Monday, December 13, 2004

Speaking of mergers...

Pretty soon, everything will either be owned by West or Lexis, with Lexis just announcing their buyout of Interface Software today. Forget 31 flavors, we'll be confronted with the question of 'Would you like chocolate or vanilla?' As a consumer, I have yet to see real benefit come from any of these recent acquisitions and truly question the value they bring to anyone other then the two parties involved. Perhaps Lexis will be able to offer more content to contacts in InterAction through their Company Dossier product and with Factiva moving from OneSource to Lexis later in 2005, Dossier will have even more to offer.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

What do mergers really mean to the industry?

Is merger mania still alive and well? The recent UK/US merger creates one of the world's largest law firms with more than 2,700 lawyers. This merger came on the heels of the Piper-Gray Cary deal in October and got me thinking about how mergers affect those other then the lawyers.

In the legal technology vendor community, there has been mass consolidation over the last few years, which has mirrored the trend for law firms to consolidate and merge. The vendor consolidation, in my opinion, has yielded mixed results as far as the benefit to the law firms who purchases these products and services. One thing is for sure, there are fewer options then ever for several major product lines and a couple companies are bordering on a monopoly at the rate they are going.

While law firm mergers look great on paper and in the press, they invariably cut jobs, many in the IT arena. I know of several very talents CIOs that are out of work simply because they were the smaller of two firms merging.

While law firms and technology vendors can't worry about these issues, a by-product of mergers and consolidation is less choice and job opportunities.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Southern California Regional Event

On December 16th, ILTA is sponsoring an event on Intrusion detection and Wireless Networking Security. The meeting is being held at Manatt in West LA. For more information or to RSVP, please click here.

Friday, December 03, 2004

ILTA (formerly known as LawNet) Announces Dates for Their Annual Meeting

One of the most eagerly awaited announcements has come. ILTA just announced today the dates of their annual conference and in conjunction with that, the hotel hosting the event (Scottsdale JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort and Spa) is now accepting MEMBER reservations (no vendors yet). The conference, ILTA 2005: An Empowering Experience, will be held August 22 - 25, 2005.

If you're a Member, please consult the recent 'LawNet/ILTA News Briefs' e-mail sent by Randi Mayes for more information on making reservations.

If you're not a LawNet member, I would encourage you to check out their website. The organization is by far the largest for law firm IT professionals in the world and their annual conference is usually the talk of the industry.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

More on knowledge repositories

In an earlier post, I talked about a webinar detailing the pros and cons of various storage/retrieval methods for knowledge. It got me thinking about it in more detail and as a result I wrote a brief article on the topic.

At the end of the day, we have a hard enough time getting lawyers to contribute/use any form of KM system, so why make it any harder than necessary?

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Hummingbird loses three clients while others progress to rollout

While on the topic of DMS, I found this article in the UK magazine, LegalIT, very interesting. That along with numerous posts on various listserves, leads me to believe that Hummingbird is losing marketshare. While probably not all that surprising to most, this article is one of the first where firms openly talk about their problems with Hummingbird.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Full text searching of iManage or Hummingbird

Is it just me, or is it too much to ask that a DMS would actually allow you to do enterprise-wide full text searching without choking? I recently got a demo of iManage v8, which purports to address this issue by taking advantage of the Verity search engine which they use. Unfortunately, it still doesn't do the basic things like search result ranking that many need. Firms have been relegated to acquiring full blow versions of Verity, Autonomy, Recommind and other 100k+ products to meet this very basic goal. Hopefully, either the vendors themselves will address this, or a 3rd party tool will come to the forefront that firms can buy, which doesn't cost six figures to address this problem.

Does anyone out there have any success stories to share?

