Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Law Firm Inc. Recognizes Blogging Trend

Business Week magazine ran a May 2, 2005 cover story on blogs, Webster proclaimed that the word 'blog' was the most looked up term in 2004, so it was only a matter of time before blogging make its way to the cover of Law Firm Inc. Vickie Spang, our CMO, and I made the cover. Good thing I asked them to airbrush some extra hair on for me :)

The article in print provides an overview of what we've done at Sheppard Mullin, but also a very nice summary of other law firm's blogging initiatives. The online version is a bit more condensed. It does include some good quotes from partners at our firm who've been involved with blogging as well as law firm blogging veteran, Kevin O'Keefe, CEO of Lexblog, whom we use to design and host our blogs. If you're just starting out with blogging, or want to understand what's involved to get a blog up at your firm, this is certainly a good primer to get you started.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Knowledgeline makes Technolawyer's "BlawgWorld 2006" list

From the Technolawyer site, "According to various studies, approximately 80,000 new blogs launch every day, including dozens of legal blogs (blawgs). No one knows how many blawgs exist, but whatever the number, monitoring them would amount to a full-time job.

For this reason, we've published BlawgWorld 2006: Capital of Big Ideas, a TechnoLawyer eBook designed to take you on a journey through 51 of the most influential blawgs."

Knowledgeline is one of the 51 blogs profiled in this eBook. This is free if you're subscribed to Technolawyer, click here for more information.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Richard Susskind's Slam on US Firms

Richard Susskind recently authored an article in the Times Online titled, Backroom boys lead 'positive disruption'. In the article, he briefly talks about US firms general lack of interest in innovative technology. He correctly points out the historical void of client pressure, cultural indifference and huge profitability which leaves US law firms basking in the glow of their own success and not motivated to change direction or embrace new technologies. Probably my favorite quote from the article,

"Without hunger for change, without the worry of being left behind by the competition and, vitally, without clients clamouring for new forms of service, it will be business as usual for the US legal behemoths for many years yet. They will wring every last cent out of the increasingly unsustainable practice of hourly billing and will steer well clear of innovative IT."

While I regard Mr. Susskind as one of the most gifted and brilliant thought leaders on Legal IT issues, I do feel he's a bit short sighted in his view of US law firms on the whole. In the article, he points out one US law firm (Davis Polk & Wardwell) that he thinks demonstrates client enabling technologies that are innovative. While DPW may be the firm with the most visibility in the UK, there are many more state-side who have shown the desire and dedication to client-facing, innovative technologies. Ron Friedmann's excellent source (while slightly dated) lists many examples of UK firms implementing interesting technology, but also a drove of US firms. A few examples:

  • Baker & McKenzie's implementation of BakerMAKS a KM system with document assembly capabilities.
  • Bryan Cave's No Trade Zone helps obtain accurate, up-to-the-minute legal advice and opinions regarding specific international trade transactions.
  • Dykema Gossett automates commercial real estate lending for all parties involved with Streamloaner.
  • Foley & Lardner's web-based document drafting for IP, varied resources for HR, patent application software
  • Littler Mendelson online compliance training.
  • Mayer Brown's Securitization. Net service which offers resources for structured finance industry
  • Morgan Lewis & Bockius' HSRscan® - Morgan Lewis provides clients with access to our searchable database of Hart-Scott-Rodino Act informal interpretations and related information
  • Orrick's online compliance training program, WeComply.

There are even more listed on Ron's site and I'm sure that just scratches the surface of what's out there. Not everyone is willing to share their 'secret sauce' when it comes to innovative client-service projects.

I do believe that UK firms have historically been a bit more leading in the area of client-service technologies, firms in the US have quickly made ground in this area and do see the value in what they offer. While our business model may not support an army of PSLs running around gathering documents for a KM system, US firms are innovative and many are dedicated to providing client-facing systems that add value and create a competitive advantage.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Podcasting, the next big thing?

With blogging becoming a bit more mainstream, well at least at my firm, the next frontier for lawyers to get their message out might be podcasting. Like blogging, the barrier to entry for podcasting is minimal. With a voice recording device (handheld or through your PC), a few hundred dollars worth of hardware and software and a website or blog to publish it to, and you're all set. Some lawyers even take advantage of their commute and author their podcasts while on the road. Reed Smith intellectual property lawyer and popular blawger Denise Howell's podcast features insightful talk about the ways in which advanced technology can help lawyers on the job. She produces her podcasts by recording herself on a cell phone as she drives to work. Let's hope she doesn't cause any major pile ups on the freeway!

What's compelling to me about this medium is that it's easy for lawyers to use and is richer than text for delivery. People can get feeds via RSS, which makes it even easier to get the word out about your podcast. From the consumer's perspective, you can download this to any MP3 player or your laptop and listen to it at your convenience.

