The rapid evolution of legal technology over the last 10 years has forced partners and executives at law firms of all sizes to address organizational efficiency challenges. Tough decisions to insure stability, reputation, and sustainability both internally and in the industry abroad need to be taken. The Help Desk within Legal IT departments has long been the target of scrutiny during difficult financial periods, and in a recent informal survey, 25% of the AmLaw 200 Firms stated they have outsourced Help Desk functions. Some firms have outsourced their overnight and weekend shifts, while others have outsourced their whole support group. Besides considering the present and future financial impact of utilizing external resources for these functions, law firms also have to weigh any potential long-term effects it may have on the IT department.
Microsoft Office 2010 was only released a little over a month ago, but for me it seems to have been around for quite a while because of work I have been doing with the pre-release and beta versions. Over the past number of months we have been working with law firms regarding strategies for taking advantage of the new features of both Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010.
While Office 2010 introduces many important enhancements and new features (here is one view of the top new features for law firms), a firm obviously cannot take advantage of these features if they are tied to an older version of Office through a collection of legacy templates, customizations, and third-party add-ins and integrations.
In a typical matter, attorneys tend to focus on the analysis and review stage of the Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM). But if much of the collected data in the review platform is unnecessary, insufficient, spoiled, or irrelevant then reviewers have just bought themselves a load of eDiscovery trouble. This is why attorneys need the earlier EDRM stages (information management, identification, collection and preservation) to work and to work well: so that only highly relevant and fully auditable data is sent to the formal review.
Law firms print paper, in fact they print LOTS of paper! I recently heard of a secretary printing off 6-8 inches of paper for the file (you know you’re printing a lot when your margin of error is 2 inches!!). I am therefore pretty sure that the cost of printing is rather significant cost for law firms.
So why on earth do it? There are two main reasons I’ve come across:
1) Keeping a good and proper file
“All the emails and documents must be printed for a paper file, it’s been like that for years and it isn’t changing on my watch.”
Come on, there isn’t any reason to do this. It’s not a regulatory requirement to keep a paper file, a good and proper file yes, but that file can be electronic. The only reason I could understand is maybe in a small firm, one that doesn’t have a document management system (DMS) to organise the electronic file. But why are lawyers in medium and large firms still doing this?
It struck me today that with over three years of operations under our belts at Virtual Practices™ and as a pioneer in the market the time seems right to reflect on our experiences and the trends we are seeing in outsourced business processes and Software as a Service (SaaS) for law firms.
Things have moved on since 2007. We no longer need to explain the concept of the outhosted software model and our unique legal cashiering service, as we did when we started out. There is growing market understanding and acceptance that you don’t have to run IT in-house and that Internet accessed services offer a very secure, cost-efficient way of managing client matters, the practice, security and business continuity.
Legal IT Professionals was media partner to Chilli IQ’s Legal IT Leaders Think Tank held at The Grange St Paul’s Hotel in London on 18th and 19th May. Joanna Goodman reports from the event.
The Grange St Paul’s Hotel is obviously the current favourite for legal IT events in London as I attended ILTA INSIGHT here on 27th April, but I am certainly not complaining about spending another day at this elegant and well-equipped venue.
The Legal IT Leaders Think Tank was a smaller event aimed at the decision makers in legal IT. Jenny Katrivesis and her team put together an interesting selection of presentations and discussions addressing major strategic considerations and current hot topics, notably e-discovery, cloud computing, legal process outsourcing as well as sessions led by sponsoring organisations Hubbard One, Mimecast and Elite.
As oil from the BP spill continues to spread into the Gulf waters, the eDiscovery scenario for the company continues to expand and worsen as well. BP has already agreed to take full responsibility for the fallout of this catastrophe, which is one of the most epic environmental debacles…ever.
On May 19, the Associated Press reported in an article that “an attorney is asking a federal judicial panel to quickly consolidate more than 100 lawsuits filed against BP and other companies responsible for the massive Gulf oil spill. Louisiana lawyer Daniel Becnel says legal chaos could break out in five Gulf Coast states if the lawsuits aren't combined. Becnel has asked the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation in Washington to quickly reconsider whether to order the cases consolidated. The panel has indicated it will not decide until July.”
Last week I attended a Workshare user group event down at Herbert Smith’s offices in London. If you’re a Workshare customer I can say that (apart from Herbies meeting rooms being far too hot even with the aircon on) the user group is worth attending. It was a good mix of user feedback, product direction and case study and definitely not too heavy on the sales.
The point of this post though is to look at a couple of interesting products on the horizon. Both in my opinion take Workshare up against vendors that traditionally haven’t occupied the same space in Legal IT.
Yesterday was the official launch of Office 2010 and it looks like this is the year of Office. And that’s Office from Microsoft not the “Open” kind as some people would have predicted.
A lot of law firms I guess thought about Office 2007, but due to one thing or another (one big one I guess being the recession) stuck with Office 2003. But now on the back of what will probably be a mass shift to Windows 7 it’ll be Office 2010 that joins the party (the show of hands in yesterday’s Workshare user group backs me up on this).
Of all the major professional industries, the legal industry has one of the highest turnover rates universally. This trend can especially be seen in the Information Technology Groups within many of the top 250, and even mid-sized, law firms around the world. Reasons for such a high incidence of personnel change in Legal IT departments include: aggressive recruitment from competition, the allure of vertical growth opportunities by joining another firm, the marketing of firms known for their organizational stability, the ability to join a consulting group or even open their own IT consulting firm, and the appeal of moving to firms who are forward-thinking with their technology. In the relentless pursuit of acquiring the best candidates in the market, new opportunities are dangled in front of top talent on a weekly basis, which begs the question: Why would an individual pass up on an exciting, new opportunity to stay in their current role?
With the explosion of electronically stored information (ESI) over the last year, there is no question that organisations will continue to grapple with the concept of information risk throughout 2010. The UK’s increasingly stringent regulatory environment has already picked up steam during Q1 following the ongoing recall issues faced by Toyota, and with the FSA’s latest insider trading investigation gathering momentum it’s clear that the situation is only set to intensify. Add to this concern the increased adoption of new technologies such as Web 2.0 tools, cloud computing, unified communications and virtualisation within the organisation and the eDiscovery landscape faces a unique set of challenges that will undoubtedly keep legal professionals working at full capacity for the foreseeable future.
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