In this roundup, coverage on outsourcing, innovation, an EED acquisition, and BigLaw web site awards.
Outsourcing | Offshoring
India needs to hone legal process outsourcing skills in the Business Standard (of India, 10/31/06) reports that when it comes to legal outsourcing, India should be watching other countries over its shoulder: “Nearly 750 professionals, for instance, are involved in legal processes outsourcing (LPO) in the Philippines as compared to 1,750 in India. Moreover, whiel the number is expected to grow to only 7,000 by 2010 in India, in the Philippines, the LPO market is expected to accomodate 10,000 professionals by 2010, according to analyst figures.” The data are interesting but the sources not clear. I spotted this at the blog slaw.
Innovation expert Eric Mankin presented on legal market innovation at the College of Law Practice Management annual meeting. The audio recording (Windows media format) is here. Eric offers deep and amusing insight about innovation (or lack thereof) in the legal market.
Social Network Analysis (SNA)
SNA studies how people in an organization interact. Not by looking at org charts, but by analyzing actual communication. It’s a useful approach to undertanding how knowledge is shared (or not) across an enterprise. Blogger Adam Smith, Esq., in 20% of Our Group’s Value Is Quitting has a good write up of a recent article about SNA and adds his own spin as well.
Law Firm Web Sites
Marketing expert and blogger Larry Bodine has a good post, The 10 Best AmLaw 100 Web Sites (10/29/06). It reports on a recently released study that identified the top 10 BigLaw sites. He also reviews his s principles of good site design
Another e-discovery acquisition: See the 10/6/06 press release, OcÃ© Business Services to Acquire CaseData Inc.. “OcÃ© N.V., (NASDAQ: OCENY), a global leader in digital document management and solutions, today announced that its U.S. division OcÃ© Business Services and CaseData, Inc., a leading provider of electronic discovery and litigation support services to U.S. law firms and corporations, have entered into a definitive agreement for OcÃ© Business Services to acquire all activities of CaseData. The transaction will expand the range of OcÃ© Business Services’ document process management business, and give CaseData clients access to OcÃ©’s comprehensive portfolio of products and services. CaseData is ranked in the top five E-discovery service providers on the basis of experience and capacity. Financial details of the transaction are not being disclosed.”
More confirmation today from the New York Times that outsourcing is a big trend in BigLaw.
Law Firms Are Starting to Adopt Outsourcing (10/27/06) reports on large law firms that have outsourced functions. I’ve already blogged on the examples cited in detail (Clifford Chance and Baker McKenzie), so what is interesting to me is that the NY Times considers the trend newsworthy. The article also has some additional details about CC and BM (e.g., Clifford Chance is working with Integreon). The money quote:
“Despite the attractive economics, a mere trickle of law firms have [sic] actually moved operations out of their headquarters or to overseas locations. Yet some are betting that law will be the next industry to shift parts of its operations to lower-cost regions of the world.”
Coincidentally, earlier this week Joy London and I updated our list of legal offshoring and outsourcing. Joy and I have written an article analyzing what we see as the trend; it is slated to appear in LLRX.com in November.
Update (10/28/06): See the Integreon press release for more detail on Clifford Chance operations in India.
The Thomson Corporation announced a re-organization yesterday. Law firms should take note since Thomson is a major supplier of both content and software.
It will be interesting to see if this affects what Thomson - Elite - West delivers to BigLaw. The press release (10/25/06) states that a significant goal is “to focus on electronic workflow solutions strategy.” That sounds intriguing to me.
Spotted at the blog slaw.
Should law firms have records management policies? Risk management partners say yes but many firms struggle to define or implement a policy. Not having one can have consequences.
Church Group Suing Weil Gotshal Claims Firm Withheld E-Mails (NYLJ, 10/23/06) reports that a Weil Gotshal client “is accusing the firm of withholding from discovery e-mail correspondence.” The allegation focuses on a big discrepancy in the number of e-mail messages produced by different lawyers at Weil Gotshal. The firm’s general counsel says the discrepancy is due to one partner who did not save e-mail messages while the others did.