Here's what you need to get started listening to podcasts. There are a number of free podcast clients available for download. The two most popular are iPodderX (available for free at and Apple Computer's latest version of iTunes (Version 5.0; also a free download). Also a great article on (subscription required) which talks about this in more depth.

I'm not sure how far this will go, or if it's a fad, but we're certainly looking into it further.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

And the Legal IT Innovator of the Year award goes to..

You guessed it! The blogging initiative we've put together at Sheppard Mullin was submitted to the Legal IT Forum for consideration of an award. This award could be not entered directly. Instead, the judges looked through all the entries and rewarded any special projects or initiatives that we deemed to deserve recognition.

From the Legal IT Forum announcement, "The winner demonstrated a striking piece of lateral thinking by shifting away from standard e-newsletters to the world of Blogging. From an original readership of 10,000, the winner's blogged content has surpassed 1,000,000 hits and averages nearly 10,000 hits per day and consistently appears on the first 5 hits for relevant search terms in Google and Yahoo. The winner of Legal IT Innovator of the Year is Tom Baldwin, Chief Knowledge Officer at Sheppard Mullin Richter Hampton, LLP."

This project really was a classic example of IT and Marketing working together. Our Chief Marketing Officer, Vickie Spang, took this idea and ran with it. Without the collaborative efforts of her group and mine, this project would have never been the success it is. My post on this idea months ago kicked started our efforts, but our Marketing group was instrumental in the adoption of blogs here at the firm.

And yes, that's me in the middle donning a kilt for the event. More pictures (thankfully none that are blackmail worthy) can be found here. If you haven't attended the Legal IT Forum, it's an excellent networking event, for senior level IT professionals at firms across the globe.

Monday, September 26, 2005

New KM Survey

A group of KM professionals recently gathered by conference call to discuss the need and interest of forming a national/international group focused specifically on legal KM. We agreed that it was logical to form such a group but wanted to solicit feedback and gauge interest from a larger segment of KM professionals before taking the next steps at organization. Please take a few moments to complete this survey and provide your opinion. Thank you.

Survey Link

Friday, August 12, 2005

Building e-Discovery Teams

There has been tremendous coverage, almost ad nauseam, about e-discovery issues lately. Vendors are popping up all over the globe to process data, on-line review tools are being heavily touted and more additional forums are now available to 'get religion' on e-discovery.

What I find to be disturbing is that very few people are talking about how to practically apply and disseminate this information within their firm. All the software in the world won't prevent a lawyer from accepting discovery via e-mail and expose themselves and their firm to potential spoliation. The best e-discovery processing tools can't ensure that the collection efforts are solid. In a word, we need to educate.

What firms need to do is take a slightly more proactive approach to this issue. Getting your lit support staff and a couple lawyers trained will not be enough. Look to go deeper and the results will be amazing:

  • Build an e-discovery team composed of Partners, Associates, Paralegals, Lit Support and IT.
  • Be sure that you have someone from each office and practice group that handle litigation on the team - you want geographic and practice area coverage. Some lawyers will want to deal with someone 'down the hall', others will want someone who knows their practice.
  • Put them through a certification program, Kroll and Applied Discovery both have excellent ones.
  • Commit to meeting monthly to discuss new updates in case law, technology available and any real life situations in your firm.
  • Once the team is up to speed, go about educating the rest of the firm - don't stop with your team. Setup an office-by-office road show, buy lunch and invite all your litigators and paralegals for 1-2 hour overview of the key issues.
  • Publish regular newsletters on e-discovery.
  • Create a page on your firm's intranet with practice guidelines, checklists, form documents and other on-line resources so that any lawyer can get some basic information in a pinch.
  • Some firms even have e-discovery blogs they maintain.

Once you've gotten to this point, you've not only taken precautions to help your firm avoid e-discovery liability, but you'll be well on your way to creating competitive advantage for your firm.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

9-year-old earns accolade as Microsoft pro

Okay, so this is a bit off topic, but I couldn't resist... An MCP at 9 years old? I know that kids this age are now getting cell phones, IM'ing each other, etc. but come on. I was trying to master my Atari at 9... I've got a 2 1/2 year old at home, I'm wondering if she's ready for MOUS certification?

For more on this wiz kid with no future of a social life, click here.

Monday, May 16, 2005

KM Competitive Advantage Matrix

One of the first projects I undertook here at Sheppard Mullin, was to develop a 'menu' of potential knowledge management projects that a department or practice in the firm could take interest in. Often times lawyers would ask 'What can my department do with knowledge management?' The menu, or KM Matrix, was designed to give the lawyers some starting points. I worked with Mark Keller, a consultant with a lot of experience in these projects, to help define the matrix and also attach a level of 'competitive advantage' to each project. While subjective, it would at least help guide them to projects that would potentially yield the greatest return.

