Friday, April 2, 2010

Cisco Advances Collaboration; Law Departments Push Enterprise 2.0

I've had this post in edit mode for far too long. I apologize for its lack of topicality, but realized that it can be useful to publish something even for use as a reference for myself (and perhaps others). I'm returning to this particular post despite the potential embarrassment because I feel it addresses a significant advance in the Enterprise 2.0 capabilities of a few law departments and also highlights one law firm's strong client-focused KM effort.

I attended a session formally titled Legal Technology and the Law: Collaboration Strategies in the Legal Marketplace at LegalTech in New York February 2nd that highlighted some outstanding collaboration tools and efforts undertaken by a few legal departments. In my view and based on my knowledge of private surveys others have done, they exceed in features and apparent extent of adoption those undertaken at any law firm. This is surprising when you consider that many attorneys who move "in-house" are perplexed by the absence of what at law firms would be considered basic legal IT resources such as an effective document management system with version control and so forth. It is less surprising when you consider that large corporations are far out in front of any law firm in terms of development and adoption of "Enterprise 2.0" tools such as IBM's "Connections" and Lockheed Martin's "Unity."

Cisco OnRamp Exchange

I was particularly impressed with the OnRamp Exchange ("ORX") developed by Risa Schwartz, Head of Knowledge Management, at Cisco. It's a central know-how repository built by Paul Lippe and others at Legal OnRamp.

I previously covered Risa's 2007 presentation what was then called the Legal Exchange Collaborative at ILTA. At that point she was working on a culture that encouraged attorneys to ask questions and pose learned answers, in connection with sets of information on different topics of interest to Cisco lawyers. The system they had then did not allow attorneys to interact via email.

Cisco and Risa has since worked with the folks at Legal OnRamp to develop a collaborative tool that threads discussions in email, provides notice to content owners or other interested people of changes, and spans the firewall. It's in use for substantive knowledge management purposes, managing Cisco's repository of contract language and negotiating advice, like a "playbook."

Moderated wikis contain negotiation guidance, grouped by topic such as "open source." Discussion forums are integrated with wikis and with email. Recent changes are listed at the upper right, new conversation threads lower left.

Posting a conversation must be started within the application and directed at the outset at two moderators. Mark Chandler (Cisco GC) wants to value moderators. Moderating is part of the annual review process and it has become a way of recognizing people who have done well. After the conversation is approved you can also add in others, even people outside the firewall such as outside counsel. Content development is tied very tightly to email. Anyone who has access to an email application or browser can edit the wiki. Email notifications link to a redline and contain an approval button.

(The ability to interact with a social collaborative space through email may seem odd to web denizens. I've repeatedly heard this as a feature request from attorneys I work with, however, even ones who are very technically sophisticated. Their work often takes them out of the office, or traveling, and they want to be able to accomplish their work whether or not they are sitting in front of a PC.)

Cisco Deal Rooms

Cisco also developed extranets, in particular, a Mergers & Acquisitions site is using MOSS Sharepoint (WSS).

They require the other side in a deal to upload document to upuload the documents Cisco needs. The targets know the information better.

Outside counsel are analyzing documents quickly on these deal to identify dangerous issues. Now counsel do the analysis on the site linked to the document. This allows more efficient analysis and recommendations. They worked with Fenwick & West (Mark Drose) on some custom development to make these work.

These deal rooms have significantly speeded up deals.

What Business Needs Drive Collaboration?

Another presenter addressed collaboration strategy.

Less money, too many providers, new fee arrangements and "convergence" are reducing outside providers.

Law departments want to restructure incentives so both sides feel like they are winning. Much less work is being done on an hourly basis.

Law departments can cut costs by sharing information, inventing it once and sharing many times. Taking steps out of business processes or automating steps saves people time and the company money.

Corporations are looking for 20-60% savings from law departments. They won't attain that unless there is a different working relationship with law firms. It will require greater mutual sharing of information. More investment in working relationships is required. Shared risk and investment is not possible with hundreds of outside counsel.

One key for collaboration efforts is clearly identifying the business needs of the legal department. They need to increase collaboration across geographically dispersed areas, between department and internal business clients, and between department and outside counsel. Within law departments there is a continued lament of "I can't find what we already know." You can't expect people to go outside of workflow to capture information.

Marketing is really key. Having senior management market the tools is just the beginning. Have users tell people how they are using it. Other groups wanted to use it in similar ways.

Adoption is a real challenge. You have to focus on business process and what you are designing for. Involve the people who will use the tool in the design.

Orrick's Global Corporate Secretarial Services

Clark Cordner, the "Director of Practice and Client Services" from Orrick presented on a system they developed with Cisco to help that multinational's business needs around global corporate work.

Cisco has hundreds of subsidiaries and is operating in more than a hundred countries. Challenges included operating in multiple countries with local regulatory changes, with local lawyers of varying levels of sophistication and unpredictable fees.

Technology Cisco had to address these challenges was not adequate. They did a traditional "gap analysis" (what do we have, what do we want, how can we get there) and ran a competitive bidding process, then customized the product of the winning vendor. Part of the program entailed an evaluation of Cisco's foreign counsel network in conjunction with Orrick's network (there was some merger between the two).

Orrick gets a flat fee for the costs of foreign local counsel and the technology. Cisco has seen a 25% savings over two years and it has worked well for Orrick. This kind of collaboration is only possible if client and law firm get really close and have a higher level of trust. The trust was developed partly through Orrick KM lawyers and others "shadowing" attorneys at Cisco who dealt with the corporate work.

Orrick is now providing this platform as a service and has about a dozen other clients.

GCSS addresses corporate, licensing, compliance tracking and assessment and covers entities, people, documents, tasks, and calendars. One function allows a view of corporate families.

A typical entry for a corporation includes information about:
  • Profile
  • Officers / Directors
  • Minute Books
  • Counsel
  • Business Entities
  • Tree Walker
  • Jurisdictional Requirements

GCSS and the process for developing it are a model (in my view) for new opportunities that law firms could be uncovering.

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