Monday, November 19, 2007 article from Mark Gerow on implementing large-scale extranets with SharePoint

Fenwick & West have long been on the SharePoint bandwagon and Fenwick's Mark Gerow has litterally written the book on SharePoint on extranets for a law firm. In this article, he covers the technical issues and the human element of building and rolling out an extranet with SharePoint:

"In this article I'll discuss how Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 (SharePoint) has been used at Fenwick & West to meet the challenge of making extranets available for each and every matter opened. I'll also cover the key issues that must be addressed in order to scale to thousands of extranets and terabytes of data. At the conclusion of this article you'll have a better idea of what can be accomplished with SharePoint at your firm, as well as a road map to get you started. "

This is a great article for anyone interested in SharePoint, especially those thinking of using it as an extranet.

Sheppard Mullin case study gets a 'top 17' nod from Microsoft

What do BMW, MTV, Enterprise Rent A Car, Mary Kay Cosmectics and Sheppard Mullin all have in common? We're all listed on the official blog for Microsoft's SharePoint Product Group as having top case studies for MOSS. While it's nice that our case study is part of this group, it's actually really interesting to take a quick peek at the other case studies. We can learn a lot from folks outside of legal.

Those of you looking to automate new hire intake will find MTVs case study of particular interest. They focused heavily on addressing many of the shortcomings for new hire intake and have found significant time and cost savings.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

New site on the KM scene

Every now and then, something comes along that is compelling to spend time with. Today I received an e-mail from Matthew Parsons with a link to his new site(co-authored by Neil Richards), Knowledge Thoughts. I'm hard pressed to classify it as a blog or a wiki, I suppose it really a bliki - combining elements of both. Here's Matthew's description of the site:

"Today Neil Richards and I are delighted to launch, an open source resource for the KM and legal KM communities. This is a personal, collaborative learning effort, and is not associated with any organisation." more..

In my initial scan of the site, it's already rich with a variety of content for those seasoned vets in the KM space, or those just starting out and wanting to learn more. There's a wiki section with some terms classified such as CKO and PSL, along with selling points for those looking to add these roles to their firms. There's a section with a ton of rich media content, aimed at helping explain KM. Much of this comes from outside legal, which is a great thing. A section bound to be on everyone's "to be seen" list is their leading people and thinkers page. If you're looking for ideas to kick-start your knowledge management initiatives, there's even a thought starters section.

I'm going to need to sit down and dedicate some serious time to this site, there's too much to just quickly glance through.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Recap from the Legal Technology Exchange

This was a great event, as it blended leading C-level folks from law firms as well as leaders from many major in-house legal departments. The speakers represented a great cross-section of in-house counsel and law firms. For me, it's always helpful to be reminded of the pain points our clients are feeling and try to identify ways we can help.

One of the main themes was the continuing pressure in-house counsel face to reduce legal costs. This is squarely in opposition to the constant rate increases many firms are pushing on their clients. You know corporations are serious about cost-cutting when companies like Citigroup have someone with the title of "Director Legal Expense Control". The salary of first year associates was brought up routinely. If we think it's an issue within law firms, it's even more of a problem for our clients. They view the rate increases solely as a mechanism to help absorb these associate salary increases, while maintaining what I like to call a law firm's "stock price"- profits per partner. Think your firm is different and really listens to its clients' needs? Check out this article from Bruce MacEwen's blog - there's a huge disconnect between how our clients perceive us and how law firms view themselves as it relates to outside counsel satisfaction. One more piece of evidence to demonstrate the disconnect is found in the InsideCounsel Magazine's 18th annual survey. Clearly there is room for firms to proactively go to their clients with ideas on how to reduce legal expenses:

Offshoring and outsourcing of low-level legal work (like first-cut document review) has been the fashionable thing to talk about lately, but when talking to folks at legal departments, they didn't seem all that interesting in their law firms doing it - at least some of them. Much of a company's comfort level with off-shoring legal work seems to be directly linked to the company's own use of off-shoring for other functions. So, before you go down this path with a client, find out if the company currently does any off-shoring, you might save yourself some grief as there were several companies in the room that would take serious offense to it.