Whether this will cause a problem for Weil Gotshal remains to be seen. But the fact that a client raises this issue and the press reports it illustrates the need for a records management policy and enforcing it. Aside from the potential to create the appearance of inconsistency, haphazard retention may make it impossible for a firm to produce a complete record that would help in its defense. A partial record can be worse than no record or a full record.
Law firm knowledge management leader Freshfields is considering KM cutbacks and re-organization.
Freshfields profits drive targets Italian partners and City back-office (LegalWeek, 10/20/06) reports that the firm may reduce staff to enhance profits. Freshfields has “put forward proposals to review its London back office functions this week and is currently consulting with the affected staff.” Nothing is definite but the “main areas under consideration are knowledge management and business development, which are set to merge.”
I’ve heard other reports that Magic Circle firms seek to reduce their KM investments. Top London law firms have employed many Practice Support Lawyers. In contrast, US firms have only a handful, relying instead on automating KM. That the London firms would cut back on PSLs or KM is not surprising. Nor is combining KM with business development or marketing. These functions naturally overlap and KM might show a better return were it more closely aligned with a revenue generating function.
Thanks to fellow blogger Joy London for alerting me to this. Joy co-edits Law Librarian News / excited utterances, a global electronic newsletter for law librarians and legal knowledge managers (for subscription information, contact Joy at jlondon at inch.com).
BigLaw has become more business-like but much still sets them apart from corporations. One differentiator is the role of information technology (IT) in innovation.
Innovation expert Eric Mankin’s IT & Innovation: Out Of Sync? in Optimize magazine (Oct 2006) explains that IT professionals were a force for innovation in the 1990s but are now a barrier. In many companies, IT sets barriers to innovation such as prohibiting outside groupware, forbidding user-installed software, and limiting system access. Security concerns are behind this; plus security sops up a lot of dollars that might otherwise be spent on support and applications.
I don’t think that IT hinders innovation in most large law firms. In fact, lawyers often stymie IT professionals’ innovative ideas. Fortunately, as I pointed out in my prior post commenting on the AmLaw Tech Survey, some firms adopt innovative ideas from or involving IT.
Law Firm, Inc. has published the 2006 AmLaw Tech Survey (11th Annual). What do we make of the findings?
“The technology chiefs of the Am Law 200 firms who responded report that they are tackling a bevy of new projects that update old concerns and applications – integration and security, to name two – rather than attempting more radical changes.” My anecdotal experience as a legal technology consultant supports the idea that infrastructure upgrades are front and center. But I also see quite a few firms going well beyond the basics.
One example is Foley & Lardner, which the article reports has a custom-built extranet with 400 client sites. From my own prior blog entries come many other examples:
Morrison & Foerster’s AnswerBase for KM on steroids,
Bryan Cave’s building and using business intelligence tools,
Jenner & Block’s expansive view of knowledge management (e.g., work force allocation for summer associates),
Skadden Arp’s integrating real work product retrieval directly into document management,
Sheppard Mullin’s early adoption and creation of numerous blogs,
several large firms adopting enterprise RSS,
Eversheds and Clifford Chance re-aligning IT costs via outsourcing, and
Wragge & Co’s fee prediction and transaction management system.
The list could go on. My concern is that the results of the survey, while accurate, can be used by law firm management to thwart innovative ideas offered by lawyers, CIOs, marketers, knowledge managers, and others. I think the list above is enough to show that while infrastructure may take the lion’s share of resources, plenty of firms find ways to do more to serve their lawyers and clients.
Should innovation be sudden, abrupt, and revolutionary? Or should it be incremental?
Nicolas Carr, author of the Harvard Business Review article “IT Doesn’t Matter” that stirred much debate, now questions the shibboleth that “If innovation is a good that companies should pursue, more innovation is even better, and the best innovations are those that upset existing markets or industries.” His comments appear in a Wall Street Journal interview, How to Be a Smart Innovator (9/11/06, $). His answer: “Mr. Carr says, companies need to be prudent – even conservative – in where and how much they encourage innovation.” Highlights of his comments include:
- Innovation is costly. Innovation effort must be disciplined and focused on areas where it can pay.
