2/28/12

Sympathy For The Attorney


At work I happily drink from the single cup coffee machine in the pantry, but that’s not coffee so much as a speedy caffeine delivery mechanism. On the weekends, when I have time to make coffee, I Make Coffee.  I put the kettle on to boil, then I pour a half a cup or so – I never measure – of whole roasted beans into my coffee mill, like the one in the picture to the right.  I turn on the radio to listen to the weekend news and begin to grind my coffee by hand.  The mill slowly crushes the beans which slide down the sides of the cup and fill the jar below.  If I’ve timed it right, I finish grinding the beans just as the water in the kettle comes to a boil.  I pour the contents of the mill jar into my gold filter and place the drip filter holder on my favorite coffee mug.  I slowly pour the hot, but no longer boiling!, water over the grounds making sure to maintain the appropriate level of water at all times.  If I do all of this just right, I end up with a cup of my own personal brand of sludge that fully caffeinates and satisfies.

This process is slow.  This process is labor intensive.  And I love it!  Yes, it marks me as a full-fledged coffee snob.  And most other people don’t even like my coffee, which makes it all the better.  You can argue until you are blue in the face that this ritual is a waste of time, that I would be much more productive if I threw a couple of scoops of store ground coffee into an automatic drip maker and set the timer to wake me up on Saturday morning.  And while intellectually I understand the words you are saying, I can’t imagine ever giving up my mill and drip filter.  Because it’s not really about the coffee, it’s about the process.  The addiction is to the anticipation of the reward as much as it is to the reward itself. 

I bring this up because in IT we often make excuses for why attorneys are so averse to changing their process.  “They’re stodgy and set in their ways.”  “They’re luddites who would rather do it the long way, than use the more productive technology.”  “They just don’t want to learn anything new.”  There are undoubtedly attorneys who fit those descriptions, but I wonder if we’ve been thinking about it the wrong way around.  It’s not that they’re stuck in their habits, it’s that they really like the way they do things.  And I don’t just mean, they’re comfortable doing it the way they always have, but maybe they actually derive pleasure from the process of practicing law.  When I waltz in with a great new product that I think will make their life so much easier, they hear “I’m going to destroy your process” and they react just as I would if you said, “I’m giving you a brand new single cup coffee machine for home!”  I don’t want a push button solution for my Saturday morning coffee, but a more efficient hand mill, a better quality filter, or a high performance kettle might be a welcome addition to my current process, making me more efficient without destroying the ritual that I have evolved over years of practice.

Maybe what I’m suggesting is just a semantically different way of looking at the issue.  And maybe all attorneys got their JDs to please their overbearing mothers, actually loathe the practice of law, and secretly long to be baristas.  But as I’ve seen one attorney after another reject terrific new products that I feel would greatly enhance their practice with minimal disruption to their process, I reflect on my Saturday morning coffee ritual.  What seems a “minimal disruption” to someone who doesn’t fully understand my process, might be an unconscionable alteration of the ritual to me.

On the other hand, if I go into a coffee shop and it takes them 25 minutes to get me a cup of coffee, and they charge me $50 because their process was labor intensive.  I don’t care how good the coffee is, I will probably not return to that store anytime soon.

Just thinking out loud.

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2/27/12

My Bizarre SWAG From The Texas Supreme Court Journal: "Trust God"

I am no stranger to receiving strange gifts in the mail from publishers. I once got a box full of used horse shoes in a Thomson Reuters box. However, the gift I just received this morning may be a bit stranger than even the horse shoes. In my renewal notice (actually, it was the third renewal notice) from the Texas Supreme Court Journal, there was a pen tucked into the envelope. On one side of the Pen it says, "DEO CREDE" and on the other side it says "TRUST GOD."

I double-checked the address again, and sure enough, it has come from the Texas Supreme Court Journal and is addressed to my office.

Now, I'm not one to criticize anyone's religious beliefs, but this type of gift does seem to be a bit strange coming from something that (at least on the surface) looks like a State Government entity. A bit of researching, however, shows that the publisher is actually 303 Enterprises LLP out of Georgetown, Texas.



I'm going to chalk this one up to someone accidentally placing a pen in an envelope, sealing it, and not noticing that there was a big bulge in the envelope when it was sealed. Either that, or someone is praying for my soul, and asking God to lead me down the righteous path, which includes sending in my renewal payment for this year's subscription.

Anyone else think of a good reason to put a "TRUST GOD" pen in with my renewal notice???


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2/23/12

How Do You Get Creative?

There's a significant focus in the legal industry these days to get creative when it comes to designing a better legal business and a better legal practice. Leaders recognize that imitating their peers' solutions may keep them in the game, but won't help them win. Everyone is trying to come up with something new, something different, something wow. And in the legal world where caution and realism abound, the starting point for any new idea should be as un-cautious and un-realistic as possible. Plenty of people will chip in to trim a bold idea into a realistic one, so you might as well start big. That way there's plenty left over after you're done trimming.

So I'm wondering: How do you get your mind out of the daily grind and into a world of new? What tools or tricks do you use to stretch your mental muscles? In short, how do you get creative?

One of my off-the-beaten-path sources of inspiration comes from Good Morning Silicon Valley, a daily email newsletter sharing all the juicy gossip in 'the valley,' from news about companies like Google and Apple to sneak peeks into new start-ups that are beginning to change the marketplace. The coolest part of this newsletter, though, is it's Off Topic section at the end, with links to creative, wild, and fascinating stories, images, and news. Today's links included a story about public art that's revitalizing downtown Detroit, a science report on how sleep evolved from two chunks to one, and a video of how 5 people with snowshoes and 3 hours to spare created a masterpiece.

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Doing the ABA TECHSHOW Thing

Recently Jason Wilson (of guest post fame) posted about his decision to attend TECHSHOW this year. He focused on the low e-discovery factor as a good reason to attend. I agree with him and echo the sentiment of feeling overwhelmed by e-discovery hype. Beyond that benefit, there are many other reasons to attend this year, not the least of which are the two sessions I will be presenting:
Yes, It’s Really Time for Value Billing
Jennifer Ellis will be co-presenting with me on this AFA topic. My intent at this session will be to impart nuts-and-bolts, practical advice on ‘How to” do AFAs. As a front-line law firm pricing guy I see all kinds of interesting AFA stuff every day. Some times I think my job changes daily. So I will share insights on how firms and lawyers can get their arms around this interesting and exciting topic. AFAs are truly driving change within the practice. So this should be a fun and educational session.
Day-to-Day Encryption
Scott Preston, Recovering CIO, will be co-presenting with me for this tech session. OK – on the surface encryption may sound exceedingly boring. Securing client (and firm) data is an old and noble duty of lawyers. But when you peel back the layers, this topic approaches the same dynamic changes as seen in the AFA world. Securing information is very much a moving target. So the day-to-day aspects of this challenge are constantly shifting. Just this week someone sent me an article on third party encryption of cloud-based data.
Finally – just ahead of TECHSHOW is the LexThink.1 program. This event gives presenters 6 minutes (sound like a familiar time segment?) to present on One Big Idea. Matt Homann puts this program together and it is always fun to attend. The presentation format also includes 20 slides that automatically progress at 18 second intervals. Topics and speakers are chosen by popular vote.
If you are so inclined, you can vote for my session. But you need to do so by midnight February 24th. Speaking of deadlines, February 24th is also the early bird registration deadline for TECHSHOW. If you plan on attending – and I suggest you do – make sure you sign-up now and take advantage of up to $200 in savings.
Hope to see you there!

