Why Aren’t More Lawyers Doing E-Discovery?

Whenever I talk about electronic discovery with non-lawyers, they always are surprised by how lawyers seem to avoid electronic discovery whenever possible. They often ask me why I think this is the case. I don’t really have the perfect answer for that question, although I tend to use the “fear” answer more frequently these days.
Tom Mighell, Evan Schaeffer and I, however, show no fear in trying to give our answers to this question in our latest “Thinking E-Discovery” column called “Why Aren’t More Lawyers Doing Electronic Discovery?” on the essential electronic discovery portal site, DiscoveryResources.org. We really enjoyed writing this column and I recommend it highly.
I’m still trying to do my part in educating those of you who deal with lawyers struggling with the whole notion of electronic discovery, as well as lawyers wanting to learn more about electronic discovery, with the seminar I mention at the end of this post. Mention this post when you book my seminar and I’ll give you a 5% discount.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog)]
This post brought to you by Dennis Kennedy’s half-day electronic discovery seminar – “Preparing for the New World of Electronic Discovery: Easing Your Transition from Paper to Electronic Discovery.” Contact Dennis today for more information and to schedule a seminar for your firm or legal department.

Document Management and the Mathematics of Technology Investment – Article

[Note: This post is another in the series of reposts of some of my articles. My friend Tom Burke at Worldox mentioned to me the release of the new Worldox GX version of the popular and well-regarded document management program. I’ve liked Worldox for many years and Tom is one of my favorite people in the legal tech world. In honor of the new version of Worldox, I’m reposting an article I wrote on document management basics back in 1999 in my monthly column for The Indiana Lawyer. I’ve updated the prices listed in the article, but otherwise left it unchanged except where indicated.]
Document Management and the Mathematics of Technology Investment
I read the other day that, on average, we spend sixteen minutes a day looking for lost or misplaced items. Based on my experience in law firms, sixteen minutes seems a little low. Lawyers seem to spend a great deal of time looking for documents, on their computers and even on their desks.
If we assume that the average lawyer works 250 days a year, then he or she spends approximately 67 hours a year looking for documents. The median hourly rate for lawyers these days is about $150 per hour. Sixty-seven hours times $150 per hour gives us approximately $10,000 as a monetary cost of looking for documents. On average. Your situation might result in a higher number.
Lawyers sometimes question the benefits of technology spending because they see the benefits as too intangible. Let’s try this experiment: imagine a technology that reduces the times you spend searching for documents on your computer in half, or to eight minutes a day. As you will soon see, this estimate is very conservative. Over the course of a year, that technology could save you $5,000. You can see a “return on investment.” In fact, if you can successfully implement that technology for under $5,000 per user, you pay for the technology in savings in the first year alone.
I like to use document management as an example of a technology with an excellent return on investment because it is a simple, utilitarian technology that does not immediately grab your attention.
Document management software simply provides a way to “manage” your computer files so you do not have to deal with the intricacies and limitations of standard filing conventions of Windows or other specific programs. This industry segment grew up as a means to get around the infamous “8 and 3″ eleven-character file name limitation of DOS. You may remember the days of using a file name such as TILARTDM.999 for an article written for The Indiana Lawyer on document management in September 1999.
Users struggled to find ways to name documents in 11 characters and still be able to find them and figure out the shorthand months or years later. Some users established thousands of directories and subdirectories as a way to organize files.
Conceptually, a document management program intercepts the “save” command and presents you with a screen that allows you to give your document an extended name (such as “Smith v. Smith Motion to Modify Child Support”) and to provide “profile” information (author, typist, client, matter, keywords). After you fill out that screen, the document manager continues the “save” and files the document for you. When you next open the file, you simply retrieve it out of the document management software, with the extended range of options and ease of use it provides, rather than fussing with the underlying file structure.