- Don’t try to innovate across multiple dimensions. Dell succeeded based on innovative low cost manufacturing and Apple succeeded based on innovative design, but Gateway failed in trying to innovate products and process simultaneously.
- Most people don’t like change and adopt new technology slowly. Innovation needs to help consumers and users bridge the gap between old and new.
- “The ability to be a good copycat is extremely important for companies and probably as important as being a good innovator.”
This is all good advice for law firms, which operate in a market resistant to change. My own observation is that in spite of challenges, many BigLaw CIOs find ways to innovate, sometimes in the back-office, sometimes in practice support, and sometimes even in delivering legal services to clients.
In future posts, I’ll share more about a program that launches in 2007 to find and reward legal market innovation.
In this roundup: cost savings in e-disccovery, an argument against using decision trees for litigation risk analysis; how White & Case promotes working virtually; the first legal market “mashup"; and more bad proposed bar rules.
E-Mail Analytics Eases Burden of Discovery in law.com (10/3/06) discusses the value of software to review e-mail in discovery. A comment toward the end indicates the cost savings possible: “Using e-mail analytics can pay off in spades for companies that deal with lots of litigation. For example, ‘Year to date, Lehman Brothers’ legal spend is down 21 percent, and they’re averaging a 69 percent savings using (our software) versus a traditional law-firm managed review’ says Michael Korch, product marketing manager of Attenex.” Numbers like that should get the attention of GC. The article lists some but not all available products; for example, I noticed that Cataphora was not mentioned.
Quantitative Techniques for Case Evaluation and Their Limitations by Louis M. Solomon in Metropolitan Corporate Counsel (Oct 2006) suggests that litigation risk analysis using decision trees is not always appropriate because it sometimes is impossible to quantify all of the variables. Perhaps true, but given how infrequently decision trees are used, I’d rather see articles extolling their virtues!
At least one law firm seems to get the message that working virtually benefits both the firm and lawyers. Creating Win-Win Flexible Work Arrangements in law.com (10/4/06) describes White & Case’s approach to fostering a flexible work environment: “Employers recognize that giving employees the flexibility to balance work and personal obligations can help increase the retention of experienced and valuable staff, assist in recruiting and diversity efforts, boost employee loyalty, productivity and collegiality, and enhance overall corporate image.” Telecommuting regularly is an option at W&C. The article describes organizational and cultural steps required to support flexible work environments.
Legal Tech Mashup
Web 2.0 has been in the news a lot. Mashups a bit less so. A Mashup combines data and services from multiple sources. Mashups to Re-Map the Legal Tech Market? in law.com (Oct 10, 2006) describes what is likely the first legal tech Google mashup: combining matter management data with Google maps to show the geographic distribution of cases. The article notes that other potentially useful legal apps of map mashups include claims tracking and fraud detection. I think that there is potential for law firm marketers to mashup their contact data with Google maps to better understand the actual geographic distribution of their key clients.
Will Law Firm Blogs Be Regulated as Advertising? reports that “New York is reviewing its lawyer advertising rules, and some of the proposed changes are making bloggers nervous. In trying to formulate rules to encompass everything from print ads to Internet pop-ups, a group of presiding justices last spring broadened its rules on lawyer advertising. The state has delayed implementation of any changes until after a comment period, which was extended last month. The changes would pertain not only to New York firms but, significantly, to out-of-state attorneys advertising in New York.” My personal editorial opinion: this is another example of ill-advised “consumer protection.” Isn’t the right question: “Do lawyer blogs help or harm consumers on balance.” My guess is that far more are helped than are hurt. Regulators ought to have empirical data to support proposed new regs and then a transparent method by which they weigh benefits, harms, and risks.
The current issue of Law Technology News has an excellent roundtable discussion on what lawyers must do to ensure that EED processing works. Not addressed however, is an equally interesting question: the duty of care for lawyers reviewing documents.