However, I think there are opportunities to help clients reduce litigation costs in the document review area. McDermott fired the first salvo recently, by creating a new tier of associates. Think of them as permanent contract associates -- to handle lower-end tasks at lower billing rates. I was also told during the week that there is a surplus of lawyers in cities like Detroit and Charlotte, as a result you can get contract lawyers in those cities at rates not much higher than that of Indian off-shoring companies. I heard of one firm that setup an office in Charlotte simply to conduct document review, taking advantage of this talent surplus.

The takeaway for me was, and has been for a while, that we need to truly listen to our clients needs and pain points and take real actions to help them.

Monday, September 17, 2007

New Sedona Conference comments lend credence to new search tools

Thank goodness there are lawyers out there willing and able to cull down commentary from the Sedona Conference into bite-sized morsels we can all consume. In this case, Ralph Losey has done a great job on his blog in summarizing the most recent commentary from the Sedona Conference, published in August of 2007.

What's interesting is direct verbiage from the Sedona Search Team almost admonishing the reliance on simple keyword search technology for the review of ESI:

. . . the experience of many litigators is that simple keyword searching alone is inadequate in at least some discovery contexts. This is because simple keyword searches end up being both over- and under-inclusive in light of the inherent malleability and ambiguity of spoken and written English (as well as all other languages). . . .

The problem of the relative percentage of “false positive” hits or noise in the data is potentially huge, amounting in some cases to huge numbers of files which must be searched to find responsive documents. On the other hand, keyword searches have the potential to miss documents that contain a word that has the same meaning as the term used in the query, but is not specified. . . .

Finally, using keywords alone results in a return set of potentially responsive documents that are not weighted and ranked based upon their potential importance or relevance. In other words, each document is considered to have an equal probability of being responsive upon further manual review.

But the Sedona Search Commentary does not end on a negative note; instead it discusses new search technologies that will significantly improve upon the dismal recall and precision ratios of keyword searches:

Alternative search tools are available to supplement simple keyword searching and Boolean search techniques. These include using fuzzy logic to capture variations on words; using conceptual searching, which makes use of taxonomies and ontologies assembled by linguists; and using other machine learning and text mining tools that employ mathematical probabilities..

The last tidbit Ralph brings to our attention is a call to action from the Team:

The legal community should support collaborative research with the scientific and academic sectors aimed at establishing the efficacy of a range of automated search and information retrieval methods.

Looking at these comments, albeit in a vacuum, it's astonishing to see such a clear line in the sand drawn by the Team. Clearly, reliance on simple keyword such isn't going to cut it for much longer. Vendors like Recommind, Engenium, Sygence, Content Analyst and the like will be drooling once word of this gets to them.

There's a lot more on Ralph's blog about this and he writes much better than I do, so I encourage you to read the post in it's entirety.

Australian Law Tech Summit - Recap

On my recent visit to Australia, I spoke at the 2nd Annual Law Tech Summit in Noosa, Australia. Put on by the fine team at Chilli Marketing Solutions, it was a very well organized event, with a lot of great content. The highlights for me, were the keynote given by Richard Susskind who's concepts and theories have heavily influenced how I view IT within legal, and Peter Williams, a Partner at Deliotte and CEO of their web and software development business, Ecplise. I found Peter's views on how to rapidly experiment and implement technology very refreshing, as we often get too bogged down in the minutia of a project to actually get it off the ground.

I learned a lot about the legal market, the economic climate and the 'proper' way to pronounce such words as aluminum and tomato, as well as certain acceptable words in the States that are off limits in Australia :)

"Brain drain" was a phrase used often at the conference. The country is experiencing a flight of talent, mostly to the UK. While wages appear to be decent for most tech-related jobs, the cost of living is very high (a Volkswagen Passat costs around $40k and a Snickers bar at a convenience store was $2.00 - food was particularly expensive) and as a result many of Australia's brightest young minds are taking their talent overseas.