Friday, November 19, 2004

Guiding Principles of Knowledge

When brainstorming with my colleagues came up with a list of things that we felt were the guiding principles of knowledge. When coming up with knowledge initiatives we tried to stick to these guiding principles in our designs.
  1. Knowledge is information in context.
  2. Information should be easily shared with and collaborated on by clients
  3. Knowledge is: what, how and educational
  4. We should learn from our mistakes
  5. We should formalize and disseminate the things that work
  6. Ease of access and use is part of the value of knowledge
  7. Practice group and local/regional boundaries should be removed
  8. Knowledge is to share, not to horde for personal use
  9. Capture knowledge when it is fresh -- know when it is stale
  10. Principles should not compromise activity/results
  11. Focus should be on supporting the core Business strategies

Thursday, November 18, 2004

After Action Reviews

Every firm should implement After Action Reviews as a tool in which they do business. The concept is relatively simple and easy to implement. Some groups like the United States Army honed it into a science. Wonder how come the Army send Apache helicopters into a n Iraqi city and get them torn up and later bungles an assault into Falluja, but does not repeat that same mistake at a later date? The answer to this is AARs. Officers up and down the ranks in each engagement wrote reports that told their version of what happened after each action. They informed central command what went wrong and what went right. Central command pulled these reports together and created common themes to repeat, things that went well, and to never do again, things that went poorly. They then got these things out into everyone’s hands. Not just bad things are AARed. Everything is. The Army is in a constant state of learning and tries very hard not to make the same mistake twice and even harder to make sure everyone knows how to do the right thing based on experience.

So what is an AAR? In its simplest form it is a wrap-up of an action that just occurred. It asks three simple questions and then demands follow-up. The first question sets the boundaries to the discussion, what are we reviewing? The second establishes a positive light on everything, what went well? The last delves into the mistake, what could have gone better? Asking these questions correctly and keeping the meeting from dissolving into a forum for he said she said complaints can be difficult, but can be done. Here are some tips for conducting this kind of review:
  • Use a third party that is familiar with the process, but wasn’t directly involved.
  • Time Box long discussions.
  • Do not allow personal attacks or he said she said situations.
  • Stick to actionable items.
  • Keep everything positive by asking negative questions in a positive way.
  • Leave rank or hierarchy at the door.
  • Get everyone to contribute by directing questions to the quiet ones.
Once the review is done it is time to take action. Items that are actionable within the groups should be assigned and followed up on. Someone should review what is happening in the field to pout best practices in place and to eliminate mistakes that are constantly made. While there are many places that AARs can be inserted into the day to day life of our attorneys, but a few obvious starting points are mentioned here:
  1. Business Development is an obvious starting point. It is amazing to me that I could interview attorneys after losing a deal and they could easily state to me what the client did and didn’t like about them. Yet, these same attorneys didn’t realize that other attorneys lost similar deals for the same reason and took no action to improve in areas that caused them to falter. So, add in AARs after any client facing meeting, presentation, RFP, and Win/Loss. Note what the client likes or liked and be cognizant of what is not resonating well. Now take action at the group level that did the review and pass off the report to the firm. The firm can review these AARs and look for themes like, our clients think we are great Tax attorneys, but think we don’t have great Banking expertise. The action might be to do better in the future to show to clients that we are great at Banking also or if we really aren’t great at Banking plug that gap. Learning why you win or lose business will only strengthen your company.

  2. Next you should implement AARs around Matters. Use a simple phase based or meetings based approach. Break down the meeting using the simple 3 questions and review how the matter phases went under the same model. Things that are working well that can be reused should be moved off to best practice for other groups to learn from and working poorly should be addressed if they can be. Remember, you don’t have to wait until closing to do this. AARs are not Post Mortems that are done at matter closure. They are active meetings that happen continually and help projects move forward.

  3. Finally, develop a pool of people who are good at moderating AARs and create incentives for them to do more of them across the firm. Have them own and guide the process. Have them report trends that they are seeing to executive leadership. Most of all give them the tools and support they need to make this successful.
For more information on AARs and how to do them successfully check out these links: and

Monday, October 25, 2004

A favorite quote

Just when you feel like the cycle of projects never ends, keep this quote in mind. I'm not sure who was first to use it,

"The rewards for doing something well is the opportunity to do it again."

Friday, October 22, 2004

Stop-gap disaster recovery for e-mail

Very few things come along that are 'no-brainers' as far as technology goes, this product is certainly one of them.

Many firms are still trying to figure out what their disaster recovery/business continuity plans will entail. Hundreds of thousands (in some cases millions) of dollars are involved in implementing these systems and it take months to get them on-line. In the interim, most firms are still very vulnerable to even the most simple power outage or other type of disaster.

This is where MessageOne comes in. Their system should not be intended as a full-blown DR solution, but certainly something that everyone should look at for providing almost 100% uptime on e-mail. At the LawNet annual conference recently, I heard the Technology Partner of an AmLaw 100 firm say, 'After seeing this, I would be committing malpractice if I didn't show it to my firm's Management Committee." Pretty strong words.