EDD Showcase: Worst Case Scenario (Oct 2006, free registration required) features a discussion among EED experts Michael Arkfeld, Craig Ball, and J. William Speros answering “Who is responsible when you delegate EDD and things go awry?” Arkfeld holds lawyers to the highest standards of due diligence concerning vendors. He argues that
“the attorney must be reasonably confident that the processing and searching methodology is sound and that the evidence was disclosed… Among the many things a vendor should do is to provide affidavits, testing data, etc., detailing how a particular piece of software processes electronically stored information (ESI)… This would also apply to search software: lawyers must use reasonable care to ensure accuracy… you need to include quality control standards that assure disclosure of all responsive evidence to the opposing side.”
Were Arkfeld’s approach applied to how lawyers designate privilege and responsiveness, I suspect that many lawyer review processes would fail. Let’s start by looking at a simpler task: objective coding of data such as author and date. Vendors do not promise 100% accuracy. Historically, accuracy much above 98% required double keying.
So how accurate is the lawyer review process? In my view, ensuring accuracy requires statistical techniques. Subsets of documents must be compared to the “correct answers.” The correct answer probably requires a team of experienced lawyers to agree on the designation for the selected documents. A statistically significant sample for each reviewer should be analyzed. The problem is, the statistics only tell you how bad the problem is - they don’t help fix it.
As law firms wake up to the potential problems vendors can cause, they should not shirk from the problems inherent in typical document reviews. The implications of this article for vendor management are startling enough. Perhaps a future roundtable will discuss “Who is responsible when lawyer review goes awry?” And I hope the answer does not end up holding vendors to a higher standard than lawyers.
Another live report from the Ark KM conference in Chicago about an innovative approach to search and workproduct retrieval. Session title: Linking KM & DM Systems at Skadden Arps. Presenters: Charmaine Polvara, Knowledge Systems Manager and Rudy DeFelice, CEO of Practice Technologies.
Skadden did not want to create a new interface for search. Rather, the firm wanted to use its existing document management system, but more efficiently. A long-standing goal has been to put more and better information in document management (DM) profiles, but without asking lawyers to do more. This approach means that lawyers get more from a tool that they already know well.
The firm chose Practice Technologies’ ACE Profiler to extract document information about each document to populate the profile automatically. The DM profile will have an Advanced Search button that will invoke the new profile data generated by the ACE energy. This solution will be portable to future upgrades of the document management system. And this approach allows searching across all the DM libraries, which has been a long-standing challenge because of the number of DM libraries and servers.
Issues with this new approach include how far back to go in time and deciding when a document is actually final and no longer a work in progress. The firm will, over time and with experience, adjust the business rules controlling this decision.
Here is background information on Skadden Arps provided by Polvara: 22 global offices with 1750 lawyers; 5 data centers around the world; 450 applications run on 300 Citrix servers (all lawyers access all apps via Citrix); PC Docs v.4 is the document management system (with an upgrade to DM 6 planned for next year); 34 Docs libraries, 15 Docs servers, almost 10 million documents; 280 document types; more than one-half of documents are categorized as “other” in the document management system; full-text search in Docs is impractical; attorneys crave a single-search access across all libraries.
Here is background on the profile data that is automatically extracted provided by DeFelice: document type, objective of document, practice area, parties and lawyers involved, legal topics, judges involved, controlling law, jurisdiction, clauses in the document.
DeFelice reports that Practice Technologies is considering other ways to use these data: other search tools (including full-text search), CRM (populate certain contact fields based on how companies appear in documents), populate a marketing database with more granular information on firm experience, experience database re experience with specific judges.
Posted at 3:12pm Central; full disclosure: I have a consulting relationship with Practice Technologies.
I’m still at the Ark KM conference in Chicago. Ali Shahidi, the CTO of Alschuler Grossman Stein & Kahan is presenting a fascinating empircial comparison of three work product retrieval solutions. This is another “real time” post.
