August 13, 2009
Blogging at the Legal EHR Summit in Chicago NexT Week
What do e-Iatrogenesis, HIT, CPOE, EHR, and eDiscovery all have in common? They're just some of the many medicolegal and technological terms and issues being discussed next week at the Legal EHR Summit at the Chicago Marriott Downtown. The summit is organized by AHIMA, the American Health Information Management Association.
As our nation's healthcare industry becomes even more computerized and integrated, partly due to ARRA (the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009), the intersection of healthcare, electronic records, records management, and legal issues (including litigation and eDiscovery) will likely explode as well.
I'll be attending and blogging as time and Wi-Fi access permits. Please feel free to look me up as I enjoy the many opportunities for discussions at these events. For the uninitiated, I've put together a quick cheat sheet for a few select terms below, along with their sources on the Web for more in-depth definitions:
HIT: Health Information Technology
CPOE: Computerized Physician/Provider Order Entry - An electronic system that healthcare professionals can use to enter drug prescriptions and diagnostic orders, among other things.
EHR (aka Legal EHR): Electronic Health Record
e-Iatrogenesis: "Patient harm caused at least in part by the application of health information technology."
Stay tuned for more blog posts on these topics . . .
July 24, 2009
Enterprise Information Management Issues to Consider in the Convergence of eDiscovery and eCompliance
Karthik Kannan, VP of Marketing and Business Development at Kazeon, just published a very helpful article on SC Magazine's site discussing the convergence of eDiscovery and eCompliance. As you'd expect, it's a marketing and business development article, so let's get that out of the way early. But regardless of whichever technology and process solutions one may prefer, I found the following to be an excellent summary of the issues and requirements one is likely to encounter when addressing the litigation readiness, information management, and compliance challenges in many organizations:
Certainly some of the points are subject to debate. For instance, the decision of which information or types of information should be subject to in-place holds is often an interesting and sometimes even a pointed discussion around the table. Also, while the article doesn't directly mention e-mail archives, many of the above principles would certainly apply. Overall I found it a helpful list of topics and features to consider when attempting to address enterprise eDiscovery and eCompliance initiatives.
I think it's even more important to remember that capability lists like these are most helpful when taken in the context of building a comprehensive information management and compliance program. Supporting policies and processes must also be developed to address the specific legal, records management, compliance, IT, and end business unit and users' needs and responsibilities. The resulting solution needs to make sense in the context of that organization's unique circumstances. It's in this context that these are excellent items to discuss and from which we can draw valuable insight in shaping those solutions.
May 29, 2009
Microsoft Exchange 2010 Adds E-Mail Archiving & Limited E-Discovery-Friendly Features
According to InformationWeek, the next version of Microsoft's e-mail server, Exchange 2010, "will include integrated archiving and multi-mailbox search capabilities at no extra cost, making it easier for companies to, for example, comply with e-discovery requirements. But Microsoft will have to be careful not to alienate third-party archiving vendors such as Symantec and Quest."
"Until this version of Exchange, companies seeking to archive their e-mail centrally have had to rely on third-party software. That costly proposition has hurt adoption, and according to Osterman Research, only 28% of companies currently have central e-mail archives."
From this report, Exchange 2010 will also include the ability to view e-mail discussion threads, and a button to ignore those threads. It will also feature speech-to-text transcription of voicemails, something that lawyers have struggled with in advising companies who wanted to implement more convenient services such as universal messaging, where voicemails get sent to your inbox.
Another interesting Exchange 2010 feature for legal departments:
"There's also new role-based administration, which means that Exchange administrators can delegate responsibility for some non-IT tasks to non-IT workers. For example, human resources managers could update employee information, the legal department could handle e-discovery and audits, and employees could create their own distribution lists." (emphasis added)
However, don't get overly excited at these new developments, at least not yet. Microsoft has a long history of working in and dumbing down features from competitors' offerings. The mimicked features often haven't had nearly the same range or depth as a competitor's fuller offering. However, in some cases, companies have recognized that it was "good enough" for their immediate needs and later purchased additional capabilities from other solution providers to fill the gaps as they were identified.
A hat tip to ARMA for their post pointing this out: "Analysts note that Exchange 2010 will not provide such advanced features as content analytics and archiving of multiple content types commonly found in higher-end products geared toward e-discovery." (emphasis added)
Thus a key question will be: What will cash-strapped organizations lacking e-mail archiving systems opt for in their next round of e-mail management purchase decisions? Some might start off with Exchange 2010 to see if it's "good enough", particularly if their eDiscovery needs are relatively light. E-mail archiving vendors may also need to step up their game by offering enhanced value-added tools such as advance search, deeper and more robust content analytics, and handling of diverse content types, as well as making it easier to identify and export data to other downstream eDiscovery systems for processing, analysis, review, and production.
I tend to think that organizations with more diverse, complex, and/or higher volume discovery tasks will still need additional tools and services than simply Exchange 2010. But it's good to see that Microsoft is recognizing the shifting role that e-mail is playing in organizations' compliance, discovery, and risk management programs and beginning to add more data management features.
Exchange 2010 is coming right around the corner, per InformationWeek: "The company plans to release Exchange Server 2010 in the second half of this year. The rest of Office is due in the first half of 2010, with limited test releases beginning the third quarter of this year. Outlook 2010 will come as part of the rest of the Office suite, though it's unclear when the next version of Outlook Mobile will be available."
February 09, 2009
Thoughts From LegalTech 2009
Back from a very busy week in New York. The buzz from the show centered around several themes this year:
Naturally, discussions about the economy and the overall health of the legal market prevailed. With the shuttering or RIF'ing of a number of law firms and service providers alike, many believe we're just seeing the first wave. Vocal concerns over where to place ESI tells me there is a definite Flight to Quality as corporations, law firms, and independent consultants want to know the service provider will be around throughout the life of their legal matters, which typically span several years or more. So check out your eDiscovery service providers' financial strength and definitely check out their facilities firsthand before you place your data in their hands. You might be surprised.
Interest in the right balance of sourcing eDiscovery work to control cost was a major theme as well. Many companies are looking into which tasks, processes, and supporting technologies they can reasonably in-source and maintain defensibility, while realizing they can't do everything at once. Thus a preferred approach is in-sourcing what you can, but partnering with a leading services provider to fill the gaps and provide a defensible end-to-end process from the internal notification/preservation/collection all the way through review and production. Having worked with a number of companies in this regard, the dynamics are changing. Having an experienced and trusted partner can make a huge difference as I've seen companies try to go it alone, only to end up spending a lot more in the long run that could have been avoided.
New FRE Rule 502 - I have yet to see much, if any, impact from its enactment. First, it's too soon for having any meaningful corpus of case decisions as guidance. Second, I wouldn't want to be a party in the position of having to rely upon Rule 502 as my main privilege defense. I attended a panel discussion of eDiscovery issues and trends, and heard Ron Hedges state a very similar perspective. Thus I feel it's going to be "business as usual" with respect to privilege reviews and related tasks. No one wants to be the test case.
Great quote from one of the panels: "We'll never see a well-run discovery process mentioned in the case law." All too true, as we tend to learn from the opposite in case decisions.
While eDiscovery topics dominated the show, online social networking was also big, as sessions on Web 2.0, Twitter, Facebook and more pulled in a good number of attendees and generated some high Twitter activity. The eDiscovery Town Hall was an interesting new experiment, as video questions were gathered before the event in Web 2.0/YouTube fashion. Some good questions were asked and it was interesting to get the panelists' perspectives on topics such as the globalization of eDiscovery.
As with last year, the Bloggers Breakfast was a nice opportunity to meet fellow bloggers and put some faces with URLs. While I'm certainly not against capitalism by any means, I would caution several of the publicists, PR firms, and marketing agents not to swamp or overwhelm bloggers in your zest to use them in your overall marketing push (emphasis on the "push"). A brief introduction and being mindful of not monopolizing our time will go a long way.
As always, the ILTA-sponsored sessions on Tuesday were good fodder for discussion among in-house professionals and their outside providers. As any ILTA member will say, it's ILTA's fantastic ability to bring professionals together that is the true value of being a member.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Facciola had a very thought-provoking, engaging, and I daresay, entertaining keynote. His focus was on competence and collaboration, with the money quote: "Watching an incompetent lawyer is like watching a clumsy ballerina." He shared his frustration and a certain amount of self-restraint from wanting to jump over the bench and do a cross-examination himself over concern that a party has adequate representation in his court. He further shared his concern that the certifications and standards of competence for attorneys may need to be revisited. It was therefore no surprise when he cited the Sedona Cooperation Proclamation, and said what we already knew - that judges don't particularly like to deal with discovery disputes, particularly those when one or both sides are not well-informed.
Overall, it was another good show, and a great place to network and "feel the vibes" of the market. 2009 will continue to be a year of challenge and some changes in the legal market. I'm reminded that the Chinese word for "crisis" consists of the characters for "danger" and "opportunity", leading to the proverb: "In crisis, there is danger - and opportunity."
January 30, 2009
See You at LegalTech New York!
It's been a busy week preparing for an even busier one next week. I'm looking forward to seeing many friends and colleagues in the Big Apple. Look me up if you'll be there, and you can also leave word for me at the Daticon EED booth.
With the somber economic situation, everyone is trying to cut costs while increasing efficiency. eDiscovery process, technology, and sourcing decisions are naturally important concerns and priorities within many companies. Enterprise platforms and service combinations are evolving and emerging to address the entire eDiscovery process, from in-house processes and solutions to those provided by leading service providers.
Please join Jeff Jacobs and me, Senior Consultants from Daticon EED, and Aaron Brown, Program Director from IBM, for a very informative and engaging discussion on: "E-Discovery Technologies & Services in the 2009 Economic Environment: In-sourcing, Outsourcing, and Hybrid Solutions", Monday, Feb. 2nd, at 10:30 a.m. in the Emerging Technologies session track.
See you there!
January 04, 2009
2009 Predictions From Across the Blogosphere
It wouldn't be a new year without predictions popping up all over the blogosphere. I've made a number myself in previous years. This time around, I thought I'd share those that caught my attention and got stuck in my "filter" if you will.
Regardless of those that may amount to nothing more than either wishful thinking or pessimism, it's illuminating to read and keep them in mind as we move forward into the fresh year. Without further ado:
4. Clearwell: 2009 Electronic Discovery Forecast
5. The CMS Watch Analyst Team: Technology Predictions for 2009
And there you have it - a wide range of predictions sure to make us think about trends and priorities over this coming year.
December 17, 2008
Acrobat 9 Adds Refinements, Greatly Improved Web Site Capture
A few months ago, Adobe released Acrobat version 9. I've wanted to blog about this for a while now, but also really wanted to use the software before posting to provide a realistic assessment. This time around, I've had the good fortune of trying both Acrobat 9 Professional and the new Extended version. Keep in mind this is the ninth version, so it's become quite a mature package by now. While there's not a huge number of new features, there are a number of subtle refinements throughout, which is a good thing. Unlike the jarring interface change from Acrobat 7 to Acrobat 8 that made users squirm to have to relearn it (though I greatly preferred 8's interface to 7's), this time around, Adobe kept the visual changes down to a minimum. So it's much easier to get your bearings quickly with version 9. Whether you need to upgrade really comes down to this: What is new can be helpful, depending on how you typically use Acrobat.
First off, the biggest noticeable change for me is that the web site PDF capture and conversion module actually works, for the first time since they added the feature several versions ago. It even captures Flash animations. I often bemoaned how poorly the prior versions performed, often missing collecting and packaging most of the graphics, instead adding x'ed out boxes as placeholders. Starting with version 9, whether you want to capture and convert a single web page or an entire site (including all the active interlinking of pages) to PDF, it actually does a very good job. There's a new "Select" button added in Internet Explorer's toolbar that lets you specify a particular region if desired. Alas, there's no such conversion button for Firefox, so you need to use IE for the time being. Here's hoping Adobe adds Firefox support in upcoming versions. While I wouldn't say the PDF web copies are exact bit-for-bit matches, they are a reasonable representation in many instances. I understand from Rick Borstein at Adobe that they incorporated a completely different web capture engine, and it shows. Bravo.
For those assembling and publishing PDF binders, the newly named "Portfolio" feature is really a refinement of the binder along its evolutionary scale. You can now choose to package a Portfolio with different graphics (think firm logo) and even select an interesting document flipping interface that's very reminiscent of flipping through album cover art on a newer iPod. Also, the Bates numbering features first seen in the prior version have been offered some minor refinements, such as renaming files to the Bates number range, and you can now create a log file for the Bates operations.
Document comparison that actually works has been a welcome theme in our office tools of late. With the release of Office 2007, Microsoft finally gave us a usable document comparison tool in Word 2007 (it really couldn't have gotten any worse) -- yet I wouldn't say it has all the bells or whistles either. Likewise, Adobe has also included a completely new document comparison engine in Acrobat 9 that provides more granularity. They've been listening to both legal and business professionals alike, who need to be able to rely upon decent comparison tools. Sure, there have been other commercial software packages available for document comparison for quite some time. However, depending on what you need to accomplish in your review process, you may be happy with one or both of these built-in tools (i.e., Word and Acrobat). If you already have a full-feature third party comparison tool, great, but if not, I'd say give both of these comparison tools a try first to see if either meets your needs.
Those of us concerned with embedded metadata will be happy to hear that the metadata removal features have been enhanced as well. From Adobe: "In recent years, legal professionals have become increasingly aware of the risk of accidental disclosures of confidential information in document metadata. While PDF is relatively benign compared to Microsoft Office documents, legal professionals require the equivalent of digital bleach -- the ability to easily find and remove document metadata. The enhanced Examine Document feature in Acrobat 9 ensures that documents are clean and safe to send. Acrobat 9 can remove metadata, hidden text, bookmarks, comments, and other potentially dangerous information from documents." More specifically, the Examine Document feature has the following improvements in Acrobat 9:
There are a number of other refinements as well, including file splitting, enhanced forms and OCR, and a new online collaborative mode for dual remote viewing. There's also new document sharing at Acrobat.com, but legal professionals will need to decide for themselves whether to post sensitive documents online. Give it a try with something innocuous first, but with version 9, it's clear that Acrobat has finally embraced the Internet.
