Client Driven Technology at Preston Gates

Law.com reports that the Preston Gates law firm has developed software to manage electronic discovery documents and transactional documents. This effort illustrates another effort by a law firm to respond to client concerns with technological innovation.
“Whenever a client expresses cost concerns, a law firm responds,” says B. Gerald Johnson, Preston Gates’ managing partner.
The article says, “Johnson set up a committee called ‘Work Smarter,’ headed by IP partner Martin Smith, to search for the good ideas. It has taken awhile, but Preston Gates lawyers have created two tools that have made their lawyers work faster and their clients envious. One is the document search tool Patterns. The other, called Structure, helps assemble documents in transactions.”
While it probably helps to have Microsoft as a major firm client, this approach is one that law firms are going to have to consider and that large clients will want to request.

Partnership Has Its Rewards??

A new study from Altman Weil confirms something many of us had already suspected: law firm partners feel like they are working harder than ever because they are. Average billable hours for law firm partners increased 11.4% between 1984 and 2001, from 1,531 in 1984 to 1,706 in 2001. Partners in some law firms are now seeing minimum billable requirements in excess of this average. Marci Krufka of Altman Weil notes that it is “now typical for a law firm partner to work a total of 2,400 hours (billable and non-billable) annually.”
Interestingly, average annual billables for associates increased only 3.8% during the same period, from 1,798 in 1984 to 1,867 in 2001.
Krufka’s conclusion is sobering: “What does this mean? It is no longer the case that associates ‘pay their dues’ with hard work to be rewarded with an invitation to partnership. To the contrary, law firm partners work harder and have more responsibility than ever before, and there is nothing to indicate that will change any time soon.”
More evidence of a system out of balance.

Out, Damn Metadata!

Lawyers are beginning to focus on the issue of the hidden metadata that is carried by documents, particularly those generated by Microsoft products. This “metadata” includes both information contained in prior drafts, comments, information about authors and sources and other items that can result in embarrassing and damaging disclosures. I’m aware of several firms that have attacked this problem at a variety of levels. In general, however, these solutions have addressed solely Microsoft Word documents. Unfortunately, much embarrassing and damaging metadata can be found in both Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint slides and dealing only with Word Documents will leave a serious hole in your overall effort to scrub out metadata.
There is good news from KKL software. ezClean scrubs Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents and integrates with Outlook, allowing you to scrub documents as you e-mail them. You can download a 45-day free eval copy of ezClean and KKL Software’s other useful utilities. The metadata issue is one issue on which lawyers should be in the forefront.

The Dupont Legal Model

One of the compelling features of the Dupont Legal Model, one of the most studied approaches to inside counsel / outside counsel partnering and client-driven technologies, is Dupont’s transparency about the process. Dupont has created a first class web site for the Dupont Legal Model and it is an excellent starting point for anyone interested in this very important trend in the legal practice. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m working toward developing a pretty comprehensive set of resources on this topic at http://www.denniskennedy.com/clientdriven.htm.

Let Us Now Lament the Final Issue of Legal Thought Leader

John Kelly’s great newsletter, Legal Thought Leader, has long been a highly useful resource for me. Much of my first exposure to inside counsel / outside counsel partnering and the Dupont Legal Model came from reading this newsletter. With its insightful, well-researched, and just plain interesting articles, and John’s excellent book reviews of leading business and professional books, LTL became a must-read for me. Unfortunately, I just got word that the current issue is the final issue. The only silver lining in this black cloud is that the archives (in PDF) are still available online.