LANCE REA, Director of Information Services at Davis & Gilbert LLP
MARSHA STEIN, Chief Information Officer of Ropes and Gray LLP
Jusy put out these propositions:
- 5% of a Law Firm’s budget is spent on IT.
- But only 20% of the technology is used.
- Technology is typically the fourth biggest expense at a law firm behind salaries, rent and insurance
Marsha does not care about the percentages. She wants to address the attorneys’ problems. Maybe the attorneys do not need all of the features. She thinks it is a problem of the software vendors bundling too many features into
Marsha’s highest priority project this year is knowledge management (YEAH!!) Knowledge management is on the top of priority list for most attorneys and practices.
Ian thinks knowledge management is the top item. Followed quickly by collaboration. As attorneys are spread out they need better asynchronous tools. Then he is looking at remote access. Attorneys are increasingly on the road and not working in the office.
Lance is focusing on remote access and disaster recovery.
The panel thought it was very important to be responsive. Even if you do not have an answer, at least let them know they are being listened to. Jokingly, Marsha said she made sure the management committee always had the latest blackberry.
You need to focus on the solutions, not just the bottom line. You need to use legal technology to distinguish yourself from other firms. You need to focus on ways to deliver solutions to the clients and to the attorneys.
A question from the audience raised concern about remote access opening access to the firm;s information. Marsha is not opening the systems to the outside. WestKM and the other systems respect access through Citrix. Clients have extranets, but not live information into the firm systems.
Ian took a similar position. They take the view that they are a partnership. You need some ethical walls. But if you stumble across something you shouldn’t see, then you close it. They found that they needed to restrict access to administrative documents and bankruptcy documents. Enterprise search made these much more findable. And found that those administrators were not using appropriate document security.
Lance’s firm is against extranets. (Strange position.)
Ian pooh-poohed the idea of digital dictation and automated fax delivery. He thinks they are dinosaurs. Dictation is fading away and faxes are fading away as a way to deliver. He would prefer that someone scan the document and email it.
How to gain access to key lawyers and the firm clients?
Marsha finds it hard. As an example she gave a presentation to the attorneys as a background for what their client did.
Ian raised a cardinal rule of not talking to a client without a partner around. He has found that e-discovery has become a common topic of conversation with general counsel at clients. He is also finding that clients are increasingly becoming vendors.
In talking about e-discovery, Ian often has to discuss the meaning of “gone.” Is it gone forever, mostly gone, hard to find gone, etc.
Marsha thinks IT should move beyond just keeping the trains running to taking a more strategic view of the technology. She is finding that clients want to know more about the ability of the firm to deliver information.
Ian does not make an appointment to talk about knowledge management. He uses the lure of something sexier, like the attorney’s blackberry. Then he turns the conversation.
Marsha is focusing on the productivity benefits of knowledge management.
How do you use technology committees?
Lance uses his technology committee as an advisory group. He did put a document management purchase decision to a vote of the committee. But then he disbanded it.
Ian keeps the committee fresh by adding and deleting people on a regular basis. They are not the geeks of the firm. He wants people to be representative of the attorney user group. He also pointed out that the committee was a factor in making his predecessor become his predecessor.
Marsha similarly has a broad range of members and has added associates and is trying to add staff. She uses them as advisers. They are also good at bringing problems to her attention and bringing information back from other venues.
It was great to hear the knowledge management flag being saluted by the Chief Information Officers.