The key to document management is that you really don’t care where the file sits on a hard drive, you just want to be able to find, access and use it quickly. Document management software allows you to do this. And a lot more.
Other helpful features let you do full text searches across your hard drive or network, organize your documents in a structure meaningful to you, associate keywords (such as “form”) with documents, and share the “knowledge” accumulated in your documents and across your firm.
Full Text Searching. Document managers each use some form of indexing on a regular basis to let do lightning fast full text searches of all your files. Instead of vaguely remembering a memo on postnuptial agreements done 3 or 4 years ago and sending out a team to track it down, with document management, you can search on words and phrases much like you can with a search engine on the Internet or with LEXIS or WestLaw. Running a search on “memorandum and postnuptial” will, within seconds, give you a workable list of likely candidates. In some instances, you might need to refine your search once or twice. Many firms have bought document management programs for this feature alone.
Improved File Structure. In many firms, you find a hybrid of file management structures. Some attorneys have separate directories for each client. Some have directories by document type. In some cases, each attorney has an individual directory containing all of his or her documents. In each case, sharing documents or finding someone else’s documents becomes quite difficult.
Since the physical location of a file does not matter in a document management system, you can specify client, matter and other information for each document and create “views” that allow a user to see, for example, all the documents involving a certain matter arranged in reverse chronological order. Click on the document you want and you can retrieve it. The underlying location of the document simply becomes irrelevant. If you like to see all of the files you have created in one place, you can do that. At the same time, an associate can have another view of all documents relating to a client that includes your documents. Each view exists independently and neither view affects the other.
Profiling Documents. Document managers let you categorize documents and then use those categories for searches. For example, identifying authors will later allow you to retrieve all memos written by a particular summer associate. Categorizing certain documents as forms (and protecting them from editing except by designated individuals) can help you set up an excellent form file.
Knowledge Management. “KM” is a big buzzword these days. You can use profiling and categorizing aggressively to help share important information and even the accumulated knowledge or wisdom across a firm. For example, by using keywords, you might also be able to find easily documents like buy-sell agreements with rights of first refusal favorable to the shareholder leaving the business.
You have a number of choices in document management programs. Four of the “big names” are PCDocs [now Hummingbird], Worldox, iManage [now part of Interwoven] and ProLaw [Now part of Thomson Elite]. Each does a few different things in a few different ways. All are worthy of consideration.
Here’s an example. The current pricing structure for Worldox is $375 per user for the first year and $70 per year thereafter. You’ll also need a modest workstation for indexing and some time of set up profile screens and other features. Other document managers typically require a separate SQL server and, for that reason, can be expensive for small and medium-sized firms. But . . . remember the $5,000 per year in “lost” time example (and each vendor will tell you that estimate is highly conservative) and consider how quickly your investment might pay for itself.
Document management is an example of using technology to help lawyers right where they live – under a huge stack of documents – and in a way that helps them directly. Some even suggest scanning all documents in your file, getting the scanned document files into your document management system and then literally having an electronic copy of your entire case file retrievable on your computer. The math on document management is surprisingly easy. Your life might well be a little easier too.
An earlier version of this article appeared in the October 13, 1999 issue of The Indiana Lawyer.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]
This post brought to you by Dennis Kennedy’s half-day electronic discovery seminar – “Preparing for the New World of Electronic Discovery: Easing Your Transition from Paper to Electronic Discovery.” Contact Dennis today for more information and to schedule a seminar for your firm or legal department.

