Diving Board

The Inaugural Precedent Innovation Awards: Gowling WLG’s Third-Party Demand Manual

A user-friendly web application that makes it easy to answer one of the thorniest questions in banking law
Diving Board

Let’s imagine that you owe someone a lot of money. Maybe you’ve skipped a few years of child-support payments, or you haven’t kept up with your taxes. You can’t run from those obligations forever. That’s because of something called a third-party demand. Basically, a creditor can contact your bank and ask it to forcibly remove enough cash from your account to cover the debt.

In 2017, a large financial institution hired Gowling WLG to update the manual it uses to determine when it should — and should not — grant such a request. The guidebook needed to reflect the most recent legislation and caselaw.
But it wasn’t simply out of date: it was a complex Word document, mostly accessed in a well-thumbed printout. “I couldn’t follow the organization,” says Mark Tamminga, a partner at Gowling who leads the firm’s innovation initiatives. “The institution’s senior people knew the answers in their bones, but it was difficult to bring someone up to speed.”

Tamminga decided it was necessary to both refresh the content and convert the document into a simple wiki-style application. This would allow users to easily locate relevant material through clickable categories and hyperlinks. No more static text.

The design work fell to Emily Dies, an associate with experience in web development. After working with a senior associate, Stephanie Harvey, to better understand the nuances of third-party demands, she built the final product. “With the previous manual, you almost had to know the law first to find your answer,” says Dies. “The new version gets you to a working knowledge much faster.”

Don’t forget to read about our other Innovation Awards winners.

This story is from our Winter 2019 Issue.

Still life photography by Justin Poulsen