Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Google's New Caselaw Search

Google's massive size and repeatedly demonstrated ability to move into and dominate new areas of information and search suggest that any effort by it even to dip its toe into the ocean of the law should be taken seriously.

As such, as has been amply noted by many others, and as officially announced in its blog, Google's new case search should be examined as a free source of many years of federal and state appellate caselaw. To access it, go to Google Scholar, and select the "Legal Opinions and Journals" button, or just search, caselaw is now included.

Below I quickly address the new tool's coverage of recent cases; its relevancy ranking; potential use of the case hyperlinks; and pin cites.

Scope of Search

As pointed out by Carole Levitt of "Internet for Lawyers," Google has buried some information about the scope of the search on its Google Scholar Help page:

"Currently, Google Scholar allows you to search and read opinions for US state appellate and supreme court cases since 1950, US federal district, appellate, tax and bankruptcy courts since 1923 and US Supreme Court cases since 1791 (please check back periodically for updates to coverage information). In addition, it includes citations for cases cited by indexed opinions or journal articles which allows you to find influential cases (usually older or international) which are not yet online or publicly available."

I'm a Massachusetts lawyer, so of course today I assessed its recent coverage in an area I know something about, Massachusetts case law. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court archive allows free access to recent opinions: Google Scholar contains the Commonwealth v. Avila case issued September 15, 2009 (roughly two months ago) but not the Commonwealth v. Odgren case (available temporarily free from Westlaw here) issued October 15, 2009 or the Massachusetts Appeals Court case Sheriff of Suffolk County v. AFSCME COUNCIL 93, LOCAL 419 (temporarily here) issued October 1, 2009. Oddly Google Scholar knows about the Odgren case as a citation--perhaps more functionality will be unveiled about this aspect of the tool in future months. Similar treatment is found for the even more recent SJC slip opinions, that is, Google Scholar knows about the citation but not the case.

Relevancy and Case Significance

The commentators have noted that Google is not simply turning its regular algorithm loose on the text of legal opinions. Rather, the relevancy ranking clearly shows that some serious thought and attention has been paid to how the legal system works. My search for in personam jurisdiction produced results similarly impressive to those I had seen with Precydent. I would guess that Google tracks the number of citations in other courts to a given case and factors that into its algorithm.

Case Hyperlinks

I noticed that each case has a unique not-horribly-long URL. For instance, the URL for Cement-Lock LLC v. Gas Technology Institute, 523 F. Supp. 2d 827 (N.D. Ill. 2007) is:


The broad coverage and solidity of Google technology suggests that such hyperlinks may be an excellent tool in the kit of those who write in about legal issues in HTML-enabled text, such as legal bloggers and lawyers working with internal blogs and wikis. No login is needed to access the case (thanks Ernie the Attorney for pointing that out).

Pin Cites

I've previously noted in my review of PreCydent that pin cites are really important for legal research and writing. Google Scholar cases indicate where the page breaks are in the original text.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Client-Facing Knowledge Management

I'm continuing in a KM peer group meeting in a discussion on client-facing knowledge management. There was a good presentation about client facing KM including a very impressive instance of law department and law firm collaboration in KM, training, and beyond.

How can client-facing KM add value and get clients to work more closely with the firm?

KM is perceived as delivering value to internal clients. It can also be structured to deliver value directly to clients.

Our natural tendency may be to focus on the internal clients but there are opportunities with external clients.

It is hard to identify value--"one man's meat [tofu] is another man's poison." Qualitative measurements of value are more appropriate but entail repeated conversations. Ask if particular KM initiatives are delivering value.

What will value look like in the future? Is the recession a temporary dip or a transformational event?

Clients' demands have clearly changed as a result of the recession.

There are three tiers of client-facing opportunities. Every client expects firms to have models, samples, and extranets as commodity services. Above that some KM initiative have brand distinguishing initiatives (e.g., "Blue Flag"). Above that are "bespoke" KM tools such as expert systems that can identify answers or advice to clients through a dialogue (as those discussed at ILTA). Bespoke systems are the most challenging and the most rewarding.

You can't charge for commodity level of services.

Quoting the ACC Value Challenge, "corporate clients want and need value driven, high quality legal services that deliver solutions for a reasonable cost and develop lawyers as counselors (not just content-providers), advocates (not just process-doers) and professional partners." "The problem is not cost per se, but the fact that cost is disconnected from value."

GCs historically have not had good answers when asked for a definite number for annual legal spend. It is not always the lowest cost that a GC looks for, as a predictable cost is of high value to them as well.

What can KM do?

A specific client will have a specific view of what KM can do for them. One classic challenge is resistance from the relationship partner in getting information about what the client needs. Can you proactively get information about KM needs of client? KM managers would have to pitch the internal client. You need to be persistent. It's acceptable to start with small initiatives and build from there.

Case Study

A large company had a GC who had come from a large firm with a strong KM program. He wanted to build a stronger legal department that would allow the in-house team to do more of the legal work themselves. They developed a KM strategy for five business units in six weeks.

Initiatives included a portal, knowledge bank, matter management, expertise management, and enterprise search. They needed some place where the hundreds of in-house lawyers could share knowledge. They created a global knowledge management officer. The GKMO built a global network of "knowledge champions" in different business units. The law department had set of objectives that, after the GKMO came in, included concrete KM goals. KM was seen as a way to link outside counsel and the law department. They have built out four of the five systems (leaving matter management for future development). The company now has sophisticated internal knowledge management.

Their goal was to integrate law department and law firm systems seamlessly through a personalized portal. It's hard for clients to have a view of the law firm's work if they have to visit multiple portals each with their own passwords. They want to be able to search their internal and law-firm created content in their own portal. They also wanted a comprehensive training portfolio.

The value they were seeking was in making their lawyers more effective and efficient; managing their legal spend; improving their lawyers' skill levels; and expanding their knowledge repositories.

One law firm that had a large client team for that company was asked to provide a training program. The discussion started with substantive KM (forms, models and samples) but expanded into communication models, e-billing, and more.

After some development the two had a day-long summit with extensive participation by senior leaders on both sides. The goals for the summit was to deepen the relationship, find some mutually beneficial outcomes, and become a higher performing virtual team. The firm developed bios for the law department staff. The conversation was very valuable. The summit gave each side a better understanding of the drivers in each enterprise. There are now formal client team coordinators for other clients.

The law firm's KM team had been formulating its strategy for providing KM support. The big connection was on the training front. KM had involved training, both substantively and in terms of training processes. KM participated in trainings by including model documents in them and by quarterbacking the communications (with the marketing department). The firm has also proposed managing CLE credits for the law department. They also found third-party trainings that law department staff might be interested in and also found and listed law department staff's speaking engagements. Increasing awareness of the law department staff's activities led to more potential contact points.

Future challenges include a client request for concise regular updates on matter status and very targeted, edited current awareness information, based on what client's issues are.

The partnership is a success because both knowledge initiatives were trying to be stronger. The training program has met the law department's needs for developing their own skills (a corporate initiative that has fed into the legal department's initiative). They have complex multifaceted training goals. And the law firm lawyers have been showcasing their expertise in the trainings and through the forms and samples, as well as keeping the firm on the increasingly shorter list of outside counsel.

Success factors were:
  • Client's specific need
  • Firm skills and resources that met the need
  • In the law firm, lawyers, IT, KM, Business Development, and Professional Development worked in partnership
  • Client perception of value added

Usability and Usability Professionals

The next presentation at this KM peer group meeting was on web design and usability. I've found myself doing a fair amount of work that implicates usability, as one of my firm's main methods of providing information is through its intranet and KM has a role to play in some aspects of that intranet.

People who are involved with usability might be called visual designers, interaction designers, information architects, or user experience researchers. The real value is in combining these roles.

Identifying pain points becomes more anthropological.