Extranet Basics: Taking a Step Toward a Client-focused Practice – Article

[Note: This article, written in 2000, may have been the first place where I started to set out my notion of “client-driven technology.” I recently enjoyed a compliment from an extranet vendor about how he had pointed many people to this article over the years. Extranets may now be the easiest way for law firms to provide clients with something they really want by offering a helpful technology. As recent surveys show, extranets are still not used very often by law firms,]
Extranet Basics: Taking A Step Toward a Client-Focused Practice
When we think about technology, we usually focus on ways to make our practices more productive and our lives easier. These are important goals, but in this column I want to shift our usual focus away from ourselves to our clients. As the legal profession sees growing competition both internally and externally, retaining existing clients will become increasingly important to many firms’ survival.
An Internet application called an “extranet” may prove to be an excellent way for many law firms to use the Internet to improve the attorney-client dynamic and retain current clients.
Everyone is familiar with the Internet, the giant global network of computer networks. And nearly everyone has used an Internet browser, such as Internet Explorer or Netscape’s Navigator, to find helpful web sites. Some of you may even be familiar with “intranets,” or large internal web sites within a single firm. The former Latin students out there will not be surprised then to find that extranets refer to private web sites that are directed to one or more outside entities.
An extranet is a private, secure web site that, while available over Internet through a browser, can be used only by a limited audience to whom you have given the necessary permissions. Conceptually, there are two types of extranets. The first is a standard web site that has password-protected private areas of content and features. The second is a web site that gives password-protected access to limited portions of a firm’s intranet or internal computer network.
The key difference between an extranet and a web site is that an extranet is secure. No one gets access unless permitted.
A law firm can use an extranet to open access to a controlled number of outsiders, typically co-counsel and clients. An extranet also allows you to customize the levels of access and the amount and type of information made available. Since an extranet is programmed like a standard web site, you can have text, graphics, audio, video, message boards, chat sessions and any other Internet feature on your extranet. In other words, you can personalize an extranet specifically for your client, not unlike the My Yahoo web site.
A few examples are in order. On an extranet site, you might make sanitized versions of research memos and updates to articles available to clients only. You might make copies of all a client’s documents, including drafts in progress, available only to that client. In litigation, you might give a client access to deposition transcripts or even video of depositions, or share all case information with co-counsel. An extranet might provide a client with instant access to time and billing information, electronic bills, and message boards to leave comments for attorneys. Rather than preparing huge closing binders for real estate deals, a firm could instead give a client an electronic copy on an extranet. An extranet might provide clients with updates of legal developments and summaries of cases of interest.
The beauty of an extranet is that your clients require no technology other than a computer, an Internet connection and a browser. And they can access your extranet from any place they can access the Internet.
Extranets have become popular in the corporate setting and, as a result, law firms are getting pressure to offer extranets. As the Internet increasingly changes our expectations about customer service, lawyers must keep up with developments. For example, many consumer web sites show you how many units are in stock before you order and let you track your shipment with the click of a button. Why shouldn’t a client expect to click on a button and see current billings and work in process?
Extranets can be developed internally or “outsourced” to a company like LegalAnywhere that provides a packaged solution. As an extranet gets more complex, or ties into your computer network, you will need a higher degree of sophistication and programming, but standard approaches can serve you well as you get started.
Extranets require commitment. They must work flawlessly. They require that you pay attention to message boards and update content regularly. As you provide features and your clients use them, your clients will suggest new features and expect you to add them. Adding video, message boards, chat rooms or other features can place demands on your systems and your people.
Costs, not surprisingly, will vary, but your first extranet can serve as a template for many other clients.
While I believe that extranets offer a way for firms to innovate and even transform a practice, let me focus on the practical – cutting costs. There are two sides to this cost-cutting equation. With an extranet, you can readily find savings in paper, printing and copying costs, long distance, overnight shipping and postage costs, and travel costs. Moving to a form of electronic billing may help you be more efficient in billing and collecting from your clients.
More important, however, is to focus on the ways an extranet can save your clients money. Can you save them copying, printing, shipping, long distance and travel costs? What if you offer a discount for moving to electronic billing? What client will not like a lawyer suggesting ways to save money?
Extranets can also help you market to your clients. By keeping them informed and making them aware of all your services, you add value to the relationship. An extranet can tie a client to your firm, not just to the attorney with the personal relationship. If a client gets used to the benefits and conveniences of its customized extranet, the client will find it harder to go with a lawyer who is leaving your firm or to another firm without the same level of service.
Clients do not like it when they feel you are not paying enough attention to them. An extranet that keeps them up-to-date, provides them with news and developments and even allows them to collaborate on projects and documents will show your clients that you are paying attention.
If you get the underlying concept of extranets, you should already be generating some good ideas. Extranets are increasingly common in class action cases, multi-state complex litigation and general corporate representation. Extranets offer a way to move toward a more client-focused practice and should definitely be on your technology agenda.
An earlier version of this article appeared in the March 15, 2000 issue of The Indiana Lawyer.
[Originally posted on Dennis Kennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]
This post brought to you by Dennis Kennedy’s legal technology consulting services, featuring RSS and advanced blogging consulting and technology committee coaching packages for law firms, corporate legal departments and other professional services providers. And, of course, consulting on extranet options and opportunities.