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2/21/12

ACC Brings the Future to its Members or The ACC KIIAC System Goes Live

My recent series on Staying Relevant suggested bar associations as a potential source of innovation and change in the industry. On the heels of that suggestion, the bar association of clients (a.k.a. the ACC) is announcing their new Contract Advisor system, developed in partnership with KIIAC.
Most readers know the 3 Geeks are fans of KIIAC as a next-generation KM tool. Well Kingsley has really out-done himself with this partnership. This new member benefit basically brings the full power of analysis KM right in to the hands of ACC members. Starting today, members will have access to ten document templates, which are contracts and agreements that in-house counsel would use on a regular basis. Kingsley has taken volumes of sample documents for each document type, analyzed them and made standardized versions available. Not only that, members can view alternative clauses within each document, enabling them to custom build documents, utilizing any clause components they chose. Finally, members can take documents they have received and compare them against the standard document types to see if any clauses are missing or highly variable from the standard.
As I understand it, new document types will be added over time, increasing the value of the service.
This is truly a next-generation, change-enabling member benefit. This is a quantum leap ahead of how things are currently being done. These are not forms being occasionally updated by someone you don’t know. This is dynamic content based on a wealth of knowledge that evolves as it is used.
Normally I would say check it out, but you need to belong to ACC for that to happen. So maybe I should say, join the ACC. Or maybe talk to your bar association and get them to follow suit.
Well done ACC and KIIAC.

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2/20/12

The Marketing Cyclone--Is Your Law Firm Caught Up in the Whirl?

I read an interesting article in the AMA's interview with David Edelman of McKinsey and Co. about moving away from the concept of the marketing model as a funnel.



Because of the new nature of marketing due to online commerce, Edelman proposes an alternative marketing model that they call the "Consumer Decision Journey."



Working much like a clock, and beginning at 9 p.m., he suggests that customers:

  1. Consider
  2. Evaluate
  3. Purchase
  4. Post-purchase experience
  5. And, if it is a successful experience, they will begin a loyalty loop; if not, they will begin the "consider" stage again.
Well, I couldn't help but think that if you considered this model in 3-D, it looks a lot like a cyclone. And the less you are considered, the more chaotic your marketing efforts must be.

So how does this model apply to as professional services providers and, specifically, law firms?

Yes, lawyers are not bought online. But, believe me, I know from first-hand experience, they are looked at online. And in this day and age, I can certainly tell you who a firm's best marketers are just by looking at their web site.

Think of a law firm's point of purchase to be when that firm is given an RFP. Then think about the post-purchase experience as how the potential clients react, respond, evaluate to the law firm's response.

If a law firm is doing it right, they are in the Loyalty Loop and they are causing some serious damage in the courtrooms/boardrooms.

If not; well, all hell just broke lose.

Like Toto heard, "we're not in Kansas anymore."

Are you listening?



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Flattening Content: Why Legal Publishers Will Shun Customization

Image [cc] HorsePunchKid
[Guest Post from Jason Wilson, VP at Jones McClure Publishing, and blogger at rethinck.]

On her blog, Dewey B. Strategic, Jean O’Grady took direct aim at large legal publishers—Thomson Reuters, Reed Elsevier, Bloomberg, and Wolters Kluwer—and urged them to customize their database offerings at the practice-group level rather than taking a firm-wide approach to content access. She cautions that the approach—trying to be all things to all practice groups—will only lead to misery. To survive the “sole provider wars,” she says one must be willing to be flexible.

I understand her point, but it isn’t modern. Flexibility isn’t where data is headed, whether you’re a large legal publisher or a small one. Flexibility is actually just another word for siloed data.

Think of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets compared to the universe of Harry Potter writings, including fan fiction), and data isn’t supposed to be siloed any longer. All of the current thinking about the matter suggests so.

Think of Jeff Jonas’ “data finds the data” line? Siloed data makes discoverability too difficult, and we (legal researchers) don’t like difficult.

Think of WestlawNext as an example. The whole point to the system is to pour everything into one container so you can find it all; no assumption can be made that any one thing will answer your question, so the system must search it all and show it to you.

In fact, the publishers can argue that they themselves don’t know the relevancy of all data within their possession, so it only seems logical to display it all, with facets, of course, and excellent algorithms to parse the data. Lexis is headed in this direction as well, although taking an entirely different approach with HPCC. I can’t say that Bloomberg or Wolters Kluwer is, but they may be.

But let’s draw this down a bit and focus on analytical content, which is what I think O’Grady’s post was driving at.
“There are lawyers who conjure apocalyptic consequences at the thought of losing their favorite resource. I suspect that this is generational characteristic.
Older lawyers who started out conducting legal research in print treatises and then moved online tend to have a stronger sense of a legal publisher’s brand and the reputation of specific products which I don’t see in the post-Google generation of lawyers.”
Her observation here, I think, is meant to scare publishers into customization. A sort of, “hey, if you think your analytical brand is sacred, think again, because the post-Google generation doesn’t care.” But if this is what she means to do, I think it misses the mark.

Legal publishing is counting on the post-Google generation of lawyers to free the market place of selling individual titles, jurisdictional packages, product groups, and the like. The lawyers aren’t after Chisum on Patents. They’re after “the answer,” which in their world can only come from everything (or at least a lot of different resources). Large legal publishing is moving in the direction of becoming the Comcasts, U-Verses, and Direct TVs of the world. You will be offered packages of programming, which will include things you watch and things you don’t (how else to do you fund indie titles?).

You will choose a sole provider, and it may be by region or firm size, but it will happen because the differentiator will be what I call “The Triple A's”:

  • the applications
  • the algorithms, and 
  • the answer
That’s how legal publishing is going to compete for the next decade or so, because right now, there are no Hulus, Netflixes, or Google TVs that are capable of competing with them. There are no alternative channels, unless you actually start talking about how the small legal publishers (the Ganns, James Publishings, Jones McClures, and the like) do compete, and how firms should utilize them.