For a balanced, in-depth review, I'll point you to Brett Burney's article on Law.com. Also, Rick Borstein's Acrobat for Legal Professionals blog has a great post detailing all of these changes and more. Overall, Acrobat 9 Professional and Professional Extended seem to launch more quickly and seem more refined. Bottom line, those who are only using Acrobat 8 for the most basic use may not see much reason to upgrade to 9, but those who are responsible for creating and distributing more complex and professional-looking PDFs should definitely give it a try.
June 05, 2008
Yet Another Redaction Infraction
As reported on Law.com, a plaintiff's firm against GE in a class action sex discrimination case improperly redacted filings appearing on PACER, allowing readers to copy and paste the sensitive redacted text into another program like Word. Sounds like the classic mistake of adding black boxes without stripping the underlying text. I'm surmising they filed PDFs which is usually the standard in e-filing.
Taking the plaintiff firm's spokesperson at their word (I'm assuming the leak wasn't intentional), it sounds like it was a mistake made from ignorance. The article reports that they were working to correct the problem by making emergency, corrected filings with the federal court clerks. At that point, it's probably best thing they could do to prevent further inadvertent disclosures. But how do you unring the bell?
Rather than restate the article (which I recommend reading as a cautionary tale), I'll add that law firms and corporate law departments still need to be vigilant in the proper way to redact electronic documents. Historically, Adobe Acrobat did not provide appropriate redacting tools (a point I've suggested to them over the years and to which they listened by adding redaction in Acrobat 8 Professional -- but take note, it's not in the Standard version). So firms running on older versions of Acrobat or other PDF tools without built-in or third-party redaction tools (such as Redax from Appligent), remain at risk. By the way, Acrobat 9 was just announced and will likely ship in the next month or so. The same caveat re: Standard-sans-redaction applies per Acrobat's Feature Comparison Table.
If you haven't already invested in these tools, your process may be similar to this:
- Justifying the need for the proper tools (um, just read the article above)
If your organization is already using appropriate redaction tools (you are, right?), it's probably a good idea to have redaction "tune-ups" with your staff. Meaning, reviewing and/or creating documentation for the standardized and firm-approved process of redacting documents, holding periodic refresher and new user training (consider "on-demand" video training snippets for training or follow-up support so busy professionals can fit it into their schedule), and consider making it part of the organization's overall risk management initiatives so it's at least on the radar. While you're at it, you might want to take a look at how many people actually know how to properly secure or lock a PDF, particularly those posted to external sources such as web sites.
For other helpful resources, the NSA (yes, that NSA) published a guide several years ago describing how to redact documents after the federal government suffered several information breaches and embarrassments from improper redaction efforts. There are also several very informative blogs dedicated to using PDFs in the legal market, such as Acrobat for Legal Professionals and PDF for Lawyers, both of which have definitely addressed redaction issues.
While these tools have significant price tags, as the saying goes, "an ounce of prevention..." Taken into perspective, an organization is likely going to incurs costs far greater than software and training when dealing with just one of these mis-redaction incidents. Sounds like a pretty good ROI to me.
May 12, 2008
Norton SystemWorks "Deranges" Your Hard Drive?
Well, many of us in legal tech circles have suspected for years that Norton SystemWorks often caused more PC problems than it cured. Imagine my surprise to see it "confirmed" on a Symantec renewal web page while checking out the price to renew my Norton Internet Security suite subscription (of which I recommend the 2007 version and newer as it's been noticeably improved):
I think they were going for "defragments", but yet another reason to have a second, perhaps more technically inclined person double-check your sales content.
Just for fun, here's the definition for "derange" from Dictionary.com, which pretty much sums it up, especially #3 if you need to go through outsourced tech support these days:
(Please note this post is intended purely for entertainment purposes only, à la Jay Leno due to the obvious typo.)
February 22, 2008
Breaking through the ESI Inaccessibility Wall - Feature Guide
My latest article, "Breaking through the Inaccessibility Wall -- A New Angle", is published in the current February/April 2008 issue of Litigation Support Today magazine. You can download the PDF reprint here.
Corporate counsel struggling with records retention should be among the first to read this, as their regular business information can be used against them in unforeseen ways. Indeed, my alternate title for this practical guide is "Call the Help Desk, Your Accessibility is Showing". From discussions with various corporate and outside counsel, a common misconception under the new rules is that backup tapes are an inaccessible “safe harbor” media as long as one asserts they are only used for disaster recovery. Depending on the specific facts, this could prove to be a costly assumption as newer decisions consider the totality of the burden and cost under Rule 26(b).
As a result, I suggest a novel but very practical approach to challenge or confirm an opposing party's assertions using business intelligence methods and their own data. In accessibility matters, courts are increasingly demanding objective data on which to base their discovery rulings rather than relying upon subjective arguments and affidavits claiming excessive time and expense are required. It’s also contemplated in the Committee Notes regarding sampling and other techniques.
As an example, corporate help desk logs can be used to quantify the frequency and purposes for which backup media are being accessed. However, other seemingly mundane systems and data may be useful and relevant. This further illustrates why companies continue to need savvy e-discovery professionals to bridge the legal/IT gap and identify opportunities and weaknesses others have missed. I also provided an update on how the backup technology landscape is changing and what you should know about it when dealing with ESI accessibility issues.
February 15, 2008
2008 Corporate Legal Technology Trends @ InsideCounsel
From insourcing the e-discovery process to automated document review, the world of legal technology is rapidly changing. If you missed LegalTech New York or just want to keep up on the current trends, my latest InsideTech column at InsideCounsel will bring you up to speed.
Among other hot topics, LegalTech was brimming with discussion on the Qualcomm fallout, records retention, proactive approaches, and automated review. In addition, I covered key issues such as cost reduction, the effects of globalization, data privacy, and outsourcing/insourcing. With recessionary concerns on the rise, corporate law departments are being asked to do more with less, and these issues will continue to compound through 2008 and into 2009.
February 09, 2008
Word 2007 -- A Tale of Two Experts @ LegalTech NY
It was the best of times: While making my way through the vendor hall jungle at LegalTech NY, I had the pleasure of catching up with Donna Payne (Payne Group) and Sherry Kappel (Microsystems). I always find time to seek out these document technology savants, and this week's discussions were as helpful as ever.
My personal opinion is that Office 2007 is the clear winner from Microsoft this past year (definitively overshadowing Vista), and the massive improvements are well worth the office suite upgrade and third-party integration efforts. Sherry insightfully observed that with Word 2007's linked styles right out of the box, firms are likely going to need to pay even more attention, not less, on training and reinforcing solid style usage with their user base. As Sherry mentioned in a recent ILTA publication, if you're not automating your document practice, then how are you going to maintain your margins when your corporate clients demand a substantial rate cut? Also, she noted that the new XML format, while adding some needed document file stability, also adds a bit more complexity due to the XML intricacies.
Donna Payne and I had some techno.fun comparing and contrasting Word's built-in Document Inspector capabilities to a dedicated metadata scrubber such as Payne's Metadata Assistant. On one hand, it would seem that Word's built-in Document Inspector gets the job done. Both Donna and I have used it and found it to be effective, especially in a pinch where you're working on a simple document and just need a quick scrub before sending it off to someone. When you want to remove just about everything, it pretty much does the trick. But in comparing notes, we quickly agreed it has several fundamental weaknesses:
1) No Workflow: In other words, when using Word's Document Inspector, you have to remember to manually scrub and save the Word document before you start the e-mail process. Third-party scrubbers add the necessary workflow which allows you to scrub the file as part of the e-mail attachment process.
2) No Selective Scrubbing Within Each Category: For each of Word 2007's five scrubbing categories, it only offers you an "all or nothing" approach for the items in that particular category. There is no middle ground. So if you want to scrub only some of the document property fields, but keep a few like "Author" and "Title", you'll need to first remove all of that category's metadata, and then manually retype in the few you want to retain. And that's a bad thing, because you can lose useful or necessary metadata in the process if you're not careful.
So while we've seen very substantial improvements in Word 2007, firms and companies will still need to assess their overall practice workflow and specific scrubbing needs, and it will likely take third-party add-ins to more fully address them.
January 30, 2008
See You in the Big Apple for LegalTech!
You can tell it's only a few days before LegalTech NY when your inbox is bulging with vendor press releases and requests to meet at the show. Coupled with ILTA's involvement and their great educational tracks, and additional events such as Envision Agency's inaugural InsideLegal™ Business Summit, it's shaping up to be a good show.
Most of all, I'm looking forward to catching up with many of my friends and colleagues, making new contacts, and taking in the new developments, product launchings, and various briefings. As expected, the show is heavily dominated by EDD players, and shows like LegalTech are a great way to stay abreast of the various methodologies and solutions offered in this busy, busy market space. It seems like just about every day I'm hearing of a new product, service, or partnership, so I'm looking forward to getting an espresso-like jolt at the show. If you're there, look me up.
December 20, 2007
My InsideCounsel Column on Technology Counsel
My next column is available at InsideCounsel, which explores the emergence of the Office of Technology Counsel. I've been hearing and indeed have engaged in more and more discussions in the legal market about how most companies are still nowhere near where they need to be in their litigation readiness. While it is improving somewhat, slowly, and likely under the pressure of sanction avoidance, the lawyer/IT gap is still a major challenge, as is the capacity of their interdisciplinary teams to handle both their regular day jobs along with these increasing duties.
Add into the mix recent case developments such as the Qualcomm vs. Broadcom imbroglio, and it's easy to see where communications and overall e-discovery coordination are still breaking down between the team players. I think those companies experiencing the most pain, and more importantly, those willing to learn from it, will be exploring additional organizational changes. We've already seen this in the wake of SOX and other regulatory requirements with the establishment of compliance offices. Those seeking to understand an Office of Technology Counsel's place in the organization can refer to my mission quote from the column:
"In short, this office’s mission is to transform the organization from one of reactive fire drills and ad hoc processes into a well-oiled machine to enhance repeatability, accountability, predictability and overall risk management. When done well, this translates into enhanced defensibility."The article includes a bullet list of related duties, some caution when developing the Office's reporting structure, and help on where you can find a suitable Technology Counsel candidate.
November 01, 2007
ACC Survey Reveals Key Trends with In-House Counsel
Law.com has a great AP write-up on the 2007 ACC/Serengeti Managing Outside Counsel Survey, a collaboration between the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) and Serengeti Law, released at ACC's Annual Meeting on Monday in Chicago.
From my perspective, here are some of the key take-aways:
1. In-house counsel are utilizing more systems, such as e-billing and matter management, to perform more business intelligence (BI) and metrics-based evaluations of their outside counsel's performance.
This should come as no surprise to anyone working with corporate legal technology. Better tools exist today, and law departments are able to either consolidate some of their data silos or at least push/pull data more meaningfully from various sources. More comprehensive reporting tools and dashboards enable more insightful analyses and comparisons of outside counsel performance on a number of key indexes. In addition, matter-centric systems allow better data normalization, data integrity, and integration of workflows.
In addition, in-house counsel are much more likely to use these systems to maximize discounts for early payments, also known as fast-pays. When outside counsel budgets are in the millions, or hundreds of millions, even a small discount adds up to significant dollars. In return, outside counsel benefit by having on-time and reliable positive cash flows with little or no collection effort.
2. Law firm extranets are declining as in-house counsel prefer to utilize client-centric systems.
It's difficult to do proper BI and pull your data together if it's spread among both in-house and a number of outside firms' systems. A common complaint among in-house counsel is having to log into multiple outside counsel and in-house systems to gain access to all their information. Depending upon the number of outside firms, it can be inefficient for in-house counsel to learn how to navigate different outside systems and manage multiple logins. In my opinion, internal (or alternatively, some ASP-hosted) web-based systems are on the rise for ease of access and collaboration while reducing desktop support.
3. As a result, corporate counsel are setting more rules for their relationship with outside counsel.
This goes beyond setting billing rates, as corporate counsel are including requirements for early assessments and regular updates, as well as technology expectations and data formats. In-house counsel are likely to continue increasing the number of rules in their outside counsel guidelines.
4. Corporations have heightened legal compliance concerns.
The complexity of regulatory requirements is increasing, along with high-profile investigations and trials involving executives and in-house counsel. While other costs are being managed more tightly, this is an area where in-house counsel are likely more willing to engage outside counsel and potentially increase budgets for this work. This presents outside counsel with additional client service and revenue opportunities, along with opportunities to further cement their relationship with upper-ranking corporate counsel.
5. Convergence of outside firms continues, but is not exceeding expectations.
About a quarter of corporate law departments surveyed use convergence (working with a smaller number of firms) to achieve better rates, efficiencies, and consistency of work. However, most companies reported that it only met (i.e., did not exceed) their expectations. Even though there was a drop from the previous year, the AP article also reported the median number of outside firms remained fairly steady when looking at past years' data overall. This suggests to me the following:
From my experience, none of these should have presented any real surprise. However, it's good feedback to validate where in-house counsel are headed both technologically and in managing their outside counsel. Overall, in-house counsel are becoming more information-driven, are updating their technological tools, and are taking greater interest and participation in their outside counsel relationships. For the corporations they counsel, that's good news.
October 17, 2007
My InsideCounsel "Tech Talk" Column on Matter Centricity
I'm pleased to announce I've recently begun contributing to InsideCounsel magazine for their Tech Talk electronic newsletter. My first column addresses "Matter Centricity", and describes how corporate counsel can benefit from integrating their various informational systems, such as matter management, e-billing, and document management.
Implemented effectively, there are significant workflow improvements to be realized, as well as enhanced data consistency, information access, and elimination of unnecessary "busy work". Conversely, there are a number of considerations and hurdles to overcome in implementing a truly matter-centric environment, some of which are not readily apparent. Check out the article for more information, including items for inclusion in your business plan and methods for managing costs with external consultants.
