ILTACON 2016: Re-Imagining Legal Technology for the 21st Century

By Joseph Raczynski

“The story of disruption was just the first act of 21st century business, now begins the tale of total transformation.”

— Mike Walsh

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — So reverberated the words of Mike Walsh a Futurist/CEO of Tomorrow, across an audience of more than 3,000 legal professionals at ILTACON 2016, a four-day conference that centers on the intersection of technology and the legal industry.

Walsh gave the keynote on the opening day of the annual conference, and the lens he cast enlightened the onlookers to a futuristic view of our current world. He then bridged that technological vision to the 21st Century Legal realm and focused on several thought provoking questions.

Can you think like an 8-year-old?

The key to transformation is to be ahead of it. Through the optics of an eight-year-old we can view the direction that technology is shifting. They embrace mobile — why? Because parents have pacified their kids for years with iPads and mobile phones. Their learnings began on those platforms which became almost intuitive to them and will now dictate our future.

When will we be a truly data-driven world?

Now! The biggest social shifts are shaped by the data-driven world. Disney World offers the most advanced of data collection and use. Their MagicBands are linked to a credit card and function as a park entry pass as well as a room key. They know who you are, where you are, and increasingly know what you want — predictively. Food can be delivered to you without you ever specifying a location. All of this is using data and machine learning to better understand consumer, and thus human behavior.

disney

WeChat, an app primarily used in China, was also offered as a good example of where we are going. With this app, people in China can play games, pay for things and buy insurance — the whole time interacting with a bot that is constantly gathering data and learning. This is what we will begin to see in all businesses in the near future.

In preparation for his transition into a discussion around legal, Walsh offered another thought. The children of today will be the first generation to be raised partly by artificial intelligence (AI). If you think about the platforms that are prevalent now, kids are interacting with them increasingly — Alexa, Google and Siri. Law firms have to start thinking about how these eventual employees will work and interact with each other both inside and outside of the firm.

How will a 21st century law firm differ from a 20th century firm?

The world is now global. The largest corporations and law firms have back office and operations support overseas. As an example, Walsh talked about something he saw in India which illustrated where we are headed. An AI machine (physical computer) is situated alongside other staff in a cubical at an office center in India. It is fully embraced and accepted as a highly efficient employee — and continues to improve rapidly with its own productivity.

Speaking of actual human employees, recruiting people will transform, Walsh noted. The next generation of hiring future lawyers, and collaborating with clients should focus on rethinking how we hire. Offer a prospect a clean sheet of paper and ask them to come up with a solution to a problem. Another idea, after a month on the job, ask what processes the newbie might change based on what they are seeing.

int-about-mike

What kind of mental software are you new hires running?

Going forward, the operating system of a 21st century lawyer is as much about the culture as it is about the code. All firms will have to be agile, and firms will have to hire people that think that way. Everything around our traditional culture and space is changing. People will increasingly be working from other locations, so this concept has to be reimagined. Walsh’s suggestion was to think about the person you are hiring — are they energized by solving problems? Additionally, environments have to be reconsidered. How do you design an office for people that do not need one?

Lastly, are you leveraging all of your data?

Law firms are rife with all sorts of data. One question that Walsh suggested was worth posing is how are firms using that data? Increased productivity can be gained by applying analytics to the whole.

In closing, Walsh pleaded for the legal space to adjust their mindsets, how we see and use data, which people are hired, and what technological processes are in place. We need to think like an eight-year-old to see how the world will change and adapt now, he explained.

The data inside law firms has to be better leveraged and analyzed with new tools. When hiring, do so by unearthing agile people and creating more social workspaces. One of the best ways to do that is by rethinking your communities, picking some high-profile projects and challenging those new teams to experiment.

In conclusion, Walsh noted: “When preparing for this new future, embrace that the future means challenging everything we know to be true.”

ILTACON 2016: Looking into the Future & Building the Exponential Law Firm

By Joseph Raczynski

“In the not too distant future, exponential technology could upend the $650-billion-dollar legal industry — or, there will be a $78 to $120 trillion-dollar opportunity for agile players who are prepared.”

— Rohit Talwar

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — At ILTACON 2016, Rohit Talwar, CEO of Fast Future, spoke about the disruption in the legal industry occurring around us and more precisely which technologies will have the largest impact on law firms in the near future.

