Friday, January 30, 2009

Blogging from LegalTech 2009

I will be posting from LegalTech next week February 2-4.

I'll be focusing on the Knowledge Management track on February 2nd, which starts with "How Integration Drives KM", courtesy of Tom Baldwin and Preston McKenzie.

This is followed by "KM from a Practicing Attorney Perspective" with Scott Rechtschaffen and Rachelle Rennagel.

The next session I will attend is a doubtless very popular general session on "What is Twitter and How Do I Use It," a panel moderated by Monica Bay with Matthew Homann, Kevin O'Keefe, and Chris Winfield (I've linked to their Twitter profiles. Mine is at KMHobbie. Hash tag should be #NYLT, but probably is really Legaltech.) You can follow LegalTech Twitterers' tweets at . Then stop spitting feathers out of your mouth.

The last presentation on this long day, and the last one of the KM track, will be "KM from a Client Services Perspective" by Meredith Williams and Todd Mattson.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Wikis In Law Firms

In early October 2008, with another legal KM practitioner, I gave a presentation on wikis to an experienced group of legal knowledge managers. Although about a third of the audience had wikis internally, there were still some people without significant practical experience with wikis.

The talk was organized in three parts. I started with an introduction to wikis, starting from the beginning, and highlighting their key features. My colleague then presented on her firm’s innovative use of Thoughtfarmer wikis. Then I discussed how my firm is leveraging Sharepoint wikis.

An Introduction to Wikis

I began with the definitive origin of the word "wiki" as I am often asked where the word came from. Wikipedia has the answer--the Wiki Wiki bus at Honolulu Airport was Ward Cunningham's alliterative inspiration for his WikiWikiWeb application, the first wiki created. Ward wanted "the simplest online database that could possibly work," and it appears he succeeded!

(I did not report that, unlike most wikis I've encountered, apparently the Wiki Wiki buses are being retired soon as "not only...somewhat inconvenient and uncomfortable" but also "a huge strain on the building structure due to their weight and level of activity.")

The word "wiki" means "quick" in Hawaiian. On a wiki, you can quickly edit, save, link, and restore.

Edit -- Wikis always have a large friendly Edit button somewhere, and the whole point is that wikis are available to an entire group (or anyone who sees it).

Save -- There is normally no moderation before the edit takes place. On Wikipedia articles that have an established history of unproductive editing or great controversy are “locked down,” but that is not the norm.

Link -- There are two kinds of links in a wiki.

As in any HTML-based platform, adding a link to a web site or other URL-related resource is a matter of selecting a word and hitting a button or a keyboard command such as “Ctrl.-K” (Hopefully this shortcut is becoming this decade’s version of Ctrl.-C “copy” Ctrl.-X “cut” and Ctrl.-V “paste.”)

Additionally, one can create a new web page by creating a link to it (the exact procedure varies from wiki to wiki). Easy page creation is a key feature because it enables editors to add structure to the wiki and to limit the amount of content displayed on a given page. (Usability concerns mandate avoidance of “walls of text,” even in a content-rich context like an encyclopedic wiki.) Once one creates a page it is easy to create another link to it, either from a drop down or by some use of the page name. Easy interlinking greatly enhances the ability to relate different topics within a single wiki.

Restore -- A wiki captures each page version and allows reversion to a previous version (the reversion becomes the latest version).

Modern wikis also serve not just as living documents, but also as communication platforms because they have built-in notification of changes of one kind or another (ideally RSS, but often email as well).

The communications aspect of wikis leads to wiki happiness, contrasted with the email sadness from wasted time sending documents as email attachments, editing, saving them, sending them again, rinsing, and repeating.

Another way that "wikis" is a wonderful word, as I have previously blogged, is that it forms a KM acronym (knacronym?):


Thoughtfarmer—Wikis as Intranet and DMS

My colleague then presented on her firm's innovative use of Thoughtfarmer wikis. Thoughtfarmer comes complete with cutting-edge (for a law firm) Enterprise 2.0 features like tagging and commenting, Her firm did not have either a formal DMS or an intranet, so they used practice-specific wiki pages as a means of organizing documents as well as other substantive and practice-related content. Hers was the kind of presentation that makes me wonder how a large organization would organize its information if it could start from the ground up with cutting-edge technology instead of having to address the innumerable complexities of legacy systems.