More and more legal work is coming from all the growth from China. With construction comes a lot of legal work, especially litigation. One consultant, Justin North, suggests that the next large merger will not be "vertical" (NY-London), but "horizontal" (China-Australia), because of the synergies between these two countries and their respective economies.

Over the years, I found that there are a handful of highly innovative firms in Australia, such as Mallesons who have taken the Recommind product to new levels with their Decisiv e-mail management tool. While there are firms in Australia that are arguably more advanced in their use of technology than any firm here in the States, it seemed that firms are generally a bit behind what we are doing here as an industry. Many of the conversations were on topics we were dealing with 3-5 years ago.

There are also many thought leaders from Australia, both within law firms and on the vendor side. Justin North, who recently left Baker Robbins/Thomson to start his own consulting company (Janders Dean), is among those leading the charge on the innovation front - not only in Australia, but across the globe. Most recently, he's been working with a few of the largest firms on the planet on the selection and implementation of enterprise search.

All in all, it was a very interesting conference, well run, with a good mix of content and opportunities for networking. Anyone in Australia should consider their next event in 2008.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Blogging at ILTA's conference

While I had a few posts from the ILTA conference, some seemed to be surgically attached to their PC while in sessions. It's amazing to see the amount of information spewing out from bloggers like David Hobbie, Doug Cornelius, and Monica Bay. I think folks providing near real-time posts are great for the industry. Daily headlines from Sean Doherty also let those not able to attend get some of the major highlights of the conference. Keep up the good work!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Enterprise Search, uncovered and revealed

John Alber's recent article titled, "Search at the Foundation of the Enterprise", does a really nice job of explaining the business issues solved by enterprise search and goes on to discuss, in depth, the various types of underlying search technology used today. It's in plain English, so even I can understand it. John was nice enough to include pictures and charts to help explain set-theoretic models, algebraic models, and probabilistic models. Understanding these principles helps provide the basis for which John explores the pros and cons of search products like Autonomy, SharePoint and Recommind (which is what his firm uses). He finishes the article talking about how enterprise search technology can be best utilized within a law firm and a few plugs for Recommind :) A great primer for those embarking on enterprise search technology.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Live from ILTA

So far, things are pretty interesting. KM tracks yesterday were well attended, so perhaps there is hope for KM, despite my earlier post ;)

Today the buzz is about OpenText's announcement around their SharePoint strategy. I was not in the session, as my firm is an Interwoven shop, but here is what I heard from others that attended:
  • There will be the option to have SharePoint become the main store for documents
  • OpenText is looking to extent beyond DM to more full blown matter/document lifecycle management, using Sharepoint to accomplish this.

The feedback around the show is mixed. Some are very excited by the news, while others wonder what this means in terms of their investment in OpenText's current product architecture.

Both DM vendors seem to be scrambling to respond to the product offering from StarLaw, which purports to have a more comprehensive solution for document lifecycle management (DM, RM, etc.), or as they put it an "intelligent Enterprise Information Management system".

Friday, August 17, 2007

Is KM Dead?

That seems to be the question on the minds of many these days. Or more softly put, how do CKOs ( or other KM types) fit into a world with strategically minded CIOs and other IT folks. Technology has also gained a solid footing in the KM space and while there is debate as to how far technology can be taken to replace people (especially in PSL roles) it's certainly established itself as an important tool. I'm speaking at the Law Tech Summit in Australia this September and the Ark Group KM Conference in Chicago in October, and in both cases these concepts have been thrown around a lot. While I won't address this topic at length here, I do have some starting points.