People who are good at usability need to:
  • Not mind asking dumb questions
  • Be fascinated with human behavior
  • Focus on task, try to keep people who aren't actually end-users from interfering
  • Customer service oriented
  • Eye for detail
  • Enjoy complex problem-solving
If 80% of your audience is satisfied with what you build, you can withstand the 20% with gripes.

Design mistakes:
  • Filling all white space
  • When in doubt add News
  • "Useful Links" or even "Very Useful Links"
  • Equating "easy to build" with "easy to use"; usability must be balanced with ease of design
  • Equating you with your audience; avoid by getting proximity and facetime with users

Good design approaches:

  • Research first
  • Build prototypes through web applications such as AXURE--more than wireframes; can make entirely clickable sites
  • NPS score-a subjective means of providing quantitative information. Ask likelihood that someone will recommend that site. Do before and after measurements.
  • Personas
  • Card-sorting-- put names of pages on index cards and ask users how pages should be organized (or use Optimal Sorting)
  • User testing

KM and ROI

I'm at an international knowledge management peer group meeting today, under the terms of which speakers and affiliations are not identified.

My subject line acronyms, standing of course for "knowledge management" and "return on investment," all too rarely appear together either in discussions or strategy. This was in some ways an introduction to ROI at a fairly basic level, but given the relatively woeful state of business analytics at most law firms, investigating ROI may be a real opportunity for KM programs.

People want to believe there is a way to comprehend any puzzling or momentous force. Convince them you are the key to comprehending it and you will gain great status.

Having a basic grasp of finance can give you a leg up in law firms over most people at the firm except perhaps the CFO or COO.

ROI was a misunderstood term of art. KM people took it mean "show us what you are likely to do and how it will help."

We are starting to see a trend of relating KM to profitability or even revenue generation.

As firms have begun to embrace professional managers, it's become much more important for KM managers to establish ROI.

ROI, defined as earnings per dollar of investment, compares solution cost to monetary benefits. Measuring ROI varies between industries. There will always be some black magic behind it. It does not take into account work-life balance. An ROI of 25% means that investment cost plus an additional 25% of the investment is returned.

ROI is calculated first by identifying the solution benefits, less the total costs (not just cash investments), x100 expressed as a percentage.

Utilization rate is the actual hours billed divided by target. So an associate who bills 900 hours with an 1800 hour target has 50% utilization rate.

Realization is collections divided by billings. So a matter in which $200,000 was billed but $100,000 collected would have 50% realization rate.

As KM managers are integrated more and more into the business discussions we need to have a better understanding of the language of business.

Process improvement helps cost savings when a better-articulated, well-documented, more accessible, and standardized best practices reduces the time required for a person to accomplish a goal or complete an activity.

For example, ask attorneys how much time they spend sorting / dealing with email.

It is not as simple as saying that an hour saved is an hour that would have been billed. Tie rather to a firm initiative such as business development investment time. Look for firm initiatives that set goals for new business acquisition, client outreach, cross-selling, and so forth.

Sales metrics; one large legal market vendor tracks sales activity down to the level of clicks in a demonstration. This is not inappropriate but rather is the type of business process necessary to survive in a global economy.

At one firm, five of six projects needed no ROI. On the sixth, the KM manager identified hours that could be used for something else with the new project and used that to successfully sell the project. Another firm will be requiring ROI analysis but has not identified how to do that.

Few firms have assessed ROI on business development.

Value can be defined in a lot of different ways.

The discipline that the "ROI game" imposes helps us better find the business objectives, articulate the goals and objectives of KM work, and communicate better to lawyers about it.

KM taking over the risk management at one firm led to cost savings in not hiring a general counsel. If practice area is servicing more clients in the same amount of time, then you've helped the business of the firm because the firm didn't have to hire more people.

"You will spend less time searching" or "you will spend less time doing X" gives the direction and lawyers intuitively understand that working more efficiently means more time for managing the business or delegating more. Firm leaders may not have spent the time identifying how people should be spending their time.

It drives smart people crazy when business processes are handled poorly. Setting a good example of doing something better proves your value.

One way to get some return on invesment is to do a survey about people's pain points and degree of contentment.

Another way to tie to think about ROI is saving moeny for the client.

One firm has a "precedents" library with metrics about popular precedents, popular users, and unpopular precedents. The parallel "research" library doesn't have comparable metrics. The KM manager's CIO from an accounting firm is asking for an ROI, although the project is required to be in place before metrics measurement can really be done (chicken-egg).

The "wild card" KM managers can play in ROI discussions is risk.

One financial measurement is risk and cost of being sued. Making substantive legal mistakes due to poor precedent or absence of search is a risk and potential cost of having a poor research collection.

KM managers can trace ROI by looking at usage of precedents, derivative works, number of searches, etc.

We can estimate software cost by figuring implementation and consulting may take about 1/3 of the annual cost. Focus on three year period as implementation costs drop off quickly.

Doing calculations can help you identify if your assumptions are incorrect. You won't actually get an ROI of 71% from implementing metrics assessment.

ROI analysis ties well into matter management and alternative fee arrangements.

A major benefit of ROI analysis is a more rigorous business approach.

One commentator said that our firms do not apply rigorous analysis to major business decisions. Most don't even do profitability analysis.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Wikis at ILTA 2009 Part 2, SmartSpace Integrates Wikis Into Leading Document Management System Platform


PBWorks is a tool squarely in the Enterprise 2.0 space. SmartSpace attempts to merge the traditional core document management system functionality of legal market leader iManage (Interwoven) with an enterprise wiki, or actually, thousands of wikis. To understand this tool you have to understand a little bit about how iManage's "matter centric collaboration" or MCC system works.

iManage Background

With MCC each legal matter or practice area is automatically assigned a "workspace" that contains iManage folders. These iManage folders function something like a Windows explorer folder, but are located essentially within the application (webparts allow folders or workspaces to be displayed in portals, however). To assign a matter number or other characteristic to a document or email, it is placed in a folder in a workspace. At the "workspace level" proper, however, no information is displayed and no documents can be located. Workspaces, like folders, can be associated with metadata like client / matter numbers, legal service codes, and practice areas.

Baker Robbins has leveraged the curious opportunity created by the "blank" workspace to create and display a workspace-specific wiki. As with any wiki, new pages can be linked and created on the workspace wiki. The home wiki page is currently somewhat "structured," such that documents in iManage can be added as part of a "briefing" at the top of the home wiki page.

Technically I understand that the SmartSpace wiki is hosted on a separate server and is displayed within iManage dynamically based on the workspace information (this suggests that it would not be challenging to show the SmartSpace alone on a portal, say in conjunction with one of the many Matter Pages intranet systems or in an extranet).

Document Management System Collaboration??

I think it is really interesting that a top consultant has figured out a way to add a matter-specific collaborative tool right into the main-line document management system. Providing attorneys and staff the ability to interact with and add context to the key set of documents they work with could very significantly enhance their ability to find and leverage work product, and also could provides an easy way for wiki knowledge-sharing and collaboration to be embedded in the normal attorney / staff workflow.

Suggestions For Improvement

The product was first discussed (released?) in June (2009) so, not surprisingly, I see a few ways that the current SmartSpace approach could be improved to make them more of a collaboration and communications platform.

1) Notifications (Signals)

Notification of changes is core wiki functionality, in my opinion, because it provides a signal of changes and allows the wiki to serve as a communications platform instead of simply an on-line database.

I did not see notifications built into SmartSpace. It should be easy to sign up for notifications of changes to the SmartSpace (and perhaps also the documents in the workspaces?). Notifications work best if the user can select the notification frequency, whether immediately, daily, or weekly digest formats.

In addition, the type of notifications provided can be really important. As noted by my former colleague in "Sharepoint Wiki Disaster," Sharepoint 2007 (a/k/a MOSS) provides the latest version of the page "entire," without a redline or indication of changes. This has limited (though not eliminated) the utility of those wikis.

