Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Client tests for efficiency - firms fail to deliver

January 24th, 2013 by Altman Weil

There’s a wonderful article in today’s Law Technology News that illustrates the disconnect between law firms and their clients when it comes to efficiency.  Casey Flaherty, corporate counsel for Kia Motors America, has written about a test he gives law firm associates.  This test uses a few mock legal assignments to assess associates’ competence in a number of basic tech programs, but more to the point, it assesses their law firm’s ability to deliver work efficiently. Done properly, each task can be completed in 20 minutes. 

Here is his description of the results:

“Not a single associate at any of the nine firms I have audited has come anywhere close to the 20-minute mark on the first assignment. That is, all of the associates approached the assignment in ways that would have required five to 15 times longer than necessary. At $200 to $400 per associate hour, such inefficiency suggests to me that, indeed, waste is a righteous concern.

Failing my audit has repercussions. Of the nine major firms I have audited, all nine have failed — some more miserably than others. A few of these firms were auditioning for work and were not retained. Other firms, including longtime incumbents, agreed to rate reductions. One firm, for example, took an across-the-board 5 percent reduction that will be restored if they are able to pass a subsequent audit. Another firm agreed to a significant investment in associate training and has worked closely with me to upgrade a substantial number of their internal practices and processes. Finally, audit results influence my review of counsels’ billing entries.”

The author goes on to describe the tests in some depth – but don’t get lost in the details of Excel spreadsheets.  The point is that client expectations for efficient delivery of legal services have changed.  Law firms cannot, in Mr. Flaherty’s words, simply ”throw expensive bodies at a problem” any longer. 

Read it at Law Technology News

Law firm as e-discovery vendor

September 26th, 2012 by Altman Weil

The Legal Intelligencer reports an interesting trend that we’ve been watching:

“Amid a flurry of law firms in recent years that have formed an e-discovery practice group, Drinker Biddle & Reath has taken the concept a step further by creating a subsidiary to handle the technical aspect of mining electronic data in litigation. The concept is one consultants said could spread to other law firms as they look to recapture revenue lost to legal process outsource companies.”

Altman Weil experts Jim Michalowicz and Dan DiLucchio are presenting a fascinating new webinar on E-Discovery Strategies for Law Firms on November 1.

Read more at The Legal Intelligencer

Technology-driven change

June 15th, 2012 by Altman Weil

Freshfields attorneys Timothy Harkness and Dana Post point out two 2012 court rulings that they believe signal a new era in the legal industry:

“Over the past few decades, the technology revolution has profoundly changed the marketplace as machines have replaced humans in virtually every sector in the global economy.  The impact of technology was particularly felt in sectors such as the automobile industry where skilled workers were replaced by automated labor in the forms of computers and robots.

Many attorneys, however, felt that the legal profession was insulated from the changes that had rocked other industries.  They were wrong.  Indeed, those paying attention to the practice of law in recent years have witnessed signs that the legal profession is about to experience the same sort of transformative change that revolutionized the automobile industry towards the end of the 20th century.  

Computers, once thought of as tools for lawyers, are well on their way to replacing much of the work that lawyers do altogether.  This profound change took a giant step forward recently when two courts endorsed what is cryptically called ‘predictive coding’ —the use of sophisticated algorithms to enable computer software to determine the relevance of documents.”

You may not know much about predictive coding - and you may not want to know - but the march of this kind of technological change is inexorable.  Technology is changing the way lawyers practice, ready or not.

Read it at Thomson Reuters News & Insight 

Paperless law offices

March 23rd, 2012 by Altman Weil

Does your firm convert incoming paper documents to electronic format on a systematic basis? It might come as a surprise that nearly a quarter of law firms say they have formal paperless office programs in place.  Last December, Altman Weil conducted a Flash Survey on this topic that offers some insights for firms reviewing their own paperless initiatives or considering implementing one.

Read it at Altman Weil

Innovation adds value and creates client loyalty

March 19th, 2012 by Altman Weil

Last fall the Emerging Companies practice group at Perkins Coie in Seattle developed a free, web-based form-generator for start up companies “to put together the early-stage documents they need to create their companies without having to pay attorneys to do it for them.”  They liken it to TurboTax for entrepreneurs.

Perkins Coie partner Buddy Arnheim says that clients used to pay the firm for this work, but the firm would rather focus on counseling services which represent the greatest added value.