For more information, contact Russell Sachs:

Vice President, Legal Solutions
(212) 812-5017

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Voicemail discovery, the next wave of liability

Now that law firms and corporations are just getting their arms around e-discovery and how to implement the proper retention policies, voicemail is entering the scene. What is making voicemail such an easy target for discovery is the advent of technology which allows the use of the internet as a means of distribution, most commonly voice-over-IP or, voIP. With additional technology, people can receive voicemails as e-mail attachments and can even have voicemails transcribed into text automatically. Once in e-mail, a voicemail's life expectancy is much longer and creates yet another feeding ground for those looking for the 'smoking gun'.

A article posted on the Lexis web-site gives a very good primer on the issues surrounding voicemail discovery.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Outlook as a knowledge hub

Last week consulting firm ii3 hosted a session discussing the merits of using Outlook as a respository for knowledge. It was refreshing to hear two sides to the issue, including some perspectives from outside legal. I'm not sure if they recorded the roundtable discussion, but here's the link to the webinar,

One of the more interesting opinions came from Theresa Grote, CIO at Dinsmore Shohl. While she acknowledged Outlook as a primary tool for lawyers, she was wary of depending on Exchange to act as a central repository, essentially letting technology drive her decision to move more towards Sharepoint. Her firm has done some nice things with various integration points to Sharepoint, but I still wonder ultimately if Outlook is not the place where all roads will eventually meet.

More postings on this topic from Ron Friedman's site,

Friday, October 15, 2004

IT staffing ratios and budgets

Just in time for everyone's budget planning, LawNet published a staffing and budget survey this week. LawNet reports that the results will be posted in early November and available at no charge to its members. Hildebrant used to conduct a staffing and budget survey, but for the last few years they haven't and there hasn't been any good benchmarks to work from. Recently, Baker Robbins & Co. Solicited the AmLaw 250 to participate in a similar survey, but was asking for $2,500 per firm. What I liked about the LawNet survey, which the BRCO survey didn't have, were questions that allowed the responding firm to 'define' what functions fell under IT and assign FTEs to each function. This was intended to address the common problem of comparing apples to apples, not just in terms of the size of the firm and number of attorneys, but what functions one IT staff was handling versus another. LawNet plans on distributing the survey results in a summary form, but also in Excel to allow for further analysis and comparison.

When the results are in at the end of October, I'll create a link to it.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Blawgs v. Traditional E-Newsletters

I recently looked at a product designed for lawyers to start their own blogs, and initially thought it might be a hard sell to larger law firms and that the tool was really more geared towards smaller firms and solo practitioners. But, after looking at how some law firms sends out its newsletters, this quickly became a no brainer (at least to me). Many firms send out newsletters once a month/quarter, are either sent within the body of an e-mail or as a PDF and are typically 10-20 pages long.

This creates several problems.

  1. In many cases, the information is already dated by the time the newsletter is sent.
  2. As we all know, e-mail is a tool that no one can live without, but is also becoming an information glut. News items sent via e-mail on a monthly basis are often not read.
  3. 10-20 pages is a lot to digest in one sitting.

A blog offers several advantages to the traditional e-newsletter. The anti-spam benefits alone are great and this is a major consideration if your firm's marketing department sends out thousands of e-mails a month. The length is a much more digestible for the audience of the typical marketing e-newsletter. The information is 'just in time' and current as opposed to monthly/quarterly newsletter. The target audience can also decide how they want the content delivered, via e-mail updates, RSS, or simply visiting the site every so often. Getting newsletters only via e-mail is like the morning paper, just because it comes at 6:00am doesn't mean that's when you want to read it. These various delivery options are a great feature and free up the e-mail overload. Because the content is on the Internet, it's indexed by search engines like Google, making the growth of readership almost organic. We've experience exponential growth in readership and enjoy high rankings on Google for many of our blogs. We can analyze traffic patterns, see who our visitors are, what the most popular 'posts' are and other classic website traffic monitoring reports. This type of site analysis is not possible with traditional e-newsletter formats. In addition, our marketing department isn't spending days creating the newsletter in Quark, saving it to PDF, only to have lawyers make last minute change upon last minute change. Posting is simple and fast.