Notifications are typically provided by email, or, in fully Enterprise-2.0-compatable organizations, through an RSS feed.

2) Ease of Editing

A wiki is supposed to be easy to edit. The edit button should be large, friendly, and inviting. That encourages people to start the editing process. Lowering the barriers to authorship enhances the opportunities for attorneys and staff to add value to the workspace wikis.

3) Structured vs. Unstructured Wiki Pages

Currently SmartSpaces allows users to right click on a document anywhere in iManage and add a document to a "briefing" section on the home page of a workspace wiki. I understand and applaud making it easy to add documents to these wikis.

I am concerned however that limiting where the documents go when they are added will dramatically reduce the opportunity for users to provide context to the documents through organizing and formating the page and set of pages to on which the document is linked. It is the ability of users to control and add to the context and organization of wikis that make them superior, from a knowledge management context, to traditional document databases.

One way to improve the flexibility would be to let users choose from a list which page on the wiki to add in the link. Another would be to have the right-click create the full link, complete with text, for addition into any place on the wiki. A third way would be to have the right-click simply identify and copy a unique URL for the document (this is clunkier).

4) Search

Another concern is search. An organization with enterprise search could readily search both the iManage system and any related wiki. Without federated search, however, the documents themselves and the context for the documents and the text provided by the SmartSpace wiki would need to be searched separately, which is problematic. And search within SmartSpace might be limited to that workspace wiki, or extended to all of the wikis.

5) Security

A separate system would need to map and abide by the same security settings found in the iManage workspaces. For instance, it should not be possible to even view the name of a workspace wiki if only certain people in the firm are allowed to access the matter (the names themselves can constitute information that needs to be kept from everyone except those on the matter team).


Despite these concerns, I am very intrigued by the concept of adding matter-specific wikis into the law firm environment. I have been looking for a wiki package that would allow automatic generation of wikis based on matter opening, and this system certainly fits that need. It remains to be seen if this system can meet enough other needs to rise to the level of a truly useful and adoptable tool.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Wikis at ILTA 2009, Part 1, Bracewell & Giuliani Litigation Knowledge Base

Wikis (a significant interest of mine) came up in three largely unrelated contexts at the ILTA conference this year.

One law firm, Bracewell and Giuliani, is using an externally-hosted wikis provided by PBWorks for "core" knowledge management and retrieval in the litigation group at one of their offices. I attended an Enterprise 2.0 session on this on Monday as part of the Enterprise 2.0 track (more details below).

Second, I had a preview of an iManage-reliant technology called "SmartSpace" in developement by Baker Robbins that integrates wikis with iManage's matter workspaces (details in the second part). Increasing people's ability to easily add context through a wiki or other interactive tool like tagging has great potential to change the way that people work with and relate to the document management system. (Disclaimer: my firm has employed Baker Robbins from time to time).

Third, at a knowledge-management track session on Creative Adoption Techniques, I learned that another law firm is using Sharepoint wikis to store practice-area related information. I did not obtain any significant details about this and so have little to add to this tidbit. Wikis are clearly beginning to make some inroads for limited purposes even at firms not noted for Enterprise 2.0 adoption.

Bracewell & Giuliani -- Wikis as Litigation Work Product Research and Knowledge Sharing Tool

Bracewell's project was an outstanding example of leveraging the power of Web 2.0 / Enterprise 2.0 tools to enhance a group's sharing and alerting of valuable core knowledge, for one litigation practice.


The New York office of this firm has less than 30 litigators, yet they had difficulty finding legal research that had been previously carried out at that office. They did not have a work-product retrieval tool like West KM(TM) or Lexis(TM) Search Advantage. They did have an enterprise search tool but it was providing them with "too much information."

They were using a set of centrally-located research binders, but they were hard to maintain and keep current.

One of their attorneys heard that the U.S. State Department is using wiki technology to share and collaborate across the globe (through Diplopedia), and they have since investigated and adopted wikis as the primary way of storing and retrieving valuable work product (in that office).

They commented that if you can’t share the research it’s not efficient and makes the next attorney reinvent the wheel.

Tool, Form, and Adoption Techniques

They chose PBWorks as an easy-to-use externally hosted platform into which they could load the documents and create a browseable view of resources (PBWorks is the first E20 vendor to really focus on the legal market with its PBWorks Legal).

The B & G wiki focused on what NY litigators wanted. Their wiki covers areas such as substantive law of New York (the example they showed was contract law); civil procedure; and information about judges and courts (for instance, filing practices in particular New York Supreme Court offices). Each topic page enhances browsing by linking to related procedures, areas of law, and court information. Search on the wiki also works quite well because of the targeted nature of the content.

Their adoption approach leveraged attorneys' competitive nature. They set up a substantial reward for the most (real) new entries over a certain period of time. In 3 months they went from a handful of entries to hundreds of entries, with an especially numerous clump of entries on the (near-holiday) night the contest closed. They are now able to find valuable precedent through searching, or, just as often, browsing the wiki.


They believe that an average successful search saves around 2 hours in fruitless searching or reinvention of work product. Theor wiki has resulted in more efficient service and cheaper client bills (happier clients).

The three attorneys who led the effort suspected that if a critical mass of information is built up, the information pool would reach at a certain point reach “critical mass” and be self-sustaining. As it turns out, the wiki has succeeded in terms of the number of users. Partners now will say “check the wiki first" or “just go to the wiki.” Partners have to answer for high bills and so they are driving use.

An additional goal is also to eventually provide the information on-line to answer questions, say, about liquidated and consequential damages under New York law from other Bracewell & Giuliani offices.

They find it much easier to post small bits of information on the wiki than to draft a formal research memo on a given subject. Attorneys can easily cut and paste an email into the wiki.

One paralegal was able to find a form for accepting assignment of a case to a mostly retired New York state judge on 30 seconds on the wiki, where it had taken two hours on the internet.


Users get redlined changes of updates to wiki. This provides a way to educate all of them to keep up on new developments in the law.

Other Uses

While the litigation group's wiki was solely for internal use, they believe that the external hosting makes sharing the project wiki with the client a potential use for transactional work.

Reaction and Conclusion

At my firm we use West KM to retrieve previous examples of substantive legal research, and that tool works quite well for that purpose. We also use a collection of Sharepoint and Interaction lists and systems to track information about judges and courts. I am working on a Sharepoint wiki focused on federal civil procedure but Sharepoint's notifications limitations make it an inappropriate tool to serve as a tool for updating my department about developments in the law. And my systems don't currently provide an easy way for attorneys to capture knowledge contained in email or to contribute small bits of higher-level knowledge, such as the procedures and practices of a particular judge.

Litigation knowledge managers, practice support lawyers, and people with similar responsibilities inside law firms should look at the benefits that a substantive litigation wiki can provide their groups, and draw from this firm's experience with selection, adoption, and success.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

ILTA 09 Panel--Technologies That Will Disrupt Traditional Legal Practice

This was an excellent session that provided a good list with lightly described examples of disruptive technologies and three more in-depth case studies from two of the more technologically sophisticated firms.

I am putting up these notes with fairly minimal review as I am presenting on matter management in an hour.

What is disruption?

Susskind recommends "The Innovator's Dilemma"; Christianson. Technologies that come and challenge the way that business works. What are the implications of disruption for market leaders? Often they dismiss these technologies when they first appear. Sometimes the innovators end up challenging the market leaders. For instance, Kodak ignored digital cameras and for a while were able to argue that film was better. They lost market but now are invested in digitial photography as well.

For Whom is it Disruptive?

For innovators, disruptive technology can lead to competitive advantage. Most law firms are far more afraid of being left behind than they are of leading the pack.

It's hard to motivate lawyers. It's more persuasive to say that other firms are doing this.