Some KM initiatives have universal appeal, while others naturally lend themselves to benefit specific groups. This menu of KM options was designed to expose the world of possibilities within Knowledge Management. The idea was that we would identify projects of interest to a practice group, prioritize the various initiatives and build a KM Project Plan for the firm. The menu is not meant to be all-encompassing of every conceivable option within KM, but provide a starting point in the process.

I've attached the menu, but have omitted much of the detail as it's our IP. What's not included is more detailed descriptions of each project, highlighting the pros/cons, business issues addressed, level of attorney involvement, etc. I included the first few, so you could see what details we tried to include for the lawyers.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Mea Culpa

It's been almost a month since my last post. We've been extremely busy around here and sometimes my day job does actually get in the way of me being able to discuss new and interesting developments in our industry :)

That being said, there are several new projects underway here that I'd like to share.

1) We are in the final beta testing phase for our new custom built extranet tool. A lot has been made about the false hopes and promises of extranets. From first hand experience, the right extranet tool deployed in the right way can help create advantage for your firm and generate a LOT of new business.

2) MOVING FROM INTERACTION. This information was made public recently, but I thought I'd elaborate on it a bit here. InterAction is a fine product and has done a great job getting CRM into the minds of many people within legal and even into the hands of a few lawyers :) However, we felt that Aderant's direction aligned better with our business objectives for CRM. The tight integration with our accounting system and VERY CLEAN user interface were huge selling points for us. The product roadmap is well defined and as hard as it is to believe, we won't be sacficing any function points by going to Aderant's CRM package. In fact, they are providing very similar functionality to that of ReAction Server, as far as contacts being able to update their own information via the web. We'll have a lot more to talk about later this year when we anticipate being live on Aderant's CRM system.

Wish us luck!

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

New Google mapping tool

Originally uploaded by tbaldwinusc.

While not a pure law firm technology tool, the new Google Mapping tool is just too amazing to pass up. The core technology behind this is based on a product called Keyhole, which Google recently purchased. Keyhole is basically Terraserver on steroids, it provides satellite images of the entire globe, the ability to 'fly' from one point to another, and the ability to drill down to very fine detail. As the site says, "you can fly through 12+ Terabytes of Earth imagery and data – spinning, rotating, tilting, and zooming. Think magic carpet ride".

This technology is available through Keyhole directly for a fee, but you can get access to a 'lite' version of it through Google Maps. Leisure travelers will enjoy being to 'see' exactly how a hotel is laid out, or how close it is to the ocean. For business use, many real estate lawyers will find this tool invaluable when making a personal visit to the site is not feasible, cost effectively or timely. To see an example of the Google Maps tool, take a look at the satellite image of Dodger Stadium.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

ILTA Staffing Survey Results Now Available

As one of the author's of this survey, I'm proud to announce that the results have now been made available from ILTA's website. Mal Mead was the mastermind behind the rich and in-depth analysis that is provided. This was our first stab at a survey of this kind, so there will probably be some tweaks to it the next time, but overall we are very pleased with the results.

Fellow blogger Ron Friedmann conducted additional analysis of the results on his blog. One quote sticks out, "For anyone interested in the details of law firm IT operations, the survey is a must read."

Monday, February 14, 2005

Blogs to replace newsletters?

While I've tried to refrain from touting specific projects at my firm, this one I just couldn't resist. We finally made the plunge and spun up the first, of what should be many, blogs for the firm. As has been discussed before on Ron Friedmann's blog and Dennis Kennedy's blog, we felt it was time to take the next step in our marketing efforts and this seemed like the most logical choice.

Like many large law firms, we send out thousands of e-newsletters every month on behalf of various practice groups. Our greatest gains will come from an organic growth in readership, better search result ranking on Google, reduction of spam to our clients and a better delivery engine then e-mail. Also, because of the ease of use, getting posts on the site is much easier than in our previous newsletters incarnations. In less than a week of going live, the site has already had over 16,000 hits...Stay tuned, as we plan on having blogs setup for our labor, finance and technology groups.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Aderant (formerly CMS) enters the CRM space

In something that was probably long overdue, Aderant recently announced its intention to enter the 'FrontOffice' space with its first foray being CRM. While this can be viewed as a move to counter what Elite has long had available with its case management and Apex product, the timing is interesting with the recent Lexis acquisition of Interface Software. The product roadmap they've outlined in their release certainly is appealing, especially for those who are Aderant clients. When you factor in the luke-warm adoption CRM has received by lawyers, it's a risky move, but could be an industry shaker if Aderant can help shift CRM into the hands of lawyers.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Desktop search gains momentum

E-mail has become a most unwieldy tool. Much has been made about this in various blog postings, legal technology conferences and within the hallways of most law firms. Firms worry about e-mail retention and due to the popularity of e-mail, many firms find themselves exceeding Microsoft's long standing limit of 2GB per mailbox. More pressure is being put on lawyers to clean up their mailbox. But, part of the problem is that Outlook's built-in searching is very weak and makes it hard for lawyers to quickly find e-mails and then move them to folders outside of the Inbox, Sent/Deleted Items.

