If a tree falls and no one is there to hear it, does it make noise? If a contract is breached but no one is there to notice, does the breach matter?
Clause and effect on supplymanagement.com details myriad problems with contract management and cites research finding that “75 per cent of US companies cannot find 90 per cent of their contracts.” Sounds (so to speak) like no one is there to notice.
I have suggested that law firms miss the opportunity to help clients manage contracts. Were firms to help clients manage contracts, they would likely earn loyalty and generate additional fees. Eventually a bold law firm will step into the obvious breach.
There is some action in that direction. Contract Initiation Software – New Opportunities for Improved Client Support, an article by legal technology consultants and systems integrator Kraft, Kennedy & Lesser has several great examples of how some forward-thinking big companies and large law firms use DealBuilder software to address contract generation and management issues. Of the examples, the article states that “[c]learly, these companies have realized the benefits of moving from a “document assembly” mindset to a “document process” solution.”
More large firms need to think along these lines. And more general counsels need to step into the breach to prevent a breach.
Reviewing documents is expensive and tedious. It’s just a matter of time until some is offshored to India. I hear it is already happening but have no public confirmation… until now.
The Financial Times (4/12/06) reports that “in an upcoming acquisition financed by a UK bank in the FTSE 100, the lawyers carrying out due diligence are in fact from India.” Law firm marketing expert Larry Bodine blogged about this at Corporations Now Outsourcing M&A Work to India and has the FT article on his web site.
Large firm CIOs need to keep an eye on this trend. If it grows, they will, at minimum, need to vet the technology offshore vendors use. If offshoring reviews gets really big, then extranets or workflow systems may be required.
And though not really the province of CIOs, forward-thinking ones may look for tools or services that can help assess review quality. Any legal issues aside, the main question about going offshore is the quality of the work. The only way to answer this is with a statistically valid comparison of review results from domestic and offshore teams.
BigLaw’s salary escalation for new associates shows the competition for talent. Law firms should consider how technology can help them gain recruits’ mind-share.
The Wall Street Journal, in Podcasts Extend Recruiters’ Reach (4/24/06, $), explains how management consulting firm Bain & Co. used a 20-minute podcast featuring Bain executives to attract students at the Indian Institute of Management. “Pleased with the results, Bain plans to expand its use of podcasts to more universities and other countries next year. That will put the firm on the leading edge of what may be an emerging trend in recruiting, as employers tap a popular new technology to reach young job seekers.”
I am not aware of any large law firms that produce recruiting podcasts. Podcasts might not make a huge difference, but creating and distributing them is inexpensive. Of course, once a firm develops the production capacity, it can also create client updates.
A bold firm could go a step further: along with offer letters, send a firm-branded iPod loaded with podcasts about the firm.
The first International Legal Technology Association knowledge management webinar is this Thursday, April 27th.
The recently formed ILTA KM peer group is hosting KM 101: The Three Stages of Knowledge on April 27th at 2:00 PM Eastern / 1:00 PM Central / 12:00 PM Mountain / 11:00 AM Pacific:
“Join us for an overview of Knowledge Management focusing on the three stages in the KM Systems Maturity Model. This will be a discussion on what a firm just beginning a knowledge management program should focus on to develop a successful program and things to consider in developing projects for intermediate and advanced knowledge management programs.”
The presenter is John Szekeres, Assistant Director of Knowledge Management for Cleary Gottlieb Steen and Hamilton LLP. The fee is per connection; $25 for ILTA members and $75 for non-members (register here).
Ok, the title is not true. But it may as well be given the mind set of some bar regulators.
What’s a Little Metadata Mining Between Colleagues? on law.com discusses lawyers’ use of metadata and that some state bars are considering making it unethical to mine metadata.
In my view, banning lawyers from viewing metadata in documents received is like banning reading a sticky note that a lawyer forgot to remove from hardcopy. The rules should work to discourage bad practices (e.g., not deleting metadata when necessary) instead of protecting those who can’t be bothered to understand the technology they use.
The current issue of Law Practice Today (April 2006) has several useful articles about outsourcing in the legal market.
One of the articles is Inside vs. Outside: When Does it Make Sense for Law Firms to Outsource?, a roundtable discussion that includes several legal technology experts, consultants, and bloggers, including me. The questions answered include:
- Is outsourcing something real or just another area of hype? What do you see happening today in the world of law firm outsourcing?
- Often, outsourcing experts refer to the need to understand your “core business” before you outsource. What is a law firm’s core business? What are some good examples of operations a law firm might outsource?
- What can go wrong when you outsource and how can you protect yourself?
- Looking to the future, what do you see happening in outsourcing in the next three to five years?
This is a good read with good perspectives for anyone interested in legal outsourcing and offshoring.
I have advocated formal risk analysis and decision trees to assess and manage litigation risk. Learning decision trees is, however, not that easy. A new automated approach overcomes this barrier for some cases.
Predix, from case management software provider Bridgeway, “is a sophisticated decision analysis system that lawyers can use to evaluate their inventory of commodity litigation – small to medium size cases of a repetitive nature” according to the Predix press release. An article in the March issue of Metropolitan Corporate Counsel explains
“Predix software is simple in terms of the information needed to be loaded into the tool. The user plugs in the claims, any hot button issues, the track record of the other side against the company in similar cases, and the defenses that the company is thinking of raising… This gives users the opportunity to project probabilities, which can be modified, tweaked and aggregated based on any of a variety of scenarios…. The tool helps speed decision making because it provides a visual depiction of a decision tree without the user having to know anything about the tree’s underlying sophisticated structure.”