He's surprised by the persistance of the billable hour. He offered to pay his 12-year old daughter by the hour for a chore and she smiled and said "Well I'll take my time then." (You really have to say this out loud with a Scottish accent to get the full effect).

About 50% of general counsel are still comfortable with it.

Ten Disruptive Technologies

The legal world does change slowly. It will take 5-10 years.

1. Automated document assembly.

A lot of work is still hand-crafted. There us a fair amount in small shops with commoditized work. Automation has changed only a few sophisticated practices (European bond market).

Making them available on-line changes the ball game. You can go from a production level of several hundred to several thousand.

The automatic assembly of documents is disruptive because it takes the lawyers out of the business of producing documents.

2. Relentless Connectivity

We'll never be less connected than we are today. 24/7 availability is scary for senior lawyers. You need to put in place systems to have someone be responsive or accessible. Email is not going anywhere. "The calls on our time electronically are increasing."

3. The Electronic Legal Marketplace

We know we can auction services on-line. Clients can more quickly find out what services are available at what price. The idea that clients can find out about the availability of resources outside those of the law firm is fundamentally disruptive. Can a corporation find out that a law firm in Ohio has a week's worth of resources to throw at a due diligence project.

4. e-Learning

The romantic vision of bespoke services draws people to the law but does not reflect the current practice of law. How should we be training them?

There are simulation and learning techniques that afford a far more realistic view of legal practice. A lawsuit simulation might include a large filing the night before a scheduled oral argument that attempts to totally change the argument (which happens in practice but not moot court).

5. Online Legal Guidance

Current websites are fairly crude but still provide some information. There's great potential to provide legal services to a much broader pool of people, cheaply.

6. Legal Open-Sourcing

This will be more directed at citizens than at corporations. If people are networked together they can offer each other much in a community spirit. We'll start to see people coming together who have similar problems.

7. Closed Legal Communities

By and large there aren't many truly new problems. Big London banks collaborated to force law firms to deliver their legal know-how in a portal. Clients are also starting to come together.

8. Workflow and Project Management

We need to systematize and organize our project better. Rigorously apply well-tested techniques to project management. It is laughable to think that a lawyer can become a project manager by at most attending a 3-day training course.

Project management in principle and practice reduces the time and cost in providing legal services.

Project management becomes more necessary with multi-sourcing. Chunking up projects is a separate type of challenging task and needs to be managed.

Global tax compliance efforts are underway at large accounting firms. It's worth hundreds of millions. Accenture won it by saying that it was a complex project that needed a strong management instead of tax expertise (that was subcontracted out).

Are law firms ready to implement and train on project management? No, not currently.

9. Embedded Legal Knowledge

Rules are embedded in systems like computer Solitaire.

Self-monitoring and self-assessing legal systems will reduce need for lawyerly attention.

10. Online Dispute Resolution

He asks, "are courts a service or a place?" Cybersettle uses "double-blind bidding system." to resolve dispute. Over 30 days you negotiate until you're within 10%. The State of New York (?) has resolved hundreds of personal injury suits through such a system. Moneyclaimonline is a UK based dispute resolution.


You know there are other ways to deliver legal services. The economy has catalyzed the uptake of new ways. There are radical new ways of delivering legal services that will be enabled by technology.


John Alber of Bryan Cave then addressed an online service his firm provides in the trade/export restrictions area.

Automating Low End Legal Advice

A good opportunity has:
  • a recurring legal problem (import/export restrictions),
  • perceived value/cost disconnect where paying for solving the same type of problem every day
  • high-energy practice group accustomed to tight publishing deadlines
The goal is to solve common problems and answer the "easy" questions. Clarifications provided at no additional cost. Typical pricing is an hourly fee.

Legal Advice for Clients: Import/Export Tool

They set up a client-facing decision tree tool for a client who needed information about import/export restrictions. Clients like it. They obtained all of the trade business for the first client. The service was completely repriced. They use it as a training toool.

Workflow for Due Diligence

They also applied technology to wireless spectrum sales. Radio station sales are very expensive, especially the due diligence.

They developed an automated workflow that walked 50 contract lawyers through a set of review steps and captures the information at issue. It has a significant reporting feature to track work. You can use Sharepoint workflow (it is not technically complicated). They put the people in large rooms and ran the paper flow through them.

The result is that the cost per unit of due diligence roughly by 2/3 and deal turn time is measured in months not weeks. Client's deal process is changed and they can do deals they could not have before. It's a real competitive advantage.


Gerard Neiditsch of Australia addressed "Mallesons Connect."

Mallesons did not want to provide "black box" services where what is happening with the matter teams is hidden from their clients. They are trying to provide greater client access to information about the work.

Clients most wanted financial information, project progress, and alerts.

They were also interested in current awareness and client training.

The security model is quite challenging. Making correspondence securely available to the client is critical.

They'll be introducing these "Dashboards" later this year.

At the top it lists the total and active matters (a number) and the number of unpaid invoices. Sometimes bills aren't paid because the general counsel doesn't know they are paid.

All links are active. Hovering over matter gives matter summary of financials. A person's availability (live!) is shown next to their name. Drill-downs also available.

a Search page provides access to drill down into projects through guided / faceted navigation (number of projects by category, location, partner responsible, etc.)

Financial information is shown in friendly form including "Aged debtors", 10 most recent invoices with a link to unpaid invoices, project estimates and which are over/under/near/ or no estimate. Making this visible makes project management start to happen inside the firm.

This was a very sophisticated approach to exposing client information, focusing on the information they expressed they wanted.

The project has seen pretty good adoption by clients. Using web 2.0 tool sets that are very rapid to fix makes it possible to change the technology.

In the questions session, Susskind makes the point that you shouldn't base your decisions on having one reluctant client. If even half or three-quarters of clients want one of these then it is still probably worth it.

Rachelle Rennegal asked how Bryan Cave established pricing for the export tool. They now have sophisticated pricing tools. At first they took a guess at the economics and left the pricing flexible. The initial goal was to generate more high-end premium counseling business and break even on the software tool.

Susskind said that the skill and talent in chunking up the projects and planning outsourcing is significant.

Richard Susskind on "The End of Lawyering"

Legal innovator and passionate speaker Richard Susskind spoke in a "super session" this morning at ILTA. He is also spoke on a panel titled "Technologies That Will Disrupt Traditional Legal Practice."

His point of view is "radically different" from that of other lawyers.

Post revised September 11 to link to later post and fix a typo or two.