While there are certainly both operational and strategic elements to what IT and KM do, there are different types of opportunities for each group. This idea was illuminated recently on a call with my friend (and idol) John Alber at Bryan Cave, one of the more innovative folks in the business. Furthermore, we might stop calling it KM and start calling it something else. All one needs to do is look at the titles of people performing relative degrees of KM duties these days:
  • Director of Practice Innovation
  • Director, Consultant Services/Client Advocacy
  • Director of Professional Services
  • Director of Practice Management
  • Director Professional Development
  • Director, Legal Business Systems
  • Director of Practice Systems
  • Director of Practice Support
  • Chief, Practice Systems & Services
  • Director, Legal Information Systems

Notice something missing from these titles? How about the word 'knowledge'? Personally I like the Director of Practice Innovation the best, very fitting. If someone were really bold, Director of Practice Enhancement might also be apropos, although it could lead to some interesting dialog with Partners who might not feel their practice needs 'enhancement'.

In any event, I look forward to seeing everyone at ILTA next week and stay tuned as we talk about this topic more in the months to come.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Microsoft worfklow gaining momentum

In a recent roundtable, sponsored by e-Sentio, the topic was mainly focused on workflow. While some of the firms were looking at a few different solutions, many were looking at (or already building) workflow using Microsoft's suite of Windows Workflow Foundation (WWF) and SharePoint 2007.

The popularity of SharePoint 2007 has exceeded even Microsoft's expectations and related technologies are coming along for the ride, with workflow being one of them. Cost, flexibility and the development environment seem to be the main factors for firms looking to leverage their SharePoint investment by building workflow. I've attached the PowerPoints slides from e-Sentio's presentation (with Nestor's blessing) and also attached an article I wrote highlighting some of the issues surrounding workflow development and the merits of Microsoft workflow.

I think that there are many opportunities to gain a competitive edge with workflow, as clearly illustrated in the number of workflow options spelled out in both e-Sentio's presentation and the article. There are also some unique challenges to be aware of in developing workflow and most of them are not technical, if you get my drift.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Free MOSS wild card search add-on

For many, wild-card searching is a huge gap in the MOSS enterprise search product. Those of you that own the SPxConnect Enterprise Search product from XMLAW get the entire Ontolica suite, which is wrapped into their product. If you just want wild-card searching, Ontolica is now offering their wildcard add-on for free, I suppose a teaser of sorts to get you to buy their entire product line.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Sucession planning and the war for talent

Dr. Larry Richard, who heads up the Leadership and Development practice group for Hildebrandt recently spoke at my firm's Partner Retreat, where he opined on a number of points.

One of the more interesting dilemmas facing law firms is succession planning for all the baby-boomer partners heading towards retirement. In his presentation, 'The Talent Challenge: Lessons on Lawyers and Leaders', Dr. Richard states that the 80 million boomers in our population represent 70% of law firm Partners and are starting to retire. The next generation, GenX only represents 40 million of the population and the group farthest from Partnership, GenY, has a whopping 80 million. Bottom line is that the bulk of partnerships at large law firms across the country will be retiring soon. I'm not sure how many firms really have a good grasp on how to transition the knowledge, but more importantly, the relationships and books of business these partners have.

It's also an intriguing study when looking at the various generations with in a law firm today and the generational differences. Dr. Richard was kind enough to let me post one of the slides from his presentation, which does a great job of succinctly outlining the 4 generations and their traits.

What's most interesting is the transition that has taken place in the perception of lawyers entering a law firm in their first year. The Traditionalists and many Boomers entered the legal profession with the mindset that the first law firm they work for will be their last - lifers. Gen Yers will likely have anywhere from 5-8 career changes and many leave law school with no intention of practicing law. They won't sacrifice their personal life for the sake of their career, a heretical concept to many Traditionalists and Boomers. The current vintage of young associates is a far cry from the ones currently leading most firms, which makes it all the more difficult for them to relate and properly motivate them. Given the growth of most large firms and the relative flat line of law school graduation rates, it's a sellers market for law schools grads and younger associates. Another great quote from Dr. Richard's presentation, summing up the war for talent, comes from Robert Sheehan of Skadden, Arps - New York, "It's a sobering thought that all of my assets go down in the elevator every night, and I can only hope that they come back up the next morning."

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Faceted Search Is Coming for SharePoint 2007

Many folks have asked about 'faceted' search, which simply put allows for easier filtering of results. While our full-text search of WorkSite content is still getting used almost 900 times per day, our lawyers have been asking for this feature, which is still in beta for us, but coming soon.