Sharepoint Wikis at Goodwin Procter

I then turned to what we have been doing with Sharepoint wikis at my firm. Sharepoint “native” wikis and blogs are actually part of the reason why I became interested in blogs and Enterprise 2.0 in the first place. They come built-in to Sharepoint, and my firm rolled Sharepoint / MOSS 2007 in late spring 2008.

Unfortunately, due no doubt in part to the necessarily long development cycle (they may have been state-of-the art in 2004), Sharepoint wikis have their weaknesses. The alerts of changes are horrible (see “Sharepoint wiki disaster”). Sharepoint email alerts send the whole page, worse than a simple notice of the fact of a change and much worse than a display of the change to the page as we had been accustomed to from another wiki platform. Furthermore, a surprising “simultaneous editing” flaw allows multiple users to edit the same page, but gives priority to the person who saves first.

Sharepoint wikis also have two strengths compared to some other wiki applications. It is really easy to get started with a Sharepoint wiki; the page linking in particular is simple, intuitive and effective (just put [[double brackets]] around words to link or create other pages). And because, under the hood, Sharepoint wikis are built on the powerful if complex Sharepoint “lists,” there is a huge variety of categories and metadata that can be applied to a page.

Wikis For Project Management

This last feature gives Sharepoint wikis strength in one of their most prominent roles inside my firm—project management. In my KM team’s wiki, many pages embody KM projects; these pages are tagged with the names of project participants, and also with a status tag like “Active” “Completed” “Subsidiary” and so forth. My boss or I can quickly see my active projects at any time by looking at a view of the pages in the KM team wiki, showing only “Active” pages tagged to me and sorted by most recently edited. I learned this week that is even possible to display the content of a wiki page in a view of pages like this.

On a given wiki page devoted to a project, it is easy to record and share the latest project status, with project goals, business plans, and links to related projects, people, and resources.

At my firm, project management-style wikis have spread to a number of administrative groups including professional development, recruiting, and legal department management.

Meeting Management

The KM Team also uses wikis to manage its meetings. An agenda on a wiki does not just list what team members wish to discuss; it can link to the project or discussion page and thereby avoid the necessity for giving background information about a new item at the meeting. Wikis are also used on occasion to take notes at a meeting.

Discovery Sharing

One litigation-specific use was sharing and developing a nucleus of facts arising out of discovery in related cases. An early adopter used a wiki to share information among many people on different matter teams. The cases had different procedural aspects and parties, but shared a common set of underlying facts about the technology and related patents that were developed through discovery. Not surprisingly, this wiki had a very steep uptick in use as it got started, and then, as the discovery period wrapped up, use slowed down again.


As a project management tool I think Sharepoint wikis have been a qualified success. Despite a complete absence of any sort of internal marketing of this tool, there are now over 900 wiki pages (compared to ~500 pages on our long-developed intranet), and I am getting requests for specific targeted uses of wikis. The jury is still out on the other uses, which are still arising as use spreads.

Lessons Learned

The relatively primitive nature of Sharepoint wikis means you have to manually add in some features that are automatically generated in other platforms. One of these is simply a link [[Home]] to the wiki’s home page. Similarly, in wikis with what are substantively subsidiary or tiered groups of pages the navigation to and among those pages needs to be manually generated.
There is a built-in “help” page that is automatically generated for every new wiki; we’ve replaced it with a link to set of help pages in a central location.

As with other wikis, we’ve learned not to let a wiki page be a dead end. Find and link to other related wiki content.

Finally, show users what will happen when they click on a link beforehand. If the content is not another intranet, internet, or wiki page, you need to prepare users by indicating the document type (.doc .pdf). Where linking to a document in our DMS, we indicate the document number as that insures against link breakage and misspelling.

Obama Inauguration

I can't let the day go by without pointing to the full text of President Obama's brilliant inauguration speech on CNN, and quoting a few of his lines that may have some resonance for those of us working with new tools in the workforce.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends -- hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism -- these things are old. These things are true.

They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility -- a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world; duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

I've studied the history of the civil war, World War II, and the civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s. This inauguration has to rank among those great and paradigm-shifting events.

