud-based position in Elite, which we are confident is ahead of the competition. Our leadership in our legal software go-to-market teams remains strong, established and connected to the C-Suite across our entire portfolio with deep product knowledge and experience. Our focus is on our customers and helping legal professionals work more efficiently, effectively and collaboratively. We are grateful for the trust our customers put in us as we continue to lead the digital transformation of the legal profession.”

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