On the Edge of Law Firm Technology

By Joseph Raczynski

Over the previous three years at ILTA, one of the most popular sessions has been “What’s That? New and Cool Technologies”.  This year was no different.  A capacity crowd of legal technologists listened to the witty foursome of Jeffrey Brandt of PinHawk LLC, Mark Manoukian of Kegler, Brown, Hill & Ritter, Beau Mersereau of Fish & Richardson P.C., and Ben Weinberger with Phoenix Business Solutions.  The cast injected levity into their dialog about predictions of where technology is headed.

They focused on several areas: Windows 8, Wearable Technology, Enterprise Content Management (ECM), Digital Currencies, and The Internet of Things (IoT).

Windows 8:

The panel mentioned that Windows 8 is lightning fast.  The difference between Windows 8 and 8.1 is that in the latter, a start button was added which is key for most users.  Previously people had to hunt out where to begin and it was less intuitive.  The other key takeaway, many firms have not implemented Windows 8 for a singular reason, many vendors do not support IE11 which comes standard on the OS.

Wearable Technology:

The group cited many examples of how wearable technology will start creeping into law firms.  Ben Weinberger stated that “The NFC ring could be used to unlock doors, mobile phones, transfer information and link people.”  This could be a nonintrusive way to acclimate users to this sort of technology.  It is easy and subtle.  Others weighed in with current examples.  Disney World uses Magic Bands worn by park goers.  They are easily able to tap down for food, gift shop purchases, and unlocking their hotel room door.  The goal with wearable said Jeffrey Brandt, is that the form will be small and help establish convergence.

Enterprise Content Management (ECM):

In a statement that seemed to shock the audience, several panelists stated that they thought law firms were on the cutting edge of ECM.  Where firms are typically more conservative to adopt new technology, this is an area firms have a precise focus on organizing data into scalable structural components.

Digital Currencies:

The panel was definitely split on this topic.  Some saw the true value of having an unregulated currency while others bluntly said this was a disaster without government control.  Bitcoin dominated the discussion as the crypto-currency of choice, but Mark Manoukian mentioned a new coin called Ripples which has the endorsement of MIT.  Ultimately the panel suggested that some sort of regulation would be important for true adoption.

Internet of Things (IoT):

The Internet of Things is very popular these days.  It is essentially applying an IP address to almost everything, e.g. each light at your home, doors, and appliances.  The panel saw a great deal of opportunity here and mentioned law firm books as a great way to incorporate this type of technology.  They spoke about placing RFID chips in books to keep track of inventories.

The fast paced discussion covered a wonderful array of topics that may have a major impact on the law firm of the future.  The wearable technology discussion specifically referring to the NFC ring, seemed to strike a chord with most as something very plausible in the near future.  Lastly, it does appear that ECM will continue to evolve within the firm to become more seamless and search dynamic.


Enterprise Content Management: Integrating KM, RM and DM

By Joseph Raczynski

Massive collections of information are inundating law firms.  With multiple points of integration, interfaces, and varying disciplines this further muddies the waters.  This session at ILTA answered questions relating the issues of organizing and managing content across all firm repositories to reduce silos, improve data quality, facilitate KM and ensure full and accurate firm records.

The goal of most firms now is to devise an ECM (Enterprise Content Management) system which includes connecting all of the following silos of information: email, DMS, KM system, records management system and others.

This is a cumbersome process because each data set is unique and live in differing systems.  Another issue, rarely understood, is that storage of data is not cheap.  With the necessities of infrastructure, backing up and maintaining data and a facility is rather expensive.

Another area of consideration is risk management.  A firm must be able to craft policies about enterprise information management.  That is, how does the firm handle electronic discovery and where is it stored?  Who has rights to the data?  How should users get access to it and how long should it be stored?

Additionally law firms must consider the client-side challenges.  Typically if not planned out, users at a firm can experience time consuming search for documents.  They also can learn that it is difficult to “find” documents located in various locations.

In essence, firms must build “tridges”, multi-pointed bridges which connect all groups and information together. To do so a firm needs to:

  • Understand there will be some hard cultural changes at the firm
  • Find top level champions to be brought on board for support of the ECM
  • The organization must highlight (WIIFM) What Is In it For Me… so that all aspects of the organization can see how they fit in
  • Address user concerns by showing them what will be brought into via search on the ECM. By doing this you create a vested interest and they typically like seeing their work product pulled up in the searches

Ultimately when conjoining all of the various disparate pieces of information together, there are several point to consider:

  • The process has to be defined and paramount to this is communication. Among all of the parties which will be involved in the ECM process, making sure everyone is on the same page is critical
  • Define objectives: every aspect of what the firm wishes to have as a net result must be detailed
  • Redefine the process. Understand that many new processes will evolve which will then be disseminated across the organization
  • Understand that technologies can get in the way of each other and be prepared for these temporary setbacks.
  • Lastly accept and accommodate the delta; i.e. know that all of these things can get you so far but you still have a system that will need to be adjusted over time