I look at the web now, and all the interests divvying up the properties and not letting anyone else in: Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, to name a few. These aren’t companies who want to share, or if they do, it will be on their terms and the price will be steep. There is no reason to think the legal publishing market will be any different.  And why should it be? If Thomson Reuters believes it can build a better sandbox for you to play in, then it will take the risk because the upside is enormous. And it did. The post-Google generation seems to agree with the decision as well. Whether they are willing to pay for it post-graduation is, however,  a different question.

All of this sounds bad for the consumer, but I would actually argue that it isn’t, at least if it is implemented properly. Flattening analytical content and charging a single monthly or yearly rate will actually be better for the consumer in a few important ways. First, you’ll be exposed to more content and more possible answers to your questions than if you were buying by the slice. The system is designed to avoid your ignorance of sources. Sure, you may be really smart and know which one you want, but not everyone is you, and in O’Grady’s post-Google generation scenario, the lawyers don’t know or don’t care to. Second, publishers will recognize that “data” means up-to-date data, and editorial processes will evolve to make sure the content is accurate at the time you look at it. Print titles and most electronic titles don’t reflect this temporal correctness now, but they will, and it will be more than colored flags or stop signs by cases; it will be an accurate answer. Finally, publishers will recognize that a key feature of digital content is the ability to add material because there are no longer restrictions—what we used to call book bindings and PPI (pages per inch)—to limit growth of the content. And we can do this without an additional cost to the end user. Everything is geared toward more and better answers, which is really just a way of saying we want to make you feel smarter, sooner.

I wish I had a suggestion for how you might approach the future, but I don’t. The next three years are going to be ugly, particularly as large legal publishing tries to figure out how to satisfy you and the great unwashed (i.e., non-legal) masses. But that’s a subject for another post.


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2/17/12

Law Firms: Will You Be gTLD into Spending $185K on a 300-page Application?


Yessirree. A 300-page application and $185,000 will buy you your very own "dot-brand".

What am I talking about? The latest craze in domain names--new generic top-level domains (gTLD). So companies like Nike and Coca Cola can now own .nike, .coke, and all of their permutations.

So of course I think to myself, what crazy law firm is going buy .law or .lawfirm? Well, they aren't of course.

According to Lisa's Rule of Legal Technology, most law firms do not engage in any new technology until it has been implemented in Corporate America for at least 5 years.

I predict the first buyers will be someone like Thomson or Lexis. They will likely buy their own brands but may make a bid for these more generic terms.

Okay, so setting aside the immediate issue of purchasing one of the new gTLDs, let's look at some potential legal issues.

Who exactly decides who gets what gTLD? An organization called The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)--an international non-profit organization created in 1998 to create policy on the Internet's unique identifiers. According to their articles of incorporation, filed in California, ICANN shall
operate for the benefit of the Internet community as a whole, carrying out its activities in conformity with relevant principles of international law and applicable international conventions and local law
Well. Hmm. Call me suspicious, but let's say an entity decides to buy ".twinkle" who decides who gets it? ICANN.

So what if 3 people want to buy ".twinkle": a twinkle maker, a composer of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and someone who has social networking site named "twinkle.com"?

According to ICANN, the trademark owner trumps a non-trademark owner; an open network will win over a private one; and a distributor of twinkle sites to geo-specific twinkle sites will win over a private twinkle site.

So in my scenario, I anticipate a good, hard fight. And don't get me started on potential antitrust and cyber-squatting issues!

HA! And this world will never be free of us lawyers. NEVER, I say!

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2/16/12

Bore me,no more! - Why A PK is the answer...

Image [cc] mastermaq
Yesterday, the Special Libraries Association, Competitive Intelligence Division hosted a free webinar on how to give a Pecha Kucha (PK) presentation. The webinar, sponsored by AuroraWDC, was entitled: Pecha Kucha: Learning the PK Presentation Method to Maximize PowerPoint Effectiveness and can be viewed here for those that missed it.

The presentations are all related in some way to competitive intelligence, but the real message is in the medium - I couldn't resist the need to invoke Marshall McLuhan and get some Canadian content in this post. The basis of the PK presentation, is 20 slides in 20 seconds, heavy on the images and light on the text. The idea is that you can say all you need to say about a given topic in roughly 6 minutes and 40 seconds. It is a quick, fun and entertaining way to present a topic.

The PK, or other similar formats like Ignite are a great way to avoid the traditional death by Powerpoint presentations.

As a panelist in yesterday's webinar (my first PK presentation ever, by the way), here a few tips in how to put a PK together:
  1. first and foremost, have fun with it; 
  2. choose a topic you know something about so it will be easy for you to chat about it; 
  3. keep a script, but don't be wedded to it; 
  4. find a series of images you would like to look at; and 
  5. tell a story, have a beginning, a middle and an end in the
  6. 40 Lawyers as we well know, are busy people.
They like to get their information in quick easily digestible pieces, sound bites and bullet points. The PK format does exactly that. It is an ideal format for delivering client current awareness, or even for associate/articling student training. I think it is a brilliant format and one I will certainly use going forward.

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Is Your Law Firm Pinterest-ed?

There has been a ton of buzz on the latest social web site, Pinterest, and a number of folks have been asking me if this is a viable site for law firm marketing.

I say "yes".

After studying the site and reading Jessica Roy's "5 News Organizations To Follow On Pinterest"on MediaBistro.com, I think law firms--particularly large law firms--are in a prime position to take advantage of the site.


Here the basic features of Pinterest:
  1. Pins: any image or video can be pinned and descriptions can be added. For law firms, one way to use this feature would be to post images of your attorneys.
  2. Boards: virtual pin boards are collections of pins. 
  3. Following: you can follow the boards. For law firms, follow your clients, law schools, bar associations and legal periodicals.
  4. Repinning: the equivalent of retweeting or recommending, capture your firm's mentions on others' boards under your own. I could foresee this happening if a bar association posts a video of one of our lawyers' speaking or receiving an award.
  5. Likes: similar to "liking" on Facebook, there is no capture on your virtual pinboard, just a notification that you recognized the posting. Again, if a colleague, client or recruit has an image that has achieved a success, it is an easy way to acknowledge them.
Are you ready to get started? Here are a few ideas to get you going:
  1. Showcase your task-force teams
  2. Put together a collection of case study stats and infographs
  3. Create a virtual pinboard of your offices, scenic views, amenities and art.
Have some other ones? Let us know in the comments below.