The First Enterprise-Class Social Search For Law Firms: Interwoven Universal Search & Lexis Search Advantage Come To Market

I saw an updated demonstration of the Interwoven Universal Search / Lexis Search Advantage (IUS/LSA?) search product in early December 2008. An excellent lunch by Radius was part of the inducement to visit.

IUS is powered by Vivisimo's enterprise-class search engine. I was pleased to be able to see a more fulsome demonstration of the IUS/LSA product following on the demonstration at ILTA, now with the addition of a potentially powerful social search component for the law firm market.


IUS/LSA is a feature-rich, complicated product. I don't mean to imply that it would be difficult for users to understand, although certainly getting them to use the social search features would be a challenge just like rolling out any new business process is a challenge. I've therefore identified some previous posts in the next paragraph, should you like some background information on enterprise search, social search, and work-product retrieval search.

I first blogged about Vivisimo's social search in October 2007, covering Vivisimo's initial announcement, Lyndo Moulton's framing of social search from a "traditional KM" perspective, and then a live demo of "Velocity 6.0" as that product is called. In August 2008 I also blogged about implementations of IUS (without a social search component) at three law firms; I also noted the rollout announcement for IUS / LSA, again, without a social component, largely by reference to my former colleague Doug Cornelius' highly favorable post on KM Space. For more see my posts with the "enterprise search" tag.

IUS/LSA combines "work product retrieval" and "enterprise" search. As quite nicely explained by Cindy L. Chick in this 2004 post on the subject, these two have been essentially different categories of search products, with the the former sharply focusing on a limited pool of internal (perhaps highly vetted) precedent, and the latter "federating" or broadly combing different pools or silos of enterprise information. Typical content "sources" for enterprise search include a document management system, intranet, and traditional enterprise database such as Expert/Aderant.

The rest of this post discusses particular features of IUS/LSA.

Case Linking and Validation

A key feature of IUS/LSA is its outstanding case validity check (through signals from Shepard's case updating service) and citing references links. The search identifies cases and statutes present in the content and takes that reference information to Lexis' enormous database, containing information how courts have treated each published decision (i.e., citing favorably, overuling, etc.). It returns a signal to the search engine, which is visible as a flag of some sort in an HTML view of the document from within the search (on a click).

Case validity tells attorneys reviewing work product that the cases (or statutes) are or are not valid; citing references provide an extremely efficient way to find or collect all of the work product on a particular topic, by linking all of the work product that cites to a particular case or statute.

The significance of case validation for busy attorneys cannot be overstated. Litigators are constantly weighing the strength of their arguments, based on the facts at their disposal and the extent to which those facts mesh with a legal theory. Legal theories themselves carry varying degrees of authority or persuasiveness—compare for instance the complete invalidation of slavery under the XIII Amendment to the US constitution with the Supreme Court rulings on the validity or invalidity of various race-based affirmative action plans. Case validation allows lawyers to tell at a glance if they might be treading on shaky ground in citing to a particular line of cases.

The "citing references" ability (my term, not theirs) allows researchers to quickly find other work product resources that cite to the same case law or statutory resources. Since lawyers making a legal argument ethically must cite to the leading authority in their jurisdiction on a given point, even if to distinguish its application in the present instance, finding other instances of case citation can quickly lead you to other instances where other lawyers have made the same arguments (or argued the same point from the other side!). Examining work product that cites to less significant authority can also be very productive, since this authority may be one of a line of cases on the your side of a particular issue.

Both of these features are found in West KM, although West KM is not currently bundled with an enterprise search tool as powerful, versatile, and social as IUS. In particular, the ability to cluster results on the case and statutory authority is extremely powerful.

Social Search

The newest aspect of IUS/LSA is Vivisimo’s cutting-edge social search features taken from Velocity 6.0. These have been officially released, although I do not personally know of any law firms that have actually implemented these features in production (they have been available in the broader business community for something less than a year, I believe).

Once results are found, users can tag, rate, or comment. The main initial use of tagging is to help individual users refind their documents and create personal precedent collections. The magic of tagging is that each tag in turn enhances findability of documents (they directly effect relevance ranking) and expertise. Users can also tag into "shared folders," say by practice area.

