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Hyperpost on software applications for legal departments

Most of the metaposts on Law Department Management Blog look at specific categories of software, including the following seven:

  1. Contract management (See my post of Nov. 22, 2008: contract management software with 11 references.).

  2. Decision trees (See my post of June 17, 2009: decision tree software with 6 references.)

  3. Document assembly (See my post of Feb. 26, 2008: document assembly with 16 references.).

  4. Document management (See my post of Dec. 6, 2007: document management with 15 references.).

  5. Idea visualization (See my post of May 15, 2009: idea relationship software with 6 references.).

  6. Matter management (See my post of Aug. 5, 2008: matter management systems with 35 references.).

  7. 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.).

Read more...

Pros and cons of technology support within the legal department

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...

Exclusive report on June's Legal Week Strategic Technology Forum

Peter BirleyThe 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.

The sibling, information technology (IT), and its interactions with law

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...

Eleven reasons why in-house lawyers value online legal professional networks

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...

 

If I had Workflow Foundation, would I have finished this column on time?

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:

Microsoft SharePoint as an option for legal departments

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...

Without spend management software, law departments get their data from accounts payable

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.“

Read more...

Into the cloud

By now you will have heard that Legal Technology Journal is no longer being published, hence the extended gap between LITP columns. I have to start by thanking people who e-mailed saying they’ll miss the LTJ. So will I – it’s sad to dismantle a really good team. But life – and legal IT – must go on. I’m a freelance writer and I continue to cover the legal and technology sectors – more news to come so watch this space as I’ll be looking for comment and input!

It could be said that Legal Technology Journal and the Legal Technology Awards went out with a bang. More than 450 people attended the awards and as someone who does a lot of work by e-mail and on the phone it was great to meet the legal IT crowd – not least the founder of this site.

As this is my first LITP column for 2009, I thought I’d highlight some of the latest trends: new challenges and new technology.

Firms are still focused sharply on Green IT, especially if it saves money while it saves the planet. As everyone also knows, London’s Legal IT Show was quiet compared with previous years. Was it the recession, a reluctance to travel – or was it the snow in London – an unusual occurrence which ground our public transport system to a halt? The keynote speech by James Woudhuysen focused on Green issues and their impact on IT. His book – on economics, energy and IT – is erudite and well written, which isn’t surprising given that James is a lecturer at de Montfort University, but it occurs to me that for an environmentalist, he is using an awful lot of paper. It says nowhere in the book whether it was printed on recycled paper…please correct me if I am wrong…

It’s 2009. Are you still litigating like it’s 1999?

I’m sure you’ve noticed how much the Internet has changed the way we live over the last ten years.  You watch your favorite television programs on-line instead of on your television.  You e-mail or instant message family and friends instead of picking up the phone.  You love the power and convenience of the Internet, and you can’t imagine how you ever got along without it.  That is, until you step into your office and start practicing law.

For many litigators, your practice hasn’t changed much since 1999, or for that matter, 1989.  Of course, technology has brought some big advances – on-line legal research and e-filing of court papers to name two – but in one major area for most litigators – defending and taking depositions – anachronistic practice remains the norm.

Two companies, New Media Legal Publishing (www.newmedialegal.com) and Thomson Reuters (www.thomsonreuters.com) are changing that with cutting edge products designed to propel deposition practice into the 21st century.

Skills to pay the bills

Chris DaviesLaw firms around the world are working hard to increase operational efficiency during the recession. So why are training budgets often the first thing to be cut? Obviously this kind of expenditure is easy to trim, but is it wise? Let me explore a few issues.

Human Capital

A firm recently extended its lending facilities with their bank by securing a loan against firm assets. It highlighted an important question - what are the assets of a typical law firm? In this case it was property, fixtures and fittings, goodwill, WIP and IP. Many industry analysts feel this was a largely symbolic move as WIP and goodwill are quickly devalued. The real assets walk into work in the morning and go home at night. Law firms are all about people. When considering this fact redundancies are a double-edged sword for a law firm. Costs can be significantly reduced, but a loss in human capital also means a loss in experience, knowledge and the significant investment made in that individual. Firms who are shedding staff may well be concerned about their ability to respond to an upturn in the economy. Recruitment and development are neither cheap nor quick.

Work Smart

If you've had the misfortune to read my previous articles, you will be familiar with my firm belief in the ability to release the potential in staff through training. Many firms will now have to do more with less people. How can this be achieved? We can all work harder, but we can also work smarter!

Law firms are heavily reliant on secretarial support. Fee earners need secretarial support right? A no-brainer surely? Yes, but at what ratio? Over the years I have lost count of the amount of times I have heard the following words come out of a fee earners' mouth – "I'm an expensive typist". While I agree with this statement to an extent, particularly regarding bulk typing jobs, I have always believed this to be a convenient excuse. A fee earner could easily type a simple filenote in the same time it takes to dictate it. There are still plenty of fee earners that dictate emails. Obviously you need adequate typing skills and the will to do the typing. Guess which one is more difficult to develop? I'm such a cynical soul! You can extend this example to many simple tasks (obviously simple if you know how) such as sending out calendar appointments and making simple amends to documents. It often takes more time to ask a secretary to do it, than just to do it.


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