The September issue of Inside Counsel presents its annual “IC 10”, 2010 IC 10 Winners Exemplify Innovation, winners for law department innovation. In this post, I summarize and comment on some of the winners. 

Sharing Information Internally and Externally with Legal OnRamp

Two winners this year created systems with Legal OnRamp [click here for my posts on Legal OnRamp].

FMC Technologies: Reinventing the RFP describes how FMC General Counsel Jeffrey Carr simplified the RFP process to select new counsel. The law department

“discarded a 56-page RFP it previously had used and instead invited law firms to fill out a one-page, yes/no questionnaire posted on Legal OnRamp, a social networking site aimed at in-house lawyers and their collaborators, along with one page of FMC’s engagement terms and a description of its pay-for-performance system—in all, three pages.” [FMC also used Twitter to select the finalists.]

Cisco: Making Connections explains how Cisco lawyers use OnRamp Exchange (ORX) by Legal OnRamp to “share information and correspond with each other… [and] pool resources and learn from one another.” Information shared includes sample documents, contract clauses, and substantive legal discussions within the law department.

Commentary: In one of my earliest blog posts (2003), I wrote “I have thought for some time now that if law firm Extranets do succeed, they will sow the seeds of their own destruction” linking to my presentation The Future of Technology in Law Practice. I’ve always thought that in-house counsel who work with multiple outside counsel would not want to use multiple systems and would end up owning a system that law firms would need to feed. Legal OnRamp increasingly looks like it will be that platform.

I also note that Cisco, which is a tech company, chose to buy versus build its intranet / wiki. The Legal OnRamp ORX product seems well suited for that purpose.

Appropriate Staffing

DuPont: Paralegal Aid describes how DuPont “created the DuPont Paralegal Utilization Model as part of the DuPont Legal Model” to expand the use of paralegals, who now work across multiple practice areas.

Commentary: That’s music to my ears and consistent with the ideas I set forth in my 2008 blog post, The Right Resources to Solve Legal Problems, which argues that GCs must consciously decide how best to staff matters. It’s clear that much work that lawyers do can be delegated to skilled but lower-cost resources such as paralegals or legal process outsourcers (LPO).

Matter Intake and Management

Healthnow New York: On Track describes Healthnow’s building an “interactive Legal Request Tracking Database, which went live in January 2009.” It sounds like a matter intake and management system with e-mail alerts to clients and lawyers.

Commentary: I applaud any law department that systematizes how it operates but am surprised that the legal market and a legal publication considers a system like this innovative. At one time, I might have described such systems as ante to stay in the game. Today, I thought you’d need such a system to even walk into the casino much less stay at a table. I am also curious what drove Healthnow to build rather than buy commercial off the shelf software.