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2/15/12

The Broken Twig Analogy

In my recent series on Staying Relevant, I coined a new phrase: Precedence is a legal philosophy, not a business model. The thrust of this phrase is that lawyering skills are better aimed at practicing law instead of running a business. In recent conversations this same thought was being discussed around a different problem.
I occasionally will rib Greg about ‘running lists.’ He receives requests like this all the time at his firm. One of my golden rules is beware the request to run a list. Lawyers seem to think they need to find completely defensible high-ground before they make any decisions. This is manifest in the list request. Before they start calling clients to talk about fees, they need one more list of clients, industries, fees, fee types, realization rates, leverage, …. You get the idea. Often in these situations, these lawyers never pick up the phone and call the clients. Instead they keep requesting lists until the reason for running the lists becomes moot.
Now – this behavior on its own represents lawyers being lawyers instead of business owners. Admittedly you do need reasonable information before making business decisions, but you will never find the high-ground lawyers crave. But the subject of this post is actually about an extension of the ‘running lists’ model of business development.
Recently a colleague at another firm had run yet another list and shared it with a law firm partner. The partner, in typical fashion, found an anomaly on the list. It was one record that didn’t make sense to him. “Why is this on the list?” was his response. “If this record is on the list, then the entire list must be flawed in some way and entirely suspect.”
Spotting flaws and exploiting them is a basic lawyer skill. It is how they attack both litigation and deal terms. Lawyers who are good at this skill are usually the successful ones in court and at the deal table.
However … in the list world, firms will always have anomalies for two reasons. One – you want to be over-inclusive in creating lists many times to make sure the high-value records are not missed. And, two – law firm data sucks. The old days of an endless flow of work encouraged very poor data capture habits. Therefore all firms suffer from severe GIGO syndrome (garbage in – garbage out).
So – here comes the analogy – finding a suspect record on one of these lists and dubbing the list worthless is like spotting a broken twig on a tree branch and declaring the tree dead.
My advice to lawyers running firms and building books of business: Look past the broken twig. Find the healthiest branches of the tree and focus your energy there. Instead of trying to eliminate risk, focus your business energy on opportunities with the highest ROI. Stop focusing on the trivial outliers.
Socrates may have made a great lawyer, but I wouldn’t want him running my firm.

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2/14/12

Antagonism is a Two-Way Street


Image [cc] noluck

[We are very happy to have Guest-Blogger, Jeffrey Brandt, who gives us the CIO perspective on the relationship between Law Firm Libraries and Law Firm CIO's.]

After my highlight of his post “The Law Firm Library & CIO Relationship” in the PinHawk Technology Digest Greg, was kind enough to reach out and ask me to write a guest post rebuttal.  Who can refuse an offer to guest post on 3 Geeks?

Greg said a few things in his post that I took exception to. First he said that "It isn't that CIOs are purposely antagonistic toward the library...."  Then he said that the CIO’s approach to dealing with the library (and other law firm administrative units) is "Lead, Follow or Get the Hell Out of the Way."  I would like to think that those descriptors describe very few of my fellow CIOs.

It is only natural that Greg would be biased from the librarian point of view.  As a veteran CIO I suppose it is quite safe to say my bias is from the opposite direction.  But I was also one of the first CIOs to have the law library report to me in the early 1990s, and as such, maybe I have a special affinity for the library.  What I said in my brief highlight was that Greg had missed something - the part about the library being antagonistic toward IT.

I first want to say that I have been very fortunate in my CIO roles to work with some very great librarians in my 25+ years in legal.  They’re smart, professional and I’d work with all of them again in a heartbeat.  And since I am sure Greg will make some comment on who holds the power, I want to note that I’ve worked with librarians as peers, almost/semi peers and as direct reports.  A good relationship isn’t a function of direct reporting.

I can recall the days when many librarians wanted little to do with electronics.  When the library began to report to me, I was shocked by how little was known about the new CD-ROM and online technologies.  I would think and say, “How can you not be interested in these things that will fundamentally change the way you work?”  Over generalizing some, I could say they were a very insular group, their only care and concerns were for the books and the center-of-the-firm, showcase space.

I can still recall a rather hostile crowd of librarians at the beginning of a presentation I gave for the AALL way back in 1995, and the many librarians who warmed up during the presentation and came up to talk to me and ask me questions.  Greg’s point, “there are many firms out there, big and mid-sized, where the library leadership simply doesn't have a good relationship with their CIO” rings an old bell with me.  But I would have thought we would have progressed a bit further in 16 years.

I always appreciated my relationship with the librarian.  The last thing I want them to do is remain insular.  In my last role, one of the first things I did was bring the librarian into my weekly meetings with my IT and eDiscovery reports.  I have worked with the librarians at my firms to successfully launch KM programs, to improve the document management systems, and to help consult on various aspect of information management.

There is a lot more in common between IT and the library than you might think.  Let me take just two examples.

Let’s take the library itself.  A showcase place that, rightly so, librarians take a lot of pride in.  The physical books being purchased are lessening, losing out to on-line research.  Many administrations want to reclaim the space and repurpose it for non-library uses.  On the IT side, how many firms still have computer rooms?  Many of those showcase computing facilities have been placed in secondary space in secondary cities or completely outsourced to a co-lo provider.

What about billings?  It used to be that some libraries turned a small profit.  At a minimum, hard-working librarians were able to make sure billable revenue covered the non-billable research that was conducted. Most all of that has vanished as clients today refuse to pay for any electronic research.  On the IT side it was telephone charges.  Complex billing and cost recovery systems used to be the norm, capturing every phone call made and placing them on bills.  One of the first things clients refused to pay was telephone charges, and many firms were forced to take it as pure overhead.

Too many librarians remain insular today.  They do their “library thing” and not much more than that.  But this is not 1995.  Not even 2005.  No group can remain insular and isolated.  Improved process and technology have pulled all the groups closer together.  Look at the evolution of finance and records.  A few librarians have stepped out to work with knowledge management teams, marketing and other areas of the firm.  More need to do this.

Greg says CIOs are interested in Security/Privacy, Mobile Technology and a whole laundry list of other things.  That is true, those certainly are topics that a CIO needs to be interested in.  Some, I might argue, should consume more of the IT Directors time, not the CIOs.  But I think a good CIO is really all about advocacy, enablement and forwarding the business strategies.  That advocacy and enablement is across all practices - administrative and legal.

Greg’s views and mine converge when he talks about engagement and education.  But again, it should be a two-way street.  As librarians you need to be aware of what changes are happening around you.  So if you’ve got a CIO who is antagonistic (purposefully or not) toward the library and are not sure how to proceed, send him or her to me and we’ll talk.  The library, the librarians and the services you provide are too important to waste in a hostile relationship - whoever’s fault it might be.

