Onboarding suppliers and managing vendor information is not easy for most law firms.
Collecting, validating, and managing the wide range of information and documents that law firms require to pay suppliers has traditionally been a labor-intensive, time-consuming, and risky task.
A big reason that supplier onboarding and vendor information management is so burdensome is that most law firms rely on manual and semi-automated approaches to managing the functions. Emails, e-forms, homegrown supplier onboarding solutions, and the vendor master management modules built into some enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications do little to streamline the process of gathering and verifying business licenses, certifications, and tax identification numbers (TINs).
The rising risk of payment fraud is raising the stakes for law firms to validate supplier information.
That’s why more law firms are automating their supplier onboarding and vendor information management processes with self-service portals – web-based solutions that automate, validate, route, and secure supplier information while making the process more seamless for suppliers and law firms.
The biggest supplier onboarding challenges for law firms
Most law firms face significant challenges in onboarding suppliers and managing vendor details.
- Inefficiency. Manually collecting, validating, routing, and managing supplier information bogs staff down. Accounts payable professionals, procurement teams, and other individuals involved in the supplier onboarding process waste lots of time keying data, shuffling emails, chasing down details, fixing mistakes, and responding to calls and emails from suppliers and other stakeholders about where things stand in the process. Inefficient processes can delay supplier onboarding, potentially disrupting a law firm’s access to the services it needs for client work. Over time, outdated supplier information and documents increases the risk of compliance issues and leads to additional work collecting and verifying updated details.
- Training. Law firms that rely on manual onboarding processes may have lots of employees involved in collecting, validating, routing, and managing supplier details and documents. Without proper training and education on the latest regulations and best practices for supplier onboarding, law firms risk inefficiencies and higher risk of fraud and compliance issues.
- Errors. Errors are inevitable in manual processes. A single typo, transposed number, or oversight in how supplier information is validated can result in rework and more risk.
- Compliance. Law firms are bound by high ethical standards. Ensuring that suppliers comply with anti-money laundering regulations, tax laws, and other rules is essential but complex. Law firms also must be careful not to do business with suppliers that appear on lists of sanctioned individuals and entities published by various government entities.
- Data protection. It is critical for law firms to safeguard sensitive supplier information and guarantee client confidentiality. Law firms also must verify the ownership of bank accounts to ensure that they don’t belong to bad actors using Business Email Compromise (BEC) attacks, phishing scams, account takeovers, and other schemes to defraud the law firm.
- Lack of standardization. Suppliers may submit documents in various formats, making it challenging to standardize and digitize the information for easy validation and retrieval.
- Communication gaps. Manual supplier onboarding processes make it difficult for a law firm to know where things stand in the process, potentially resulting in poor communication with suppliers, poor supplier onboarding experience, and delays in the onboarding process.
- Growing pains. Inefficiencies in the supplier onboarding process become more pronounced as a law firm grows, potentially hindering a law firm’s ability to scale its operations.
- Diversity and inclusion. Many law firms have diversity and inclusion initiatives. It can be challenging for law firms to collect and review the information and documents necessary to ensure that suppliers align with these initiatives and promote diversity in their workforce.
Law firms that don’t address the challenges of manual supplier onboarding are likely to experience higher costs, potential supply chain disruptions, and greater risk of fraud and compliance issues.
Automated supplier onboarding for law firms
Self-service supplier portals automate the collection, validation, routing, and management of information and documents submitted by suppliers. Self-service portals streamline the onboarding process for buyers, while making it easy for suppliers to submit and update their information.
Self-service supplier portals automate the entire onboarding process.
- Data collection. Suppliers can effortlessly submit their business details, contact information, tax forms, insurance certificates, and other information and documents through a web-based portal. Existing suppliers can submit updated information and documents through the portal.
- Validations. Supplier portals automatically track the documents submitted by suppliers to ensure that a law firm receives all the information it needs to onboard a supplier. Validating supplier information speeds the onboarding process and prevents incomplete submissions and errors. Some portals also track when it’s time for suppliers to submit updated documents.
- Verifications. The best self-service supplier portals automatically validate the TIN and name combinations provided by suppliers and perform over 40 different verifications of supplier information, including address verification and screening against the U.S. Denied Persons List, Excluded Individuals and Entities, and other sanctions lists. Some supplier portals also verify the status and ownership of bank account details for new and existing suppliers.
- Approval workflows. Information and documents that require review are digitally routed to the appropriate individual or department, based on the buyer’s configurable business rules.
- Communication and collaboration. Information and documents submitted by suppliers can instantly be retrieved by authorized users from any location, 24/7/365. Digitizing and centralizing information and documents makes it easy for internal and external stakeholders to collaborate and for buyers to respond to supplier inquiries about the onboarding status.
- Integration. Leading portals integrate with a buyer’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) or accounting software package to facilitate the seamless exchange of vendor information.
- Security. The best self-service supplier portals safeguard sensitive information and ensure confidentiality through user permissions, segregation of duties, audit logging, and more.
These capabilities streamline the supplier onboarding process.
Benefits of automating the onboarding process with a self-service portal
Automating the collection, validation, routing, and management of supplier information and documents with a self-service supplier portal offers significant benefits to law firms.
- Efficiency. Self-service supplier portals reduce the manual, repetitive tasks that increase administrative overhead, bog staff down, and potentially delay the onboarding process. Eliminating manual tasks also enables a law firm to free up staff to focus more time on higher-value activities that can drive growth, and more easily scale its onboarding process.
- Accuracy. Empowering suppliers to submit their own information and documents through a web-based portal reduces the likelihood of errors, discrepancies, and missing documentation.
- Fewer delays. Rules-based digital workflows ensure that information and documents are routed to the appropriate individual, accelerating cycle times, and reducing bottlenecks.
- Compliance. Automating TIN matching, sanctions screening, and other verifications reduces the risk of a law firm engaging with non-compliant suppliers and facing fines and penalties.
- Enhanced supplier experience. Portals facilitate collaboration and communication between a law firm and its suppliers. And a law firm’s authorized users can instantly see where a supplier stands in the onboarding process and retrieve the details to respond to inquiries.
- Document retention. Self-service portals centralize the storage of information and documents in a web-based archive, making it easy to access and review key details. And a web-based archive eliminates the possibility of lost or misplaced information and documents.
- Security and confidentiality. Self-service supplier portals use access controls and other built-in tools to protect sensitive supplier information and ensure data privacy and security. Some portals provide a record of all actions taken during the supplier onboarding process. And the best portals verify bank account ownership to mitigate the risk of payment fraud.
Self-service supplier portals simplify the onboarding process, improving operational efficiency, reducing costs, streamlining compliance, mitigating risk, and enhancing the supplier experience.
Improve your law firm’s supplier onboarding process
More law firms are discovering that automating supplier onboarding with a self-service portal can deliver tremendous operational and strategic benefits. It’s for these reasons that self-service supplier portals are becoming a necessity for law firms looking to thrive in the modern business environment.