In his discussion “Building the Exponential Law Firm,” Talwar began with the baseline of Moore’s Law — the theory that processing speeds of computers double roughly every 12 to 18 months. Building on that, he added what he considers to be the core of this exponential growth: machine learning. These are machines with the ability to create visual perception, reasoning, planning, intuition and decision-making all starting from a simple ruleset.


The Faster Pace of AI

In his fascinating discussion, Talwar pointed to a recent development with Google, using DeepMind, its artificial intelligence (AI) computer, and playing Go — one of the most complicated games known to man. In this scenario, Google did not program the computer, only gave it rules of the game.

Rohit-Talwar-pic-300x216

In short order, the world Go champion lost 4-to-1 to DeepMind in dominate fashion. While this happened in early 2016, this was not expected to be possible until 2026 — a full decade in the future.

What Talwar was illustrating through the AlphaGo example and countless others is that AI is here and is being used all around us. It is becoming pervasive, embedded, augmented, immersive, and connected to a multi-sensory network.

There were a host of various legal sector applications he cited as occurring now, such as those in areas such as:

  • Automation of Legal tasks and Processes — Firms have developed a computer program that can sift through government regulatory registers to check client names for banks, processing thousands of names overnight. Others have created an automated personal injury claim case assessment program.
  • Decision Support and Outcome Prediction — This includes advancement in document review in M&A, that extracts and analyzes key contract provisions and provides rapid summary and analysis; or analyzes entire briefs to find potential missing points of law, or alternative arguments not cited; and premonition programs can predict which lawyers win with which case types and which judges.
  • Creation of New Product and Service Offerings — This includes development of online document generation for startup formation; online education impact analysis; and online chatbots that can advise on privacy law and generating client-specific compliance policy in real-time.
  • Process Design and Matter Management — Firms have developed automated generation of process flows and project plans; real-time impact assessment of process changes on timeframes, resources and costs; and come up with suggested narratives based on how clients react to and prefer to receive information
  • Practice Management — This involves benchmarking across practice areas for comparable tasks from document production through to completion of key stages in a matter; identifying potential human resource challenges using social media sentiment analysis of comments; and providing dynamic modelling of alternative billing approaches and matter-team formation based on personal characteristics.
  • In-house Legal Applications — Some firms have developed a lawyer advisory app that can, for example, create an ordering of corporate contract negotiations; other tech entities have created apps or programs that can streamline and standardize regulated superannuation funds’ breach assessment processes, and that can help financial institutions meet requirements, determine applicable regulations in terms of situations concerning money laundering, liquidity risk and financial crimes.

The Coming Blockchain Revolution

Over the next several years Talwar said that he believes blockchain technology will have a monumental impact on law firms, providing firms with the ability to store information in a secure distributed ledger. In fact, Goldman Sachs estimates a cost saving of $4 billion annually on its legal bill by moving real estate titles to distributed ledgers that use blockchain technology.


Talwar pointed out that law firms have a huge potential upside with all of the technology that is emerging. However, he warned, if a firm does not adapt and become agile it will be very difficult for it to keep up with the pace of change that will be occurring, and ultimately its intransigence will make it difficult for the firm to win business.


In the second phase, being tested right now, the Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) will execute contracts free of human intervention; and in the future, we’ll reach Algocracy, a full automation of the law.

In this scenario, we would have a complete rewriting of the law that would be embedded in software. This would allow for automatic fines, standardized open source legal documents and automated judgments. For example, if someone stole a candy bar from a convenience store, their own body camera would catch them and automatically impose a fine on that person. A payment would be removed directly from their bank account, and would be executed without human intervention.

Not surprisingly, Talwar pointed out that law firms have a huge potential upside with all of the technology that is emerging. However, he warned, if a firm does not adapt and become agile it will be very difficult for it to keep up with the pace of change that will be occurring, and ultimately its intransigence will make it difficult for the firm to win business.

The wonderful aspect about this change is that it is all new. Most of these technologies are not governed by law, which creates an incredible opportunity for legal advice because clients have to understand how to handle these new technologies.

Law Firm and Corporate Cybersecruity Presentation – UMB

By Joseph Raczynski

Recorded at the University of Maryland, Baltimore during the “Cybersecruity and You” morning session. Discussed is the current landscape of cybersecurity at law firms and corporations, the primary issues these organizations are finding and general awareness of what is happening.