The Future
Black & Decker doesn't sell power tools. It sells something customers use to make holes in the wall.
Lawyers deliver 1:1 consultative services now. But what is the real value we bring? For what are we paid?
"We exist to turn knowledge into value." We bring insight to bear on customer's problems.
By avoiding discussing the means of service delivery in defining what lawyers do, you open yourself up to new methods of providing service.
You bring knowledge and experience to the situtation. Methods of capturing and sharing knowledge are therefore critical. KM has had pockets of success but has not changed the whole profession.
He finds that general counsel "don't want dispute resolution, we want dispute avoidance." They want a fence at the top of a cliff instead of the ambulance at the bottom.
Knowledge capture and management and legal risk management are really important.
Automation v. Innovation
Automation is systemetizing some aspect of your work. Applying technology to preexisting processes is automation. The most dramatic impact of technology is where it has allowed you to do things that previously weren't possible. We're just warming up in legal technology.
We have to look at ways in which IT can change the way we do things.
The ATM is an example of an innovation. It was a very different way of delivering that service.
Our challenge is to change the way legal services are delivered.
The Client's Three-Part Dilemma
In-house lawyers have been asked to reduce internal head-count and external spend as well at a time when compliance pressures and changes in the law are raising the complexity of their challenges.
Clients Want More For Less
It is simply not the case that clients will be going back to the old ways, at least with respect to "shareholders at a board meeting."
How Can This Be Done?
Susskind belives that the two paths to providing more for less are the efficiency strategy and the collaborative strategy.
Efficiency Strategy
He believes that routine and repetitive legal work can be done differently. It doesn't need expensive lawyers.
In 1996 he said that email would be the primary way of communicating in law firms.
"Bespoke" services are those customized and tailored to the particular situation just as a spoke suit is tailored to the wearer.
Lawyers project the idea that most problems are bespoke. But clients come to you because you've faced similar problems before.
There are five levels on the path to commoditisation.
Bespoke / Standard / Systematised / Packaged / Commoditised.
Pckaging is a radical step. Packaging is the delivery of a system that lets the client come in and produce the solution or document required themselves.
Another example is the term sheet generator by Wilson Sonsini and Allen Overy.
Deloitte's tax practice lets their clients come in and use their tax system on a licensed basis. "We exist to turn knowledge into volume." Not the way we learned to practice but clients will go for it. Deloitte has 70 of top 100 clients using their tax software.
There is a red line in his diagram before commoditisation. The costs of commoditised work rapidly drop towards zero. The marginal costs of delivery are reduced as you move towards commoditisation. There are huge opportunities in the standardization level.
No decent firm is not standardizing.
Work can be "chunked up"
The clients want to move towards commoditisation because it enhances certainty of cost. Some clients want certainty of cost even more than lower cost.
Standardization can be of very high quality.
He's predicting a fundamental move of the amount of work towards commoditisation.
Collaborative Strategy
You can divide litigation into different chunks. It's hard to argue that a law firm is uniquely qualified to source all of them.
There are many ways of sourcing the work:
  • Multi-sourcing
  • in-sourcing
  • de-lawyering
  • relocating
  • offshoring
  • outsourcing
  • sub-contracting
  • co-sourcing
  • leasing
  • home-sourcing
  • open-sourcing
  • computerising
  • no-sourcing
Rio Tinto is requiring external counsel to work with *their* junior lawyers and is not paying for junior lawyers at firms. Axiom in the Netherlands is providing services at a 40-50% discount to typical costs as compared to 10-15% of most efficiency or cost-cutting approaches.
He recommends Ray Kurzweil, "The Singularity is Here." We have an exponential curve in technology. Kurzweil claims we are in the "knee" of the curve.
By 2050 the average desktop machine has more processing power than all of humanity.
Web 2.0 and Disruption
Technology is now changing the way we relate and work. We've seen this most in social networking.
We're no longer passive recipients of news. We're now participants. He knows general counsel who are on Twitter. Half of the people in most firms are on Facebook (just not the partners).
A hundred thousand doctors on-line, sharing knowledge in a cross of Facebook and Wikipedia. Clients and in-house lawyers are sharing costs in a similar way. These resources (Legal OnRamp?) may become the first place in-house lawyers go.
There are dispute resolution mechanisms on eBay. Why won't they spread?
Outsourcing different kinds of work to English-speaking India or South Africa may be a real challenge to Western law firms.
85% of their external spend is fixed fee. When they negotiated the deal the external lawyers wanted to start attending meetings that involved legal risk. Cisco said that was what they wanted--to have the lawyers participate in managing risk and avoiding the disputes.
What is the profitability model?
Huge amounts of lawyers' work can be done more cheaply and effectively.
We can be confident that some lawyers are going to be adopting the new ways of doing business.
In this room, there are significant advances in technology that would already change the practice of law. These are just not evenly distributed yet.
"The best way to predict the future is to invent it." It's up to lawyers to fashion their own future. The message today is to legal technologists. We typically support existing strategy. But now information technology can change the very business model that underpins law firms.
We live in a time of flux and pressure for law firms. Technologists can help our firms adapt. "Our time has now come."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

iManage and Information Governance Strategy

I'm republishing this post after some glitches with my blogging account. Apologies for any double hits on RSS feeds etc.

This session (moderated by Keith Lipman) featured Laura Bandrowsky of Duane Morris and Elizabeth Ellis (head of KM at Canadian firm Torys). It was very useful to hear the experiences of firms that have adopted matter-centric email filing (using iManage's document management system) for some time and are moving to the next stage of information governance, beyond "just" the client file.

Duane Morris has a very "locked down" approach to information governance where they prohibit USB drives, CD-ROMs, and export of .pst files. Torys is much more open.
Records management, risk management, and maintaining integrity of documents are concerns for client documents. Duane Morris locks down the folder structure.

For legal or administrative departments there is more flexibility.

Torys' motto is "a place for everything and everything in its place." The place is by default the document management system. Everything should be in the document management system.

Explaining the strategy is not sufficient to obtain adoption. It requires telling stories about successes and failures of strategies.

ESI should be managed outside the document management system.

The initial focus of their matter-centric filing systems was the client file. Then Torys turned its attention to the administrative system. Everyone in the firm can currently create workspaces although this may be changing.

Firm workspaces are organized by practice area or department. People have personal workspaces as well. Liz doesn't believe that personal documents should go on a personal drive because it's a good habit to file everything into the document management system. Look at the documents you have in your firm and have workspaces to go with them.

One practice area had a six-page description of how to manage their workspaces. This was probably not effective.

At one of these firms a document that was practically speaking inaccessible on an "H" drive (and had to be retyped) led to a strong message from a leading partner to his colleagues about putting documents in the document management system.

There was a useful story that encouraged people to put documents in the right place.
Duane Morris created artificial matter numbers for the practice areas and associated a "type of law" with each.

The more unique metadata you have about your workspaces, the easier it is to show them in Sharepoint. It should be easy to find all workspaces for a given practice area.

Keith asked "Where is the future of email archiving and maintaining complete client files?"

Laura wants to have a system that recognizes that a particular email is from a client and flag it for later review to make sure that it is filed in the DMS.

Liz says "managing email gives me a big headache." Think of different scenarios and events that you may have to deal with. Why are you trying to manage the email? No one has really figured this out.

You have to anticipate litigation against the firm. You have to anticipate the client asking for the file. Look at your personal email management. Can you find an email sent 10 years ago?

We are still not in a position to enforce a policy of filing email in the document management system. Don't just focus on client-matter email as there is a lot of other email that is really important.

The send-and-file utility and hammering home the lawyer's fiduciary obligation to preserve the client file are both important to adoption.

Duane Morris has become very collaborative with many cross-office matters. They are filing 18-24,000 emails a day. They have a trigger on a certain email archive size over which the partner gets a called in which the message about preparing for litigation is delivered.

It's better to make email management implementation prospective only rather than asking attorneys to file everything going back. The message was "if you want to go back and file you can."

Have they advocated for human support for email filing?

At Duane Morris the biggest need for that is in the lateral partner / attorney context. Duane Morris assigned people to help with the transition. They ran a provisioning program with preexisting matter/client workspaces, or in "to be filed" workspaces so that they could identify important email from their old firm.

At Torys there is no objection to administrative staff having access to email inbox. But then how are you managing confidential communications? The translation to electronic has meant a loss of some context and the assistants has less idea what is happening with the file.

How do we train lawyers to file correspondence? Laura says we need a shortcut key for inserting client / matter tag into subject line.

Keith believes that all lawyers are risk-averse.

Does the rate of subpoenas and litigation hold implementations effect governance? Yes, if information is not well organized and you have to look in multiple locations (file share, custodian's .pst files, DMS). One firm estimated that they were spending 30 hours of IT cost *per hold* at roughly $100/ hour. There is a similar cost when lawyer or client leaves the firm. A well-organized collection will take 80% less time. Some firms are up to 2 subpoenas a week.

File Shares

Inventory shared drives to see what doesn't go away. The inventory is partly for a business continuity perspective (it is not backed up the same way as the DMS). Is the initial reason for including that information in the DMS still valid?


How do you manage information that could be useful for KM purposes or KM collections? Enhanced privacy concerns may require people to remove names from KM collections.

