The worlds of Document Management, Records Management, and Knowledge Management are merging in the minds of IT thought-leaders faster than most software vendors seem to be able to grasp the concept. Several years ago, our firm took a close look at our document and records management systems and realized that we needed a more matter-centric approach that would allow lawyers and staff to seamlessly manage documents, whether electronically or on paper. From a document’s creation, to collaborative editing, to utilization within the life of the matter, to recycling and mining of precedent, to retention and destruction of records, our lawyers and legal staff need to be able to work with documents in a friendly interface that can slice-and-dice the content depending on their needs at that moment.
A surprising emphasis on technology training appeared in a recent white paper. A chart summarizes the survey responses from 150 lawyers among the largest in the United States and Canada, reported in Future Law Office: Delivering Value-Added Legal Services in Challenging Times (Robert Half Legal 2009) at 6. The question asked of them was “Which of the following techniques, if any, are being implemented by your law firm to enhance your team’s focus on client services?”
Notwithstanding the economy, it is still conference and event season in the legal sector. I recently attended a meeting of the Adelaide Group at Berwin Leighton Paisner, which is organised by IT director Janet Day. The superb presentation by Shami Chakrabarti of Liberty was very well-attended, but the same could not be said for other legal IT events. Apparently, the Strategic Technology Forum in Spain was not as busy as usual. The reasons for this can be driven by politics as well as costs. ‘Our firm is making people redundant, so it doesn’t look good if we go off on a beano, whether or not the IT department has the budget for it,’ explained one IT director. IT departments are under pressure to achieve more with less and to present the right image both within the firm and externally – both within the legal sector and the legal IT industry.
Most of the metaposts on Law Department Management Blog look at specific categories of software, including the following seven:
Contract management (See my post of Nov. 22, 2008: contract management software with 11 references.).
Decision trees (See my post of June 17, 2009: decision tree software with 6 references.)
Document assembly (See my post of Feb. 26, 2008: document assembly with 16 references.).
Document management (See my post of Dec. 6, 2007: document management with 15 references.).
Idea visualization (See my post of May 15, 2009: idea relationship software with 6 references.).
Matter management (See my post of Aug. 5, 2008: matter management systems with 35 references.).
Portals (See my post of June 27, 2006: portals with 4 references; and Aug. 16, 2006: portals.)
Several metaposts focus on broader aspects of software usage in legal departments, including the entire genre (See my post of Feb. 9, 2008: law department software with 59 references.).
The larger the legal department, the more likely it has its own employees supporting at least some of its software and hardware. No data exists (that I know of) that tells us the tipping point, where departments typically hire their own technology talent. Most legal departments, and all smaller departments, rely on personnel from the corporate IT function for their support, training, and development needs (See my post of June 16, 2009: Information Technology staff group with 23 references and 1 metapost.).
There are advantages and disadvantages to each solution. Read more...
The Legal Week Strategic Technology Forum (website) has been going for a couple of years and has commanded a reputation as the must visit conference on the circuit. As this was my first visit, I was looking forward to an interesting experience. The fact that I was also presenting with a couple of other people on ‘helping the firm win business’ added an extra edge for me.
I have no experience of previous conferences so I don’t know how well attended they were but this event had about 80 people. There did seem to be nearly as many suppliers as delegates. To be fair, the suppliers did have something to say and did contribute constructively to the debate so maybe that was not a bad thing. The lack of law firm representatives was maybe a result of the economy. I was expecting a slightly different balance with more people representing the producing side of the business, but they were mainly missing (apart from on video). There were some client representatives and they were very good value. There was also a splattering of Finance, business development and HR people around to liven up the mix.
Like other corporate staff groups, IT supports the legal group and is supported by them, such as with contracts issues. They team on some responsibilities, such as e-discovery.
Mostly, however, general counsel often bemoan the lack of support they get from corporate IT. Even with the griping, most software customization projects involve corporate IT. No one can definitively resolve the debate about which support approach is better: support from the company’s IS group or support from members of the legal department. Read more...
A survey conducted a year ago on behalf of LexisNexis, hosts of Connected, gathered responses from more than 449 in-house attorneys (See my post of Oct. 12, 2008: background details on the poll; and June 9, 2009: some questions about data on social networks used by corporate counsel.). One question asked “What are the top advantages of participating in an online legal professional network?” Here are the choices on the survey and the percentages of those who selected them. Read more...
So this time I am going to talk about Windows Workflow Foundation (WF) as I promised quite a long time ago. After setting a definition, I will talk about what WF is, and as importantly, what it is not. In addition, I will talk about how WF fits in to the SharePoint world. I will then talk about some of the things I like about WF under SharePoint, and some of the things I do not like (hey, no technology is perfect!)
What is Workflow?
Yeah I know, we all “know” what workflow is – unfortunately it is different things to different people. In fact, it does not seem to be a word – at least not according to the Miriam-Webster Online Dictionary, but this is a definition I found at BusinessDictionary.com:
Progression of steps (tasks, events, interactions) that comprise a work process, involve two or more persons, and create or add value to the organization's activities. In a sequential workflow, each step is dependent on occurrence of the previous step; in a parallel workflow, two or more steps can occur concurrently.
I would tend to simplify this a little. For me, the meaningful part of the definition is:
Law departments ought to consider Microsoft’s SharePoint for some of their automation needs, according to an article by a consulting firm in ACC Docket, Vol. 27, May 2009 at 18. The article describes it as having the potential to serve as a matter management system, a document management system, an integrator of information from other applications, a corporate governance suite, plus much else. More a platform or toolbox than a finished application, SharePoint has many fans. Read more...
If law departments lack software to track external expenses, they may rely on accounts payable to generate whatever figures they need. This point struck me after I read astute blogger Ron Friedmann and his lament about the lack of technology in many law departments. On that point, he heard from Rob Thomas, the sage of Serengeti.
“In our most recent annual survey of ACC members (about 80% of which [law departments] have fewer than 10 lawyers), only 29% have a matter management and/or e-billing system. Another 36% manage by manually keying information into spreadsheets. So one-third have no system at all, not even spreadsheets. … Law departments can’t manage what they can’t see.“
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