LegalSEC: Cybersecurity, Rooted in 500 Years of History

By Joseph Raczynski

Learning from colonial piracy about the war on cybersecurity 

“It is a small world.  It’s a fragile world.  No one is safe until everyone is safe.”  These are the cautionary words of Rod Beckstrom of The Rod Beckstrom Group, the keynote speaker at the cybersecurity LegalSEC Summit last week in Baltimore.  With over 350 legal technology professionals leaning into his every word, he set the stage for where cybersecurity is headed with an advisory tale from history now repeating itself on the Internet.  His intent, to arm the guardians overseeing 80-90% of the country’s IP information all sitting in the same room at that moment in time.

History of Pirates

In 1491, the “Erdapfel” of Martin Beheim was created.  It is the oldest surviving terrestrial globe – excluding the Americas.  This sphere was cutting edge technology of the day.  Like any technology its uses can be for the betterment of humanity or its decline.  Not surprisingly, around the release of the globe, piracy began to flourish.  Seafaring scoundrels viewed the world anew with this technology and seized upon its bounty.

These salty scofflaws took four unique forms in their day.  One group of pirates were sponsored by the Dutch, Spanish, and British empires respectively.  Another group realized they could band together using their private ships to attack on the high seas for gems and precious metals.  The third formed a coalition around pirating for a cause.  The last group were one-off ships that would attack others for jewels or money.  These four pirating entities have a present day adaptation.  They translate to State Actors (e.g. China, Iran, North Korea), Organized Crime (e.g. in Russia or Estonia), Hacktivist (e.g. Anonymous) and Lone Hackers (e.g. anyone and everyone).  One new addition, in the Cyber Age there is also the internal threat to organizations known as “Insider Joe” attacks which are very prevalent.

keynote

Present and Future

As Beckstrom described in this presentation, the wars over the years require time for forces to align.  During the Nuclear era, once the major powers acquired these arms, everyone realized it was in the best interest of each country not to use them, i.e. mutually assured destruction.  This is ongoing right now with Cyberwar.  He said that China or Russia could hobble the infrastructure of the United States tomorrow, but they realize that if they did that, the US would do the same to them, therefore no one conducts this sort of cyber-attack.

Law firms are not a sovereign territory so all aforementioned groups are threats and in turn are seeking them out.  These groups have tools which are sold on the Dark Web as out of the box solutions and can wreak havoc for firms in very little time.  In the graphic below Beckstrom outlines an ecosystem where various parties work together but in isolation to earn money or take down a company.  The scripts are created by people and sold to criminals.  While another sets of criminals have harvested millions of credentials.  In conjunction the Criminal Operator uses both to target a law firm or corporation.  Those proceeds or goods are then routed through Mules.  These are everyday people who simply accept packages and send them along to someone else which keeps the money flowing. In most of the law firm attacks, mules are not used, instead data is either released or held at random by the Criminal Operator.

rod1

The only way to combat this said Beckstrom will be a new world of robots fighting robots (computer bots), which is now occurring.  This next era defense is sifting through huge amounts of data and applying cognitive computing and artificial intelligence with a layer of deep learning on top.  In this light he underscored the importance of preparedness.  One of the world’s largest banks, JPMorgan, has decided to pledge a half billion dollars toward the fight on cybersecurity.

Beckstrom closed with the warning to each firm CIO that the time is now to invest heavily in cybersecurity.  Every one of the attacker profiles mentioned are attempting to break in and get access to law firm and corporate information.  Prepare now because time is short – we are not safe until everyone is safe – by taking the responsibility to invest.

Building Our Blockchain Future (Part 3) – Beyond Bitcoin – Blockchain and the Legal Impact

By Joseph Raczynski

This is the third and final post in a series about blockchain, an online public ledgering system, and how it will soon significantly impact many aspects of the legal industry. In the first post, I demonstrated the potential and the pitfalls of Bitcoin and its underlining blockchain technology; and in the second post, I described what full global adoption of a cryptocurrency would entail. In this installment, I will explain the potential legal implications of blockchain technology.

Part 3: Beyond Bitcoin — Blockchain and the Legal Impact

While Bitcoin may disappear in a few years — doubtful, but possible — the underlining technology is by far the most important development going forward. Blockchain is a public ledger. It can be applied to almost anything that you would normally save to a database or spreadsheet.