Furthermore, users can identify who applied the tag and see all of a users' tags. Pivoting on known user information is a big advantage of tagging inside the enteprise (as compared to anonymous social tagging such as available on delicious).

One of the truly powerful aspects of integrating tagging into search (tags are applied at the time a search result is displayed) is that it integrates tagging into normal work flow. Users search all the time; they don't have to go a separate system to enter a tag, and the tags are immediately displayed and available for their own use the next time around.

I am a huge fan of social tagging . It is a key aspect of Enterprise 2.0, will greatly enhance findability for individual users, and then will only get better as more and more people add their own targeted markers of significance and relevancy. Ranking and commenting also have great potential for enhancing search inside the enterprise.

Guided Navigation

Like other enterprise-class search tools, IUS displays sets of results clustered by key metadata alongside a directly accessible relevancy-ranked set of search results. Where a collection contains significant metadata, drilling down into a set of search results through clusters of metadata is much more effective than a simple ranked list, because it lets users identify resources with directly relevant attributes or whose attributes are close enough to be useful. It also might let a searcher exclude large sets of returned documents.

For instance, a litigator looking for a Markman brief in patent litigation where guided navigation is available might search across all courts, but then drill down into the particular jurisdiction or into jurisdictions in the same federal circuit.

Semantic or Concept Clustering

In addition to clustering into categories predefined by DMS administrators, the Vivisimo engine has the remarkable ability to group documents into clusters based on concepts extracted from the documents. Vivisimo's "calling card" is its ability to generate clusters of documents based on similarities between groups of documents; at the same time, it identifies the groups by what it determines to be key characteristics of that "cluster." Depending on what the settings are, there can be clusters within clusters, allowing you to drill down into the set of documents most relevant to your search (instead of starting the search over when you get too many hits).

See for instance this search for "senators", which lists "members" (of Congress) "Ottowa Senators" (the hockey team), "Legislation, Law" (which includes state senate information), and so forth.

Expertise Identification

The out-of-the-box people search looks at document authorship and official firm website biographies. Expertise can also be identified through looking at who is tagging what, which is exposed both through the lens of individual tags and through a view of a user profile. I suspect it would be also possible to use IUS/LSA to incorporate and analyze billing and matter records to further refine the people search.

Searching Across Silos

A key challenge for KM and information management strategy is the distribution of enterprise content across mutually exclusive “silos” of information. A matters database might have information about the general type of work being done on a particular deal and the partner who opened the matter; a document management system might have documents tagged with those same matter numbers; a separate system might contain final pleadings or vetted content; and a billing system might indicate who has worked on that matter the most. Typically the three sets of data never meet, and certainly cannot be leveraged in any reasonably user-friendly manner.

Enterprise search, of whatever platform, provides the “glue” that can bring all of these pieces together. A search for Delaware patent litigation briefs through such an engine might identify not just the Markman brief that the attorney was looking for, but also patent matters and people who with previous experience from that jurisdiction. In some use cases an enterprise search might even extent to designated or licensed content from the internet or proprietary databases.

IUS/LSA clusters based on source as well as documents' content and metadata.


IUS also has "Spotlights", very much like “Best Bets” or canned prepared sets of responses to particular queries. Knowledge management or other firm groups can promote particular sets of precedents or practice guide. In the demo, a search for "motion philadelphia" gets "How to file a motion in Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas."

This kind of spotlighting ties in well with efforts to provide procedural guidance for litigators, or deal checklist assistance to junior business lawyers. I am engaged on a wiki-based project to gather just this kind of information (on the litigation side).


The search previewed here will also add metadata about court and judge to that about cases and statutory references. This is through a trick known as “entity extraction”, where key parties or case numbers from the documents are matched up with party, case, and judge information from Lexis’ massive databases. I am not sure if this feature has been publicly released.


They also demonstrated automatic document profiling, through which documents can get assigned document types such as memo, pleading, correspondence, and so forth, based on their content and similarity to comparison sets of documents. I do not believe this feature has been publicly released either.

Information Gravitation

Some clients are using search to populate client pages that combine information from internal sources and saved searches of the web, in Sharepoint web parts. They have a federated search connector for Google, or, can search particular sites.

Such pages highlight enterprise search's ability to expose and make useful content previously buried in unconnected databases.