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2/13/12

And Now We Have Staff Cuts in the Legal Services Market

Image [cc] publik16
As the former access to justice / pro bono guy for Utah, I have a long term view on issues surrounding legal services for the poor. So it is with sadness and a bit of frustration I write this post.
Funding for access to justice generally comes from a handful of sources. The first is federal funding - with some state funding mixed in here and there, the second is from IOLTA (Interest On Lawyers' Trust Accounts), the third is from foundations and the fourth is from individuals, primarily those in the legal market.
If any one of these sources is compromised, then competition for the other sources greatly increases. One source already greatly reduced has been IOLTA, since interest rates have been pushed very low by the Fed over the past 5 or so years as an economic stimulus tactic. Foundations suffered a bit from low rates and the downturn as well. So legal services for the poor was already in a struggle for survival.
And now the coup de grace - Congress cuts legal services funding by 14%. The WSJ reports that cuts will result in predicted losses of 1,226 people for legal services agencies.
The usual thinking from politicians is that the legal profession bears the responsibility of serving the legal needs of the poor. So the answer is more pro bono hours. Unfortunately, pro bono hours have also suffered at the hands of the downturn.
I suppose if one searches, they can find a logic to the legal services segment suffering with the rest of the legal market. The problem with that thinking is that the ranks of the poor are swelling now. So it's not a lack of demand driving a reduction in supply.
In the end I am not sure where to take this post. I could appeal to a sense of justice to get people invigorated to take action. But given the dire situation, I am not sure where one would point such enthusiasm.
Thoughts?

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2/10/12

The Law Firm Library & CIO Relationship

Image [cc] USDAgov
Later this month, I will presenting with Scott Preston (lovingly referred to around here as “Geek #4”) at the ARK Group Conference focusing on law firm libraries and information services. Initially we were going to discuss the CIO/Library relations, but after discussing it for a while, we decided to go a bit broader and bring it back to an IT/Library relations. The change, however, left me with some of my preparatory notes on the initial topic, and not wanting anything to go to waste, I decided to use these as a basis for a blog post. After going to the CIO Forum at LegalTech a few days ago, it was clear to me that most of the CIOs there are focused on the issues of:
  • Security/Privacy
  • Mobile Technology
  • Legal Project Management
  • Keeping e-mail and the network up
  • Industry Trends (mainly Cloud Storage)
  • Consumerization of Technology
  • Training Users on New Technology
  • Dealing with Legacy Data Systems
  • Technology that can be Outsourced
On the surface, you would think that the CIO is just too overwhelmed to think about the library, but you’d be wrong. CIO's do think about the library… and many think that the library needs to be refocused. The anecdotal stories I hear from CIO's when they talk about the library tend to run in these categories:
  • The Library is a space (that can be better allocated)
  • The Library is about books
  • I rarely talk to the librarians
  • When I do talk to the librarians, all I hear is "blah, blah, blah, library catalog, blah, blah, blah."
It isn’t that CIOs are purposely antagonistic toward the library, it’s more that the library just isn’t on their radar. On the rare occasion the library does surface to them, it is usually with a problem the library has that the technology team needs to fix. It would seem that the CIO's approach to dealing with others on the Administrative side of the house falls into that theme of "Lead, Follow or Get the Hell Out of the Way." This isn’t just the approach CIOs take with the library, it is the approach they take with all law firm administrative departments. Of course, I'm sure many of you reading this will counter that you have a great relationship with your CIO, and maybe you do… if so, congratulations, and thank you for making the library profession look good… but there are many firms out there, big and mid-sized, where the library leadership simply doesn't have a good relationship with their CIO… some of which don't realize how bad their relationships are because the CIO has dismissed them and they haven't realized it yet. This type of relationship makes the library profession look bad. For those that have this type of relationship between CIO and Library Services, how do you fix the relationship? I would think that one way to approach situations like this is to: Engage the CIO and educate him or her on the high levels of work performed by the library in a way that explains both the talent level needed to perform these jobs, and in a way that plays off of the pain-points that the CIO addresses (managing risk for the firm, managing projects, dealing with the consumerization of information, training, etc.) In many ways, the pain-points of running a library and all of its subsidiary divisions (records, conflicts, CI, BD, etc.) parallels the pain-points of a CIO. The library is more than just a place. There is value in the services provided, but that value has to be displayed in a way that others understand it. Once a CIO understands that value, and can relate to it based on their own experiences, then the relationship can grow. It is up to the leadership within the Library to educate the CIO of that value, because a CIO that thinks your department has limited value is very dangerous thing to your career as a leader of a law firm library.

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2/9/12

Bloomberg Law Snags DLA Piper's US Business

I just received an announcement from Bloomberg Law that they have just inked a deal with the 25 US offices of DLA Piper to bring Bloomberg Law to the desktop all of the 1,400 attorneys in those offices. This is by far the biggest coup that Bloomberg has had to date within the Big US Law Firms. It is actually exciting news to hear, and should cause a few wrinkles in the business of legal publishing.

Right off the top of my head I have a few questions that pop out on this deal.
  1. Who lost DLA Piper's US business?? (I'd find it very hard to believe that a firm, even of DLA Piper's size, would want to carry Westlaw, Lexis AND Bloomberg on their annual budgets.)
  2. If DLA Piper did dump one of the other vendors,  what resources does DLA Piper lose in the change? Does making a deal like this for the US office affect future deals with legal vendors outside the US?
  3. Did the deal with BNA come into play on the negotiations of a US office-wide agreement?
  4. How are attorneys going to adjust to the new platform? I know DLA Piper has had Bloomberg in a more limited access role for a while now (in fact they were one of the first, if not the first firms to jump on the Bloomberg trial when it rolled out.)
This announcement will make a number of firms stand up and take note. There is a lot of talk about BigLaw firms going with a single-vendor, or at least a primary vendor with another smaller deal with the other. It's apparent that the folks at Thomson Reuters and LexisNexis are taking notes as well, and attempting to set up barriers to going down this route (such as no longer offering pay-go or credit card access for one-off research requests.) With a legitimate third party in play, it may shake up the game a bit and make for some interesting times ahead for both the law firms and the legal publishers.

I'm hoping to learn the answers to the questions above. As I do, I'll do some follow-up posts with what I learn. I applaud DLA Piper for testing the waters on this idea, and look forward to seeing if other firms follow suit. Things just got interesting!

Here's the press release I received:


BLOOMBERG LAW ANNOUNCES AGREEMENT WITH DLA PIPER FOR LEGAL RESEARCH
Bloomberg Law to Provide DLA Piper’s US Lawyers with Legal Research and Business Information Platform

New York - Bloomberg Law, the legal research system from the world leader in data and information services, today announced an agreement with DLA Piper, the world’s largest global business law firm, to provide high quality, cost-effective legal research for all its lawyers throughout the United States. Bloomberg Law's integration of legal research with the Bloomberg industry and financial information relied upon by corporations and investment institutions throughout the world, provides lawyers with a competitive edge in understanding their clients' businesses.