Massachusetts law is driving privacy compliance at Torys as it appears to be the strictest available. You have to assess where all of your information is stored (which is a good exercise in any event).


Paper files are much smaller but still should be stored offsite at the end of a matter. There is increasing digitization.

Exposing Email in a Portal

I asked if in the panelists' experience exposing matter email in portals or some other way had helpd increase adoption of email filing. Liz said that it's all about "how many clicks."

People like being in Outlook and the ability to batch-move email is very important. The email folder synching with the workspace is really important because lawyers are really comfortable in Outlook. Keith said that in implementations he has seen portal exposure has not significantly increased filing.

Monday, August 24, 2009

ILTA 09 Session on Extranets

Rachelle Rennagel of Sheppard Mullin and Keith Lipman of Interwoven presented on different approaches to law firm extranets.

The session usefully focused on the three main use cases for extranets and also on factors and options that firms should focus on when considering implementing extranets. Keith Lipman was refreshingly clear of any apparent bias or pitch in his discussion of various approaches he has seen applied.

They identified three primary uses for extranets:

1) Client Extranet

The extent of client information might vary depending on the importance of that client relationship.

2) Matter Extranet

This is the most common type of extranet.

The two most popular matter extranets are those for due diligence and litigation.

In due diligence you are asking multiple people within the client or opposing side of the deal to check off that they have reviewed sets of documents.

Litigation extranets are typically about “give me a status.” Client wants to know for each case or matter what is the next thing to be done. With complexity of litigation these extranets are going to be more important and more complex.

A matter dashboard might include all matter-related documents, matter contacts, calendaring, tasking, and reminders, matter status updates, daily digests, and billing information.

Rachelle does not believe that extranets will work if you try to use them for document review. Use a custom-built web-based tool for that. There is an expectation from the lawyers (that has to be adddressed) that they can go to one place for the matter information and the e-discovery.

3) Knowledge Management Extranet

A rarer and potentially very effective form of extranet is for knowledge sharing. Clients may ask attorneys to publish specific types of information. Attorneys may provide "black letter" legal advice on common questions, online CLE or other training programs for law department staff, or knowledge management tools that generate a useful document (like Wilson Sonsini's term sheet generator).

Client-focused KM resources can be a driver for the brand and show off a firm's expertise, as when attorney-generated forms or procedural information is shared with the client.

One possible next step in this approach is to provide clients access to internal library resources, a firm’s news feeds, or other in-house databases.

Full implementation of effective extranets can generate a tighter client relationship and positions the firm as an extension of the general counsel’s office. Are you offering commodity work?

Concerns around Extranets:


This must be the most important consideration.
How granular can you get? Can it be user-specific? Document level? Does your extranet expose who else is using or has access?

Hire black hats every few years to make sure that your system is secure.


Who is managing the passwords? What happens when an attorney or client loses a password?

In-house v. ASP

This concerns whether the governing application is custom-built or provided by a vendor. Options for the latter include applications hosted by the vendor or applications hosted on a firm's own servers.

For smaller firms both presenters recommended the ASP model.

Infrastructure Requirements

The speed of page load can really matter. Look at factors that affect that. When it takes 4-5 seconds to load that’s a problem (users are used to Google).

Extranet management--Decentralized vs. centralized

Like most firms, Sheppard Mullen has IT resource constraints. Paralegals, secretaries, and junior associates manage the content and help set up various extranets. They can’t have a one-person bottleneck because it’s a matter of client service. A poll in the room established that most other firms do centralize extranet management (although I would expect that

Most extranet managers take pride in their extranet work and can also increase their interaction with a client, perhaps at a peer level.

Firms can have a centralized approach where an extranet is set up on request, or can automate extranet creation in parallel with the matter creation process.

General Considerations

Keep in mind Records and Risk Management Policies—align extranet management with records retention policies. Tell attorneys that sometimes they need to take it down. Have discussion with records people about length of time something should stay up. Addressing archiving means that you need to be aware of the export and import features of the extranet.

Test search engine extensively. How responsive. When maxed out. How long does it take to search all extranets.

Potential for integration with firm systems. Separating firm systems from extranets make it more challenging to add information to the extranet. Sheppard Mullin tracks in iManage when documents are exported to an extranet. Willing to take risk because of the burdens of

Can or should clients post documents to the firm extranet? At Sheppard Mullin clients can put up single documents but typically not a whole directory.

Keith believes that some clients use the same library for both draft & final documents, while some use a library for final documents only. The choice of extranet publishing model depends on attorney security concerns.

An extranet needs the metadata, audit trails, and security structure of document management systems. A right-click “Publish” that follows the firms business rules might make sense. Publishing to an extranet is comparable (DBH-but better!) than sending a long email

Can extranets be customized as firm or client-branded?

How are notifications structured? Daily digest? By matter? Can a firm person administer them? Email comes into play in reminders.

Rachelle reported that a client uses the firm's extranet as a contract management tool. They tie renewal of contracts into extranet notification system. (Their provider custom-built this feature for them).

A “Practice Template” is a set of features as set up for a real estate or other business deal or litigation. Can be a huge time-saver. Might be able to start with matter-specific template. How different do you want it?

Value-add or billable service? Most people don’t bill (poll in the room). Hosted deal rooms are really expensive. Is it possible to charge back to client? Per gig or storage fee?

If it’s free people don’t value it as much. Can you have a nominal one-time fee?

Vendors include

  • AMS Legal
  • WorkSite Web (iManage)

  • Sharepoint
  • eRoom
  • (I would add PBWorks as well)

Frame extranets in terms of the specific client. Firms might treat extranets as a checkbox on RFPs or as a central focus of the way that they manage client relationships.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

ILTA Keynote Coming Up and Sunday Social Networking "Tweetup"

Tom Koulopoulos, Founder of Delphi Group, is providing the Keynote Address tomorrow morning at the International Legal Technology Association 2009 conference, this year held in the balmy National Resort south of Washington DC along the Potomac.

Tom attended the social networking / "tweetup" event this afternoon. He seems very interested in Enterprise 2.0 and business and technology innovation and I am looking forward to his talk.

The social networking discussion that I heard at that event (I didn't get to the start) largely revolved around attorney's reaction to social networking or social media tools and processes, in particular, around attorney's concerns about the ethical and proper professional use of these tools as reflected in social media policies. Some bar associations are more restrictive than others around their attorney's use of these tools.

My belief is that these types of concerns tend to be greatly ameliorated as people get more familiar with these tools. Yes, the same types of communications that were improper or unethical if made by letter, phone, or email can be made via blog, LinkedIn, Twitter, Sharepoint wiki, or any number of other social media and Enterpise 2.0 tools. And some typical uses, such as LinkedIn recommendations or identifying oneself as an "expert" in a given type of law, may continue to be prohibited to lawyers under ethical guidelines, while remaining acceptable and appropriate for most other inhabitants of these realms.

But it should be the substance of the communication (such as one that makes the recipient reasonably believe the attorney is representing them on a legal issue when that is not the case) that is problematic, not the channel in which it appears.

A participant mentioned at the meeting that interesting examples of social media policies have been developed by IBM, the New York Times, and Intel. See also ILTA's own page on social networking, Doug Cornelius' posts on "Top Ten Mistakes Lawyers Make With Social Media" and Blogging/ Social Media Policy For a Law Firm, and the Legal Blog Watch on the Wall Street Journal's policy. There will be a session devoted to this topic on Wednesday at 1:30 (at the same time I am speaking, unfortunately) at which V. Mary Abraham, Mary Hoskins and Honora Wade are speaking.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

ILTA Conference 2009; Enterprise 2.0 and Matter Management (presentations)

I will be presenting again at the International Legal Technology Association Conference, this year held just outside of Washington DC at the Gaylord National Resort & Conference Center, August 23-27. ILTA is without peer because it is peer-organized, not vendor-dominated, and covers such an incredibly broad range of technology, leadership, strategy, and knowledge management issues. I'm really looking forward to it.

