Attending the annual ILTA conference last week was the proverbial “drinking from a fire hose.” I’m left mulling strategic information technology decisions for large law firms, specifically the fate of document management and federated search. 

My entirely unscientific “buzzometer” noticed Interwoven’s announced integration with federated search tool Vivisimo, Starlaw’s Enterprise Information Management system, and Microsoft’s SharePoint. (Full disclosure: I won a telescope prize from Starlaw for attending a demo.)

All are promising but potentially complicate long term technology planning. Life was once simple: 2 widely used document management (DM) systems and full-text search that did not work for the most. Now, StarLaw appears a viable 3rd entry for BigLaw DM. Plus many expect SharePoint (perhaps with add-ins) to be a viable DM soon. On the search side, Recommind plus a host of other products offer federated + enterprise search. And, though not high on buzz last week, don’t forget the adjacent product category of specialized work product retrieval tools such as West KM and RealPractice.

If a firm expects eventually to migrate to a new DM, what does that mean for the choice of federated search? Do you buy federated search from a DM vendor or from a stand-alone company? What’s the best combination of tools to help deliver knowledge management services? What will the interface of choice be in 3 years – Outlook, a custom web interface, SharePoint, or other? The answers are not yet clear but for BigLaw CIOs, it’s great finally to have a range of choices. Of course, with choice comes the risk and anxiety of making a decision!