Attending the annual ILTA conference last week was the proverbial “drinking from a fire hose.” I’m left mulling strategic information technology decisions for large law firms, specifically the fate of document management and federated search.
My entirely unscientific “buzzometer” noticed Interwoven’s announced integration with federated search tool Vivisimo, Starlaw’s Enterprise Information Management system, and Microsoft’s SharePoint. (Full disclosure: I won a telescope prize from Starlaw for attending a demo.)
All are promising but potentially complicate long term technology planning. Life was once simple: 2 widely used document management (DM) systems and full-text search that did not work for the most. Now, StarLaw appears a viable 3rd entry for BigLaw DM. Plus many expect SharePoint (perhaps with add-ins) to be a viable DM soon. On the search side, Recommind plus a host of other products offer federated + enterprise search. And, though not high on buzz last week, don’t forget the adjacent product category of specialized work product retrieval tools such as West KM and RealPractice.
If a firm expects eventually to migrate to a new DM, what does that mean for the choice of federated search? Do you buy federated search from a DM vendor or from a stand-alone company? What’s the best combination of tools to help deliver knowledge management services? What will the interface of choice be in 3 years - Outlook, a custom web interface, SharePoint, or other? The answers are not yet clear but for BigLaw CIOs, it’s great finally to have a range of choices. Of course, with choice comes the risk and anxiety of making a decision!
In this Roundup: a good Bloomberg article on legal outsourcing, ALM’s law librarian survey and related articles, “Making the Law Free,” and “good enough” technology.
Bloomberg.com has a very good article by Cynthia Cotts and Liane Kufchock on legal outsourcing: Jones Day, Kirkland Send Work to India to Cut Costs. Pressure is building to reduce legal costs: “Clients are pushing law firms like Jones Day and Kirkland & Ellis to send basic legal tasks to India, where lawyers tag documents and investigate takeover targets for as little as $20 an hour.”
Law Librarian Survey
LawFirmInc published its survey of law libraries, Degree of Difficulty: 10 (July/Aug 2007, free registration required). The data and analysis in a series of related articles cover a wide range of topics, from the role of law librarians, to rising subscription costs, to the role of librarians in knowledge management.
Making the Law Free
I’ve always found it odd that, for the most part, finding US law means paying private companies for it. Those who’ve been in the market a while likely recall the copyright battle over West citations and pagination. Recently, “internet activist” Carl Malamud initiated a project to make US law free. The New York Times reported on this but I recommend starting with Bob Ambrogi’s blog post on the topic, Crashing the Wexis Gate (8/23/07); he references the Times article and provides his own analysis plus links to other useful references.
Good Enough Technology (Updated 8/26/07)
At some point I will permit myself a whining post on my Personal Productivity blog category about the challenges technology poses. Tempering that is an interesting commentary in Business Week (9/3/07 ), Why “Good Enough” Is Good Enough ($). Stephen Baker writes that, on balance, less than perfect technology (think cell phones dropping calls or Skype going down) is actually a good thing. “A marketplace that’s not hung up on fail-safe standards is open to risk and innovation, and drives down prices… It’s no longer whether we can afford a technology, but more often whether we can afford the disruption if and when it fails…. The upside of this sloppy status quo is enormous.”
Lawyers seldom actively contribute know-how to knowledge management systems so KM professionals increasingly turn to alternatives. One interesting approach relies on user self-interest to create KM value by inference.
Almost everyone knows what it means to bookmark a web page. Originally, bookmarks were private, for the convenience of the user to find the same web page again.
Part of the “Web 2.0″ revolution is “social bookmarking or tagging.” In brief, if enough users tag a page as relating to a topic, search engines can better find and rank that page. For example, if every reader of this blog tags it with “KM” using a service such as del.ico.us, this blog would rank higher in search results than other KM resources with fewer such tags. The premise is that self-interest drives users to tag content and that collectively the tags serve as “votes” on the value of the page.
To the extent that social tagging adds value on the web (an open issue I think), can it do so within a single enterprise? Crowd Control (eWeek, 8/13/07) is a must-read article for anyone interested in the enterprise potential of social tagging for KM. It reviews enterprise tagging products but also has excellent analysis and commentary; some highlights include:
- “Pundits for new, enterprise-oriented social bookmarking and tagging systems claim they can provide what knowledge management systems haven’t: easy and secure storage, retrieval, and sharing of valuable documentation within an organization and around the Internet.”