There is a fancy (if non-interactive) program guide that has all the details. A less-green .pdf is also available (don't print all 231 pages you tree-killer).

Enteprise 2.0

The first and most prominent session where I'm presenting is titled "Enterprise 2.0: What It Is and Why You Should Care," which accurately suggests that we'll be sprinting over the whole scope of Enterprise 2.0, from social collaborative software to mashups to cloud computing, in one hour and half session on Monday morning August 24 at 10:30 AM in "Maryland A" among the "Chesapeake Conference Rooms."

I'm presenting with Kevin O'Keefe, of leading law blog vendor Lexblog, veteran blogger himself and a social networking expert (on Twitter as kevinokeefe).

The E20 presentation proper is already up on the ilta conference site; the final version may be slightly different.

We're trying to highlight the origin of Enterprise 2.0 as a reaction or followup to the massive success of Web 2.0 technologies and businesses. I'll review some of the characteristics of Web 2.0 that led to this success and show how some of these same capabilities for creating, sharing, and alerting people to new knowledge can have tremendous value for law firms as business and knowledge enterprises.

We'll drill down into Enterprise 2.0 broken down into three areas; social collaborative platforms such as wikis, blogs, and social networking; mashups, which at ILTA are represented by sessions leveraging Sharepoint; and cloud computing.

It's great to be part of an introduction to these ideas, especially where most of the individual topics I have to essentially gloss over will be covered in depth in subsequent targeted sessions. I could (and have) spent an hour talking just about wikis, for instance, but the folks at Bracewell will be addressing their experience with PBWorks in depth along with Minter Ellison on their modifications to Sharepoint wikis at 2:30 on Monday.

Matter Management

I'll also be presenting on matter management on a panel with Kathrine Cain of Winston & Strawn and Lisa Kellar Gianakos of Reed Smith Wednesday 8/26 at 1:30 PM in "National Harbor 2 & 3." Essentially we'll be talking about ways to capture, search through, and report on matter information.

I'll be focusing on matter reporting (my firm has spent some effort in developing a sophisticated albeit complicated tool for reporting on matter information). I'm looking forward to hearing from Kathrine about how they have leveraged matter information and more for their experience search and from Lisa about their experience with exposing matter information in dashboards (a lot more attractive and accessible than the reports I work with!).

Friday, July 17, 2009

LinkedIn for Lawyers--Doubling Every Six Months

An attorney at my firm recently asked me, in effect, if I thought LinkedIn was sufficiently professional that it would not embarrass her if she joined.

I answered that, yes, it was pretty far along, and that I thought there were several hundred thousand lawyers on that service.

(I have also suggested to a KM colleague looking for work that before she did any more research or on-line work she should get herself a Linked-In profile, as the absence of one might hurt her.)

I knew that my firm had its own company profile (which has 930 current employee members, plus former employees and other hangers-on) I wanted to check my math and found this useful and graphical post from Steve Matthews at Stem Legal Web Enterprises, suggesting that there were 840,000 people in the "legal practice" category in LinkedIn as of June 2009, up from some 406,000 in December 2008.

LinkedIn is not limited to the U.S. by any means, so I ran my own search and identified 627,302 U.S. people in the "legal practice" and "legal service" industries.

Let's assume that half of these people are IT, administrative, or marketing staff (a conservative assumption, for instance, at my firm more than half of the people are lawyers). So that leaves something north of 300,000 lawyers on LinkedIn (yes I pat myself on the back).

To put that large number in context, the ABA reports (based on reports from state bar associations) that were are a total of 1,180,386 lawyers in the U.S. at the end of 2008. So we are at around 30% adoption--well past the "early adopters" and into the "early majority," the middle of the adoption curve on LinkedIn. And the rate of growth--doubling every six months, four times that of Moore's Law--cannot be sustained, because we will run out of lawyers in about a year!

I have found that LinkedIn has greatly improved lately through introducing status updates, useful groups of various kinds, and good guesses at who else I might want to be connected to. These Web 2.0 features and its ubiquity help explain its success.

Article on Legal Matter Management published in ILTA White Paper

My article appropriately if plainly titled "Legal Matter Management" has been published as part on an otherwise outstanding edition of the annual International Legal Technology Association's Knowledge Management White Paper, titled "Knowledge Management: More Than the Sum of Its Parts."

In my article I address why matter management is important; the types of information captured shared and leveraged through matter management; and the possibilities for enhanced practice efficiency and more through a fully developed matter management system.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Article Published in KMPro Journal

My article "Enterprise 2.0 at Goodwin Procter" has been published by KMPro Journal, of the Knowledge Management Professional Society (no subscription required).


In the article I contrast some traditional knowledge management practices and the greater degree of communication and engagement possible with Enterprise 2.0 tools; address some of the many uses to which wikis and blogs have been put at Goodwin Procter; and discuss some lessons learned.

It was a really enlightening experience to put down my thoughts about Enterprise 2.0 and the progress made in adoption of these tools at Goodwin. My thanks to Deb Wallace and Mary Lee Kennedy for their helpful edits and guidance, and to Doug Cornelius for starting me and the firm down the Enterprise 2.0 path.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Legal KM Survey from the International Legal Technology Association

This spring I joined the Steering Committee for the International Legal Technology Association's Knowledge Management Peer Group (see also their FAQ).

If your firm is an ILTA member, please take the one-page survey and help us evaluate how KM is doing.

Here's the official message:

"Dear Colleagues,

Our KM peer group will be producing a white paper in the near term, and we are gathering some important data to assist in reporting to you on the status of KM within our community. The link below will walk you through a very brief questionnaire. As an incentive for your response, your name will be entered into a drawing for a waived conference registration fee!
Your business e-mail address is required so that we can remove duplicates and enter you in the drawing. Complete anonymity is guaranteed, and your identifier will be removed from the "normalized" data before it moves into analysis. And you'll see a report on the findings in our white paper, scheduled for distribution in June.

Please provide your input at: http://www.zoomerang.com/Survey/?p=WEB2294Z23BDUY.The survey will be available through close of business May 6, 2009.

Many thanks for your participation!"

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Corresponding with Cornelius on Collaboration with Clients

In a post earlier this week Doug Cornelius (now over at Compliance Building) hit the extranet nail on the head by identifying the primary obstacles and benefits to extranet collaboration. His post sparked a flurry of activity with Luis Suarez of IBM making enticing comments about LotusLive (I have yet to check it out although I do note that now it is, in fact, live).

At ILTA 08 I heard of some firm-provided extranets through which clients obtained some access to up-to-date billing and fee information. Although it had to be done on a one-off basis, the clients who received that information valued it highly.

In addition to the instance of the large deal that requires very detailed item-level security access control, products liability litigation provides another extranet use case. There a whole set of cases revolves around a recurring group of experts, expert reports, plaintiff's attorneys, coordinating counsel, and local counsel. From the defense perspective, there is great value in aggregating information from many different people (such as local and coordinating counsel from law firms) who are repeatedly interacting with the same players and some of the same documents; you would think that could happen more easily on an extranet, though perhaps the logistical issues you note are a challenging barrier.

For their own marketing and KM needs, firms such as mine may already have collected information about the matters that clients also need and would like to have. If firms can aggregate and display (on an extranet) in a robust way rich sets of information about a lot of cases they handle for a major client, they are providing more value to the clients. That may initially be more of an information-gathering and reporting problem, but even this type of information could be made more useful through an interactive and collaborative online environment.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Upcoming Conference on "Leveraging Virtual Teams & Social Tools for Business Advantage: Blogs, Wikis, Twitter"

The Boston KM Forum is putting on a longer, more involved set of discussions around the business advantages of Web and Enterprise 2.0 tools, a subject near and dear to my heart, at Bentley College next Tuesday, March 31st. I'll be there.

