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2009: The Year of the Wait

Jenn SteeleI’m declaring 2009 to be “The Year of the Wait”.  Oh, sure, 2009 might not be over yet, but most of us are in the throes of 2010 budget season, so I’m willing to call it.  Although my firm has been able to do some major projects, almost every colleague I talk to says that they’re waiting for one thing or another (Office 2007 being the primary project that was planned for 2009 and has been pushed off).  Even vendors who cold-call me ask, “Are you going to be purchasing <insert product/service> or are you waiting?” 
Overall, 2009 has sounded like a Beckett play:

Wait! Do not forget to implement SharePoint!

Last month’s column drew quite a bit of interest and many comments here and elsewhere. Most were even positive, and those that were not were at least constructive. Before getting into this month’s topic, I wanted to revisit some of the things people said.

One valid point that was made was that much of what I said last time did not apply only to SharePoint, but to pretty much any implementation of an enterprise software product. While I agree with this, I also think the SharePoint is a little different in that it is a less specific product than many others. When you implement a practice management system, or document management system, or an accounting package, you typically already have at least a high-level understanding of what you want to achieve and what success looks like. This is not necessarily this case with SharePoint – I have seen many organizations charge headlong (or drift aimlessly) into a SharePoint deployment with no clear understanding of the high-level business value.

Working backwards from a figure of $4 billion to be spent on e-discovery software and services

The e-discovery niche, according to the ABA J., Vol. 95, Aug. 2009 at 29, is crowded with about 600 vendors. They are jostling for pieces of a large pie. George Socha, a consultant deeply involved in research about e-discovery vendors, projects that “Commercial spending in this young niche is expected to increase this year by 20 percent to $4.05 billion.”


Danger! Do not implement SharePoint in your Organization!

This column I want to deliver a warning to all of you out there – do not implement SharePoint in your organization! If you ignore this warning, and implement SharePoint anyway, beware. You run the risk of any number of problems, including:

  • User dissatisfaction
  • Maintainability and support issues
  • Data silos, making information hard to find, hard to share, and hard to maintain
  • Lots of rework
  • General chaos
  • Projects that take 10 times longer than you had planned, if they finish at all.

I do a lot of work helping organizations build solutions using SharePoint – is that all a lie?

Effective Use of IT in law firms

Bill KirbyBill Kirby: "Getting to grips with IT and its support in the business is one reason why I am supporting the Alternative Legal IT Conference" 

The recession continues and aided and abetted by the impact of the Legal Services Act is having a major impact on the performance and morale of many lawyers and managers within law firms. This dramatically affects the operation of the business in key areas and harnessing IT to support the business is probably even more critical at this time.

At last I think it is fair to say that the majority of lawyers are beginning to believe that IT is not an overhead for the business but it is an essential support tool for the successful running of the business. It is also a great facilitator of communication with and performance for clients.

Need to know!

Joanna Goodman tells about TheKnowList and replies to comments on her previous column

Although it is only a few weeks since my last column, I thought I’d let LITP readers know that August sees the launch of TheKnowList, the first independent directory for the legal IT community featuring leading law firms and suppliers across all product categories. I have to confess an interest as I am the editor of this essential – and stylish – A5 reference guide which is currently being distributed to UK law firms. To order your free copy – wherever you are – go to

TheKnowList offers a comprehensive directory of legal technology products and services. The editorial section comprises 21 features highlighting the key technologies that support modern law firms of all sizes, ranging from major infrastructure systems to flexible SaaS solutions.

Data on number of invoices processed per user through leading e-billing systems

In mid-May, ten providers of e-billing software received invitations from me to provide metrics for three questions. Two declined but eight sent me data: Allegiant, Bottomline, Bridgeway, CTTyMetrix, DataCert, DOELegal, LawTrac, and Serengeti.

One question asked for the “Number of active law department users during the past six months, meaning only those who have logged into your system during that period.” Three companies reported multiple thousands, one reported around 2,000, and two were in the hundreds of law department users. Read more...

A First Look at SharePoint 2010

I am very excited about the upcoming 2010 version of Office and SharePoint. Then again, I am a techie and love to play with new toys. So I have been looking through the SharePoint 2010 Sneak Peek videos recently posted by Microsoft, and thought I would post some first impressions regarding the upcoming release. Keep in mind that this is all very preliminary, and that I have not seen any of the software running, or seen anything beyond the videos. This is just the stuff I liked – I would strongly recommend looking at the videos yourself to see what strikes your fancy. Plus, I can’t show demos or screen shots, so the videos will let you actually see some of this stuff in action. 

Microsoft is changing the positioning around SharePoint a little bit, but it is still all about sharing and finding information, and improving the way people collaborate. There are hints of new features related to enterprise social networking as well.

Document Lifecycle Management - Beyond Matter-Centricity

Joe FousekThe 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 boost from technology thought by firms to enhance client service

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?”


Making IT personal – or not!

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.

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