The firm has 3 KM products in production: RealPractice (RP) for 2.5 years, WestKM (WKM) for 0.5 years, and LexisNexis Total Search (LNTS) for 2.o years. Before reporting on what Alschuler found, some context: The firm has one million documents, operates in a single location only; it is 60% litigation, 40% transactional. The empirical findings below are based on interviews and surveys the firm conducted over 2 years. Though Shahidi included Recommind in his presentation, the firm is not using it; since it is in my opinion really a different product category, I am not including it here. Here are the key work product retrieval empirical findings from the firm:
- Resources required to roll-out: RP easiest, followed by LNTS, then WKM
- Usability & Training: Little new training required for LNTS or WKM because of similarity to research interface; but the interface of RP is very easy to use.
- Practice Group Library: RP has it built in; LNTS and WKM do not. Lawyers like this feature
- Control of Results Sets: WKM provided most tools to fine tune which documents end up in the work product collection.
- Speed: Running on the same document collection and similar hardware platforms: LNTS and WKM are fastest
- Custom Taxonomy: RP is the only one with this.
- End User Interface and Design: RP is designed from scratch to optimize results list. RP results are much easier to use than results lists in WKM or LNTS. The latter two are more designed around the companies’ research tools.
- Relevancy: RP followed by WKM gave most relevant results. With RP, documents are displayed with actual document names (generated by the software), not the title in the document profile. This makes browsing results easier.
- Expertise & Cross Selling: LNTS is best because of Lexis ownership of Interaction (a CRM system)
- Work Flow Features: Lawyers like RP best. Once lawyers do a search and find a document or clause they like, they can save the result to a personal, practice group, or firm library. This allows maintaining the equivalent of “favorites.”
- Embedding Hyperlinks: LNTS
- Hyperlinked Cites: LNTS and WKM do better than RP
- Use by Litigators if no Citations: RP
- Use by Litigators with Citations: WKM and LNTS
- Transaction Document Searches: RP or WKM
- Transaction and Clause Management: RP
- Personal Library: RP
One interesting finding from this study was that relevancy ranking is different across the three products.
So, why did the firm buy 3 products? Half the lawyers use West and half use Lexis for research. The total cost to have all 3 products was not that high.
Originally posted at 11am Central, at finish of this session
This is a bit of an experiment. I’m at the Ark KM conference in Chicago now and am taking notes and will post in real time with
little editing. The current session (10am Central) is The Expanding Surface of KM by Brent Kidwell of Jenner & Block.
Kidwell takes a very broad view of KM. His team will not work on infrastructure but he suggests they will work on anything that has a practice-facing element. Kidwell offers a five-part definition of KM:
1. Mine existing data
2. Collect new data
3. Manage or manipulate the data
4. Deliver back the results
5. Refresh and update
Examples of recent projects at Jenner & Block. Some are traditional KM, some are not - that’s part of the point Kidwell is making that KM is not that well-defined:
- Marketing: This example is close to core definition of KM. Kidwell’s team helps collect the core information that marketing needs. For marketing to be able to find and mine data (e.g., find a blurb from a one-year old RFP) is critical. The firm has an internally-built tool called KMDocs; it allows easily foldering documents into categories. All contents is full-text searchable and browsable via a taxonomy. By putting all content into this system, marketing is able to find and re-use its content. Search results show all locations of where a document resides, which helps provide context to understand what a search hit is really about. So this is an example of “real KM” that mines existing data and manages them with a taxonomy. Other marketing support includes CRM and full-text search support.
- Docketing: The firm had a long-standing docketing system. Kidwell’s team decided to mine the data. First it had to be “groomed,” then it was made searchable. Now, users can, for example, find out colleagues who have argued cases in front of the same judge. Searches can be narrowed by judge, jurisdiction, type of matter. This serves as a form of experience location. This system also has marketing functions because it allows answering prospects about types of cases and jurisdictions worked in. Kidwell calls this traditional KM because it mines and then delivers existing data.
