Snow and ice have been blanketing most of the Eastern U.S. with regularity over the last 2 months, and the first week of February saw no reprieve. Despite significant flight cancellations and adjusted travel itineraries, many of the legal industry's top CIOs and Directors trekked to the annual CIO Forum, hosted by American Lawyer Media (ALM) at the Midtown Hilton Hotel in NYC.
Professor Richard Susskind OBE is a well-known author, speaker, and independent adviser to major law firms. His particular area of expertise is the way in which IT and the Internet are changing the work of lawyers.
Last week, we interviewed Susskind and because not everybody is able to attend one of his fascinating lectures, we decided to ask Susskind questions submitted by our international readers.
This article is based on a transcript of the interview. Topics discussed by Susskind include the Flaherty Suffolk Technology Audit, the surviving chances of small law firms, the future role of automated legal expert systems and the paperless firm. Susskind also provides advice for young starting lawyers.
Last week, Hyperion Research - a unit of Hyperion Global Partners - published a new MarketView™ report: “Business Process Management Solution for Law Firms”. The 81-page report thoroughly evaluates vendors providing Business Process Management (BPM) systems with a specific focus on the legal vertical. Legal IT Professionals received a copy of the full report to review for our global readership.
At any given time legal organisations are processing staggering amounts of electronic and paper-based information - a law firm with 100 staff will typically consume two million sheets of paper per annum alone. This equates to hundreds of hours’ worth of time that barristers, solicitors and law firms have to spend manually managing documents such as disclosure and contractual agreements, instead of working on higher value tasks that really matter and generate profit.
Law office automation has advanced for many areas of operations, leading to increased efficiencies and productivity. Unfortunately, the new client and matter intake process has largely been ignored. Many firms undertake the process with hand-recorded notes or email, software programs that cannot share information, and ineffective workflows. The result is information scattered across multiple files or programs, which slows productivity and increases administrative costs.
Fortunately, with updated approaches to the conflict/new client intake process, attorneys and staff can overcome these challenges and implement solutions which will help realize the benefits of automation and standardization.
Technology has disrupted many traditional service businesses. Online travel sites have caused the brick-and-mortar travel agency industry to decline, and Amazon has no doubt reduced the number of bookstores in existence.
The Intellectual Property (IP) industry, while historically slow to change, is now seeing a sharp rise in specialist IP service companies who focus on particular parts of the patent process. Many of these companies fall into the category of “IP portals,” offering cloud-based technology and streamlined backend systems to lower clients' costs, while increasing transparency and efficiency.
At long last, cloud computing is finally coming of age for the legal profession. Although it's been used in many other sectors for years now, up until recently, most lawyers have been hesitant to adopt cloud technologies and utilize them to their full potential.
Last year, however, that trend began to change as lawyers increasingly became more comfortable with the concept of cloud computing and familiarized themselves with various web-based platforms.
Here's a dirty little secret in the e-discovery industry: Many practitioners don't really understand the right questions to ask when evaluating and purchasing e-discovery technology and services. Although most people enter the purchase process with specific objectives in mind, such as reducing costs, eliminating mistakes and improving staff efficiency, they are easily swayed by vendors touting the latest “advanced” features and functionality, and by whatever new “shiny object” is currently generating buzz in the marketplace.
Digital signature technology has been around for a while. Unlike electronic signatures, which may be as basic as a JPEG of a handwritten signature and which don't offer a method for authenticating the signer, digital signatures are based on Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) technology and provide proof of signer identity and data integrity. They also ensure against the possibility of a signer denying the fact that he or she signed the document. In the past, implementing PKI-based digital signatures was a cumbersome process that burdened IT departments with time-consuming and costly technical and operational difficulties. Luckily, that's no longer the case today.
Have you heard? Large law firms are merging left and right, in large part because law firm leaders are focused on immediate financial gains in an attempt to maintain appearances of profitability in an increasingly competitive--and global--marketplace. In fact, according to a recent Philly.com article, “there's a mini merger-and-acquisition boom unfolding. Altman Weil says there were 58 law firm mergers through the end of the third quarter, up 41 percent for the same period the year before.”
The reason for the rash of law firm mergers? Sheer shortsightedness and selfishness.
As anyone working in the legal profession will know, competitive edge is gained by commoditising the processes that would otherwise eat into a fee earner's time, especially when it comes to document management. Successfully doing this can, in some cases, make the difference between a firm's success or failure, yet many continue to get it wrong. Tim Hubbard, professional services specialist at digital print and document management company, Altodigital, examines the most costly mistakes law firms can make in this area and crucially, how they can get it right.
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