The speakers and talk titles are:
  • Soaring with Virtual Teams: How Working At-A-Distance and Across Boundaries Can Outperform Face-to-Face, Jessica Lipnack - CEO of NetAge and co-author of Virtual Teams; see her free webinar on the same subject.

    (I've enjoyed Jessica's presentations at Enterprise 2.0 Boston and elsewhere, with her trademark of "stand up and tell us who you are!")
  • IBM’s Grounds-Up Social Software Transformation, recently married Suzanne Minassian (twitter)- Lotus Connections Product Manager, IBM

    (Lotus Connections is one of the leading Enterprise 2.0 products (or sets of products) and I look forward to hearing some more stories of its implementation.)
  • Vital Catalyst: Social Media is Holding and Growing Audiences,
    Ken George, New Media Manager, and author of The Converstation, WBUR

    (I don't know Ken but WBUR has a quite sophisticated web presence and set of podcasts.)
  • Give to Get: Real-World Dividends from Social Networking, Sadalit Van Buren, Knowledge Management Associates

    (Sadalit is the author of A Matter Of Degree and is a real expert in making the most of Sharepoint's Enterprise 2.0 features.)

Monday, March 23, 2009

"Emergence" at the Boston KM Forum

Last Thursday I attended a Boston KM Forum talk titled "Emergence—Get with it or fade away" by veteran social networker and knowledge worker Dan Keldsen (http://twitter.com/dankeldsen, blog at http://www.BizTechTalk.com). Dan is a good speaker as well as the only person I know of whose Twitter profile picture is skewed sideways.

He was also kind enough to share his interesting slides on Slideshare. Jack Vinson has also posted on the event, in a fashion that compliments what I do here.

What is Emergence?

Emergence is not a great term because people don’t necessarily know what it means. A better term might be “viral success.” The main focus of his talk was about social media applications that have enabled such success, and how you can either take advantage of those systems directly yourself, and perhaps even structure your next effort to try to make it "viral."

He mentioned at the outset Andrew McAfee's seminal article on Enterprise 2.0 titled "The Dawn of Emergent Collaboration." and its SLATES acronym of key features that allow knowledge workers to organize their work in the way that fits them best, i.e., that support and enable emergent behavior.

He recommends “Emergence” by Steven Johnson (reviewers on Amazon were not so kind, I have to point out).

One feature of "emergent" practice is, how easy is it people like customers, employees, and partners to understand what you’re doing and “spread the word.” Are you providing a path for community feedback?

Quantitative Analysis of Emergence

Dan explained the simple underpinnings of "viral loops" or other behavior that will multiply and spread over social networks. He drew on a presentation by "Arch Viral," http://www.slideshare.net/Startonomics/arch-viral-creating-social-apps-for-social-platforms-presentation .

First a user issues an invitation to participate to "friends" (in Facebook parlance) or others to whom that user is known. Some percentage of those friends accept (the "install flow"), and some percentage of those friends go on to issue additional invitations (as part of the "engagement flow"). If the average number of friends invited times the average percentage of acceptance with initial or later add-on activities is greater than 1, then you have a viral application.

(For the math-challenged, here's an example; if a new user asks 5 friends to join, and an average of 22% of them accept, then the "viral factor" is 1.1, and the application is viral. If only 18% accepted, the "viral factor would be less than 1, and the application would not be viral).

Multiple invites and “bites at the apple” will increase the rate of viral adoption. Small changes can have a big effect (like the wings of a butterfly).

This part of the presentation struck me as the most directly useful to my knowledge work. Correlating Facebook applications to the spread of Enterprise 2.0 is not at all intuitive.

But inside the enterprise, relatively small barriers to adoption of social adoption can potentially destroy the viral spread of potentially useful applications. It behooves us then to make the barriers that new groups and employees have to hurdle to get to the tools as low and as unbureaucratic as possible, and to find ways to get "second bites at the apple" that mimic the
continuous engagement and reward that the more successful social applications provide.

My other main takeaway was Jack Vinson's comment that one should be able to discover or uncover the networks and effects that could let power of emergence affect the enterprise.

Emergent Social Networks

In Dan’s last transition he was able to tap into a rich vibrant network because of his work with LinkedIn, his blog, etc. People could Google his name and find out a *lot* about him. He also leveraged his extensive LinkedIn connections in his last trip to Denmark.

Dan is another musician, albeit from the rock & roll side of the tracks. He showed Blip.fm as another social web application with excellent user feedbacks that enhance emergence. For instance, you get “props” for promoting things that people like. In turn you can give out “props" and you eventually get “badges” that show rank. You can also “reblipsomeone's "blip" and if they do the same to you, you get more credit.

Slideshare is another emergent social tool that shows how many times each presentation has been viewed. Dan’s slideshare on “Maps, Concepts, Process” has been seen 9,423 times (actually 9,485 as of this writing!) His presentation “Who’s The Boss, MOSS?” has been seen 5,917 times after an initial audience of "only" 100.

How to Enhance Emergence and Make it "Go Viral"

Blip taps into people's interest in game-like interactions with personal rankings, and also the social need to give and get respect. Other applications might tap into the competitive instincts by showing daily, weekly, or "all-time" rankings.

Slideshare similarly gives its users feedback about how many times their presentations have been viewed, with feedback allowed at the contributor or presentation levels.

The more detail you provide in your online interactions, the more likely you will be able to connect with people of like mind and similar interests.

Why tap into emergent platforms?

You may find something rich that you wouldn’t have found otherwise, along with new ways to learn information that you can share. Having more connections expands the potential of what you can accomplish.

Normally professional organizations would serve some of the functions that LinkedIn is now. These organizations represent professional contact networks and may be in trouble unless they adapt.

Participant-driven platforms are another communication revolution. What kind of meaningful mechanisms will make them more useful and avoid us getting swamped?

  • Enable easy sharing of posts, information, or whatever else your application addresses (Twitter, Facebook, "Add This" application)
  • Set up reward systems that will draw on competitive instincts and show progress (any online game, Blip.fm)
  • Count hits, downloads, views, and such to show people how much of interest others have taken in a piece of news or application (Youtube, Amazon)
  • Enable a friend or follower system that will let people connect to each other, give them some idea of who else is around, and share their interests (Facebook, Youtube, etc.)
  • Tags to let people identify for you, rather than coming up with your own terms (Facebook, Delicious, #twitter)

The best social information applications combine all of these characteristics.

As Jack says, let people "Find, Share and Compare."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Decentralized and Personalized KM

Following a recent post in which KM practitioner Larry Hawes was contemplating valuing KM by its cost (not a good idea since its value added can be so much more dramatically greater), Christopher Schmaltz made the following comment:

We are moving away from a centralised KM to a more decentralised, self-service, personal KM. Employees decide what information they want to subscribe to. They decide who they would like to follow in their network, which interest groups they would like to subscribe to.

This wonderfully concise statement sums up part of my vision for KM at my law firm, in particular, the neccessity to make the information presented that most likely to be relevant and actionable to users.

A partner logs in. She is presented with the matters she's worked on recently, her top clients, and today's news and alerts about new litigation filed related to those clients. She also has previously selected receipt of alerts about significant changes in stock price or quarterly filings for those clients. Her one calendar shows her upcoming litigation deadlines, online CLE, and internal meetings for her practice areas. She can link directly to a place for her to review those associates who have worked with her most recently, and shows her how she's doing in terms of work in progress, accounts receivable, and her own billings for the calendar year versus targets.

As someone interested in financial industry regulation, she has chosen to receive an alert when a piece of work product receives a "Regulation FD" tag, or when someone's profile receives such a tag.

It's about pulling together the information that we already know relates to each person, plus the additional information or alerts that they have chosen to receive.