To address this glaring problem, Microsoft purchased a company called, Lookout Software, who built a really nice (free) plug-in for Outlook that makes searching a breeze. Most of us have heard of Google's desktop search product, you can download for free. In their salvo, Yahoo recently announced their partnership with X1, to provide a 'lite' version of their desktop search product for free.

Having evaluated all three, there is a real upside to these products and they will be greatly welcomed by your firm.
  • Lookout's newest version makes it easy to deploy in large environments and while it lacks some of the slick features of X1, if you're on a tight budget, this will be a huge leap forward for your users.
  • When I downloaded Google's product, it seemed very interested in wanting to 'monitor' my activity. While this feature could be disabled, I was weary of what Google's real intent was with their product. I uninstalled it after a couple days of using it.
  • I did not evaluate the Yahoo branded X1 product, but their full featured version which is not free, at $79/user (retail) but also had the most functionality. They have very innovative technology which instantly begins to return search results with every letter you type. The system also has hit-highlighting and a preview pane. In addition to full-text search, you can quickly search on e-mail fields. X1 also seems to be moving towards other enterprise products as well.

With the evergrowing amount of e-mail, these tools will certainly become a necessity. I recently traveled to another office without my laptop and when confronted with life sans my desktop search tool, I felt almost crippled and went through a brief period of withdrawals. It's probably the next-most addictive thing to the Blackberry!

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Project Management, why aren't more law firm IT departments doing it?

A while back I attended a webinar titled "How to Create a Successful Project Management Environment". The webinar was hosted by Sally Hatchett, the Director of Project Management for Bingham McCutchen. Project Management (PM) has been an effective tool for many years, and thankfully is now slowly making its way into law firm IT departments. It couldn't be coming any sooner, as PM has been a glaring hole in most law firm IT Departments. The need for PM is even more important as IT moves from 'plumbing' related projects, the level of sophistication rises and as with most firms the department is asked to juggle more projects without increasing staff.

The upcoming LegalTech NY Conference will hold another session on project management, sponsored by ILTA (formerly known as LawNet), as part of their Advanced CIO track. While the LegalTech conference sessions cost a few hundred dollars, ILTA members can attend this Advanced CIO track for free.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Extranets help separate firms, for now

It looks as though collaboration tools, such as extranets, are not only on the cusp of becoming an integral part of how law firms work with their clients, but also as a way to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

If you've ever looked at the 'pitches books' law firms put together for prospective clients, it's no wonder something like an extranet can help set them apart. Most often a law firm's proposal boasts of a blue-chip roster of clients, touts the pedigree of their lawyers, trumpets the many successful cases/deals won for their clients and talks about their commitment to excellent client service. Virtually every law firm still in business can tell similar tales to one another, especially larger full-service firms who typically compete with other full-service firms. There's very little that helps a law firm set themselves apart when employing this standard RFP response. To that end, I once heard a client tell a group of lawyers that something as basic as publishing their rates in a proposal would be considered avant-garde.

While some are impressed with such basic things, more and more corporate legal departments are raising their expectations of what their outside counsel offer. Just ask Laura Owen, Director of Worldwide Legal Services, at Cisco Systems. Her recent article The Tech Evolution: Change or Die highlights several key trends:

  • Commoditize routine legal transactions
  • Create consortia to share needed work
  • Move your legal work to low cost firms located in other regions away from high cost centers
  • Use technology, not lawyers, to perform legal work
  • Move 80 percent of your fees to a non-billable hour basis

While her thoughts are progressive, it certainly will only be a matter of time before more and more consumers of legal services start to see the wisdom in her approach. This is especially true if her concept of consortium for shared legal work takes off. Can you imagine the buying power large companies like Cisco, Ford, 3-M, Dupont, etc. could exert if they were to band together for joint RFPs?

If you analyze her points in detail, most of them are addressed through collaboration tools and technology. Firms that are currently able to provide these tools set themselves apart, but if Ms. Owen has her way, it will only be a matter of time before we all have to answer the call to better client service.