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.