Seminar of Note: Reducing Risk, Restoring Trust: A Leadership Role for IT

I want to recommend what looks to be an excellent seminar on June 10 in New York City. It’s called Reducing Risk, Restoring Trust: A Leadership Role for IT and produced by the Robert Frances Group, an IT consulting firm with whom I’ve started to do some work in connection with IT issues for corporate legal departments and related issues.
Although I’ll be speaking at another conference that day and be unable to attend, I highly recommend this conference because of the top-flight faculty and the importance of the issues that will be covered. Take a look:
The program will address the following:
Assess the extent of IT risk and how to best mitigate the risk
Establish a formula to analyze and quantify IT risks
Prioritize risk
Fiduciary responsibility of IT
Manage your IT Risk portfolio
Make the trade-offs work as positive advantage
IT departments as risk advisors of business
How to build a cross-functional “Trust” team
Determine the most important risk areas to spend IT budget
Define an acceptable level of risk
Build a responsible roadmap to success
Enhance IT trust on an enterprise level
Understand the extent of accountability
Create the right assessment criteria
Learn where the critical gaps exist
Implement a governance process
Determine risk associated with specific gaps
Address compliance and federal regulations
As many of you know, these items are front-and-center priorities today and this seminar should be a good way to help you put all the pieces together.
From privacy policies to HIPAA to Sarbanes Oxley, leading companies have realized that the “team” approach (executive, IT, financial, sales and marketing, legal) is the only realistic approach to take on these complex areas. Here is a great way to learn why and how.

The Current State of KM in Law Firms

Cindy Chick has written an important article called “West KM/Lexis TotalSearch or Enterprise Search Engine?
The short article does an excellent job of spelling out the differences between the West and Lexis approaches (tend to be more useful for litigation practice) and enterprise search engines. such as Recommind. Her article largely confirms my observations, except that I would say that the enterprise search engines really rock. There are a number of companies doing some very cool things in that area. I’ve offered myself to several of them to be the first beta tester if they develop a personal version of their tools.
There’s a very important point hidden in this article that I want to bring out into the open. While, as I have mentioned, there are some very talented people working on KM initiatives at large law firms, it has become very clear that KM, at least in the early stages, means using an enterprise search engine (or the Lexis or West alternatives) as a better way to find documents. There are a number of reasons for this happening that largely involve lawyer behavior.
Here’s the key point – probably the main selling point for the “big iron” document management systems large law firms have purchased is simply the ability to find the documents you need. Unfortunately, in my own experience with a high-end DMS, I had no confidence that I could find the documents I wanted or could be sure that nothing else existed. Apparently, my experience was not unique.
What does it mean when law firms are adding enterprise search tools primarily to search for documents? I was recently in a room of law firm CIOs and grew increasingly puzzled by the discussion of how KM is being implemented. I finally asked if anyone would disagree with my conclusion that they were saying that document management systems in large law firms were desperately broken? I didn’t get any takers.
What does that mean, given the money spent on DMS by law firms? What does that mean for clients of law firms when those clients have Sarbanes Oxley or other recordkeeping obligations? What are the implications of a system where fundamental doubts about security, authenticity and validity of documents managed by law firms are subject to question? I think that these are all BIG questions.