With DLA Piper's enterprise-wide adoption of Bloomberg Law, the firm's 1,400 US lawyers practicing in 25 cities will have unlimited access to Bloomberg Law from their desktops. Bloomberg Law’s legal research system integrates comprehensive legal content, company and financial information, and news all in one place, including Bloomberg's world-class proprietary news, company and market information. Bloomberg Law's all-inclusive, transparent and predictable pricing means that every user has the same unrestricted access to the content in the Bloomberg Law databases.

"We are deeply gratified that a firm of DLA Piper's caliber has chosen Bloomberg Law for its lawyers throughout the United States," said Bloomberg Law Chairman Lou Andreozzi. "We look forward to working closely with DLA Piper as we continue to develop the resources to help law firms better manage their research and costs so they can concentrate on adding value to their clients."

Don Jaycox, DLA Piper’s Chief Information Officer, said, "Law firms need to cost effectively deliver great client service in a highly competitive environment. In addition to being experts in law, our clients have made it clear that they also want us to understand the business challenges they face on a daily basis. Bloomberg Law's unique combination of legal research, company information, and news helps our lawyers stay abreast of a wide array of information affecting our clients.  Plus, Bloomberg’s inclusive pricing model helps us manage costs in a predictable way."

About Bloomberg Law
Bloomberg Law is the real-time legal research system that integrates innovative search technology, comprehensive legal content, company and client information, and proprietary news all in one place. This collaborative workspace also includes a suite of new tools for more effective legal analysis and more productive client development. For more information, visit BloombergLaw.com.

About Bloomberg
Bloomberg, the global business and financial information and news leader, gives influential decision makers a critical edge by connecting them to a dynamic network of information, people and ideas. The company’s strength – delivering data, news and analytics through innovative technology, quickly and accurately - is at the core of the Bloomberg Professional service, which provides real time financial information to more than 310,000 subscribers globally. Bloomberg’s enterprise solutions build on the company’s core strength, leveraging technology to allow customers to access, integrate, distribute and manage data and information across organizations more efficiently and effectively. Through Bloomberg Law, Bloomberg Government, Bloomberg New Energy Finance and Bloomberg BNA, the company provides data, news and analytics to decision makers in industries beyond finance. And Bloomberg News, delivered through the Bloomberg Professional service, television, radio, mobile, the Internet and two magazines, Bloomberg Businessweek and Bloomberg Markets,  covers the world with more than 2,300 news and multimedia professionals at 146 bureaus in 72 countries. Headquartered in New York, Bloomberg employs more than 15,000 people in 192 locations around the world.

CONTACT
Jill Goodkind
+1 212-617-3669
jgoodkind@bloomberg.net

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A New LPM / AFA Tool on the Market

As much is Greg is hungry for free stuff, I am hungry for new technologies that will help ease my pain relative to alternative fee arrangements (AFAs) and related, emerging legal project management (LPM) challenges. So I am pleased to announce a new option on the market that may ease that pain.
Back in the Fall, I had spoken with the ERM Legal Solutions Team and gave them some input on direction their product might take. They listened.
ERM announced their updated offering heading into LegalTech. As I was otherwise committed, I did not attend LegalTech this year, so I requested a web demo after the show. What I saw gave me hope.
One of the challenges of bringing project management (PM) concepts to lawyers is carefully and diplomatically inserting these ideas in to the ways lawyers already practice. I have previously noted that imposing PM at full-force on to a practice would likely end in failure. To that end, ERM’s product is both flexible and highly integrated with other firm systems. You can build highly detailed, hour-by-hour plans, or you can easily go with a fixed fee price, decide what leverage you will use, drop in some time keepers and have a plan in place. The system also connects with your DMS, time and billing, CRM and other applications. This integration is reflective of the thinking that went in to this application. The ERM system is not another silo of knowledge.
On the AFA side, the system can be a quick, easy way to develop a budget. And it can give you a high-level profitability analysis. It also has a template feature, which I typically view as a mixed blessing. Templates are great tools – it’s just that no one ever wants to be the one who builds and maintains them. However, over time, I would at a minimum expect templates to emerge from various budget building efforts.
Admittedly I only saw a brief demo of the ERM system. However, its direction is promising. I plan to keep an eye on this offering and hope to take a more in-depth look at it in the near future.
Note: Ron Friedmann also posted a review on ERM here.

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2/8/12

In Praise of Failure


It’s axiomatic that one learns more from failure than from success.  After all, success doesn't immediately demand reflective analysis. If you are successful, it's clearly because you were brilliant and made all the right decisions (just ask any bailed-out investment banker).  If, however, you fail, you are likely to go through a review of your own limitations and weaknesses and be all the better for it the next time.  Failure and perseverance is a recurring pattern in many, if not all, “successful” peoples' lives.
What is true of successful people, is also true of successful companies, departments, committees, research groups, and teams.  No group of people gets it right the first time, every time.  They fail.  A lot.  Successful groups learn from their mistakes and try again, or they realize the folly of their endeavor and move on to something more productive, where they will probably fail yet again.
My goal is not to sing the praises of perseverance in the face of ineptitude, but to strongly advocate for embracing your inner loser.  Accept the fact that you stink, that most of your ideas are drivel, and that you are going to be a failure most of the time.  It's not Sisyphean perseverance that sets the wildly successful apart from the rest of us poor shlubs -- we all know people who are persistently bad at what they do, and have no hope of ever being successful – no!, what sets the successful apart is the remarkable speed at which they fail.  You see, the problem, my friends, is not failure itself, but Epic Failure.
The relevant definition of epic being “of unusually great size or extent”, however, in this particular case, I’m going to add “duration” to the definition.  Epic Failures are failures that take too long to happen.  Quick failures, on the other hand, are merely steps on the way to success.
Take for example, the IT project. A typical IT project begins with a dozen or more people in a room to discuss “the problem”.  Everyone in the room, entered the room, with a good idea of what “the problem” was already, but the first meeting is a lengthy discussion of the intricacies and various facets of “the problem”.  Invariably, the project team leaves that first meeting with a larger problem than they had when they entered and the long slough to finding “the solution” begins.
As an alternative, imagine a Skunkworks team – a small group of no more than four, technically capable, energetic, and empowered individuals, who are handed problems and asked to find solutions.  The primary goal of this group would be to fail quickly.  Find a solution, test the solution, present the solution to those who will ultimately use it, discover why their solution is inadequate, and then start again with knowledge gained from their failure.
In a month, the Typical Team will have determined in excruciating detail, exactly what they think they need to look for in a solution, while the Skunkworks team will have understood through a series of quick failures that they actually need something else entirely.  The Typical Team may come to the same conclusion in about six months if they hurry.
There may be projects that require large groups of people performing in depth analysis of the problem and every possible solution, but let’s be honest, this approach has less to do with finding solutions, than it does with avoiding the appearance of failure for as long as possible.  

Recipe for success: 1) Fail small.  2) Fail quickly.  3) Fail often.