- “While [corporate created] taxonomies might have been static at times, at least they provided consistency…. Nevertheless, IT cannot ignore the emerging area of enterprise social bookmarking.”
- “Of course, user buy-in is critical to successful deployment of these systems. Reaching such a critical mass among the Internet’s millions of users is difficult, but doing so on a closed intranet is an even bigger challenge.”
I’m at the 2007 annual conference of the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) in Orlando. Today was the day for knowledge management. Fortunately a fellow blogger covered the sessions.
Practicing real estate lawyer, KM lawyer, and blogger Doug Cornelius of Goodwin Proctor provided real time coverage of the four KM track today. The sessions he blogged:
Two of my observations: The first session ("Alignment") was packed - standing room only. Obviously there is much interest in the RM aspect. The other KM sessions had respectable attendance but MUCH less than this one. I moderated the IT/KM Governance session. I was surprised that the panelists came down in favor of “KM is about technology” more so than “KM is about content and process.” That’s a bit of a simplification, but also explains why, at least for this audience, KM is more often a part of IT than a stand-alone function.
The number of legal process outsourcing (LPO) companies continues to grow.
Joy London and I have updated our Outsourced Legal Services list: it now includes 100 LPOs, up from 77 in just three months since our last update.
Some notes about our list: It reflects published sources (web sites and articles). It does not distinguish between companies that may have 2 people versus those that may have 2000. We no longer check existing entries for each update. Instead, we now indicate the date we first added the LPO to the list and the date we last checked the web site; we hope to check web sites at least annually. As always, we welcome additions and corrections (e-mail to info at prismlegal dot com).
- Anecdotally, it appears that more and more LPOs offer offshore document review. Reading vendor web sites, however, it can be be hard to distinguish between responsiveness and privilege reviews versus more limited ojbective or subjective coding.
- Outsourcing has now spread to other countries. Two new LPO entries offer services from Israel; they seem to rely on US-trained and -experienced lawyers who live in Israel. Separately, Lex Factum is a legal research outsourcer based in Finland that serves the European market. Lex Factum is not on our list because we do not include US-based outsourced legal researchers. But it shows that outsourcing is not bound to any particular country.
- While the total revenue of the LPO market is hard to pin down, it seems safe to say it is fragmented. Rahul over at Legal Process Outsourcing blog comments on the consolidation potential (citing WNS Global and ExlService look at inorganic growth in LPO (The Economic Times (7/31/07)).
- Other commentators also question the apparent rapid growth. Mark Ross of LawScribe has a thought-provoking blog post, Is Everything What it Seems in the India Offshore Legal Outsourcing Space?. He compares the limited available published data to conclude that all may not be what it seems in LPO land. That said, he does envision rapid growth.
A final tidbit relating to the seeming spread of legal outsourcing: law firm Haynes and Boone LLP “plans to increase its use of Indian lawyers” according to the biographical statement of the HB lawyer-author of look abroad to outsource legal analysis (Houston Business Journal, 6/1/07). Few US law firms go on record about using offshore lawyers. Here is a a firm already using Indian lawyers and planning to increase use. A slip of the keyboard? Or a signal to clients that it is being efficient and cost-effective?
Many firms have strategic-thinking CIOs. Some also have directors of knowledge management and some of practice services. But how many have all three?
Now, Orrick does. Patrick Tisdale is Orrick’s CIO and Peter Krakaur the CKO (Chief Knowledge Officer). Clark Cordner recently joined as Director of Practice and Client Services; he will focus on delivering differentiated legal services enabled by IT. All three are highly-regarded large law firms managers.
I suspect that few AmLaw 100 or 200 firms have such experienced people in all three roles. This threesome should impress both clients and recruits. Clients should see value in both efficiency and effectiveness. Orrick lawyers (and recruits) should find attractive a deep support organization that makes their lives easier.
Ark Group hosts its third annual legal KM conference on Oct 24-25, 2007 in Chicago.
Joshua Fireman of ii3 and I will once again co-chair the conference (click here for preliminary details). For a flavor, here is the cover letter that Joshua and I wrote that Ark will include in the program:
Over the last decade KM has emerged as its own discipline in law firms. It now encompasses formerly distinct and narrower undertakings such as work product retrieval or “forms and precedents libraries.” KM has expanded but it has also experienced its share of bumps along the way. Some firms never liked the idea of KM. Some like it but hate to call it KM. While others that embraced it have lost some steam. But many firms are still going strong. On balance, the signs suggest that KM is alive and well - but still evolving.