September 30, 2007
Law Students: Grab Microsoft Office Ultimate 2007 for Only $60
While Microsoft has long offered the discounted Home/Student version of Office, this offer is probably their best yet for qualified students. Microsoft is offering Office Ultimate 2007 (their top Office suite package) for only $59.95, which includes:
Microsoft is smart to expose future business leaders to their new suite. The offer is good through April 30, 2008, with more details at Microsoft's Ultimate Steal web site and their Education web page. This is probably as close to free that Microsoft has gotten with a brand new Office suite, and it's a very complete suite to boot.
September 26, 2007
Brett Burney Reviews Outlook 2007
My friend Brett Burney just posted a very informative review of Outlook 2007 on Law.com. Having used it myself for the past several months, I agree it's definitely a worthwhile upgrade. I've found the Instant Search to be, well, instant! Finding e-mails has never been faster or easier for me. I really like that it's as simple as using Google, yet with a click you can expand the search box to reveal additional search fields. So far, the search has been so fast and accurate that I haven't needed to go beyond the single search field.
I also like the new To Do bar on the right pane, and Brett is right on the money when he says you need a widescreen monitor to take best advantage of it. Once you have one, you'll never want to go back. Also, due to the mixed bag of old-style pull-down menus and its new ribbon bars, long-time Outlook users shouldn't have much difficulty making the transition to Outlook 2007. Microsoft also made good use of colors that are pleasing on the eyes and are used to good effect. Since I've been running it in standalone mode on my new laptop, it's been very, very snappy, and unlike most mature Windows programs, it doesn't act bloated to me, other than having to wade through the legacy pull-down menus on occasion. Of course, I'm sure it helps to be running it on a new PC with a faster Core 2 Duo processor.
Also, the Personal Folders Backup plug-in works with Outlook 2007, so people like me can make automatic backups of their Outlook .pst file without having to think about it. Don't worry that Microsoft's web page lists it for "Outlook 2003/2002" -- it works just fine with Outlook 2007. All it really does is copy your .pst file to your preferred location after you close Outlook. Depending on whether you use Outlook in standalone mode vs. in conjunction with Exchange Server, you may not have as much need for the plug-in with the latter, and it could have some e-discovery impact if you're maintaining additional backups. But for standalone users, it's a very useful plug-in, and I'm glad to see Microsoft didn't abandon it.
Overall, Outlook 2007 is a great upgrade. While it's main-screen interface hasn't adopted the new ribbon bar, it features enough other enhancements and refinements along with great performance to make it my version of choice.
September 25, 2007
Excel 2007 Multiplication Math Bug
Just when I was about to post how great my experience has been with Office 2007 (I really, really like the new ribbon interface, live format preview, and the enhanced online help), news has been popping up among bloggers and Google Groups of a serious, yet perhaps somewhat specific, math bug in Excel 2007:
If you have Excel 2007 installed, try this: Multiply 850 by 77.1 in Excel.
One way to do this is to type "=850*77.1" (without the quotes) into a cell. The correct answer is 65,535. However, Excel 2007 displays a result of 100,000.
Now the strange thing, according to some posters, is that Excel 2007 treats this result inconsistently when it's used in other formulas dependent upon this result. Sometimes it's used as 100,000, and sometimes it's used as 65,535. On my Vista Ultimate laptop, I was able to duplicate the above poster's test results that reference the above result in cell A1.
As these errors did not occur in Excel 2000 in comparison, this is a step backwards. Let's hope Microsoft corrects it quickly. The question may remain, however, as to what to do with spreadsheets and charts created during the time the bug existed. Assuming MS issues a patch, for critical data it's probably not a bad idea to reopen them after patching and refreshing the calculation to see if anything changed.
My system is current with all relevant patches via Windows Update, which is set to include other Microsoft products such as Office. In Excel's "About" screen, it reports Excel's version as 12.0.6024.5000 and MSO as 12.0.6017.5000. (Presumably, MSO = Microsoft Office.)
If you're having difficulty locating the "About" screen in the new 2007 line, you're not alone. It's buried under the following menu structure:
1. Click on the circular MS Office button at the top left corner in Excel.
So much for the good ol' days of clicking on Help, About, to quickly see version and patch numbers!
On the plus side, overall I've found Office 2007 Professional to be very solid, with substantial usability improvements. As with Vista, which has been getting more reliable with various Windows Updates (e.g., my document preview now works in Windows Explorer), I expect Office 2007 will hit many legal desktops, running either on XP or Vista. Not to mention that more and more third-party software vendors have been making great strides in making their programs compatible and integrated with Vista and Office 2007. There were several Office 2007 readiness sessions at the recent annual ILTA conference, and all were packed with attendees. Many already have test installations well along, and some firms reported they're already receiving documents from clients in the new Office XML formats.
[11.20.07 Update: Microsoft has released an Excel 2007 Hotfix package for this issue.]
August 07, 2007
EDD -- ILM Needed to Take Out the Trash
This Law.Com article by Stanley M. Gibson, "Hit 'Delete' to Prevent EDD Disaster", tells the tale of how a company was ordered to produce millions of electronic documents and e-mails spanning over half a decade to the losing tune of a $570 million judgment. That's in addition to the costs incurred for legal fees and allocated costs of collection, restoration, conversion, review, and production of the data.
Unfortunately, hitting "Delete" is not sufficient. If nothing else, the result just became a compelling benchmark of why implementing ILM (Information Lifecycle Management) can indeed be cost justified. If a company may have to pay millions (or perhaps billions in the total tally), why not invest that money -- proactively -- into a solution that reduces financial risk and produces tangible operating benefits to its users in terms of structured data management and collaboration ease? As real-life EDD examples such as this continue to occur, an effective ILM implementation with proper policies, training, and management reinforcement could very well be the gift that keeps on giving.
July 14, 2007
First Thoughts on Vista Ultimate and Office 2007!
I'm back after taking a blogging sabbatical. I recently purchased a new Toshiba A205 widescreen notebook preloaded with Windows Vista Ultimate and added Office 2007 Professional. I particularly wanted access to all of the latest features and usability improvements in Windows and Office. If first impressions are any indication, it's off to a fine start.
Not surprisingly, some features were either renamed or moved around from where you'd expect them in prior versions. Fortunately, the included help screens are well written, with plenty of links to help you get to the desired feature or program. Another huge help is the new Search bar in the Start menu, which doubles as the Start, Run command. It's very easy to search for and run all kinds of programs and data files. Say you don't know where the new Windows Mobility Center is launched from? No problem, just click on Start, type in "mob" for the first few letters, and it displays the program link. The built-in help content can also be updated online from Microsoft, so you're always getting the latest assistance. Bottom line, it's still Windows, so the basics haven't changed. I found it easy to be productive nearly right out of the box.
Good Stability Overall for a New Release
For laptop users, this means at least a decent mid-range notebook. With that said, I've found that even an integrated Intel 950 graphics chip is sufficient for rendering Aero and other Vista 3-D effects (screensavers, animations, etc.). Naturally, having a dedicated 3-D video card is preferable but more expensive.
For overall system speed, having sufficient RAM is critical. I consistently see 700 MB to 900 MB of RAM in use just running the Vista OS, a number of Vista Sidebar and Google Desktop "Gadgets", and security software. Basically, Vista Ultimate uses just under 1 GB of RAM just to run the system before running any office programs. To avoid unnecessary drive crunching, 2 GB is clearly warranted for best performance. As a power user, I particularly love the new Sidebar. It's a great place to monitor system performance and attributes, list to-do's, display a nice large clock, weather information, and a lot more. The nice thing about having the 2 GB on-board is that I have yet to see the memory max out in actual usage.
Third Party Apps Need to Catch Up
Third-party incompatibilities should improve over time as software developers catch up with new patches and releases. [Update 7.18.07: The new iTunes version 188.8.131.52 seems to have corrected the problem as iTunes is behaving itself.] The nice change here is that Vista will often pop up a dialog to indicate which program is not responding. It then seeks to find a solution, often directing me to the developer's web site to download a newer, more compatible version. Keep in mind that Vista comes in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions. While 64-bit computing is touted as more secure, I've noticed that 64-bit versions of various programs are lagging behind. If compatibility with existing programs are paramount, go with the 32-bit versions of Vista for now.
Overall, I've been quite impressed by the stability and usability refinements. Stay tuned for more coverage of Vista and Office 2007, including some tips and tricks, as well as some recommendations for security software.
April 18, 2007
Collaboration Thoughts: Google "Presently", Parallel Processing, Simplification and Savvy Execution
Google is rounding out their web office apps with a PowerPoint clone. Mike Arrington at TechCrunch blogged on the announcement yesterday at the Web 2.0 expo. As a word play on Writely, Google's collaborative word processor, Google fans are now eager awaiting "Presently".
Although it's still early, I tend to agree with Google CEO Eric Schmidt's comment that it isn't a threat to Microsoft -- yet. With Office 2007's release and obvious refinements (particularly the ribbon bar), enterprise and legal markets are already sitting up, taking notice, and planning their upgrades. However, in this Web 2.0 era of business at the speed of broadband, waiting for revisions to roundtrip through multiple people is becoming more and more burdensome and costly. Think serial processing vs. parallel processing. Core Single vs. Core Duo.
Would I trust Google's web tools with confidential or sensitive data? [Update: No. A major concern I do not see going away any time soon is how easily a third party will give up records under subpoena, or threat thereof, when there may be defenses or other protections available to the data owner. There may also be security concerns]. But there have been times when I've been collaborating with one or more CLE presenters when it would have been incredibly helpful to work on the same presentation file concurrently.
I also like Workshare's Professional Suite's "Manage Changes" feature, particularly for Word documents. It goes Track Changes a few times better as it allows you to import and manage revisions from multiple reviewers within the same document, enabling a more flexible review and revision process.
Collaborative technology can definitely help, but it's not a panacea by itself. It doesn't eliminate the need of those involved in the process to understand and identify more efficient ways of conducting business.
I recently re-read the Corporate Counsel article, "Seven Sigma: GE lawyers take a low-tech road to come up with a high-tech way to draft contracts quickly" (I believe it was the Jan. 2007 issue, no web link available). It describes how GE's law department -- using only sticky notes -- tore apart and simplified the process for drafting contracts, cutting their document length, complexity, and execution time dramatically. Then they implemented the technology to facilitate it. If they would have tried to automate their existing voluminous contract forms around the old process, I seriously doubt the gains would have been anywhere near as rewarding.
Web 2.0 has been getting a lot of hype, along with criticism for over-hype. Some of it is probably deserved, but businesses and their lawyers would do well to give it a spin. Before the ride is over, it'll likely get people thinking and moving in a new direction.
April 05, 2007
On the Ball with Vista
Thanks to Dennis Kennedy commenting on my last post, I came across the link to Craig Ball's Vista overview. As usual, Craig does a great job of walking the uninitiated through Vista's enhancements and their impact on EDD. Of course, Craig left me feeling like I just took a trip though Willie Wonka's Chocolate Factory with a rockin' Stones soundtrack. (Did you really want to know what the Vista Oompa Loompas are doing with your data?)
I also mention it since it supplements my comment about considering encryption pros and cons. He introduces the new BitLocker encryption in Vista's Enterprise and Ultimate editions and the challenges it presents.
April 01, 2007
Vista Shadow Copies -- Helpful to Users, Even More to EDD Recovery?
Microsoft has billed Vista as their most secure operating system to date. However, there's a little-known feature that could cause some data security concerns. Amidst the flurry over EDD and the new rules, Microsoft included a feature to certain versions of Windows Vista that may aid in recovering prior versions of files.
From Microsoft's Vista site:
Have you ever accidentally saved over a file you were working on? Accidental file deletion or modification is a common cause of data loss. Windows Vista includes a useful innovation to help you protect your data: Shadow Copy. Available in the Ultimate, Business, and Enterprise editions of Windows Vista, this feature automatically creates point-in-time copies of files as you work, so you can quickly and easily retrieve versions of a document you may have accidentally deleted. Shadow copy is automatically turned on in Windows Vista and creates copies on a scheduled basis of files that have changed [...] It works on single files as well as whole folders.Very helpful indeed. There have been a number of occasions over the years when I've accidentally replaced a file when I should have saved it as new one with a different file name. We've all been there.
However, now consider the difficulty in trying to rid a system of shadow copies for legitimate security and confidentiality concerns. A laptop user may need to work on a confidential file while traveling. Since laptops are easily stolen, accidentally left behind, etc., it may be desirable to wipe the file later to maintain security and confidentiality. Consider some of the recent news stories covering thefts of laptops containing considerable amounts of personal data. It's a good bet that most file wiping utilities can't handle wiping the Vista shadow copies, at least not yet anyway.
Note that Shadow Copy is enabled by default in Vista Ultimate, Business, and Enterprise editions. So if data security and confidentiality is paramount to file recovery, organizations should consider disabling this feature in their Vista rollouts. On-the-fly encryption is another consideration, recognizing it has pros and cons as well.
[P.S. Seeing as I'm posting this on April 1st, I thought I'd emphasize this information was gathered directly from Microsoft's site. Also, Ars Technica has a post on this from as far back as last summer. Now if you're looking for an April Fools gag, Google got their hands dirty this year with Google's TiSP Beta. More on the gag at USA Today.]
March 18, 2007
Good Resources on Word's Track Changes
As usual, Law Practice Today has a helpful piece offering a number of useful Track Changes resources. We all know (or should know) the benefits and risks posed by using Track Changes. Despite all the debate, it's still a useful tool used widely throughout the legal profession, particularly on document collaboration. The linked tips should help users understand it better, as well as the links to other redlining and document comparison tools.
March 11, 2007
Burney on Word 2007
My friend and colleague Brett Burney has an enthusiastic review of the new Microsoft Word 2007 improvements, with a definite eye for legal use. He does a great job of extolling its new features while linking to some very useful Microsoft resources, including the "Interactive: Word 2003 to Word 2007 command reference guide" and the "Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack". I have to say that I like what I've seen so far of Office 2007, and the ribbon interface is very compelling in its usability.