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Staying Relevant - Part 8: How Can We Change This?

image [cc] Mike Licht
In Part 7 of the series we noted the backward looking nature of the legal profession and how that handicaps lawyers needing to embrace change. In this final segment of the series, a bit of hope is brought to the table in the form of bars.
The Bar's Role
Saving the best for last - bar associations are in the best position to drive change in the legal profession. Via their CLE groups, publications departments and member services options, bar associations are in a position to upend the Paradigm of Precedence. First and foremost, bars can lead by example.
Some specific examples of what a bar might do:
Actively adopt new technologies. Turn websites in to e-commerce, interactive destinations. Utilize cloud-based technologies in business operations. Enable mobile access to all services. Embrace social media platforms.
Partner with vendors who can bring technology and business knowledge to members in affordable ways. Be the one who stays on top of change on members’ behalf. Take some chances and invest money in technology relationships.
Include forward-thinking components in CLE programs and publications. Many topics can benefit by including forward looking technologies and business ideas. Ask speakers and authors to include those in their topics. Maybe require them as appropriate (e.g. Annual Conventions).
Provide CLE directly on adapting to change. With the right topics and speakers, CLE programs directed at meeting these challenges will have a strong appeal for members.
Provide practice management services to give members more direct advice and services.
Push to revamp the Bar rules. Too many rules are built on the billable hour model with a guild mind-set. Think about the innovators among the membership and make sure bar rules are not overly inhibiting them. As an example, check out the Legal Services Act in the UK. It goes so far as to allow non-lawyer equity participation in firms.
In Closing
Every facet of the legal industry is under intense pressure to change: every institution and every participant. No one is protected from the compelling market and technological forces. Surviving in this industry, let alone prospering, means shedding old ways and actively embracing new thinking.
I coined a second phrase in my 1999 presentation by applying precedence thinking to operating a ski boat. The phrase: We’re driving the boat by watching the wake. Our perfect storm presents an opportunity for the profession to turn around, look out over the bow, and face the future head-on.
So I’ll add yet another phrase to my holster: Precedence is a legal philosophy, not a business model.
My final suggestion: Become a voice for the Paradigm of Change.
Thank you all for following this series. It was fun and interesting to write. It made me think a lot about how all of the forces are coming together in a new picture. Although I can't predict the future, this exercise gave me a less-fuzzy view of what's in store for the legal profession.

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2/7/12

Survey: Got Embedded Librarian??

Image [cc] Andrew Feinberg
In preparation for the ARK Group Conference on Best Practices & Management Strategies for Law Firm Library, Research & Information Services, we are conducting a survey on the topic of embedded librarians. This short survey simply asks the size of your firm and if you have embedded librarians, or if you do or do not plan on using embedded librarians.

Marlene Gebauer will use the survey for her presentation on February 23rd, and we will post the results here on the blog a couple days later.

If you're a law firm librarian, please take a minute to fill out this survey.

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2/6/12

Staying Relevant - Part 7: Looking Backwards

image [cc] Flicker Clicker
Part 6 of this series demonstrated how the pressures for change are being felt by all corners of the legal market.
The Paradigm of Precedence
The name of this series is taken from a presentation I gave back in 1999 to a group of bar leaders. At that time I coined the phrase, The Paradigm of Precedence. To illustrate this concept, I suggested lawyers are driving the boat by watching the wake. Lawyers are deeply trained in looking at the past to determine the present. The future only becomes interesting once they know today’s precedence. A running joke in the industry is that whenever an innovative concept is proposed, the first question asked is: Are other firms doing this? This paradigm, this way of seeing the world in the rear-view mirror, has become a significant handicap for the profession.
Prediction
Lawyers left to their own devices will hold to the Paradigm of Precedence. They prefer to wait and see what precedents develop in the market and then attempt to copy them. The big problem with this tendency is that new breeds of competitors will take the opposite approach, preferring to innovate ahead of the market, actually setting the new precedents. And once these providers are established in the market, it will be very difficult for lawyers to displace them. Lawyers in this scenario will be forever playing catch-up in a market that is gaining speed ahead of them.
Attempts to fight this tide with lawsuits over UPL will have little impact. Fighting in court will further expose how lawyers are not actively working to lower costs and improve their services. The public (including legislatures) will see a guild fighting to retain its monopoly when other providers have come in and met the public's needs at lower costs. For instance in the LegalZoom example, this company is getting legal help to thousands of people who were not getting it before. Lawyers will rightly argue some people will be harmed in this environment. These lawyers will essentially be arguing that it is better to not have this access to justice than to allow any potential for harm from non-lawyers. I think the recent success of LegalZoom demonstrate the likely outcome of such fights.
A Bit of Hope
As with any community, there will be some participants who shed the Paradigm of Precedence. After one or two times of being beaten in the market, these lawyers will embrace new thinking, employing new business structures and innovative technologies. Our best hope will be encouraging and enabling these agents of change.
Although my prediction is admittedly a bit of doom-and-gloom, I hope to be proven wrong. Lawyers are the best people to provide legal services. They have a noble obligation to protect the rule of law. If the provision of legal services primarily falls to those without this duty – the rule of law will suffer.
Part 8 - the final in the series - provides some hope and ideas for how the profession can embrace change, focusing on the role of bar associations as logical and likely agents of change.

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2/3/12

Tumblr Goes Head to Head with Facebook, Selling Highlighted Posts for $1

Just minutes ago, Tumblr announced its answer to Facebook's featured stories: "Highlighted Posts", but with one major difference.

You gotta pay for that post: one whole dollar.

Well. As of January 2012, Tumblr has 39.5 million blogs--and that's just blogs; not posts--that's a lot of mullah.

And, for those who are on the crafty side, you get to make a fun little customizable sticker, to boot.

Watch out, Facebook. Your big old bad IPO self is getting called out by the new kid on the block!

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Staying Relevant - Part 6: It’s Not Just Lawyers

image [cc] WilWheaton
In Part 5 of this series we talked about next-generation technologies that have the potential for real change, but mean computers will replace lawyers.
Beyond Private Practice – Some Examples
Law Schools
What They Don’t Teach Law Students: Lawyering,” A title from a November 19, 2011 article in the New York Times. Deeper in the article, “The fundamental issue is that law schools are producing people who are not capable of being counselors,” says Jeffrey W. Carr, the General Counsel of FMC Technologies.”
Law Schools are under heavy attack to change as well. With student loan debt now surpassing credit card debt and with law graduates unable to actually practice law, many even within the legal industry are turning on the law schools. This debate has reached a fever-pitch. Law students are now suing their schools for not preparing them for the realities of the legal market. And law schools are suing the ABA over accrediting standards.
Law Librarians
Long held as a sacred space within a law firm, now law libraries are convenient cost cutting opportunities. Librarians are forced to defend their value and try to maintain staffing levels in order to effectively respond to lawyer research requests. Even clients have joined in this attack, specifying which time keepers are allowed on their bills, many times excluding valuable librarians.
Legal IT
Those in the legal technology space are now under an all-sides attack. Clients want to know specifically which tools a firm is using to be efficient. Firm leadership expects IT to bring every innovation to them, but then declines to fund much beyond basic upgrades. Partners want to cut what they perceive as less-utilized systems (a.k.a. the ones other partners use). Administrative leadership expects that no system will ever go down. Individual lawyers want to switch to iPhones. And IT gets to support all of this. Meanwhile, they are competing against the entire market to retain top technical talent.
Judges
While fighting with every other government agency for funding, they must stay on top of all the new technology, as every day some case is filed over its use or abuse. Meanwhile, they haven’t seen a decent raise in years.
You get the picture …
Part 7 reveals the biggest challenge facing the legal profession - its deep, traditional emphasis on precedence.