The Best is the Enemy of the Good: Making Good Technology Choices

[Note: This article from late 1998 is one of my favorite little articles. It covers a topic that I often struggle with. Re-reading it, I was struck at how applicable it is to the new world of Web 2.0 apps.]
The Best is the Enemy of the Good: Making Good Technology Choices
I have recently been rereading Harry Beckwith’s wise book on marketing called Selling the Invisible. I cannot recommend this book too highly. It is a collection of short kernels of wisdom on much more than marketing that will make you stop and think on nearly every page.
I had dog-eared a page that contained a short section called “Fallacy: Perfection is Perfection,” where he says “You can easily get stalled from the shift from strategy to tactics because you are paralyzed by the desire for excellence.” He goes on to say that here is a good way the rate the “Best Plans” in order of desirability:
Very good
Not good
Truly god-awful

This list gets my interest. Why does good rank above best? “Because,” he says, “getting to best usually gets complicated.”
Indeed it does. Beckwith says we start to face issues like can we agree on what is best, how long will it take to agree, and will reaching best in one area require sacrifice in other areas? The most important of these questions is “will all that excellence really benefit the person for whom it is intended?”
The greater the push for the perfect plan or result, the more chance what we will instead find is delay. Beckwith says that a “paralysis” sets in from the “fear that executing the plan will show that the plan was not perfect.” As he says, “too often, the path to perfection leads to procrastination.”
I was reminded of this again because I am in the “buying a new computer” mode, a time when my friends know that it is best to avoid me, at least on that subject. I’ve read every article on laptop computers, checked all the comparison ratings, talked to everyone who will listen to me, and . . . done nothing. I even tried to break the spell by writing an article for Lawyers Weekly USA on how an attorney should choose a laptop computer, but still haven’t been able to follow my own advice in my article – even though my advice really makes a lot of sense to me.
It’s the curse of The Best. Not the best computer, mind you. Instead, the best decision about a computer. I’ve fallen into the perfection trap. My quest has become finding the best performance and features for the lowest price, a goal that, even if achieved, will probably be mooted within a week or two.
In the technology arena, many people are motivated primarily by avoiding the truly god-awful decision. With research, consultation and reasonable efforts in the decision making process, you can get into the “good” choice range pretty easily. According to Beckwith, this is a result that ranks above Best. Ironically, often the only “truly god-awful” choice is standing pat with obsolete technology and doing nothing.
Often, it doesn’t take much more effort to get from “good” to the “very good” category. Think about it, really: either Word or WordPerfect, by any standard, are very good choices, as are Novell or Windows NT on the network side, Netscape Navigator or Microsoft’s Internet Explorer as browsers. You can’t go too wrong. A choice can be made pretty quickly and then efforts focused on making it work for you.
Unfortunately, especially in a committee setting, that’s easier said than done. Inexorably, you start to move toward the Best. The tip-off is when you start to talk only of specific features and move away from discussing benefits to users.
This movement toward the Best moves you away from reality to a fragile construct that finally barely can stand on its own. An example? I did all this research, came to a decision about a laptop computer. I mentioned the brand I was considering to a friend and the friend made a comment about how the on/off switch on his laptop of the same brand really annoyed him. Boom, I tossed away my decision and went back to square one. And I didn’t even try the on/off switch for myself.
You will recognize this phenomenon at your law firm. Months go into making a decision and one day someone reports that a friend’s law firm tried the same approach and it was a disaster. All the work you did gets thrown away and yesterday’s consensus gets tossed into the trash can.
How many reviews do you have to see to convince yourself you are right? Your focus can easily turn to an abstract notion of the perfect choice and you get stuck.
I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about the implications of handheld computers (e.g., the Palm computing devices). What intrigues me is that these devices are moving us to a place where we can choose a device that reflects how we work best instead of being forced to accommodate our working patterns to the technology. You like to write out things – get a computer that has handwriting recognition. Like to dictate first drafts – speech recognition.
Here is a clue to dealing with the curse of the Best. Turn the focus back on to what you need, what will help you and what will make you work better. Move away from an endless comparison of features, especially those features you probably won’t use. Do the same thing on a firm-wide basis and keep those questions at the forefront as you make decisions. As Beckwith says, focus on what will really benefit the person for whom the technology is intended.
This approach should move you comfortably into the zone of the good and very good. You can then move forward and focus on making what you’ve chosen work better for you.
When you start to drift into the nether worlds of the Best and find yourself stuck, turn to the practical, not the ideal, the real-world concerns, not abstract test results, and filling your needs, not the often esoteric concerns of reviewers.
As Beckwith says, “Don’t left perfect ruin good.” Or, as my wife says, “will you just buy a computer?”
An earlier version of this article appeared in the November 1, 1998 issue the Legal Technology Strategies Newsletter.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]
This post brought to you by LexThink!(TM) – The Conference, Re-imagined. LexThink! – Think big thoughts, do cool things, change the world. November 11 & 12 – LexThink BlawgThink – the legal blogger unconference.