“The new free form-generation will help automate the simpler tasks that the law firm was already trying to give to its lower-paid employees or consultants to keep costs low for startups. Now, the entrepreneurs can do it themselves, then come to Perkins Coie when they really need assistance.”

Read it at Puget Sound Business Journal

Technology as competitive advantage

November 17th, 2011 by Altman Weil

Two items in the legal press this week highlight law firms’ search for improved efficiency, cost control and collaboration through enhanced technology.  Two firms - one traditional AmLaw100 firm and one out-of-the-box virtual firm – are working on customized technology solutions that caught our attention:

Sutherland Asbill has developed Legal Project Management software in a collaborative pilot project that included their attorneys, business development professionals, practice managers and technology group. 

The team designed a matter-level dashboard that “contains charts that track the status of spend vs. budget for the matter, links to the iManage folders for the matter, a Task Assignment tool, and a Project Schedule tool.  Users also have access to the ‘askSutherland’ knowledge management tool, our docket management system, and other resources.  The project team also can set up a ‘team discussion’ space as well as single repository for any reports required by the client.”

Read it at Law Practice Today

Clearspire, a new virtual law firm that has the benefit of starting from a blank slate without any legacy systems, has built a customized law practice and business management platform called Coral.  Blogger Ron Friedmann describes it:

“Coral is a complete desktop and office environment that encompasses not just document creation / editing and e-mail, but a range of other functions, including real-time communication / collaboration, project management, and financial analysis.

… the firm built Coral from the ground up to meet new client demands for better value, with features to serve clients, lawyers, and the firm’s business managers. Key design goals included ease of use for “non-techie lawyers”, collaboration within the firm and with clients, scalability, and the ability to break substantive legal work into separately priced and managed discrete activities (”chunks”).”

Read it at Prism Legal

Using technology to collaborate and communicate

November 3rd, 2011 by Altman Weil

There are lots of interesting tidbits in the 2011 Am Law Tech Survey on subjects ranging from cloud computing and data security to IT spending trends in law firms.  We were interested in how firms are using technology to collaborate and communicate. 

Some highlights that caught our attention:

  • 97% of firms use web conferencing software
  • 87% use Microsoft SharePoint
  • 72% believe that online collaboration produces better client service
  • 65% of firms publish blogs, although 71% of those firms restrict who may post to the blog
  • 96% of firms use LinkedIn
  • 66% use Facebook and Twitter

Survey respondents were IT heads in 82 law firms.

Read it at law.com

New legal technology survey

August 24th, 2011 by Altman Weil

ILTA, the International Legal Technology Association, has released its 2011 technology survey. The survey, conducted in partnership with InsideLegal, polled 684 law firms ranging in size from 50 to 3,000 laywers and received 118 responses. 

Here are some highlights:

  • Overall firm technology spending, as a percentage of firm revenue and based on per attorney spend, is still down from pre-2009 economic downturn figures.
  • 57% of all responding firms spend between 2-4% of total firm revenue on technology.
  • 46% of survey participants indicated spending $8K-$17K per attorney on technology purchases, the same response rate as in 2010.
  • 33% indicated they are implementing a cloud strategy, up from 17% in 2010 and 9% in 2009.
  • 55% of surveyed firms provide IT support for employees that purchase and use their personal tablet devices.

Download the survey from InsideLegal

Law departments are using technology to control costs

June 24th, 2011 by Altman Weil

Corporate Counsel magazine has released its 2011 Survey of In-House Technology.  They found that the recession has caused corporate law departments to become more pro-active in communicating their technology needs to outside counsel especially as a means of cost control.

Survey findings on e-discovery…

“On the e-discovery front, roles have reversed between in-house and outside counsel. Where companies used to let their firms pick service providers and simply pay the bill, many now pick the providers themselves — typically, e-discovery vendors with whom they already have a relationship and in many cases, a discounted pricing arrangement.”

and on e-billing…

“On [managing costs], e-billing has also proven a winner. Or, at least, it has with the minority of companies — just 35 percent — that require it of outside counsel. “This has saved us a lot of money, has let us hold our legal fees to 2008 levels,” says one in-house counsel at a Fortune 500 company who asked not to be identified. “Before, we’d get 100 bills every month, with different people reviewing them, and rate increases would sneak in. When we started e-billing, there were a few times where someone upped their rate. Only we saw it, because the system flagged it. We don’t see anyone trying that anymore.”

Read it at law.com