Bill 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.
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 www.theknowlist.com.
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.
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...
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.
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...
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