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2/2/12

CIO's Mission: Keeping the Lawyers Engaged

Image [cc] lemurdillo
I had the privilege of being on a panel with three amazing people at LegalTech's CIO Forum this week to discuss how consumerization of technology is affecting the law firm technology strategy. Phillip Hoare from Wilson Sonsini really made me think differently about the topic because he came at the scenario about 180 degrees from where I assumed most CIO's would be. His approach was to focus on the positive and downplay the negative. Although I don't have a direct quote, his motto for dealing with the different ways in which a lawyer wants to use technology, or the different types of technology was basically this:
My job as CIO is to make sure that the attorneys are engaged in the practice of law, and we will support whatever platform or device they wish to use in order to keep them engaged in their practice.
I have to say that I was surprised to hear this type of approach because most of the time at these types of conferences the focus is on what goes wrong, rather on what goes right. In fact, I made a few comments to others that the theme that ran through most of the conference was the biggest problem with law firm technology was that lawyers didn't stay in the "box" that the CIO or CTO designed for the firm. Issues of potential security risks, or the possibility of commingling of person and firm data, or the duplication of data into cloud servers or personal devices required shutting down the ideas of bringing in foreign technology that hadn't been fully vetted by the firm's IT department.

Now, I'm not living in a bubble when it comes to how technology, law firm IT Departments and law firm Partners interact. There is a delicate balance of doing what is right, what is ethical, and what is feasible… and that these three prongs are typically being challenged as new technologies are introduced. I just wanted to say that it was refreshing to hear someone look at the challenges in a way that stresses the need to just make it work in a way that is beneficial to the attorney's ability to work in a way that he or she finds most effective, and less about drawing battle lines of what will and will not be supported by IT. I'm sure there are many challenges that face IT Departments that take on the "keep the attorney engaged" approach. However, I think that it is the better approach for IT to be flexible in supporting the way the attorney wishes to work, rather than attempting to make the attorneys work the way IT wants. As I mentioned during the panel, if IT starts throwing up roadblocks to the way attorneys want to work… you may find the attorneys have great skills in working around those roadblocks.

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How Would You Transform the Legal Industry?

What resource (technological or not) would you invent to transform the legal industry?
This question isn't about what you think will transform the industry, but rather what you would, if you were all-powerful, create to do so.
Share your thoughts. And don't just step outside the box, get so far away from it that you can barely see it with a telescope.

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2/1/12

Staying Relevant - Part 5: The Real Scary Technology

image [cc] tsukubajin
In Part 4 of this series we discussed why firms avoid next generation technology and why that needs to change.
Replacing Humans
To look deeper in to what the future might hold, we will now explore two next-generation knowledge management (KM) technologies. I refer to these as analysis KM tools, as they extend beyond technology that organizes things, and become technology that performs true analysis functions.
LexisNexis has developed an analysis KM product that analyzes knowledge from multiple systems and makes decisions about the content. The Matter Experiences Module of the Lexis Search Advantage product can analyze time entries, documents and other records to determine 1) what type of work a matter is, and 2) what type of tasks a time entry includes. In our profit margin world where we need to understand the costs of providing various services, such a technology will have tremendous value.
Although it sounds straight-forward, most lawyers do not know what type of work a random matter includes. The reason is they never cared about that data point. Instead of labeling a new matter as Patent Litigation, it was called “Company XYZ vs. ABC Corp.” So firms are unable to search and retrieve by matter type. If you don’t know what a service is, you will not know where to begin to understand its cost.
But even when you know the type of matter, you will only be able to see the overall fee. This knowledge has some value. But being able to break the work down into relevant phases and tasks, lawyers will understand their costs at a much more actionable level. Firms can now know how much time is spent on a given task-type for a specified type of work. An additional benefit of having technology perform this coding work is that the results will be consistent and therefore of higher quality and value.
Another, perhaps more interesting and immediately useful analysis KM technology comes in the form of document analysis. KIIAC (pronounced kayak) has a system that analyzes volumes of documents. To illustrate its ability, here is a step-by-step description of it in action:
  1. A user submits 300 different examples of an Agreement into the system. KIIAC analyzes and then returns its best guess at the structure of an Agreement based on the content of the 300 examples. This structure includes a listing of all clauses and their relationships.
  2. Then a lawyer reviews the suggested clause structure and makes adjustments to it.
  3. A second analysis is performed using the finalized document structure. KIIAC then returns an analysis of how variable the language of the 300 examples is. This includes an identification of the most standard language for each clause.
  4. KIIAC can then generate a new document draft using the most standard, non-negotiated language.
The result is actually an identification of the standard way Agreements are written. This is a task humans could not perform.
But wait … there’s more:
5. KIIAC can then compare yet another Agreement against the identified standard, see where the new document is different and if it includes all the relevant clauses.
KIIAC is displacing humans in this process. In traditional practice, lawyers pull a few recent examples of a document type, review them all in an attempt to cull out deal-specific language and then produce a ‘clean’ draft to start the next deal. KIIAC is able to perform the same tasks, but do it using hundreds or thousands of examples. And it does it in a matter of seconds instead of hours. I might add KIIAC does a better job. If the recent examples chosen by the lawyer do not include a specific clause, it may well not end up in the clean draft. KIIAC, in its more comprehensive approach, is far less likely to miss anything. And unlike a lawyer, it can analyze a new draft, say from the opposing party, and in seconds know if it anything is missing from it.
I refer to these new technologies as analysis tools primarily because they perform the tasks of humans. This is a qualitative leap in the type of technology used by lawyers. More importantly, it is technology with a direct impact on profitability. In comparison, an upgraded version of Word has very little, if any impact on the bottom line.
Lawyers need to seek out these types of next generation technologies and find ways to implement them profitably within their practices.
Part 6 in the series looks at segments of the legal market beyond private practice and the forces of change acting on them.

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