Thursday, August 23, 2007

Last ILTA Session: Sharepoint 2007 at Sheppard Mullin

Tom Baldwin, ILTA Regional VP, Chief Knowledge Officer at Sheppard Mullin, and blogger.

Sheppard Mullin has 500 lawyers and 1,000 users. They have 10 offices (including Shanghai).

Microsoft's Office Sharepoint Server 2007 (I use "Sharepoint" and "MOSS 2007" interchangeably to refer to this software) includes six pieces; workflow, business intelligence, collaboration, portal, content management, and search. Sheppard Mullin is "eating most of the pie" except for business intelligence.

Sheppard Mullin gets more use out of search than any other features. Microsoft has invested a huge amount in search.

Sharepoint acts as the initiator and host of workflow processes, but Sharepoint is just the front end of that (you'll need something else at the back end).

By contrast, the collaboration tools in MOSS 2007 are limited. In particular, Tom mentioned that the built-in RSS feed only has the capacity to capture one fee, and that it was not easy to customize the blogs. At Sheppard Mullin they used the "discussion thread" aspect of MOSS 2007 instead. Blogging is limited as only three blog posts fit on one page. SM lawyers had some practice area requirements, like the ability to post a document to a blog, that didn't work out of the box. An attendee cautioned that Sharepoint wikis and blogs use a completely different set of master pages, so branding has to be recreated.

MOSS 2007 led to savings in maintenance, enterprise search, and workflow at Sheppard Mullin.

Lessons Learned

They almost had too tight a conception of what they wanted. Sharepoint 2007 is very different from 2003. It can take a developer a few months to get up to speed on sharepoint 2007.

Tom suggested starting with search. It's easier to get buy-in.

Try to figure out how to consume data from as many different data as possible. Rollout of a new application might mean simply adding a new tab to a user's home page.

Microsoft may not have understood the massive scope of Sharepoint 2007 adoption across the business world. Getting support can take a while.

What Sharepoint Does For You

They wanted to provide some level of personalization for the lawyers. The portal looks at practice group, office, and title to dynamically dictate content.

A "My $" tab has partner's WIP, A/R and so forth.

There is a "My Library" list that shows research sites most relevant to that practice.


The default view on the result list is by relevancy. The other option is by date. In collaboration with XMLaw, Sheppard Mullin enhanced document search results with links to relevant metadata like matter, client, and author. Sheppard Mullin's search requires licensing from XMlaw.

They have adopted matter centricity for email with Interwoven. Each matter space has documents, including emails from the matter workspace. Search may be driving import of emails into workspaces some.

The seach crawls Ceridian (HR/firm directory), accounting, and the DM.

Financial Information

They have drill-down into matter financial information through Aderant. Partners can get to pdf copies of the bills from the finance.

Knowledge Management / Expertise Location

They have a self-sourced attorney information data in a directory in Sharepoint. This was a highly-customized aspect, drawing data from 3 sources. The screen shot shows a mug shot, contact into, education, language, and bar admissions, and can be refined in faceted fashion by attorney type and practice area.

Extend Sharepoint

The standard firm home web page shows news and events are tailored to the individual--from their office and practice group. There were too many "attaboy" announcement. They now have a "vanity page" that lets the marketing department filter events. Two or three of the announcements cycle with forward/back and pause. Each office page has 10 tabs including Hotels, Restaurants (with reviews), Floor Maps, Cars, Directions; the office manager's secretary usually is the publisher.

The rollout of Compulaw will lead to the addition of a "My Docket" tab, targeted to the practice area (i.e., a transactional lawyer wouldn't see it). Tom has abandoned classroom training. Firms are adding applications at an alarming rate.

Partners have a "CFO Reports" tab that has the most current version of financial information for them.

Another "Contacts Network" application is mining email to show who at the firm knows who, with a particular focus on outside contacts. A comparison between that product and the firm's more traditional contact management software showed roughly a three-fold increase in the number of relationships exposed.

Tom has one full-time developer and there is one more in IT who deals with workflow. Apparently, in selecting developers, ".net" and Sharepoint knowledge are not good enough; Sharepoint 2007 developers also need XSL (Extensible Stylesheet Language).

Usage Tracking

Tom looks at who is and who isn't running searches. He bought a separate reporting module from Microsoft (for not a lot of money). Most people providing add-ons are quite inexpensive.

West KM

It is a challenge is getting lawyers to use any separate search. Sheppard Mullin wanted to integrate West KM into their advanced search. They have been working with Thompson to get some of the functionality of West KM into their document search results.

By way of background, West KM uses some of Thompson West's well-known search technology, first to vet, and then to search a firm's internal work product.

Sheppard Mullin will be adding a tab to the results that targets "premium" content from the separate West KM document repository; documents found through this tab have a "KM Preview" option. (Tom mentioned aftewards that they might also decide to have the KM Preview be the default search tab). The "KM Preview" shows an HTML representation of the document, complete with the West KM treatment of case citations. This means:

  1. a live check of a KeyCite flag (indicating whether or not a case remains good law, per Westlaw's databases);
  2. a hyperlink to the full KeyCite, from Westlaw;
  3. a separate hyperlink to the case authority itself; and,
  4. a "km" icon to link you to all other internal firm workproduct that cites to that case authority.

[West KM is a key piece of knowledge management software for litigators at my firm. I'm impressed with Thompson's willingness to open up and work with Sheppard Mullin to integrate West KM functionality with Sharepoint search, without having the West KM logos all over the place. Of course, it is in their interest to have the West KM technology spread as far as possible, since it tends to drive people to use Westlaw research tools. They were smart to do this with MOSS 2007 since, per the general impression I received at ILTA, it looks like it will eventually be the dominant platform in the legal market.]

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