It's probably too soon to tell whether the new legal blackline and Document Inspector features are robust enough to warrant not using third party programs such as DeltaView and metadata scrubbers. For example, Microsoft's site states that when it comes to using Track Changes, one should keep two versions of the document -- a public copy for distribution, and another one for private use with track changes. Sounds pretty similar to what the legal market has been doing for some time. However, anything that makes it easier to manage these tasks and documents are welcome features.
December 05, 2006
Acrobat 8 -- Know Thy Redaction
The new Acrobat 8 release is generating a good buzz in the legal market. Brett Burney has a glowing review of the new Adobe Acrobat 8 on Law.com. He links to a Duff Johnson's PDF Perspective post on the differences between the redaction methods used by Appligent's Redax and Acrobat 8.
If you're serious about PDF redacting, Duff's post is a must-read. Via an interview with Mark Gavin, founder and CTO of Appligent (maker of the well-known Redax redaction add-in to Acrobat), Duff describes the essential differences one should know. Per his post, Acrobat 8 uses a "subtractive" approach to remove data from a redacted PDF.
While one would think this quite logical, read his post to understand the versioning and data cleansing challenges this may present to the user. Per Mr. Gavin, Redax uses an "additive" approach that creates a new PDF file from the original, but only populating it with the data the user chose not to redact. From that description, it sounds that Redax solves two problems inherent in the Acrobat 8 method: 1) not allowing the redacted information to be present in the new PDF file in the first place, and 2) helping to prevent the user from accidentally overwriting their original non-redacted PDF file with the redacted version.
Mr. Gavin's comment about Redax's approach (i.e., "the new document has never been touched by the information to be redacted"), struck me as the better practice if accurate. Someone else can't find or access the information if it has never been put into the PDF file in the first place. He also brings up an interesting point in how the two products differ in their display of redacted information to the user -- in terms of whether any text or graphics remaining in the redacted document can easily be seen by the end user working on it before they send it off. He contends that it's more apparent to the user with Redax.
Now in all fairness and transparency, I've only summarized that post and have not verified its accuracy. Adobe should certainly be given an opportunity to respond, and it's obvious the new Acrobat redaction features create competition between the two companies. Coopetition is a strange thing indeed.
I also credit Adobe, as I have challenged them on several occasions to provide a more reliable and suitable method to redact PDF's using only their Acrobat software. They listened and responded. My personal perception is that it's certainly a good step in the right direction, and Adobe is being sensitive to the issues as well as the legal market's needs.
Also, a heads-up on system requirements: One law firm IT Manager recently shared on a listserv that Adobe Acrobat 8 Professional requires Windows XP Service Pack 2 if you're running Windows XP or it won't install. I haven't verified this, but he provided a link to Acrobat Professional's System Requirements page so you can see for yourself.
October 14, 2006
First Legal Tech Mashup?
For some time, I've been wondering when (not if) the legal software market would jump in and find value with mashups (i.e., combining two separate services to provide a unique new service) and other Web 2.0 technology applications. See ProgrammableWeb for a long list of mashups.
So I was immediately interested upon seeing a link to this in my inbox:
Mashups to Re-Map the Legal Tech Market?
Synaptec's LawBase case management package "has integrated the 10.5.5 version of its flagship product with Google Maps. That integration brings an emblematic Web 2.0 buzzword to a market that has yet to feel much of an impact from the new Web-as-a-development-platform IT paradigm. (Emphasis on "yet.")"
In this vertical market of "let's do what everyone else is doing", it usually takes one or more innovators to test the waters before others jump in. Let's hope this is the beginning of yet another such cycle. Via posts like this, first movers like Synaptec are getting a good PR buzz for their efforts.
Looking further ahead, I find the potential ability to track and map claims, incidents, suits, IP seizures, facilities, or other items by geographic location to have compelling value. Personally, I'd want to know what Google and other services do with the geographic data being parsed through their systems, although one could likely sanitize it somewhat. Regardless, there's a lot of untapped value in them thar maps! For example, just take a look at Zillow.com if you're house-hunting or looking to sell.
It's easy to see why in-house counsel would find mapping technology useful as well, both in managing claims and cases, and not to mention outside counsel and related costs.
May 29, 2006
Microsoft Office 2007: See What It's All About
There's no denying it: Microsoft is releasing a wave of new software relatively soon. It's worth checking out so you can determine the impact on your existing systems and integrations, and whether/when it makes sense to implement the new versions.
Microsoft has published the Microsoft 2007 Office system preview site, which is chock full of information on the new office suite. Particularly engaging is the Microsoft Office UI video tour. As Office 2007 represents a radical User Interface (UI) shift, it's definitely worth viewing. Gone are the rampant menu pull-downs found in Office 97 through 2003. The context-sensitive "Ribbon" is the new UI. As I haven't tried the Office 2007 betas, I can't comment on it first-hand. However, I have to hand it to Microsoft for producing a marketing video that made me feel like this guy. Very impressive.
Although Microsoft says you should not have to upgrade your hardware from running Office 2003, you may have to upgrade your operating system. For instance, the Office 2007 beta requirements page lists "Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack (SP) 2 or later or Microsoft Windows Server 2003 (or higher)" as "required". While older hardware may indeed run it, with the emphasis on graphics-intensive features such as the new Live Preview and improved graphics overall, you'd probably want to test it on your older PCs to see how well it performs.
May 22, 2006
Microsoft Releases New Vista Hardware Guidance
Looking to buy a new PC, but not sure what you'll need for running Windows Vista? Microsoft just released the minimum requirements for "Windows Vista Capable" PCs (that will only run the basics) and "Windows Vista Premium Ready" PCs (capable of running the advanced Aero 3D graphics).
The details are at Microsoft's Windows Vista Enterprise Hardware Planning Guidance.
If you use a larger resolution monitor (e.g., LCD panel) or dual monitors, pay special attention to the amount of graphics memory. The more overall screen resolution, the more graphics memory required. I think it's fair to say from this early information that Vista's Aero graphical interface is a video memory hog, but, as I'll show you in a minute, there's a good reason for this. This will likely drive sales of higher-end PCs with enhanced video cards. Most gamer-level PCs should do nicely, but it's also a bit more than most people would have needed when running Windows XP for business apps.
For Microsoft products video demos, check out "Bill Gates Webcasts". This one has a nice demo of Vista's 3D capabilities for displaying and switching between open Windows. Now you know why you'll need a darn good 3D video card with plenty of graphics memory, if you want the full Vista experience.
March 18, 2006
Enhancing Mobile Security - Feature Article
Organizations usually focus more heavily on protecting the castle by fortifying its defenses. However, mobile technology security can be a bit more challenging, in no small part due to the plethora and complexity of devices, user mobility, and increased risks outside the firewall. Sometimes it doesn't receive as much attention, or perhaps is perceived as less securable. Thus I've recently written a feature article on effective mobile security techniques, strategies, and policies, entitled "Enhancing Mobile Security". The downloadable PDF is compatible with Acrobat 5 or higher.
This was originally published as the cover feature in the February/March 2006 issue of Law Office Computing. I am greatly honored by Amanda Flatten, LOC's Editor and Publisher, for granting me permission to publish it here. Amanda, you're the best. If you're in the legal field and have any interest in improving your practice via savvy use of technology and keeping abreast of new developments, then I highly recommend a subscription to LOC.
Avoiding Mobile Computing Burnout
Whether you're a road warrior or just tote a few mobile gadgets, I think you'll find this article helpful in setting expectations and managing your stress from always being accessible. It was recently published online at eLOC, the e-magazine version of Law Office Computing. A hearty "Thank You" goes to Amanda Flatten, the Editor & Publisher extraordinaire, for graciously permitting me to post the entire published version here at LTG (especially for those of you who download the RSS feed).
Avoiding Mobile Computing Burnout
Use technology to enhance your work, not take over your life.
By Jeff Beard
It’s no secret that lawyers and legal staff have high-pressure jobs. As if we were not multitasking enough, mobile technology makes us even more accessible to client service and other demands. Untamed, it leads to information overload, multiple interruptions throughout the day and more stress.
Are your wireless gadgets just making you more wired? Do you need to go on a technology diet? Clients demand more access to you, and you want to provide good service. Mobile technology offers many tools to help you do just that. The problem is, sometimes they deliver too much of a good thing.
Consider how many devices and technologies are used to stay in touch: wireless e-mail devices; Wi-Fi laptops loaded with e-mail, office suite, time entry and various practice applications; cell phones; hands-free headsets; a lot of cables (laptop power brick, modem, Ethernet, universal serial bus, FireWire, audio, iPod charger, cell phone charger and personal digital assistant charger); home, office and cell phone voice mail accounts; professional and personal e-mail accounts; office, PC and Internet faxes; text messaging; instant messaging; replicated e-mail account on your laptop’s hard drive for offline reading; Virtual Private Networks, Citrix or other remote access software; camera phones, digital cameras and portable scanners; and a prepaid Starbucks card (for a liberal dose of Wi-Fi and caffeine).
That is a lot of technology to manage. It’s not uncommon to hear of professionals checking their e-mail in the middle of the night, while driving, during their children’s sporting events and let’s not even dwell on the restroom scenarios. While some will deny these stories, I have heard them all. The faster you respond, the faster your clients and co-workers expect you to in the future. After all, you reinforce their expectations with a five-minute turnaround from your BlackBerry or cell phone. Congratulations — you have just become a victim of your own success. All isn’t lost, however. There are a number of ways you can avoid mobile computing burnout and reduce information overload.
Set Reasonable ExpectationsJim Calloway, director of the Oklahoma Bar Association’s Management Assistance Program, recommends setting parameters with clients during the initial interview. “Communicate that you will normally get back to them within 24 hours, not including weekends,” Calloway said. “Share that you process messages on a first-in, first-out basis. Think about how you are going to handle the client relationship and what mobile access means.” The same goes for managing your relationship with your employer or co-workers. Calloway said legal professionals often can set themselves up for failure by committing to do too much, but setting realistic goals and ground rules will help you manage your workload.
Determine Which Mobile Devices Work for YouWhen it comes to traveling, less can be more. Ask yourself what you truly need to be productive and if you really will use what you take along. If you are reasonably tech savvy and comfortable with different gadgets and access methods, it might be worthwhile to have alternative technologies at your command. If you are not a technophile, then try introducing one new gadget at a time. That way, you are increasing the odds you will be comfortable using it on your own.
This might be a gross oversimplification, but generally I find two main types of BlackBerry or Treo users: those who can’t wait to get one, and those who really, really don’t want one, ever. If you are in the former category, make sure it’s for the right reasons and not just to have a status symbol or another tech toy. If you are in the latter category, take heart and use these tips to set reasonable expectations with others regarding your accessibility. You might be able to agree on alternative communication methods or less onerous response times.
Minimize Interruptions and MultitaskingRemember, technology speeds up many tasks, including the pace at which we make mistakes. “It’s important to recognize multitasking invites errors and misunderstandings,” Calloway said. “We have all sent e-mails that we wish we had never sent.”
Brett Burney, legal practice support supervisor at Thompson Hine in Cleveland, advises professionals to avoid the diminished returns of too much multitasking and to focus on the quality of work clients deserve.
Learn and Use the Technology You HaveBurney said he sees a lot of frustration stemming from underutilization of mobile gadgets. “One great way to avoid at least some of the tech-burnout today is to educate yourself on the functions of a device, and beyond that, even to learn a few tips and tricks,” he added. For example, instead of manually scrolling through e-mails, Burney said Treo users running GoodLink software simply can press the “T” key to jump to the top of the list to read a newly arrived message. “While it might only save me several seconds, I am happier because I am immediately looking at what I want to see. I realize this means spending more time with a device, either reading the instructions or just playing with it, but it pays off in the long run because I don’t get so frustrated,” he said.
Also, be cautious about adding mobile technology to your arsenal too quickly. Give yourself a chance to absorb it at a comfortable rate. Don’t ask for it if you don’t need it. If you need it, then learn how to use it properly and use it on a regular basis. Great tools are a wasted investment if you can’t use them when you really need them. Don’t wait until you are on deadline or two hours before a flight to pick up a new mobile tool without sufficient training. That is just asking for stress. Instead, plan ahead, test it and ask questions so you will be able to use it well before you leave. For instance, remote access accounts can become disabled if not used regularly. If you have VPN access, but use Web access most of the time, you could forget your VPN personal identification number or password, or the account might need to be reset. This is best summed up as “use it or lose it,” in which case you have unanticipated remote support problems adding to your stress level. Also, it’s not fun for the Information Technology folks who must support your remote technology. In many cases, an ounce of prevention keeps disasters at bay.
If you don’t have time to teach yourself how to properly use mobile technology, find out if your organization or a technology vendor offers any training or user guides. Portable cheat sheets and instruction cards are useful and easily fit into a briefcase or laptop bag.
Recognize That Technology Isn’t PerfectBad things often happen — batteries die, power cords get left behind, hardware fails, software applications have bugs, viruses abound, entire systems become unavailable at times, and yes, we all have made mistakes while using technology. That is life in the digital age. In recognizing this, however, we can generate effective alternate plans to get things done.
For example, if your cell phone or PDA dies, have a backup list of names and telephone numbers on your laptop or on a flash drive. Planning ahead for outages and problems is one of the best mobile lawyering stress relievers. It’s only a matter of time before Murphy’s Law strikes, and while it’s never fun, knowing you still can communicate and work productively under pressure is a nice safety net.
Use the “Off” ButtonMobile devices have to be recharged — and so do you. If you stay connected all the time, you will become drained and less productive. Put all your commitments into perspective and make adjustments. For instance, turn off wireless e-mail devices and cell phones at family events, or even better, consider whether you really need to bring them to these events at all. Admittedly, most of us like to carry cell phones for personal safety and convenience. In that event, it’s OK to send calls to voice mail. For this reason, I prefer phones with external Caller ID displays for triage purposes. Check if your phone offers a shortcut to manually force an incoming call to voice mail rather than having it vibrate or ring several times. For example, I discovered that pressing the side volume down button twice on my LG cell phone does the trick.
