To me, one of the biggest changes has affected the profession of Legal Records and Retention. We are coming up on the 10-year anniversary of the Enron scandal, and I get to come in to my office here in Houston and see the old Enron buildings through my windows (they are now owned by Chevron… but most Houstonians still call them the Enron buildings.) The 2001 version of legal records departments were a hodge-podge of clerks asked to maintain paper files, pretty much on an ad hoc basis. There were almost no retention policies that were in place (or if they were, they weren't followed.) With the passage of Sarbane-Oxley rules, and the need to lock down electronic records as the business world slowly migrated from print to electronic records, the need for highly-skilled Records Managers became a requirement for almost every major business in the US. Law firms were a little slow to the party (not a surprise to many of us), but are catching up, especially in the electronic records area. It will be interesting to see if the trend continues over the next 10 years, or if everyone gets lazy again, and another Enron scandal has to occur to get everyone focused again on the risks of not following records retention policies.
As always, we appreciate those of you that contribute your perspectives to our weekly Elephant Posts. We've placed next week's question below, so read on and see if you have a perspective you'd like to share with us.
I think it is good that citation verification is now online. Remember those bound volumes of Shepard's? Cite-checking a large brief could take hours as you had to check the bound volumes and all the updates. The online versions save you a lot of time and headaches, and provide links to additional material. Moreover, the software reads the brief, extracts the citations, and provides a report in a very reasonable time.
Search and integrating KM data
In June 2000, I started the KM initiative (joined a few months later by Joshua Fireman) at what was then Canada's largest firm. We wanted a browser-based KM repository, but nothing available on the market offered the sort of features that met our business requirements.
After an RFP process, we had a Toronto-based KM company build our software, which we launched in late December 2001. The search function was basic, as was the tagging feature, but simply having those two features put our application well ahead of whatever else was available at the time.
Now, enterprise search is almost a given, with tagging, commenting, and a host of other features available in commercially-available products, which among other things eliminates the risk in having to pay a developer to build from scratch.
If anything, the problem with search engines now (rather like for cell phones and video cameras) is that the number of features tend to overwhelm the "average" user. But at the end of the day, I'd rather have an overwhelming number of features than their almost total absence!
Just kidding...Word hasn't changed that much, but almost all the rest of the technology I use on a daily basis, from my netbook to my iPhone to various social media applications weren't even a twinkle in their inventors' eye 10 years ago.
Refusing to cave into technology in this one area, I still use a manual toothbrush, despite the fact that all of major hitters in the tooth brush industry now offer electric tooth brushes.
With floss and brush in hand, I continue to visit my dentist every 6 months. And I have very nice teeth.
And, according to Wikipedia, in January 2003, the toothbrush was selected as the number one invention Americans could not live without according to the Lemelson-MIT Invention Index.
The last 10 years have really changed many of my basic assumptions about work and life. Maybe the next Elephant Post question should be, what has stayed the same? In 2001 it was conventional wisdom that: real estate was a good investment, some companies were too big to fail, libraries were valuable public resources, if you passed the bar you could get a good job, lawyers billed clients on an hourly basis, computers could help you save time, you could get all of your work done if you were just more organized, the paperless office was on the horizon. you made your own coffee at home and read the newspaper, the future was better and brighter. Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating about the newspaper.
Next Week's Elephant Post:
In What Way Will The Law Firm of 2021 Look Significantly Different From Today?Pull out your crystal ball and peer into the future. Whether it is change through technology, change through outsourcing, change through consolidation, or any other type of change you can think of, what do you think will look significantly different between a law firm of 2011 and 2021?