For background on decision trees, see an article I co-wrote with David Post, which also explains an earlier approach to automating decision trees that Wilmer Cutler co-developed with Litigation Risk Analysis, Inc.
To learn more about using decision trees, you can attend seminars by Litigation Risk Management Institute, TreeAge software, or Litigation Risk Analysis, Inc.
I recently blogged (here) about a good knowledge management article in the The National, a publication of the Canadian Bar Association. In Knowledge Uprising (PDF), journalist-author Patti Ryan interviewed several KM practitioners. The full-text of her interview with me is now available.
Questions she asks include the history of KM, why lawyers are reluctant to participate in KM efforts, what motivates law firms to do KM, the benefits of doing KM, whether law firm size matters for doing KM.
Last November I reported on a Richard Susskind article explaining the lack of innovation in US law firms. The situation may be even worse according to a new article by professional services guru David Maister.
In Are Law Firms Manageable?, Maister paints a grim picture of large law firms and their management. As he explains in his blogged summary, “Among the ways that legal training and practice keep lawyers from effectively functioning in groups are (i) problems with trust; (ii) difficulties with ideology, values, and principles; (iii) professional detachment; and (iv) unusual approaches to decision making.”
The article also contributes further to understanding the challenge of innovation in law firms; a short quote:
“In a room full of lawyers, any idea, no matter how brilliant, will be instantly attacked… most ideas, no matter who initiates them, will be destroyed, dismissed, or postponed for future examination… law firms have a remarkable propensity for half measure, launching poorly specified programs with minimal chance of success….
Lawyers also have a strange view of the concept of risk. In any other business, an idea that was likely to work much of the time would be eagerly explored. [But lawyers will look for a hypothetical where the idea will fail.] There is no greater condemnation in legal discourse than to describe something as risky.”
The entire article is worth reading and quite sobering for CIOs, consultants, and other proponents of innovative use of legal technology.
Consolidation in the e-discovery market continues. Pitney Bowes announced today the acquisition of e-discovery company Ibis Consulting.
According to the press release,
“Pitney Bowes Inc. (NYSE: PBI) today announced that its Management Services subsidiary has signed a definitive agreement to acquire 100% of the stock of Ibis Consulting, Inc. for approximately $67 million. Ibis is a leading provider of electronic discovery (eDiscovery) services to law firms and corporate clients.”
Pitney Bowes has long been in the business of operating mail rooms and other back-office services for law firms. Last year, the company acquired litigation support company CompuLit. With the acquisition of an e-discovery vendor, it appears that Pitney is making a major push to become an integrated provider to law firms. In the press release, the Chairman is quoted: “One of our strategies for growing customer and shareholder value is to leverage our mailstream management expertise in transaction-intensive verticals like the legal market.”
One challenge for any integrated service provider will be the law firm purchasing process:
- Getting to “yes” at a law firm takes time and effort.
- The purchasers of back-office services typically have little say in purchasing litigation support and e-discovery services.
- The buy decision for lit supp and e-discovery is typically at the partner level; it’s usually not an institutional decision.
In other words, leveraging existing relationships can be hard. It will be interesting to see how Pitney Bowes now approaches the legal market.
After the dot-com bust, it seems VC investments are a decent indicator of business potential. So it is interesting to note that a legal offshoring company has received $4 million investment.
Pangea3, which, according to a March 30th press release, “has created a hybrid business model, leveraging world-class talent from India with US oversight to offer clients legal, patent and IP technical support services at a dramatically lower price structure,” received a $4 million investment from the GlenRock Group. The “funds will be used to recruit top legal talent to ensure continued growth in both the US and India and to expand facilities and offerings in both markets.”
In my post Offshoring Beyond the Routine (May 2005), I reported on a conversation I had with Pangea’s co-founders.
In the latest roundup: Trends: convergence questioned + “procuring” legal services; Blawgs: a taxonomy + a UK update; Search: Oracle search + tagging; Jurisprudence: two new articles.
Legal Market Trends
- Law Departments - Challenges to Convergence (Legal Times, March 20, 2006). Law department consultant Rees Morrison questions the basis and value of “convergence” (law departments consolidating work among outside counsel, reducing the total number of firms representing the corporation).
- Buyer’s market? (Legal Week, UK): “Procurement professionals are having an increasing influence on the selection processes of major corporates. So how can law firms respond to the challenges involved?” Any move to rationalize the legal market is likely to increase the role and value of technology in law practice. (Spotted at Adam Smith, Esq.)
-A Taxonomy of Legal Blogs. A 3L project, this looks like a nice taxonomy of blawgs, including law firms (large and small) with blogs.
-Finally The Times notices by Simon Chester on slaw.ca blog comments on a Times (of London) article on legal blogging in the UK.
-Oracle Shakes Up Enterprise Search (eWeek, March 20, 2006): “On March 1, Oracle unveiled a secure enterprise search engine that reaches into every nook and cranny but minds its p’s and q’s around business rules and sensitive data.” This has the potential to shake-up the search market but it will be interesting to see if Oracle gets more traction this time round than with its ConText search product of a few years ago.
-To Tag or Not to Tag. From Portals and KM blog, an interesting discussion of the value of tagging and taxonomies.
My friend, former colleague, and mentor, David Johnson, has written a visionary article, The Life of the Law Online that likens law to a living organism and explores the implications for how law develops, especially laws concerning Internet usage. Read this with a companion piece by Johnson and my friend and former colleague David Post, The Great Debate – Law in the Virtual World. Both Davids are long-standing visionaries on the topic of law and cyberspace.