In the Bitcoin example, the blockchain shows the exchange of all the money that has ever changed hands in Bitcoin transactions. It does not list who owns the coins per se, just that they exist or that they changed hands. It is controlled by no single person but by all parties connected to the exchange. This public, but encrypted spreadsheet in the sky is in theory more secure and open than our current system of money exchange. The network maintains a collective history of all of the transactions that have ever occurred on the network. You can view all of the Bitcoins changing hands every moment of the day at Blockchain.info.


I have little doubt that blockchain technology will revolutionize the legal industry in the coming years… there is almost no doubt that this technology will be a significant disrupter to the legal profession and the overall market on many fronts.


And as you see the transactions scroll up, you soon identify several important legal implications. For one, none of this money has been passed through a bank or other financial institution, nor has it be screened by any government agency. That is, if you have a major transaction of $10,000 or more coming or going from the US — one that is normally required to be reported — it is not being reported via Bitcoin today. As you might surmise, many positives with this technology exist, but significant challenges, mostly concerning government regulators and current US laws, are also present.

While Bitcoin created the first blockchain, many other such chains have been created since. For example, there are other cryptocurrencies that use the technology. However, where this becomes most interesting is how related businesses could use a ledger-based blockchain platform. Fundamentally it is a program from which to build a system of accounting or process. One network called Ethereum, which has been described as a “decentralized virtual machine that can execute peer-to-peer contracts” is leading the charge with smart contracts and the law.

Here is how I see blockchain affecting the legal industry.

Blockchain and the Law

Creation of Contracts: The blockchain could alter the landscape of contract attorneys. Part of what makes the blockchain so special is that not only does it keep records which are immutable, it also creates a process around that. For example, I could create a contract which stipulates that when my patent was approved by the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), my four partners would receive a 10% share in my company. How would that work? The contract on the blockchain would check to see if the patent was approved, then trigger a process releasing the shares to the partners. All of this would be automated and fall outside of human legal action. Indeed, you could go one step further and tie-in a payment system so that when that patent was granted, bonus funds could be dispersed automatically into the accounts of said partners.

Intellectual Property: If blockchain is ripe for anything it is IP. This technology creates a publically accessible, indisputable ledger of each filing which could be held not solely by jurisdiction but on a global scale benefiting everyone. This information would offer clean and clear rights of use for all parties. You could even submit your trademark through the system. Leveraging an algorithm identifying any likeness to the trademark, the system could then grant or dismiss it. All of which would become part of the public ledger for anyone to review.

Land Registry: Some Latin American countries are beginning to use blockchain as a means to keep track of who owns which land deeds. Wealth is created through ownership, and one of the most challenging aspects of developing countries is determining who owns a piece of land. Disputes often occur because of corrupt governments or individuals taking advantage of the under-educated. Having a public blockchain ledger would allow for everyone to be aware of who owns which parcel of land; and it would make the exchange of those plots much easier and more equitable.

If a family were to buy a plot of land that could be registered on the legal blockchain, it would be much more verifiable than even perhaps government records. All parties would be able to authenticate this as compared to one entity (the government) holding onto all the records. This process would even create a better base for the government to fairly tax individuals and businesses.

Establishing Records: In some African countries they are looking at using blockchain technology to keep census information. Voter records could also be added to this process as a means to have a central repository of eligible citizens. In this area, currently under development, blockchain seems primed for tremendous growth.

Financial Service Industry: The banking industry also is jumping into this arena. The theory is that our stock exchanges will become blockchain enabled. The idea is simply that every stock bought or sold would be on the ledger. You could trace back your own ownership of that equity and even tie that to your estate-planning documents. Extrapolating this out, those documents also could be housed on a blockchain with respective triggers for when you eventually die. Ultimately that information is then released to your beneficiaries based on that event (Date of Death) recording by the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Personally I have little doubt that blockchain technology will revolutionize the legal industry in the coming years. The question is if it will be more like HTML — a behind the scenes technology — or if it will be a more obvious, almost tangible technology that we will all reference by name. There is almost no doubt that this technology will be a significant disrupter to the legal profession and the overall market on many fronts. The biggest industries — government, banking, legal, healthcare and others will either use it or be significantly impacted by it.