So what is KM becoming? Some have given up on engaging lawyers and view it increasingly as a technology project or problem. Some continue to place great value on the refined knowledge of practice support lawyers. Some are coupling KM more tightly to marketing and finance. Still others have dropped formal names in favor of just doing whatever it takes to support law practice and law business with high value information and know-how.
Has KM lost its way? Is it really about technology? It appears that in many instances KM has taken the simple route of technology and is at risk of disappearing as a well-defined law firm function. For years KM professionals have touted that KM is “only about 20% technology.” But some of the US KM leaders are clearly investing heavily in technology, minimizing extra work for lawyers or staff. Will law firm CIO’s soon be commandeering KM projects as their own? Which raises a more general question of what’s the best way to evaluate this technology?
At this year’s KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT IN THE MODERN LAW FIRM conference, attendees will examine and discuss how KM is shifting in emphasis from supporting pure legal knowledge to supporting knowledge that relates to the business. We hope you’ll join us as we take a closer look at the high aspirations, false-starts, cultural limitations, resource limitations, and technology challenges faced by today’s legal KM community.
I’d love to hear with comments on these themes from anyone attending the ILTA 2007 KM track next Monday in Orlando.
Every litigation practice may soon need its own e-discovery attorney.
I recently wrote a white paper for Renew Data called for Renew Data discussing the emerging role of “e-discovery lawyer” (see my prior blog post, Managing E-Discovery (EDD) . You can now read it here at primslegal.com: 4 Ways an eDiscovery Attorney Can Make Your Firm More Successful
The four reasons are
1. Build the Right Team to Handle a Complex Problem
2. Master the Intersection of Law and Technology
3. Develop EDD Best Practices to Minimize Risk and Make Life Easier
4. Advise Clients on E-Discovery and Litigation Readiness
In this Roundup: The annual Socha-Gelbman survey of e-discovery vendors, a new knowledge management resource, and an update on Orrick’s “near shoring” operations center in Wheeling, WV.
E-Discovery Market Survey (EDD Stats)
EDD Hits $2B in Socha-Gelbmann Survey (Law Tech News, 9/2/07) provides top level results of the fifth annual Socha-Gelbmann Electronic Discovery Survey Report. The article lists top vendors in multiple categories: overall service providers, overall software providers, identification, preservations, collection, processing, review, analysis, production, and presentation. Blogger Rob Robinson provides a tabular snapshot of the 2005-2007 Top 5, 10, and 20 EDD vendors.
Dennis Kennedy’s How to Find a Good Deal Document (TechnoLawyer Blog, 9/1/07) explains that “Real Practice’s RealDealDocs provides access to hundreds of thousands of exhibits from public filings from the SEC EDGAR database selected for relevance to transactional lawyers.” Dennis points out the products use for creating documents, issue checklists, and calling opposing counsel’s statement that they never change a certain provision. Query: will this displace some more costly knowledge management efforts by law firms?
Update on Orrick’s Near-Shore Global Operations Center in Wheeling, WV
Orrick’s Staffing Moves Pay Off – Will Other Firms Follow? (The Recorder, 5/25/07) reports that five years after Orrick opened its Wheeling Global Operations Center, the firm has saved more than $20mil. It also notes that other than Baker McKenzie, which operates a central facility in Manila, few other firms have followed this central model. Another update on Orrick: Q&A: Centralizing your business infrastructure, Managing PARTNER Magazine (US Edition, 4/07, p. 16). This interview with Ralph Baxter, Chairman and CEO of Orrick, reports that “The Wheeling office had 73 employees when it opened on 28 June 2002. Currently, Wheeling has 214 employees, although 38 of those are really with Willams Lea…”
Lawyer recruiting is in the news. Given the cost and the stakes, BigLaw should be doing more with technology to recruit.
Annual Survey Shows the New Reality of Associate Life (American Lawyer, 9/07) reports on the challenge large law firms face recruiting new talent:
“First, in the short run, the war for talent will become more ferocious. Second, the cost of talent will only increase. And third, the need for firms to differentiate themselves will become apparent even to the hidebound.”