What you'll notice about this live screen shot (see items in RED) is that the search engine is still presenting results from our 3 million documents in WorkSite in tenths of seconds and the faceting is working as advertised. Much of the content was redacted out, but you can get the gist of how it works. This capability has been made possible with the help of XMLAW and is not standard, out of the box, functionality with SharePoint 2007.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Morgan Stanley Verdict Overturned...

On a topic other than SharePoint...

It appears that the $1.58 billion verdict was overturned because of the plaintiff's inability to prove damages, despite the fact that the judge precluded any defense on liability. It likely won't affect the underlying e-discovery issues, but it's interesting that this was overturned after all the hoopla surrounding it.,2933,260172,00.html

Friday, March 16, 2007

Sheppard Mullin SharePoint Case Study

Here's a link to the case study on Microsoft's site, which was just published today. If you'd like to download a cleaner version of this in Word, click here.

I hope everyone enjoys their weekend and has a pint or two of green beer :)


Friday, February 02, 2007

2007 InnovAction Award

Looking to add more hardware to your trophy room? The InnovAction Awards is a worldwide search for lawyers, law firms, and other deliverers of legal services who are currently engaged in some extraordinary innovative efforts. The goal is to demonstrate to the legal community what can be created when passionate professionals, with big ideas and strong convictions, are determined to make a difference. Each year, the College of Law Practice Management presents the coveted InnovAction Awards to those unsung heroes and rising stars within the legal profession who dare to think differently and succeed by doing so.

For more information, go to their website.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Live on SharePoint 2007! Recap and Leasons Learned....

Well, our portal was officially switched over last Tuesday, January 16th, 2007. We spent last week doing office-by-office roadshows, giving demos to both staff and lawyers. Because of how we designed the site, it was important to break out the training sessions and we used 'volunteers' from the audience to log in with their account so people could see first hand how the system would look to them.

The feedback has been overwhelming. Our targeting of webparts, quick access to financial data and WorkSite document search features are scoring big points with our users. Since going live, we are AVERAGING over 1,000 document searches per day. We wouldn't be maintaining that level of use unless it worked :) Stuff that we had in our old portal is now looked at as 'new' features because they're actually easy to find!

Since going live, we have learned a few things. First, those of you on previous versions of SharePoint should proceed with caution if you're converting over webparts that worked in '03, looking to buy webparts from vendors converting their webparts from '03, or any freeware webparts. We were running webparts from '03 for MONTHS on our SharePoint 2007 environment with any issues and only found problems as the load begin to reach critical mass. So, don't be fooled into thinking that just because you didn't get an error right from the start that your webparts are safe.

  • Make sure to properly “dispose” of SharePoint objects when programmatically accessing the API to avoid excessive memory consumption and performance/stability problems.(see
  • Make liberal use of caching in memory, particularly of objects resulting from CPU or memory intensive processes, such as XSL transformations or disk access, but must also be mindful of caching or session state across processes (in a “web garden”) or across servers (in “web server farm”).(see
  • Load test and look for memory leaks or process hogs *before* going live to identity potential problem areas. For example, a bug in the .NET Framework was causing a memory leak in XSL transformations that used inline script, which in turn was crashing the IIS worker processes and stopping the server. After a simple rewrite of these XSL transformations, memory usage returned to normal and stabilized the server.(see
The feedback from our users has been awesome and the folks from XMLAW were instrumental in our success. I hope that all of you doing SharePoint 2007 deployments are as fortunate/lucky as we've been :)

Friday, January 05, 2007

See the Sheppard Mullin SharePoint 2007 portal live!

On January 18th, ILTA will be sponsoring a webinar in which we will be demonstrating our SharePoint 2007 portal, featuring XMLAW. Non-ILTA members are also welcome to join, the connection fee is very reasonable.

To listen to the recording of this webinar, click here. You should just have to enter your name and then click View Recording (the key isn't required).