If you are in a meeting with a client, there is nothing worse to that client than constant buzzing or ringing interruptions. This gives the client the impression that you are not giving your full attention. Indeed, some firms have added this to their etiquette training. For longtime road warriors, cutting that wireless cord can feel strange at first, but it gets easier with practice.
As professionals, we are quite fortunate to have a wide variety of mobile tools at our disposal. As tools, they serve very useful functions. The trick is to manage them before they manage you by setting realistic expectations and ground rules. There still will be times when you become overloaded or frustrated, but I hope some of these tips better prepare you to anticipate and work through them.
Stress-Busting Tech Resources
Jeff Beard is the legal services IT manager with Caterpillar Inc., a Fortune 100 company headquartered in Peoria, Ill. He is a former practicing attorney, and is a frequent national author and presenter on contemporary legal technology and practice management issues. Beard enjoys working with mobile technology, and covers many such devices and issues on his blog, LawTech Guru. This article was submitted in his individual capacity, and all views stated are his own.
February 10, 2006
Microsoft to Customers: Install Office Suite Updates Due to Patent Infringement
Technology patent disputes are certainly hitting home with customers this week. Per a CNET News story, "Microsoft's recent warning that customers must use an updated version of Office in new installations is likely to affect a significant number of businesses, according to a study.
The software maker said last month that as the result of a patent dispute, companies will have to use tweaked versions of Office XP and Office 2003 when they install the software on new machines."
An earlier article stated:
"Microsoft has begun e-mailing its corporate customers worldwide, letting them know that they may need to start using a different version of Office as a result of a recent legal setback.
December 01, 2005
Free eBook: "BlawgWorld 2006: Capital of Big Ideas"
I've been a long-time subscriber and occasional contributor to The TechnoLawyer Community. It's a unique free service for seeing what's new and interesting in the world of legal technology. TechnoLawyer is also a particularly great place to get some good ideas and feedback on various topics and technologies. I've seen it evolve from a simple listserv into an organized online community, spawning many topic-focused newsletters, an integrated blawg, and basically giving its readers more substance than noise, a rarity indeed.
Along those lines, Neil Squillante and his capable crew have been working for months on delivering even more value to their subscribers. I'm happy to say the fruits of their labor are now available in their new TechnoLawyer eBook, BlawgWorld 2006: Capital of Big Ideas. It's designed to take you on a journey through 51 of the most influential blawgs. (And yes, LawTech Guru is included -- I thought I'd get that out of the way, as I'm truly honored to be in such good company.)
I was immediately struck by the high quality of the publication in PDF format. There are some phenomenal thought pieces in it, and couldn't help myself from sinking into reading many posts from some of my favorite blawgs as well as others I had not visited in a while. With so many blawgs available today, it's all too easy to miss some great posts, even with using an RSS reader.
BusinessWeek Online's blog, Blogspotting, recently asked, "Where are the good law blogs out there?" Well, here you go.
BlawgWorld 2006 has something for everyone: Whether you're new to blawgs and are wondering where they are and which ones to read, an avid blog reader who'd like to catch up on some of the better posts you may have missed, or somewhere in between. If ever you found yourself thinking, "so many blawgs, so little time," then the BlawgWorld 2006 eBook is a great stop along the way. Each blawg's representative thought piece contains a brief author and blog bio, as well as the topics it covers. This makes it very quick and easy to skim, and you may just find the articles useful. If nothing else, they are interesting and thought-provoking -- exactly what you'd expect from good blawgs and their authors.
While the eBook is free, you do need to be a TechnoLawyer subscriber to receive it. If you're not already one, I recommend joining (it's a free sign-up). While Neil probably wouldn't want me to say this, you can always cancel at any time, so there's little lost in the effort and much to be gained. Enjoy.
April 06, 2005
After an exhausting 5 days, I'm back from TECHSHOW with a head full of ideas. Here's my list of things that are hot, hot, hot, without appearing to be the latest tech fads:
March 29, 2005
TECHSHOW This Week
It's that time of year, when legal technophiles and professionals make their annual pilgrimage to Chicago for the ABA TECHSHOW. This year the TECHSHOW Board and support staff have really outdone themselves. The conference has attracted even more mainstream big-name sponsors, such as Intel (who is also providing WiFi network), Adobe, HP, and Microsoft. Eugene Lee, Adobe's VP of Product Marketing, Intelligent Document Business Unit, is giving the keynote. The TECHSHOW Training Institute was a smash success in its inaugural debut last year, and shows no signs of letting up.
I'm personally looking forward to the many great sessions, including the "Meet the Bloggers" roundtable. Look for many of the blawg stars to be in attendance. I'll be presenting Saturday morning with the dynamic Adriana Linares on the topic of "Best Practices—Applying the Lessons of TECHSHOW".
I'll also be moderating the "What's New in Scanners, Printers and Other Devices" roundtable, which I'm pleased to say will include several big printing and scanning players as well as fellow blawger, tech-savvy lawyer, and TECHSHOW Board member Tom Mighell. Believe me, if you haven't looked at printing and scanning options recently, be prepared to be blown away at their current capabilities.
TECHSHOW is also famous for its various dinners and bashes, and I've found the networking to be the most valuable part of going to conferences. That's where you really learn what's hot, what's not, bounce around creative ideas and build your list of interesting go-to people.
With TECHSHOW heating things up in Chicago, there are a number of other legal tech doings this week. On Wednesday, ILTA (the International Legal Technology Association, f/k/a LawNet) is having a "Law Department Roundtable" for its members at Winston & Strawn LLP. For folks like me in corporate legal departments, this is a timely value add for the trip.
In a fit of savvy yet unbridled creativity, LexThink! Chicago: Building the Perfect Firm, the brainchild of prominent blawgers Matthew Homann, Dennis Kennedy and Scheherazade Fowler, is being held Sunday at the Catalyst Ranch. Because it's an invitational-only event in its seminal year, I'm both excited and honored to be participating.
But of course, all of this wouldn't be happening without TECHSHOW as the main attraction, and I heartily recommend it. Hopefully I'll see you there!
March 13, 2005
A Closer Look: Legal IT Survey on Lawyers' Preferred Communication Tools
Legal IT, a UK publication, offers some insight into lawyers' use and preferences for communication methods. While the article is entitled, "E-mail overtakes phone as lawyers’ favourite communication tool", it requires a bit more careful reading.
For instance, it claims that 24% of lawyers indicated that "e-mail was their most commonly used means of communication, compared to just 10% of accountants". While that's an important comparison to another service field, that also implies to me that 76% of lawyers have a different (non e-mail) method they most commonly use.
I think there's little doubt that lawyers, as a whole, are using and relying upon e-mail more than ever before. However, looking at the other survey percentages stated, it's also clear that their e-mail use preferences are heavily dependent upon the context of the situation and the content to be conveyed.
For instance, take the following items from the same article:
". Sixty-eight percent of lawyers prefer to speak to their boss face-to-face, 16% chose e-mail and just 5% the phone.According to the above, e-mail is not the preferred medium for a number of daily personal interactions. And that makes sense to me, because e-mail is more impersonal and more easily prone to being misunderstood by the recipient.
Take also cell phone text messaging, or SMS (Short Message Service). Consider it a poor-man's Blackberry or pager equivalent. Legal IT also has an interesting article, "Survey: The Text Big Thing", which discusses whether firms are fully embracing text messaging. The reported UK survey results regarding usage are actually much higher than I would have guessed. However, it seems most of the SMS usage is ad hoc, with very few firms doing anything with it in a focused manner. But for clients without Blackberries, SMS text messages might be welcome as long as they are relevant and useful -- not spam.
February 12, 2005
Using Tech Toys to Fill Serious Business Needs
Here's what happens when you get a legal/business/financial professional with serious tech experience thinking about next-gen mobile business solutions:
I was perusing a variety of my favorite tech news sites, and a few stories smacked of a theme to me: Let's find ways for our tech toys to meet some serious business needs. iPod webcasting (a/k/a podcasting) is well-known in techie circles, and is approaching mainstream status. Some might even say it's already there. I'd say it's still on the ramp up, but is picking up some serious speed. Savvy bloggers are embracing it with a fever. But when we get down to everyday business needs and problems, what are using these devices for? With the rapid cool-down in the pure PDA market, I was pondering where we'd see the next advances.
First, I was intrigued how radiologists are using iPods in conjunction with open source but specialty Mac OS X software to transport, view, and work with MRIs and other medical information. It wasn't just that the iPod was a portable 40GB hard drive, but that it had some smarts too -- the navigation interface could be used to organize and access patient information.
On the PC side, the OsiriX platform looks pretty darn cool and useful to me. Obviously, I'm not a medical professional, but it's impressive. Check out the screenshots and photos. I liked the one with the kid holding the iPod next to the big TV: "PET-CT reconstruction on the iPod Photo displayed on a TV through the S-Video interface". It's probably just a static photo file being displayed on the TV (nothing special there but the nice S-Video link and the iPod navigation control).
With that said, it's very easy to start brainstorming about possibilities for other markets, which is why I find this so intriguing. However, any new technology application (and that's what we're really talking about here -- finding savvy business applications for these cool devices) is going to run into problems and criticisms. Apparently there have been discussions regarding security and privacy issues, which may or may not have been resolved.
Next, I came across this CNET News report, where a Xerox Research Centre in France has developed mobile document-imaging software for camera phones. Thus cell phones with a minimum of one megapixel cameras just might gain the capability of becoming mobile document scanners. With the demise of the HP Capshare several years ago, mobile lawyers around the world were dejected. If anyone doubts the usefulness of a handheld document scanner, then why did the Capshare's two models' pricing zoom from the original $200-$300 to upwards of $1,000 on eBay as supplies dwindled? Obsolete technology that actually increased in value hundreds of percentage points? Clearly there is an untapped market here.
Here's your take-away: Some of the building blocks are already here, with others on the way. It's not hard to see engineers, product managers, and business professionals all playing with them like Legos: "What if we took this extensible tech toy, moved this here, added some software over here that leveraged the OS and interface, and made it easy to move data back and forth with this business system on the PC side?" Think of the handheld document scanner. I wouldn't be surprised to eventually see a Treo or phone-based BlackBerry developer pick up on this and provide an even more compelling mobile business device.
I'm sure these are but a few examples of what we can expect to see over the next few years. Visionary and tech-savvy service professionals in many markets (including legal) will have increased opportunities to service needs that their competitors may miss. Some of the fulfilled needs may just be a more effective way to do your daily job. Others may translate to client-facing situations. Either way, you snooze, you lose. (Hence the underlying reason for my blog's tagline.)
January 03, 2005
A Hearty Welcome for Jim Calloway's Blog
Now here's a great way to start the new year in blog style: "Jim Calloway's Law Practice Tips Blog" was just launched yesterday. Jim is a Law Practice Management veteran: He's the Director of the Oklahoma Bar Association Management Assistance Program, current Chair of the ABA TECHSHOW Board, frequent presenter and author, and more.
I've enjoyed the privilege of working with Jim when I served with him on the TECHSHOW Board. He's wanted to do this for some time, so I expect he'll have plenty of tips raring to go. Jim excels with his common-sense approach, and breaks down practice management and technology topics into plain language. Thus I have no doubt his blog will be another great resource for law practice tips, management ideas, and other insights. Welcome to the Blogosphere, Jim!
November 29, 2004
Mobile Lawyering Presentation in Chicago
If you're in Chicago this Tuesday (Nov. 30th), you might want to stop by the UBS Tower for the 2004 Midwest Law & Technology Conference & Expo. I'm honored to present again this year, and will be speaking with Nerino Petro on a favorite topic of ours: "Lawyers on the Go: Tips, Tricks & Tools for Mobile Lawyering".
Just like the title says, Nerino and I will be covering a lot of tips, tricks and tools for the mobile professional. We've all heard the hype over the years about going mobile and have seen the sizzle fizzle at times. So we've geared our presentation toward the things that really help you when you're away from the office, including savvy use of wireless technologies, the right mobile tools and gadgets that actually work, and a healthy focus on security, just to name a few.
This year, the conference is a joint effort between the Milwaukee and Chicago Bar Associations. It will be held in Chicago on November 30th, and then in Milwaukee the next day on December 1st, at the Wyndham Milwaukee Center. The unfortunate demise of the annual LegalTech Chicago conference left a void in the Windy City for the latter half of the year, so it's nice to see the Chicago Bar step up and join the Milwaukee Bar's efforts.
November 20, 2004
More on In-House EDD
Dennis is "a bit more optimistic about law firms going into the electronic discovery services business". Along those lines, I think that the right combination of legal, lit support, and IT staff could do well with examining, searching, organizing, and producing electronic evidence that has been collected by a qualified EDD source. Indeed, many firms have been doing this to some degree already. There is a particular line of evolution that has the potential to serve firms quite well if they're willing to commit to it and recognize the value of their Lit Support Manager and IT Department collaboration.
Before I get to that, however, Dennis could very well be right in that an extremely small number of law firms with the properly trained and certified EDD people on staff and the right hardware and software savvy just might pull it off -- but by far this is the exception to the rule, as it's going to require an unconventional progressive-thinking and tech savvy culture (not too common in law firms, I'm sad to say). And they will still need to consider and address all the issues we've collectively mentioned, and more. Is there first-mover advantage? Possibly. However, I think there's a more "balanced" approach worth considering.
For this, I'm going to refer to several sources that Mike Arkfeld mentioned on his Electronic Discovery and Evidence blog a little over a month ago:
75% of Top Law Firms Not Qualified to Handle EDD MattersI actually read Mike's post well after I expressed similar thoughts. I'll reiterate from my prior posts that I believe that counsel and staff need to challenge themselves to be more educated on technical matters relating to computer systems, data, and EDD issues, and they need to be closely engaged with the EDD process. Of course, this is not going to happen overnight. But in doing so, they can guide the process, offer counsel, and make sure that the expensive EDD resources are being focused in the appropriate areas.