And how well does BigLaw do differentiating itself? Not so well. A related article, Is This Any Way to Recruit Associates? reports that
“Students also have problems vetting firms. They aren’t helped much by firm marketing materials, which often say the same thing and make firms indistinguishable from each other. ‘They all tell you they have great clients, and they work hard but [have] a very collegial atmosphere,’ says the Stanford student. ‘It’s the same discourse over and over again.’ Because so many firms look alike to students, they are now making several visits to firms after they get offers – simply to find a reason to pick one firm over another.”
This article also reports that firms “spend as much as $250,000 to recruit a single summer associate.” Given that huge cost, one might think that firms would take special pains to differentiate themselves or to manage the recruitment process. But there’s scant evidence of that.
Well-known legal journalist Bob Ambrogi reviews law firm recruiting web sites in Web Watch: Online Recruiting (Law Tech News, Aug 2007). He concludes that “[w]hile a handful of firms use the medium to full advantage, most take a remarkably humdrum approach, and some make surprisingly clumsy missteps.”
In my March blog post, A New Weapon in the Talent Arms Race (3/6/07), I noted that BigLaw is not using blogs to recruit new lawyers. It still strikes me that a blog is an easy and inexpensive way to communicate to recruits the texture of life and work at a firm. I’m not aware of any firms doing this.
Meanwhile some firms are at least trying to differentiate. The Web is, like, so cool for law firm hiring in the Boston Business Journal (8/3/07) reports on Choate Hall’s use of video in recruiting. I personally found the video underwhelming (I’m not sure why a summer associate talking about her interest in horror films helps differentiate the firm). Click here for Choate Hall video
Somewhat lost in the American Lawyer articles is that a big factor contributing to recruiting expense is the complexity of managing so many interviews and the workflow of communicating with 10s or 100s of recruits. On that front, one firm, Mallesons in Australia, has innovated in the recruitment process, winning an InnovAction award for its work, as I reported in Innovative Uses of Legal Technology (7/9/07):
Mallesons Stephen Jacques’ TalentNet “a web based solution for recruitment management… has vastly improved the firm’s recruitment outcome while reducing costs… [it] manages all internal and external processes in the recruitment lifecycle, from the requisition through to the final appointment. TalentNet has removed most of the administrative overhead in the recruitment process.”
Mallesons reports that TalentNet “has cut recruitment lead times by more than fifty per cent” and given the firm a competitive edge in recruiting top talent.
Bottom line: Strategic-thinking CIOs should be talking to recruiting partners and directors and firm management about reducing costs and improving results. With a talent war underway, how can BigLaw afford not to be properly armed?
Have you ever heard anyone say “I want to study law so I can get a job reviewing discovery documents?"
Not likely. Yet many US contract lawyers review documents for a living. How satisfied are they with job content and the potentially nomadic life. If job satisfaction is low, what does that mean for quality?
Contrast this to Indian lawyers who work for Legal Process Outsourcers (LPO). Legal eagles for digital age (Hindustan Times, 9/1/07) reports that for Indian lawyers, LPOs can be more attractive than Indian law firms. “When you work for an Indian law firm… the transactions you are seeing from those clients are likely limited to India-centric transactions… At high-end LPOs, lawyers are servicing multinational in-house lawyers and law firms on their global practice.” The article also reports other LPO benefits over Indian law firms: better training and more growth opportunities.
If you share my assumption that context matters for job performance and quality, then it seems likely the context for document review in India is better than it is in the US (or UK, Canada, or Australia).
Spotted at Recruiting Lawyers for Document Review … in India at Inside Opinions / Legal Blog Watch.
Price umbrellas and inefficiencies create market opportunities. At least so it seems when it comes to reviewing discovery documents in litigation.
General counsels complain about law firm costs to review documents flowing from e-discovery (EDD). The market is listening. One year ago, I blogged about offshore options for document review. Recently I’ve come across some US companies that review discovery documents. The list here is likely not complete (identifying review companies by web searching is hard):
There are probably lines to be drawn in the market among consulting companies that focus on managing the discovery process, staffing agencies that also provide facilities (and I understand more and more are doing so), and companies focused primarily on document review.
Wherever the line my lie, it’s good news for clients who don’t want to pay law firm rates and mark-ups for high volume document review. They can investigate a range of on- and off-shore options.