Seven Easy Ways for Law Firms to Throw Away Money on Technology – Article

[I wrote this article at the end of 2003. The end of the year has always seemed like a great time to step back and take a close look at what you are doing and see if it makes sense to continuing doing it. No one likes the word “audit,” but taking a close look at what you are doing right and wrong is a necessary first step for doing strategic planning for your technology. Or you can keep pouring money down the drain.]
Seven Easy Ways for Law Firms to Throw Away Money on Technology
Technology spending has grown to comprise 4 to 6% of the average law firm’s budget. The sad story is that many law firms, despite their best plans and intentions, are throwing many of their technology dollars down the drain.
I am talking about real money, not potential savings, not speculative productivity numbers, and not “potential” new clients from web sites or “knowledge management” efforts. There are many ways to toss away money on technology. How many of the following ways to waste your budget apply to you?
1. Do not align technology projects with business goals. The results: projects that never get completed or produce any benefit and diversion of dollars away from great projects to pet projects.
2. Do not quantify and measure results. The results: projects with costs far greater than any benefits and lingering projects on which the plug should have been pulled long ago.
3. Buy new software when you already own software that would perform the task you require. The result: your losses compound as you add training costs for the new software to the costs of the software.
4. Be unaware of all of the legal software alternatives. The results: paying too much for software that sort of fits your needs when better options exist.
5. Do not explore volume licensing options and, in particular, Microsoft licensing options. The results: paying a higher price than necessary and, in the case of Microsoft products, incurring unnecessary upgrade costs.
6. Have a technology committee without experience, expertise and a clearly-defined mission. The result: even simple projects take years to make decisions about and IT staff operates on its own.
7. Fail to educate your IT staff about your legal practice and the unique issues involved. The results: ill-advised decisions, misdirected priorities and technology gaffes involving clients.
And these seven ways represent just the tip of the iceberg. You may also be putting money into technologies already known to be on their way out, locking up your data in proprietary systems, buying overpowered or underpowered hardware, paying insufficient attention to security and antivirus issues, and creating difficulties in communicating with clients. You have to find a lot of extra hours to bill to be able to toss away that kind of money. The best route, of course, is to take a good hard look at what you may be doing wrong, refocus your efforts and save some of the money you are wasting to use for technology that helps you.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]
This post brought to you by Dennis Kennedy’s legal technology consulting services, featuring RSS and advanced blogging consulting and technology committee coaching packages for law firms, corporate legal departments and other professional services providers.