Mike also has another key post on this topic that is definitely worth mentioning:
Role of IT in Law Firms re EDD, which links to this article: Conference Preview: Use your EDD by Andrew Haslam. Andrew explores many of the issues we've discussed, and the example of a firm who crashed their entire computer system by hosting EDD is a good caution.
Having worked closely with various Lit Support and Project Managers, I think he's on the right track in the following quote, because I've seen it happening already:
"How will all of this affect IT departments? I believe that the role of the litigation support manager will evolve from one focused on the processes of scanning, coding and hosting systems, into a higher level of strategic adviser and project management. In parallel, the IT function could start to move from being a cost centre to a business contributor."Now this is where I suspect more firms will be successful overall in extending their EDD savvy, rather than trying to become the full-blown in-house EDD provider. It allows a more gradual, less-costly ramp up. It also provides a greater opportunity to improve the quality of advice and service to their clients -- with less overall risk to both relating to EDD collection and custodianship. Another advantage is that it gives the firm time to evaluate their options and directions as they evolve with EDD. For more firms, this is probably the most doable proposition I've seen to date, because it enables firms to progress while keeping closer to doing what they know best -- their core competencies.
November 09, 2004
In-House EDD: A Controversial Topic at Best
Ron Friedmann (Strategic Legal Technology), along with Bruce MacEwen (Adam Smith, Esq.), think that bringing Electronic Evidence Discovery processing in-house in law firms (as suggested by this recent Law Technology News article) is a bad idea.
I agree with Ron and Bruce's comments, which I've summarized below:
Bruce's post explains several reasons why law firms should not bring EDD in-house:
1) EDD is not a law firm's core competency (the "stick to your own knitting" Management 101 theme)
To this, Ron adds his note of caution:
"It is much easier to explain and justify a third-party disbursement than a law firm’s own time or line item charges (e.g, copying). Clients realize that the EDD space is rapidly changing and can reasonably expect a law firm to seek competitive bids. This does not mean that the lowest price wins; rather, it helps assure a reasonable price for the right services."
To these I'll add a few thoughts of my own:
1) Anything that puts a law firm member on the witness stand during the course of client representation is probably not a good thing. In the case of EDD, I believe it increases one's malpractice risk and the risk of losing cases and clients -- unreasonably so.
2) Consider the conflicts of interest inherent in offering certain ancillary services. This isn't new ground. It's been done before, and here's the best example of its impact: Recall the great "consulting" expansion of the Big Six (now Big Four) accounting firms? These firms discovered that their consulting arm created a number of conflicts.
Section 201 of Sarbanes-Oxley now expressly prohibits a large number of these ancillary services from being offered in conjunction with audit services. Even before SOX, some firms began to spin off their consulting divisions. Maintaining objectivity, especially when it comes to rendering expert services and opinions, is more valuable than most professionals realize.
3) While I know a number of very tech-savvy attorneys, I believe most law firms, and their lawyers in particular, lack the required competence in technical and forensic matters. This probably sounds harsh, and perhaps even a bit jaded, but it's my perception of current state of the legal market. There are always exceptions, and lawyers are generally becoming more tech savvy -- but overall, very few have the requisite tech knowledge in this highly specialized area.
I'll extend this point: Many law firm IT and litigation support departments, in general, are probably not properly trained in the necessary forensic techniques and issues, nor on all of the various client computer systems from which they would need to extract and collect data. Again, I'm talking about the technical proficiency issues here, not the legal ones. While a firm could go out and hire EDD professionals, consider then who will be responsible for managing them and the results. It just doesn't seem to me to be anywhere near the average law firm's core competence. This stuff is tricky, and if you don't know what you're doing, you can end up in a world of hurt in a hurry. Which brings me to my next point...
4) For a reality check, read "Prosecutors Leave an E-Trail" from October 2004 issue of Law Technology News as a good example of in-house EDD processing gone seriously wrong -- in this case, for the U.S. Attorney's Office. While they were fortunate in securing a conviction, it illustrates many of the points above. For a simplistic-yet-drastically more catastrophic result, read "Fax Error Costs EC €100m Court Case". While these are probably the more extreme examples of what can go wrong with technology, the sad fact remains that they occurred.
5) As Ron stated, clients pay for outside experts in litigation all the time. Why would they believe a law firm would have a higher or even equal level of experience and objectivity with lower overall costs when compared to an established outside expert/consultant? Also consider that if a lawyer or a client becomes dissatisfied with an expert's services, they can fire the expert and obtain another while maintaining the valued continuity of the lawyer's core services. When the lawyer or law firm becomes the expert, guess who gets fired? Donald Trump would have a field day with his slogan. The lawyer/firm gets thrown out with the bath water.
6) EDD service providers and consultancies have sprung up out of the woodwork, and I expect the EDD market to grow in revenue dramatically as more "core" information in cases is digital. However, like Bruce mentioned, I too expect a lot of shakeout in this market segment. Remember the ASP (Application Service Provider) craze near the end of the dot.com boom? Where are they now? A lot of consolidation and bankruptcies occurred in the interim -- and it all took place in less than five years (I'd say between 1999-2003). There are still ASPs in various markets, including legal, but it was a very turbulent ride that many did not survive.
This isn't to say that all ancillary services are a bad idea, nor should this be taken one way or the other regarding MDP (multidisciplinary practice) in general. These are all controversial issues at best. I'd suggest that one needs to look beyond the perceived gravy train to consider all ramifications, and especially those for the clients. However, I believe most law firms (and their clients) considering this specific service option would be better served in the long run by letting this one go.
However, as a seemingly-paradoxical corollary, lawyers (not just the litigators) as well as their clients need to challenge themselves to become as tech savvy as possible in this electronic era. Only more electronic information is being created, not less. There's much value to be had in the ability to know which questions to ask, how and where to find information, perceive patterns and issues, identify appropriate courses of action, and counsel clients on the associated risks and cost-benefit analyses. Now those are the lawyers and legal staff I want to know.
[As with all my posts, I should clarify that the above statements are made completely in my individual capacity as my own thoughts, and that none of this constitutes legal advice of any kind. You're free to draw your own conclusions. I'm simply applying good old fashioned common sense coupled with my experience in legal technology issues.]
October 18, 2004
Judicial Googling Revisited
The ABA Journal has published a good article, "In Google We Trust?", in the October 2004 issue. Several judges along with fellow bloggers Denise Howell and Tom Mighell provide their thoughts on how much judges and lawyers should rely upon Internet search results. It's a thought-provoking read.
One thing's for certain: This issue isn't going away. Quite the converse, actually, as our overall tech and web savvy increases. As I said back in May:
For one, no search engine can index the entire web, especially since a chunk of it is still hidden in proprietary databases served up in dynamic just-in-time "active server page" (.asp) or similar web pages. Thus each search engine takes its own unique "photograph" or map of the web, akin to the example of ten blind men and the elephant. Each one cannot see the whole, so they report upon what they can sense of it.
October 05, 2004
Legal Technology Surveys
Major themes are practical enhancements. Many of them could be categorized under the following:
Nothing terribly sexy nor any surprise, but again, what would one expect at the beginning of an upswing? Firm management is cautiously optimistic and is taking the time to patch the roof and fix the plumbing before building any new wings.
September 08, 2004
Clarifying Acrobat PDF Metadata Issues
It's easy to knee-jerk on metadata issues, especially with the amount of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) out there. While many professionals aim for the holy grail of complete metadata removal (or "cleaning"), I think a more informed approach is metadata management. Sometimes you want it, and sometimes you don't. Think of the usefulness and concurrent danger of "tracked changes" for a perfect example. Thus many attorneys have adopted the quick fix of converting their Word and other document types to PDF before transmitting or sharing them. The widespread assumption is that PDF is a safe haven for transmitting metadata-free documents -- something that isn't necessarily true.
PDF for Lawyers has a good post which clarifies some of the issues raised in an interesting August 2004 Law Technology News article, "Metadata: Are You Protected," by Donna Payne & Bruce Lewis. (Free subscription required.) Donna and Bruce stated that "PDF files contain substantial metadata," and the print version contains a comparison table listing nearly 20 items of metadata than can exist in PDF files.
Thus to get a balanced perspective, I highly recommend reading the LTN article first, and then head on over to the PDF for Lawyers post, which clarifies this a bit:
As I understand it, the 'tracked changes' in Word do not ordinarily pass into a PDF file when the word processing document is converted. It can happen, but it takes unusual conditions. After reading the article, I asked Ms. Payne in an E-mail to explain to me how the 'tracked changes' would be passed into a PDF file and she gave me two examples.
August 30, 2004
21 Blogs of Interest for a Law Firm CIO / IT Director
Hot on the heels of LawNet 2004, here's an interesting find for Legal CIO's:
Ed Schembor's Blog looks relatively new and has a new article listing and discussing suggested blogs for Law Firm CIO / IT Directors to read. He's picked a number of legal technology blogs, many of which I've read and listed here in my blogroll. Welcome to the blogosphere Ed.
Ed states: "The list of blogs I have put together below covers the ones which I have found are ideally suited to the knowledge needs of a senior project manager, director of technology or CIO at a medium to large size law firm. These blogs generally cover strategic aspects of technology of interest to law offices, and may also cover more tactical and technical subjects."
Ed, you're off to a great start, but I'd add the following blogs to your list, as they tend to have either a compelling strategic or legal IT flavor, or both:
I'm sure there's even a few I'm forgetting, with apologies to my fellow blawgers.
August 24, 2004
Live From LawNet 2004
I'm out at LawNet 2004 this week, and thus far it's been a very worthwhile trip. The weather has been relatively cool for Phoenix (in the low 100's for the week), so we haven't melted. LawNet is to be commended for keeping us connected: In addition to dedicated Ethernet access in the Laptop Oasis, there's Wi-Fi access throughout the conference rooms and exhibit hall, which is really the way to go nowadays for any large conference or meeting. It's truly an enabler.
There's already been a number of useful sessions. I'm glad to see the legal market has been "getting it" regarding workflow, collaboration, and integration. As various systems become even more complex (document and matter management, etc.), these systems have to become even more usable to the end users -- a daunting task indeed. Thus it's encouraging to see the sneak peeks and upcoming product announcements, many of which are focusing on tying discrete systems together, addressing workflow issues, and coming closer to delivering on the "seamless" promises we've heard for so many years.
Having said that, it's vitally important to recognize there are no silver bullets. Many xMS solutions (DMS, CMS, KM, etc.) require an insightful game plan: identifying and setting overall goals and scope, savvy needs assessment, customization, training, and the like (none of which is easy, I might add). However, I feel a sense of optimism that the legal market is once again moving forward after the entrenchment spawned by the recession over the past few years. While it's not a tidal wave, I'm hearing more about firms who are implementing more extranet and web-based solutions, and upgrading to newer versions rather than staying pat.
Perhaps the largest theme I've observed is that the lines are once again blurring regarding definitions. For example, document management and third party developers have expanded their offerings to include records management, content management, workflow, collaboration, approvals, e-mail integration, metadata cleaning, webified interfaces and platforms, and more. Thus the concept/definition of "What is a document?" is dramatically broader than ever before. In one of the DMS presentations, one source indicated that 90% of new documents being created today are electronic. This doesn't surprise me in the least.
Thus one of the many challenges for law firms, corporate legal departments, clients, and the legal system itself will lie in making the quantum shift in thinking away from paper and into the electronic realm. Some have already gotten their feet wet. With the advent of document tagging, tracking, digital rights management (DRM), metadata, electronic discovery, and compliance with new regulatory requirements, we collectively need to understand the new "laws of physics" such a paradigm shift entails. I'll agree with one of the Microsoft presenters, who said we need "Solutions, solutions, solutions, and not just technology, technology, technology."
August 11, 2004
Legal Tech Talk
As part of his phenomenal "Five by Five" series, Matt Homann recently posed this conundrum to five savvy legal technologists (I'm honored to be one of them):
What five new technologies should all lawyers incorporate into their practices, but probably won't?Since the question is versed in the negative, I enjoyed reading the thought-provoking answers even more than participating in the submissions.
As far as I know, we each submitted them independently from one another. Thus it's interesting to see certain themes relating to RSS feeds and readers, blogging, personal productivity tools (especially regarding taming your e-mail and note-taking with Microsoft OneNote), spreadsheet use, and more -- which are particularly perceived as technologies that lawyers (taken as a whole) probably won't be utilizing in their practice. Scary, isn't it?
Although, with that said and being the optimist I am, I'm still heartened by the response to West's Mike Wilens query back at the ABA TECHSHOW 2004's keynote: "How many of you read blogs?" I would say at least half of the filled grand ballroom crowd raised their hands. Taking into account the nature of TECHSHOW attendees (i.e., legal professionals and support staff who are actively interested in and seeking out technology ideas and solutions), I'm tempted to conclude that a distinction needs to be made here: There's a new breed of evolving lawyer, and they're pushing the envelope much more than traditionalists because the legal and business climate has changed. Efficiency and competition is driving some of it, as well as clients' demands and dislike for complacency. Just read Matt's blog for a very good example of a lawyer who's not afraid to "break the rules" of law firm management and marketing by thinking outside the box.
While there are no silver bullets, I've found that even a little increase in overall tech savvy goes a long way, and you can't always wait until someone else has tested the waters for you first. While there's always some risk, I'm a firm believer in having first-mover advantage. But even if you're risk averse, I've found it's worthwhile to take the time to monitor early adopters' movements, including their successes and setbacks. That makes it somewhat easier to be at the forefront of the wave when it reaches critical mass -- simply because that knowledge can enable you to jump on the ladder a few rungs higher than the rest. Thus I'd say that one of unwritten themes in our responses to Matt's question is don't be afraid to experiment. On a personal note, I approached creating this blog purely as a "little experiment", and am still amazed by the dynamic range of benefits in doing so.