- Accounting: This example moves a bit away from traditional KM. Practice group leaders needed specific information to help them assign lawyers to matters. They need real-time information on who is busy, stratified by number of years of experience. Kidwell’s team developed a list of business requirements by talking to practice group leaders. No commercial product met the requirements, so the firm created its own tool. The tool also allows comparing each lawyer’s budget for hours against new requirements so that work goes to lawyers who need work.
- Legal Recruiting: The Recruiting department talked to Kidwell - they wanted to deliver recruiting information to law students digitally, on USB drives, rather than on paper. Why did recruiters go to KM? First, the recruiters knew KM would say yes. Second, the KM team has developers. And third, recruiting has data that they need managed and re-used. The KM team developed a “web page on a stick.” It includes detailed information on the firm. The information is customized for each law school that the firm visits (for example, bios of lawyers visiting that school and alum from that school at the firm). Kidwell puts this in the KM model: mine and re-use existing data. Perhaps a couple of years ago, we would not call this KM, but now most of us would call this KM.
- Summer Program Support: It’s hard to manage work assignments and evaluations for summer associates. The managers of the summer program wanted an online work flow management system. The development team went through a requirements definition, created wireboards to sketch out functionality, then built a system. The work flow includes : 1. Submit Request. 2. Assignment approved or returned. 3. Summer associate can review available assignments and request one. 4. Assignment approved (or not). 5. Evaluation process kicked off. The tool lets summer associates to put their work product into the system so that the actual work is sent to the right lawyers for evaluation and review. Kidwell has a hard time squeezing this into a traditional KM model.
- Professional Development: PD digitally tapes all inhouse education programs. The KM team posts all recording on the firm’s portal, along with accompanying materials.
- Litigation Support: Kidwell, in addition to KM, also manages the firm’s lit supp (and EDD) department. The volume of potentially responsive data in discovery requests is enormous. Kidwell says he cannot distinguish EED challenges from KM. Both involve large volumes of data from mulitple sources and the firm has to do something with the data to make it usable to lawyers. For EED, the firm has to collect, filter, de-duplicate and analyze the data. Lawyers then need to review it for responsiveness and privilege - is there knowledge in the documents useful to the case. So this is similar to creating a precedent library for a practice group. The shared challenges are: 1. Expansive collection efforts. 2. Large data volumes. 3. Processing to usable formats. 4. Mining for knowledge. 5. Providing a robust review environment.
My one immediate editorial comment is that this supports a topic I presented at a prior Ark conference - Is KM Morphing into Practice Support. Kidwell presented a range of what I would consider more traditional practice support than traditional KM.
Originally posted at 10:55am Central
InsideCounsel magazine (formerly Corporate Counsel) reports on 10 innovative law departments in what appears now to be an annual feature.
The 10 Most Innovative Legal Departments in Corporate America (Sept. 2006, PDF) focuses on new but simple solutions to common law department problems. This year, like last (blog post on 2005 top 10), 5 of the 10 involve technology:
- Pfizer’s anti-counterfeiting effort relies on a collaborrative system with a customized taxonomy.
- Kraft’s reversal of a long-standing policy against joint ventures includes “an online guide, which provides users with criteria Kraft uses to evaluate and approve joint ventures… It also includes a number of downloadable legal forms.”
- BMO Financial improves communication to business clients via a series of line-of-business specific “legal micro-sites” on business unit home pages to provide tailor-made information for each business.
- Lucent’s “knowledge management renaissance” is driven by a wiki.
- Verizon created an e-discovery team that gained control of the process, lowered costs, and improved consistency.
These further reinforce the conclusion I drew last year that law departments are increasingly sophisticated about technology and that good solutions typically do not require creating software from scratch.
Legal trade press articles have quoted BigLaw partners about the parade of ethical horrors of offshoring. They should read The Association of the Bar of the City of New York Committee on Professional and Judicial Ethics, Formal Opinion 2006-3, which finds that it is ethically permissible to use offshore resources, including lawyers in other jurisdicitions.