ILTA’s 2015 Annual Technology Survey Security Highlights

By Joseph Raczynski

Security weighs heavily on this year’s survey

It’s out!  The 2015 International Legal Technology Associations Annual Survey is stocked with insightful legal technology industry knowledge.  This is always an exciting time of the year for me as I get to compare and contrast the stories I heard during the year from law firm visits with ILTA’s survey results.  One dominant theme that prevails throughout the 2015 survey is change and security.  There is little question that many of the “new” ideas or concepts of several years ago have become the status quo and forced firms to adapt.  Sometimes the medium law firm space embraces these new ideas and concepts before Big Law, but more often that is reversed.  So what are some of the interesting trends this year?

top

Atop the trees and looking down, respondents focused on their Top 3 Technology Annoyances.  In order they are Security/Risk Management; Change Management and Expectations; and Change, User Acceptance of Change.  These three issues struck a chord for me.  Many with whom I spoke with throughout the year described these consistently as top pain points for the technology departments at law firms.

Security:

Staying with the security theme, Mobile Device Management (MDM), continues to grow in popularity with nearly 50% of respondents responding that they utilize it.  I assume in the coming years this will continue to rise.  Secure access points where users connect to the Internet are increasingly seen as important by law firms.  To this end, firms are creating policies forbidding users to connect to open WiFi at cafés or airports.  As a result this year Hot Spots or Mi-Fi devices have leapt in adoption with mobile phone hot spots up 20% on the current survey.

Encryption made wide gains across the board.  While there are many facets to encryption, each part of the survey referencing it, demonstrated significant gains over last year.  Specifically, each of the following jumped by a minimum of 10% over 2014; Laptop Hard Drive Encryption, Automatic Email Encryption, Removable Media Encryption, and Smartphone Encryption.

Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS), Advanced Threat Detection, Data Loss Protection, Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS), are all on the rise across the various sizes of the organization.  One interesting tactic that I heard about several firms doing this year is Spear-Phishing their own users.  According to the survey this is on the rise and firms are indeed testing their own employees.  The goal is to educate and increase awareness with cybersecurity threats and how to avoid troubled waters.

Other Interesting Technology Trends:

  • The firm’s top management is viewing IT departments less as an expense, going from 44% last year to 39% of respondents this year.
  • Technology spending sees a mix between a slight increase 3% and staying the same up 3% respectively by respondents.
  • The two primary reasons for firms not moving to the Cloud; 44% Security and Cost 38%
  • Firms that have been through audits by a client in the last three years, 33% said yes and 67% no.
  • SharePoint is trending down slightly in adoption with 48% in 2015 versus 53% in 2011.
  • iOS dominates with Android second, but most surprising is that Windows Mobile dropped off considerably, down 13% from last year.
  • Additionally on the mobile front, support of one platform, i.e. OS or Android grew considerably last year up 11%
  • Office 2010 still reigns atop at 77% compared to Office 2007 at 12% and 2013 at 8%.
  • Desktop Operating System is dominated by Windows 7 (64-bit) at 73% followed by Windows 7 (32-bit) at 23% and far behind is Windows 8/8.1 at 3%.

From Russia (and Asia) with Love: Cyber Warfare and the growth of State-Sponsored Hacking

By Joseph Raczynski

The 5th Annual Law Firm CFO/CIO/COO Forum

The scope of the threats to law firm data is global.  In this panel discussion at the Data Privacy, Security & the Globalized Law Firm CFO/CIO/COO Forum, a country by country breakdown of dangers were discussed while the audience absorbed the magnitude of the panels concern.

Eben Kaplan, Senior Consultant, Control Risks; Josh Goldfarb, CTO, FireEye; Jay Healey, Senior Research Scholar Columbia University; Robert Knake, Senior Fellow for Cyber Privacy, Council on Foreign Relations; Daniel Sutherland, Associate General Counsel, Homeland Security demonstrated that each entity had various motives and techniques for cyber-attacks.

Who, Why, and How?

Who: China – They have a defined plan with tactics and procedures.

  • Why: They are primarily seeking intellectual property with a new focus on firms that retain such information, especially those with newer IP clients (Target: Silicon Valley – DC based firms)
  • How: They focus on social engineering
    • Text messages, Spear fishing
    • Looking for the weakest link at the firm – someone who will click a link
    • Watering hole attack – In this tactic, China compromises a trusted third party site so the primary target would not suspect it and then in turn it becomes infected. Example: A famous Think Tank’s website is compromised – Big Law firm goes to the site and gets infected… the target was the Big Law firm and they got infected indirectly.

Who: Russia – They are one of the most experienced countries at hacking.