Here's the money quote you can take from this post: There are many useful and productive technologies lawyers can test without breaking the bank or wasting a lot of time. Waiting for other lawyers and firms to try them first is like watching two turtles play leap frog -- while they're absorbed in making all the methodical machinations, the hare has already zipped by them unnoticed.
July 23, 2004
Legal Product Web Sites: Who's Behind the Door?
See if you can figure out which vendor runs Calendar-Software.com. (Note that I'm intentionally not providing the underlying web link -- which amounts to my Google "link vote" and it's not insignificant.) It purports to provide "information about legal calendaring and law practice management software", and includes quotes by some prominent legal technology professionals (I hope they obtained permission).
The sponsor made it somewhat difficult for the visitor to determine which particular vendor is actually behind it, and I have to say this rubbed me the wrong way. The Contact Us page asks for name, telephone number, e-mail address and law firm name, so you can "contact us" -- but the "us" isn't identified. Instead, unsuspecting people are probably just providing the vendor with a sales contact list.
What also seemed misleading to me is that the "Choosing a Vendor" page purports to provide an objective feature comparison chart between a number of well known practice management programs. Interestingly enough, one product received many more "Y's" for supported features than all the rest. Mind you, in my career, I've worked directly in implementing and supporting three of the other products listed, and I'm not currently associated with any consulting firm or software vendor. However, I felt the chart was less than completely accurate on a number of the "N's" several of the others received.
So it didn't take much effort to determine Calendar-Software is registered to Abacus Data Systems, Inc., with e-mail contacts at AbacusLaw.com. No surprise there. My intention here is not to pick on Abacus, but rather, use this as a good example of what not to do with a vendor-supported web site. In my mind, their credibility is completely shot, especially by the fact that they've purported to present an independent company, web site, and feature comparison chart, yet chose to hide behind Calendar-Software.com. Perhaps this example may appear somewhat harsh, but that's what they have generated as my perception. Definitely not a good thing. I'm tempted to ask, what are they hiding from, and who do they think they're kidding?
Note that this discussion has nothing to do whatsoever with their products or services. It's purely derived from the way in which they purported to promote part of their web presence (Abacus does have their own web site at AbacusLaw.com).
Now, for a very good example of a vendor-sponsored web site, I really like how DiscoveryResources.org has evolved. It's sponsored by Fios, Inc., no stranger to the EED (electronic evidence discovery) market. Initially, the site didn't really mention Fios, and in addition to checking the domain name registration, I had inquired who was running it. However, I now see they are disclosing its sponsorship (smart move), and it has evolved into a very good resource for EED news and developments. They offer many articles from well known professionals, and provide updates relating to EED case decisions and more. I don't know if they're allowing their competitors to post information there, but it wouldn't hurt in my opinion. If you're going to offer a seemingly neutral site as a clearinghouse for relevant data and education, then offering diverse competitor views isn't a bad idea, and it hopefully promotes more collegiality in the market if moderated appropriately.
May 25, 2004
Taking Note of OneNote
Mark Voorhees of AmLaw Tech has a nice piece on Microsoft's OneNote. Among its virtues, he writes, "OneNote has almost all the advantage of taking notes on paper without many of the limitations of paper. It's much easier to share, organize, and reuse electronic notes than handwritten ones. OneNote also has none of the disadvantages of taking notes on software designed for other purposes. You can type anywhere on the page, without following the top-down, left-to-right regimen of Word. You can add a new note without creating a new file. And you don't need to save your notes; the program does that for you automatically."
Lindsay Thompson at Thompson Gipe provides yet another positive vote for OneNote.
May 23, 2004
Acrobatics with Adobe
Dennis Kennedy's incomparable web links column is up at ABA Law Practice Today. This month he provides a plethora of PDF resources. As Dennis aptly puts it: "As lawyers, we probably fall into two groups these days: those who have not started to use PDF yet and those who do use PDF but know that they need to learn ways to use it better. The following resources should help both groups."
May 14, 2004
Controversy Surrounds Judicial Use of Search Engines
Now here's something to make one think: CNet News reports that "judges are turning to search engines such as Google to check facts, to look up information about companies embroiled in litigation, and to challenge statistics presented by attorneys in court. Dozens of judges have penned opinions describing Google as a valuable--and sometimes crucial--source of knowledge."
The sidebar sums it up: "What's New: Internet search engines are having a profound influence on judicial research--a controversial trend that's so far garnered little attention outside legal circles. Bottom line: Some judges call Web search a crucial research tool, but critics of the trend are warning that searches on Google and its rivals are no substitute for the painstaking process of evidence and testimony."
From the examples given, some judges are taking notice of the results of web search engines and the presence (or lack thereof) of numerous results has influenced decisions: "'If a judge is taking as proof facts that are reported in any public medium that pertain to individual actions by persons involved in a case, that is troubling,' said George Fisher, a Stanford University law professor. 'Those are the sorts of facts that are supposed to be proved in the courtroom under the rules of evidence.'"
Indeed, while search engines are extremely useful for finding information on the web, I would be hesitant to conclude too much from the apparent "raw statistics" they generate. Just as "raw hits" in a web site log do not paint a good picture of the actual number of visits or pages served, the number of Google hits (or lack thereof) are not precise. For one, no search engine can index the entire web, especially since a chunk of it is still hidden in proprietary databases served up in dynamic just-in-time "active server page" (.asp) or similar web pages. Thus each search engine takes its own unique "photograph" or map of the web, akin to the example of ten blind men and the elephant. Each one cannot see the whole, so they report upon what they can sense of it.
For example, let's do a Google link search on lawtechguru.com. When I ran this search, Google listed 353 sites linking to me. Wow, that sounds pretty good, and I'd like to believe that. However, if you take the time and trouble to go through those results, you'll see that many of the links come from a lesser number of sites overall, including links from lawtechguru.com to itself. Perhaps a better tool for this purpose is the Technorati Cosmos search, which reported that I had 52 links from 31 sources when I ran it. Now Technorati.com is geared to tracking blogs, so it may not show the results of non-blog (i.e., traditional) web sites linking to me. I would estimate that the accurate answer is somewhere between Google's and Technorati's results, and this simple exercise demonstrates the dangers of taking raw aggregate search results at face value.
Another point to consider is that none of these measures tells me what my overall site traffic is, or what my relative recognition level is in the legal market. The results may seem to provide an indication to these latter points, but they don't answer these questions with any specificity. Thus one needs to clearly understand how the system works in order to draw informed conclusions.
My point here is that search engines are incredibly useful tools. They provide us with the bridges (links) to the underlying information available. But any good researcher needs to understand the limitations of such data, and to corroborate and confirm the information sought. Naturally, search engines like Google are fast and easy to use, so it's very easy to understand why so many people rely upon them to do so much. However, just because something is published on a web page doesn't mean that it's necessarily accurate -- from my perspective, it depends on the source and method of collection, among others. On the flip side, there is a tremendous amount of useful information at our fingertips on the web, and conventional wisdom makes it so compelling to use.
Probably the largest attraction among the judiciary is that search engines provide what appears to be a "common sense approach" to finding information. I've certainly seen opposing counsel come up with some novel spins on underlying facts, and it's definitely handy to have an independent means to confirm or debunk them. As a heavy user of search engines myself, I certainly don't wish to condemn them. But I have to admit that this is an area in our judicial system that is unclear at best, and subject to abuse at worst -- to use such results as a basis to justify a decision. The decision itself could be sound, but it's the means to the end that concerns me most. As a progressive and savvy technology user, I often seek ways to find new and compelling technology uses in the practice of law. However, the legal conservative in me would like to see that the more reasoned adversarial evidentiary process be upheld and augmented appropriately.
This is going to be a challenging issue for the courts to address. The more tech-savvy our judges become, the more they'll naturally want to use technology in carrying out their duties -- and they should. When used appropriately, it can increase efficiency and accuracy. The big question is under which circumstances is search engine use and reliance thereon justified?
April 29, 2004
The 46 Best-ever Freeware Utilities
Many thanks to Dennis Kennedy for the link to "The 46 Best-ever Freeware Utilities". This is a phenomenal list for anyone who looks for utility programs to fill a niche need. Power users in particular should find these of interest. Included in the list are some which I've previously discussed here, such as Spybot Search and Destroy, MyIE2, YahooPOPS! and others.
The great thing about a compilation like this is that there is always something new that I haven't come across. In this regard, these utilities look worthy to take out for a spin:
PocketKnife Peek, a small free Outlook add-in that allows you to preview your HTML email as text. To fight spam, security and privacy intrusions, etc. this is a must. While Outlook 2003 has some new preview content filtering features (particularly re: third party ad graphics or web bugs), prior Outlook versions do not, and using Outlook's preview pane is just as bad as opening the HTML e-mail itself. Only a few days ago, I mentioned how important it is to view questionable e-mails in a text-only format, so PocketKnife Peek is a timely find.
AM-DeadLink scans your bookmark file for dead links or duplicate links. If you're an early web adopter like me, you probably have hundreds or thousands of bookmarks accumulated, some of which are likely dead links by now. Wouldn't it be nice to have someone else go through them to determine which links are still active?
Gadwin PrintScreen looks to be a good replacement for some of the commercial screen capture programs. I've liked using SnagIt as a well-rounded screencap utility previously, but I don't need all of its bells and whistles, nor the price. Thus Gadwin PrintScreen should come in handy, particularly when I need some control for capturing partial screenshots for documentation and articles. I also find it a great way to document various programs' settings: Just go into the desired Options or Setup menus, and capture them to compact JPEG files or compile them into a single RTF file which can be opened by just about any word processor. It's not the same thing as a full registry or .INI file backup, but it's a quick down and dirty way to document items in a common format.
HTTrack is a free web site capture utility. While there are many excellent commercial products, I have only an occasional need for one, so this one looks like it just might do the trick.
Star Downloader Free may indeed be a rare find: A free download accelerator which purportedly doesn't contain ads, spyware, time limits or other malware found in virtually all other free download accelerators. While I've found some of the Mozilla-based download managers to work well, they are still somewhat basic. Star Downloader adds more features without the nasty side effects.
All in all, this is an impressive list, and while you probably won't have need for all of them, there are most definitely some gems listed. Another diverse resource for freeware programs is NoNags.com, which like its namesake, features free programs without any nag screens. Likewise, I often find many useful free open source programs at SourceForge.net. For Palm users, I also heartily recommend FreewarePalm.com. Just because it's free doesn't mean it's not worth using. Many times, I find the freeware programs easier to pick up and use, simply because they don't have all the bloat, they generally run fairly quickly, and their developers actively listen to their users' suggestions. In other words, software for the rest of us.
April 07, 2004
Spring Cleaning for Your Systems
As spring is desperately trying to arrive in Wisconsin (and not a moment too soon!), I'm reminded that it's also a good time to do some electronic spring cleaning.
There's actually a number of simple things one can do to better organize and clean up a cluttered system. Power users have been doing these things for years, but they work and are worth repeating:
1) Run Standard Maintenance Programs:
Run Scandisk (or similar features) to find hard disk errors and reclaim lost space, and a hard disk defragmenter which will definitely help put a spring in your PC's step. A fragmented hard drive is still one the best known performance bottlenecks in PCs today.
2) Bail Your E-mail:
If your e-mail doesn't auto-purge itself or you just save everything, sort it by subject or sender to see which messages and threads you really don't need anymore. Because they are grouped together via the sort, it's very easy to highlight and delete them in one quick click. Don't forget to purge them from the trash. Naturally, be mindful of any document retention policies or regulatory requirements in this regard.
3) Blow the Dust Off:
Literally. Who wants to take computer components apart to clean them? A can of compressed air is by far one of the easiest ways to evict your dust bunnies. Consider it a mini-leaf blower for your PC. Dust is nonconductive, but it is insulative, which means it can contribute to heat build up. Considering the serious heat coming off today's fast CPU's and video boards, blowing out the dust is a cheap and easy way to extend your PC's components.
4) Give Your Eyes a Break:
Clean your monitor. After all, you've probably pointed to it enough times when collaborating, troubleshooting or adjusting it. All those smudges add up and blur the display. My favorite product is the wet/dry wipe combo that quickly dissolves the gunk and leaves it looking brand new, but be careful as some monitors have delicate coatings for which you might just want to use a soft and slightly damp cloth. Ditto for your keyboard and mouse -- let's face it, they're dirt and food magnets. It's also a major turn-off to go into someone's office and see a dirt-encrusted or dingy keyboard, mouse, and/or monitor. Same goes for laptops. Just because you're a road warrior doesn't mean your laptop has to look like the road. It's also a good time to remove all those post-it notes that just seem to breed on monitors. Enter the information into Outlook, your PDA, case management system, or whatever you use. Besides being unsightly, leaving them attached to your monitor or laptop is a huge security risk.
5) Delete Those Temporary Files:
Over time those files add up and can occupy a fair amount of hard drive space. Particularly look for *.TMP files in your temporary directories with dates other than the current date. Sort the files by extension in Windows Explorer, then highlight and delete the *.TMP files in one shot.
6) Empty Your Web Browser Cache:
Over time, these local copies of web site pages can grow and get corrupted, thus adding to some strange results when trying to download web pages. Each browser generally has a feature for deleting this cache, and it's also a good habit to get into for security and privacy reasons. Consider the same for your browser history from time to time, and selectively deleting cookies you don't need.
7) Perform a Full System Scan Using Your Antivirus and Anti-spyware Programs:
While most antivirus "autoprotect" features should stop most things, there's always a chance you have something lying dormant on your hard drive, waiting to "byte" you when you least expect it. I'm partial to Norton Antivirus, Ad-aware, Spybot Search & Destroy, and PestPatrol for these purposes.
8) Limit the Number of Auto-starting Programs:
It seems that nearly every new program I install nowadays wants to run something at Windows startup, usually as a hidden service or visible in my system tray. Take a good look at your Windows Startup group as well as using tools built into Windows for unchecking programs that automatically load from the registry. Obviously things like antivirus are essential, but do you really need all of the multimedia applets (e.g., Real and QuickTime) running in your system tray all the time? Besides freeing up CPU and memory resources (resulting in less hard drive thrashing for swap files), you might actually enjoy having less clutter and more room on the taskbar for the things you do use regularly.