The opinion concludes that a “lawyer may ethically outsource legal support services overseas to a non-lawyer if the lawyer” supervises the work, preserves confidencs, avoids conflicts, bills appropriately, and (in some circumstances) obtains advance client consent. Please do not rely on this summary for legal guidance; read the opinion. In my view, this is good news for firms that want to send work offshore, including document review.
Hinshaw & Culbertson’s opinion summary states it does “not cover administrative legal support services.” I’m not a practicing lawyer, but my read is that the opinion does cover any work that a lawyer sends offshore, from clerical to substantive.
Thanks to fellow blogger Rob Hyndman for alerting me to the above.
Magic Circle law firm Clifford Chance has announced it will move 300 staff positions to India.
CC to transfer 300 jobs to India in bid to save Â£30m in legalweek.com (10/2/06) reports the firm is “set to move about 300 support staff jobs from the UK to India over the next four years, in a cost-cutting move that will save it in the region of Â£30m.” The initial focus is finance and IT staff but other departments are not immune. The firm will operate the support center itself, not outsource it.
With Orrick moving staff jobs to W. Va., Clifford Chance moving jobs to India, Milbank outsourcing functions to OfficeTiger, and DuPont offshoring document review, among other examples, where is the line on who does what?
These offshoring, near-shoring, and outsourcing arrangements demonstrate that that law firms should view as on open question who performs particular functions (employees or outsourcers) and where they are performed (onsite, offsite, near-shore, or offshore).
And as I noted in my prior post, working virtually is a growing trend. It is getting harder to argue that lawyers must show up daily at expensive downtown locations. Telecommuting anyone?
In this roundup: working virtually, law firm business intelligence, e-discovery, infrastructure, lack of alternative billing, and organizing a good conference.
When Working at Home Doesn’t Work: How Companies Comfort Telecommuters (8/24/06) in the Wall Street Journal reports: “Driven by employer real-estate cutbacks, commuting hassles and evidence that telecommuting can keep companies operating in disasters or pandemics, companies are embracing “telework” – a term that encompasses working not only from home, but from the road or satellite or client offices. Full-time employees who work from home at least one day a month rose 30% to 9.9 million between 2004 and 2005…” While many employees like telecommuting, not all do; the article reports on steps companies are taking to help employees adjust to working outside of conventional offices. See my prior posts on working virtually.
BI Tools: Pennies From Heaven or Highway to Hell? (Law Tech News, Aug 2006) is a good roundtable-style discussion on law firm BI. Adam Smith, Esq. has an excellent comment on this: Are You Thinking Statically or Dynamically? points out that the LTN commentators do not focus sufficiently on the changes that adopting BI software will foster in partner and firm behavior.
Techbooks announced on 9/18/06 the acquisition of Whitmont Legal Technologies.
Managing Outside Counsel
Corporate Law Departments Hiring More and Spending More in law.com (9/27/06) reports on the Altman Weil and LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell survey of inhouse counsel. Among other findings, alternative fee arrangements are much discussed but little used. That’s not a surprise, but nonetheless disappointing for BigLaw CIOs who are pushing their firms toward working more efficiently.
Law firm IT departments periodically consider the need for encryption to protect data. And at least one CIO I know thinks enryption is the eventual answer to records management challenges. It was therefore sobering to read Encryption Works Wonders, But Causes Its Own IT Headaches in Information Week (9/25/06) on the challenges of enterprise-wide encryption.
Organizing a Good Conference
OK, so this isn’t really about legal technology… I’ve organized many conferences so I found Bruce Allen’s blog post, The Changing Nature of Business Events, to be an astute observation about how to organize an effective conference. To his rules of thumb about creating a good conference, I add my own: make presentations truly interactive whenever possible. Encourage a real conversation among panelists and with the audience, don’t just have each panelist talk 20 minutes and then take Q&A at the end. True dialogue, especially if there is genuine controversy, is much more engaging and informative than talking heads. I added my “rule” before reading David Maister’s Some Principles of Presentations and Pitches, which makes a somewhat similar point.