Wednesday, August 22, 2007

ILTA Conference Report, Day 2: Innovative Use of Technology in the Law Department

This session was ably moderated by David Rohde of Baker Robbins (he got the heck out of the way.). Each of the three case studes was interesting and effectively presented. More like this ILTA!!

Speakers were:

  • Peter Vissicchio, Business Technology Senior Manager at Pfizer.
  • Risa Schwartz, head of Knowledge Management at Cisco Systems.
  • Mike Russell, Strategic Legal Technologist at Liberty Mutual Insurance.

David introduced with a discussion of the drivers of innovative technology, including:

  • need for cost savings,
  • decline and obsolescense of legacy systems,
  • new business needs,
  • new regulatory needs such as the FRCP,
  • risk management,
  • usability improvements, and
  • drive to continually improve business processes (Six Sigma etc.)
Pfizer case study: A robust legal data warehouse for advanced analytical reporting.

Pfizer has 1000 outside counsel in many countries, spends $500 million in legal fees per year. They use a matter management system, TimeConnect, Hyperion Planning for budgeting, and also IP Master for patent / trademark management. They were having a hard time getting reports out from each system and a harder time reporting across different system; it was taking days to get one report out.

A data warehouse keeps information from a set of transactions and allows for quick reporting. You will need to spend the time to develop a good up-front plan as to how the data will tie together.

The application was developed by Oracle, and Pfizer also used Informatica for most Extraction, Transformation and Load (ETL) routines and Business Objects for report, dashboard, and ad-hoc development. Oracle "leverages a typical star schema with a small number of fact tables linked to various hierarchical dimension tables to support drill down via dimensions such as date/time, department, geography, patent family, matter, etc."


The system they developed allows for monthly or quarterly canned reports going across multiple systems. They initially promised to create any report that was needed, but after more than 200 reports were developed in the first month, they learned to keep the number of available reports down to a couple of dozen that people will want to use.

The executives wanted the ability to see graphic dashboards that would identify problems and allow them to drill down into the data behind problem areas. Ad hoc reporting has been used because the reporting tool is simple to use. People have been using the new reporting system rather than the underlying source systems because the reports are easier to generate there. Paralegals, administrative staff, and some attorneys use the system.

Liberty Mutual

Mike's group handles 1600 law firms that are sending e-billings, but they still received 10,000 page bills, and up to 6,000 paper invoices per month. They wanted to automate the paper billing process, which they did by setting up a business process that converts the paper to image and manages the workflow of the billing, exception, and payment process.

The new system was built using internal IT resources, following a six-sigma review of pain points in the billing process.

The technology used Documentum WebTop to capture key metadata or attributes of the invoices and Adobe Acrobat Standard (6.0 Professional) to comment and otherwise handle the invoices.

The business process entials 3 steps, intake, scanning and review / pay. The firm scans in all invoices into pdfs and imports them into Documentum. People are using dual and triple monitors for better switching between pdfs and Excel tracking sheets.

Documentum view breaks out key data about bills. It cannot generate checks due to SOX issues.

The paper invoices are shipped to their pdf vendor with a bar-coded cover sheet that is supposed to indicate what is in each box. The vendor destroys the invoices after 90 days so Liberty Mutual doesn't have to store it. LM also gained a lot of floor space from eliminating office paper shelves.

The new system includes a help-desk style contact or reporting system that identifies the chain of events on a particular bill including logging calls from firms about bills.

The system also includes a help-desk style contact or reporting system that identifies the chain of events on a particular bill including logging calls from firms about bills.

The goal was to automate the workflow as much as possible. While they didn't invent any new technology, they twisted their document management system to treat bills as documents.

Lessons Learned

Thorough process-mapping is necessary and effective. Focus on the staff's pain points.


Mark Chandler is a real proponent of using technology innovatively. Cisco has 230 legal staff in 72 countries. They have 130 lawyers in the Silicon valley area.

They use DealBuilder, and have also developed a home-grown contract management system. This system has 26 guides for major contract types, formerly in paper binders.

The Cisco attorneys needed to talk to each other. They were in so many different time zones that phone calls didn't work, and email traffic wasn't getting into the resource.

Cisco is seeking to move to a more collaborative, less command-and-control system.

The solution to the issue was to build a collaborative system akin to a bulletin board that allowed comments and questions. They moved the information into a "Legal Exchange Collaborative" bulletin board system. Users can post questions in the particular section and choose to email one or more groups. Conflicts between comments are allowed. Incorrect comments can be removed.

Use has been high, particularly in the sales group where the VP mandated its use.

Unfortunately the emails do not currently contain the question or the subject, just a link. This has posed difficulty with off-line or airplane use. They want to have email comments flow right into the bulletin board. They are considering using wikis for this purpose.

Risa does not believe that wikis can handle back-and-forth conversation very well. [She should also be aware of Vic Nishi's Orchestra product for this purpose.]. She does not know if the new approach will work. She will be happy to have an ILTA webinar on legal wikis. Some of the wikis developed at Cisco look like highly functional web pages. Wikis have also helped people develop flexible and quickly updated agendas for international meetings.

Risa's success in KM projects has come from recognizing how attorneys are currently working and adapting any changes to conform with those existing methods.

Attorneys can have a hard time publicly posing questions because "they are shy" (and don't want to appear uninformed). Risa tried to raise awareness of the 20-50 questions per month via a newsletter for KM that included indexed links to the newest questions and answers. Cisco has learned that attorneys have enhanced their reputation in the organization through learned responses to questions.

Risa mentioned that she had developed a dedicated referrals database at Wilson Sonsini. [We have something comparable at Goodwin Procter for real estate local counsel, local counsel, litigation experts, translators, and other outside resources.]

Lessons Learned

"If you build it, they will come" does not work for attorneys. Bring the right attorneys to the table at the outset and ask them, "tell me use-case scenarios" [what you need and how you would use it]. Attorneys and administrative staff need to be sitting near IT people even with KM people around to translate. Secretaries have great suggestions and are great prosletyzers.

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