  • Why: Money, but increasingly they are focused on IP, so law firms should be aware of this.
    • They are quieter and more careful than China
  • How: They are using more BotNets, worms and malware than China

One interesting concern expressed on the panel is that Russia is very worrisome for the United States at the moment.  The rule of thumb was that countries which could hurt the US years ago did not because they did not have a desire to do so.  On the other side, those who wished to do harm did not have the bandwidth.  This has changed.  Putin is leading Russia down the road of an attack on the US, and they have the skills and bandwidth to do significant harm.

Who: North Korea – They are still new in this arena but improving quickly.

  • Why: Political
  • How: Uniquely North Korea is buying its capability to attack from the Dark Web, or hackers for hire. They used black hat hackers to launch the Sony attack and it was very successful.
    • They are brazen in their approach but until recently have not been as interested in law firms.

Who: Iran – They too are improving quickly

  • Why: Political
  • How: They have started leveraging worms that were used on them by other countries like Israel.

The Saudi Aramco Wiper Worm was a virus/worm supposedly created by Israel and launched on the Saudi company’s network.  It reportedly wiped clean 75% of the world’s most profitable company’s computers and left only an image of a burning American Flag.  Iran may have adapted the worm from something that had been launched on them years before by Israel.

The thrust of the panel discussion were that the threats to law firms are far and wide.  While some nation states have not traditionally sought out law firms, there is keen interest in IP and M&A information.  In closing Josh Goldfarb, CTO, FireEye mentioned some startling statistics.  While they were installing hardware on their customer networks, many of which were law firms, they found of 1,216 customers tested that 97% of them were compromised.  Even more fascinating was that 25% of those compromised networks were by other nation states.  This underscored the importance of understanding who is knocking at your firewall and what they are seeking.

 

 

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.

 

Portal Trends at Law Firms

By Joseph Raczynski

Significant trends are finally emerging in portal usage by the Am Law 100.  After years of vacillating about platforms, purpose, and its promise many firms have bought into the reality that portal is for real.

Based on legal conferences and consultations with C-level officers over the last several months, the following themes are developing among the largest firms in the country:

  • SharePoint is undoubtedly the leader as the main flavor of portal at large law firms.  With SharePoint 2010, the latest version available, the market share is sure to increase over the next four quarters.  SP 2010 is far more user friendly and it includes FAST, an enterprise search tool that is highly regarded.
  • Firms are integrating all aspects of their business into one sphere.  The goal is to surface valuable internal information thus synthesizing: extranet, business development, current awareness, contact management, DMS, knowledge management, human resources data, client information, social media, and time and billing among others.

The particular specifics:

  • Extranet is massive.  It has become a huge advantage for firms.  One newer use of extranet is to demo the capabilities of the firm at client pitch meetings.  Showing that the firm can establish a secure, intelligent environment before the client signs on has been very effective.  Typically these client pages can contain: RSS feeds of client news, team members, meeting calendars, open matters, stock ticker, blog, team discussion, billing, and docket alerts.  It is an excellent selling point for the firm.
  • Community blogging is gaining traction.  However, firms that have had the best luck typically have chosen stakeholders, higher profile attorney’s, or firm experts who write.  They tend to gain followers quickly building a community which cascades down and encourages other experts to blog or comment.
  • Attorney profiles are far more robust with portal.  Firms are establishing “LinkedIn-esq” profiles which attorneys are responsible for maintaining.  New aspects include short bio informational videos, completed work at the firm, areas of expertise, and tagged work, i.e. work completed so if like cases arise at the firm they can be tapped.  Ultimately the firm is creating a searchable knowledge share of personalize individualized attorney portraits.  This is an excellent tool to find experience colleagues within the firm.
  • Enterprise search, i.e. searching across disparate repositories of information at the firm, is the primary push and becoming very effective.  The sought after federated search, searching internally and over the web, is still somewhat elusive, but gaining traction with better technology.
  • Portal ROI once a subject of examination is far less challenged now.  As one firm stated, “Asking for a ROI for portal expense is akin to asking a partner to quantify ROI for the NBA season box seats the firm bought.  You just know it works.”

 

The innovative trends are targeting content, surfacing internal data, then indexing, and ultimately utilizing algorithmic enterprise search.  In addition firms are integrating applications and repositories with their portal.  Lastly they are increasing use of Web 2.0 applications like blogging, tagging, and client/user forums.  All of these portal trends integrated together build a vastly more connected, agile, and responsive firm.