Rick Klau (and others) on De-Captivating Markets

I enjoyed Rick Klau’s post today on IT innovation in the next decade is worth a careful read and tracing back to the linked sources. Rick covers a lot of important territory, as does Doc Searls, whose De-Captivating Markets inspired Rick’s post.
At the root of both posts is Clayton Christensen’s Innovator’s Dilemma, as laid out in his books, The Innovator’s Dilemma and The Innovator’s Solution. Christensen focuses on the power of “disruptive technologies.” To quote from one of the editorial reviews on Amazon, “At the heart of The Innovator’s Dilemma is how a successful company with established products keeps from being pushed aside by newer, cheaper products that will, over time, get better and become a serious threat.” Searls does a nice job of sketching out the theory in his post.
As compelling as the “disruptive technologies” argument is, the difficulty has always been that the well-chosen examples suggest that disruptive technologies are something that we can determine only in retrospect and that predicting them is very difficult indeed. In fact, we can analyze many technologies as “disruptive technologies” and never be certain that we are right until events shake out. Searls looks at Open Source, as have others, as a disruptive technology, but I suggest that we do not know whether it is or not at this point.
It is more reasonable to point to digital cameras today as a disruptive technology and point to Kodak and Polaroid as victims. It’s unclear to me, however, where the “tipping point” came. There are still many different standards (how many kinds of storage memory), battery life and other usability issues, and I believe that it is still cheaper to develop film than print out digital images, in terms of consumables. I think that you can look at digital cameras and fit them into the innovator’s dilemma framework now, but I don’t know how you could have done that (other than on faith) in advance.
For what it’s worth, although I’m as intrigued as anyone by the potential of Open Source, I’m not sure it will become a disruptive technology, especially if the measure is whether it puts Microsoft in the kind of position Kodak now finds itself in.
My vote for the disruptive technology of the day, by the way, is the availability of cheap fast hard drives with massive amounts of storage capacity. However, I’m not sure what the implications are.
I also have a vote for the disruptive technology for the legal industry – distributed document assembly applications embedded with routine legal knowledge. If this happens, I can see that the implications are enormous.
For a great article exploring the implications of the Innovator’s Dilemma for law firms, I highly recommend Darryl Mountain’s Could New Technologies Cause Great Law Firms to Fail? I saw Darryl Give the original presentation on which this article was based and it struck me that he was a few years ahead of the curve. It still does in terms of what law firms are doing, but not in terms of what technologies are available.
Doc describes two states in an industry: “One is a cluster of vendor-limited silos, with high level of dependencies, from the bottom to the top, on goods and services only the vendor can provide. The other is an open and free marketplace ? a commons ? where both vendors and customers are free to make and buy what they like.” How does your industry fit into that model?
The Internet has generally moved us from high level dependencies to increased independence, while also emphasizing a different set of dependencies. If the term “silo” applies to what you are doing, you should be setting aside some time to think strategically. My recent experience at the Legal Technology Summit led me to the conclusion that the term “silo” is one that many clients can reasonably apply to their law firms. Should that worry traditional law firms? You’re damn right it should.
To return to Rick’s original post, let’s look at the role of social networking and social technologies. I agree with Rick’s thinking. As I like to ask, what happens when the best lawyer for you to recommend to your client, or for you to work with, is no longer your partner down the hall? Or, what happens when your client puts together a project team of lawyers that excludes your law firm partners and you realize that the project team works extremely well?
Trust me, take a look at Rick’s post and Doc’s post and do a little reading about the innovator’s dilemma. You’ll thank me later.

OneNote and Lawyers

Several people have pointed to Mark Voorhees’s article Worth Noting, which highlights the potential that some, including me, see in the use of Microsoft OneNote by lawyers. OK, he even quotes me.
As I’ve mentioned to many people, the light first came on for me (and I still think that this is the best way to think about OneNote) when I heard a Microsoft rep, Allison Gay, describe OneNote as a simpler tool for writing meant to fill the gap created as Word became so feature-laden that many saw it as overkill for writing simple documents. If you have begun to see Word as a tool for “processing” words, or even as a desktop publisher, you’ll appreciate this description and distinction. For example, for several years I’ve had a tendency to write quick first drafts in WordPad and then move in Word to clean-up and format the documents.
Last week, I was in a couple of conference sessions with only a tablet of paper. I took a bunch of notes and saw that a page of my notes could have easily been a screenshot from a OneNote ad – diagrams, boxes, drawings, boxes of text placed on different parts of the page. One look at that page would prove to you what I mean when I say that I am not an “outliner.”
Mark, as usual, writes a great article – one I thoroughly recommend.
The money quote:
“Microsoft may have finally written a program for lawyers, although it isn’t aimed specifically at the legal market. Microsoft OneNote helps people take notes on their computer. Note taking is not rocket science, but it occupies a fair chunk of billable hours by lawyers.”
Memo to Microsoft: It’s time to come back to the legal market and show lawyers what they are missing when they stay away from current Office programs.

Legal Technology Summit Retrospection

I spoke at and attended the recent Marcus Evans Legal Technology Summit and had a great time. The format of LTS is different than most conferences – limited number of attendees, lots of interaction among attendees, speakers and vendors, and a first-class approach across the board. What’s cool is that you end up feeling like you’ve been able to have extended conversations with almost everyone one there.
As a result, I met quite a few CIOs of the leading US law firms and some of the best and most innovative thinkers in legal tech I’ve ever had the pleasure of being around for an extended period of time. I also continued my ongoing string of presentating with a terrific co-speaker – in this case, Toby Brown of the Utah State Bar.
On the flight back, I could not believe the flow of new ideas that I had. You’ll gradually here about some of those here, some will go to my clients, some may appear in articles of mine, and some I’ll be working on myself.
A few observations:
Some of the premier US law firms have bright and innovative IT directors who they are not using as effectively as they could.
The tension between where law firms are at and where there clients want them to be is growing greater and breaking points might be coming faster than many lawyers expect. Ron Friedmann’s A New Approach to Control Outside Counsel Costs is a must-read in this context, but I don’t think it goes nearly far enough and the push that will soon be coming from corporate legal departments will be far stronger than people imagine. You’ll have to trust me on that, because my insights and advice on this issue are going only to my clients.
As lawyers continue to be unable to adapt rules based on paper documents to the rapidly changing world of electronic documents and networked environments, there are fundamental questions about the continuing relevancy of today’s legal system and the current mode of practice of law. If lawyers do not become involved in issues like security, validation, authenticity and the like, they risk being marginalized. One place to watch on these practical issues is Phil Windley’s blog.
If you are looking for a very high value conference to attend in 2005, keep an eye open for next year’s Legal Technology Summit.