9) Empty Your Recycle Bin:
You know it's there, and it's probably chock full of old files you'll never need again. Time to take out the trash.
10) Run Windows Updates:
With security threats popping up daily, you need to harden your system against those sneaky attacks. Even the best firewall in the world won't stop everything, because we intentionally open holes in it to communicate with the outside world. Windows and Internet Explorer need to be patched regularly, and Microsoft has made it relatively easy via the free Windows Update service. In particular, make sure you have installed the latest cumulative patch for Internet Explorer, which by definition includes all prior patches in one step. Even if you don't use IE for your browser, many of your installed programs do, and that makes them just as susceptible.
11) Don't Let It Get Cluttered in the First Place:
As much as I wanted to end with ten tips, this one is golden. While at TECHSHOW, Fred Faulkner, the ABA's tech guru, mentioned the seven day rule during our blogger dinner: "If after seven days of use on a trial period, if I don't like what I'm using, I will uninstall it to keep my new laptop clean. If I find that I'm using it for those seven days and it is effective, I will purchase the full version." We've all seen what happens to various Windows systems after loading too many programs.
As you can see, none of these items are difficult to do, nor do they need to be done all at once. So the next time you have a few minutes to kill, you might just want to check one of these items off the list.
March 28, 2004
It's been a busy couple of days at TECHSHOW. There have been many exceptional presentations, and I've met some very interesting people along with catching up with friends and colleagues. While it was impossible to attend all concurrent sessions, here are some highlights from this year's show that I attended:
First off, electronic discovery is a hot, hot, hot topic (no surprise, really, given how much electronic data we keep pumping out). Mike Arkfeld and the Hon. James Francis IV gave a very informative session analyzing and summarizing the various Zubulake decisions. It was particularly useful in that they color-coded all of the various cost-shifting factors to compare against other decisions. Likewise, they provided savvy strategies that litigators could take away and use from these decisions.
The Thursday keynote featured Lou Andreozzi from Lexis and Mike Wilens from Thomson/West. These leaders gave their visions of the future for legal technology. Things like instant messaging and blogging are definitely on the radar screen. I found it particularly telling when more than half the of grand ballroom (standing room-only) crowd raised their hand when Mike asked who was reading blogs. The response was so large and emphatic that several of us bloggers were quite pleasantly surprised. As Mike mentioned, these new modalities of communication are revolutionizing how we work. It's also a great example of how the internet can used by savvy people to not only level the playing field, but to take it a step further in providing guerrilla marketing and client service.
Afterward, I had an opportunity to discuss with them the potential of RSS feeds for the delivery of news and case alerts, etc. Suffice it to say that things are looking promising in this area.
Likewise, wireless has arrived in a big way. Many attendees were toting wireless laptops. Given the relative insecurity of wireless networking, there were many sessions discussing the risks, benefits, and they best ways to harden your systems against intrusion. A live interactive session featuring Jeff Flax and Joe Kashi made it abundantly clear there were a number of attendees running wireless notebooks that were open and unprotected. If you're going wireless, don't even think about it unless you're practicing safe hex and implementing wireless networking best practices.
Another great session was "Performance Metrics and ROI Strategies", presented by John Alber, David Bilinsky, and Michael Kraft. They gave us a number of practical strategies for measuring both the hard and soft issues of technology projects. This is most definitely an area in which many law firms are weak. For instance, how many of you are performing meaningful "debriefings" once a technology project has been completed? If you don't identify what worked and what didn't, then how can you avoid making similar mistakes (or repeating successes) all over again?
New this year was the TECHSHOW Training Institute, where leading vendors showcased their products in a very how-to manner. We got to see, step-by-step, how you can effectively use such programs as CaseMap/TimeMap, Time Matters/Billing Matters, Summation, Amicus Attorney, and a session on Demystifying Electronic Discovery by Applied Discovery.
Perhaps the brightest highlight of the show was Craig Ball's PowerPoint on, naturally, PowerPoint. If you've never seen him present, you are definitely missing out. Craig is one of the true masters of Powerpoint, putting many of us humble presenters to shame. Craig entertainingly shared some of his most effective tips, and more importantly, showed us how to do it, step by step.
This year the TECHSHOW board is working very hard to collect the final version of all the PowerPoint presentations to post on the web site. This is in addition to the CD materials, so watch the site as materials are being added.
Lastly, TECHSHOW is just not complete without going to the fun dinners. The Technologists dinner just keeps getting better every year. It was likewise a blast to meet with fellow blawgers -- this is truly a group of creative and forward-thinking professionals on the cutting edge.
Overall, it's been a great conference, with many exhibitors to boot. The attendance was also definitely up this year. I've already gotten so much more out of it than I put into it (and speaking as a presenter, I believe that's saying something). In speaking with many attendees, it's clear that a significant portion of the legal profession understands the role and impact that the proper application of technology can have on one's practice. And that's very encouraging indeed.
March 24, 2004
Off to TECHSHOW!
I'm off to the ABA TECHSHOW this week, and am looking forward to it. You can always tell it's TECHSHOW week by the electricity in the air. I get supercharged because it's like a retreat for me -- a chance to get away for a few days, take a deep breath, and look around. It's a great way to track new developments and legal tech trends, and to think seriously and creatively about new approaches. Perhaps most of all, I enjoy meeting and collaborating with some truly savvy and impressive people, who are also some of the nicest folks I've ever met. One can't help but come back with a host of useful ideas and contacts, and a fresh outlook to boot.
On that note, I'll be speaking on Remote Access issues on Thursday with Bill Coplin of NetTech Inc. and Managing Clients' Technology Expectations on Friday with Adriana Linares, who recently took the plunge and formed LawTech Partners, Inc. I'm also particularly looking forward to seeing everyone at the blogger dinner tonight as well as at the Consultants & Technologists Dinner (a/k/a "The Dinner") on Thursday. If you're going to TECHSHOW, look me up this week.
March 02, 2004
TECHSHOW Edition of Law Practice Today Released
One of my favorite online reads is Law Practice Today, published by the ABA Law Practice Management Section. This month is the Technology issue and it features a number of highlights from the upcoming ABA TECHSHOW held later this month in Chicago. Among the many useful articles, there are several on curbing spam, emerging tech trends for lawyers, and of course Dennis Kennedy's phenomenal list of legal technology-related web sites and blogs. Darryl Cross' article on Business Development is also a must-read. It would be difficult to read these without picking up at least a dozen great tips.
And that's just from the articles. If you truly want to energize your practice, I encourage you to attend TECHSHOW and get it straight from the source. Talk about ROI. If you're still undecided, then the LPT Roundtable: A Preview of ABA TECHSHOW® 2004 should give you a good idea of what's happening this year.
February 26, 2004
Last Day for ABA TECHSHOW Early Bird Savings
Today is the last day to qualify for up to $200 off the ABA TECHSHOW 2004 registration price. Register today and receive a $100 early bird discount. If you're also an ABA Law Practice Management (LPM) member, you'll get another $100 off the conference price. I'm an LPM member and the $40 section membership pays for itself several times over -- with the TECHSHOW discount alone. Plus the LPM Magazine is chock full of great articles and ideas. You may have noticed I feature a permanent link to the section's e-zine, Law Practice Today on my home page, as another great resource from the LPM section. In my humble opinion, that's getting a lot more than $40 worth.
TECHSHOW will be held March 25-27, 2004 at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers, and is the one of premier national legal technology conferences. As always, I'm really looking forward to it. It's my distinct pleasure and privilege to have been invited back to speak again this year. In addition to the high-caliber presentations and vendor exhibitions, it's a great place where you can get up close and personal with some of the world's brightest legal technology talent. Beyond the CLE, I've often received some of the best advice at the many social functions and vendor hall encounters -- and it's a lot of fun to boot. As a practical matter, if you can take home even a few new ideas that positively impact your practice, then it's well worth the time.
It's also not surprising that a number of speakers are also well known blawgers, and I'm looking forward to catching up with them along with the many other great speakers: Bob Ambrogi, Mike Arkfeld, Larry Bodine, Erik Heels, Dennis Kennedy, Rick Klau, Tom Mighell, and Ernest Svenson. Their blogs are well worth visiting and have a permanent home in my news aggregator.
Hopefully I'll see you there!
February 10, 2004
More on Microsoft Metadata
Back on January 6th, I reported the release of Microsoft's "Remove Hidden Data add-in for Office 2003 and Office XP".
With Microsoft's track record, I was somewhat skeptical that such a free utility would live up to its hype. With that in mind, I cautioned:
"I mentioned the readme file so that savvy users could compare its functionality to other metadata removers on the market. Although it's free, I strongly suggest that you make sure this tool removes everything you need it to remove. If it doesn't, then I recommend obtaining a program that will do the necessary job rather than rely upon this free utility. Otherwise, it could create a false sense of security, which when relied upon can cause many of the same problems as not using a metadata remover at all. Still, if you do not currently have a metadata remover and use the Office XP or Office 2003 suites, then using this add-in is probably better than the alternative."
Microsoft recently posted "Known issues with the Remove Hidden Data add-in for Office 2003 and Office XP". Also, Microsoft's Knowledge Base Article 834427 provides more information on the types of data this add-in can remove.
Therefore, it's up to each person to decide whether or not this tool properly suits their needs, and how it stacks up against leading programs such as Payne Consulting Group's Metadata Assistant for Word, Excel and PowerPoint. If the Microsoft tool removes what you need it to remove, then it may be worth using. The problem is that many people are just not tech savvy enough to know how to determine this -- thus my caution about false reliance on a metadata remover. My best advice is that whenever you can achieve it, as a general rule, Word document files do not contain revision and other metadata after conversion to HTML and PDF files. If you must share or send MS Office files, then make sure it is properly cleansed before sending. As part of one's due diligence in this regard, I believe a bit of in-house testing is required. If you don't know how to do this, then I heartily recommend engaging someone who does, such as Donna Payne.
As a good example of why we need to understand and care about metadata is this intriguing article by Preston Gralla. Mr. Gralla, a noted technology author, outlines how savvy privacy experts were able to debunk a supposedly valid high-level U.K. intelligence dossier about Iraq to be little more than a "cut-and-paste job" from three publicly available articles, one of which had been written by a postgraduate student in the U.S. I've also read similar approaches being used on college research papers and even attorneys' briefs to see who really wrote them and how much editing time was involved (cut-and-pastes take much less time than actual drafting) compared against the time billed.
February 07, 2004
Now *That's* a Lot of Data...
John Tredennick cites a report from the UC Berkeley School of Information Management and Systems, which makes some conclusions about how much data was created in 2002. Assuming this is accurate, we are collectively cranking out some serious data, most of which is not being stored in paper form.
The accompanying chart helps to illustrate exactly how huge this data pile is. Ever try to figure out how much a Terabyte, Petabyte, or even Exabyte means in a measure that's comprehensible to mere mortals? Here's one good example: 200 Petabytes represents all printed material. (A Petabyte is 1,000,000,000,000,000 bytes or 1015 bytes.) While that is certainly mountainous, it doesn't hold a candle to the total volume of information generated in 1999, which is 2 Exabytes (an Exabyte is 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes or 1018 bytes).
Considering that was over four years ago, and the estimation that 5 Exabytes represents "All words ever spoken by human beings," and one quickly realizes we are at a point where we are collectively cranking out one heck of a lot of data. To put the above into perspective, the entire print collection of the U.S. Library of Congress only amounts to a paltry 10 Terabytes (a Terabyte is 1,000,000,000,000 bytes or 1012 bytes).
Just a few orders of magnitude in difference, wouldn't one say? It certainly explains why electronic data discovery (EDD) has grown in leaps and bounds. In the most simplistic terms, I consider paper and electronic evidence to make up the two basic parts of the iceberg: Paper represents the tiny tip that is visible in comparison to the overwhelming mass that lies hidden under the surface. Let's extend this analogy a bit further: Attorneys still working predominantly with paper-based discovery remind me of the captain of the Titanic, under the belief that his ship was unsinkable because he would be able to see the icebergs in sufficient time to avoid them.
While there are certainly tech-savvy attorneys available who are ready and will rise to the challenge, in my humble opinion there are many more who are not. This may be difficult for some to accept, but there is still hope. In many cases, these latter attorneys are going to need someone to help them muddle through. This is where I see much opportunity for quality EDD consultants to fill this gap.
While many EDD "vendors" will readily collect the data, there is often far too much for "mere mortals" to wade through and still meet litigation and transaction deadlines. It's the worst kept secret among litigation support professionals as to how many times they've seen electronic evidence get blown back to paper, which diminishes much of their usefulness and portability. A true consultant will find savvy ways to separate the wheat from the chaff and present it in ways which work well with legal professionals and their clients (with the latter, the cost issues alone are huge barriers to overcome). In other words, finding the right huge pile of data is one thing, but digging in the right place with the right shovel is quite another.
February 06, 2004
ABA Task Force Offers E-Discovery Standards Draft
Today's ABA Journal eReport provides an update on the ABA's efforts to assist in developing standards for electronic discovery. The ABA Litigation Section’s Task Force on Electronic Discovery has proposed amendments to the ABA Civil Discovery Standards addressing electronic discovery, and is taking comments on these draft amendments.
According to the eReport article, "[t]he draft was designed to address three primary issues: allocating the cost of electronic discovery, altering or destroying evidence, and handling privileged information. Standards exist for such issues in the paper world, but there are new issues associated with electronic evidence."
The task force has proposed five standards, which are summarized in the article. The thrust behind this effort is that technology changes faster than the ability of the system to update the rules accordingly (which is also the subject of one of the proposed standards regarding storage medium). For attorneys looking to get their feet wet in ED, the proposed standards offer a nice checklist of the types of data involved, cost-sharing issues, and more. For more experienced cyber-litigators, it's helpful to see which way the wind is blowing as the profession attempts to address these issues. These proposed standards may indeed assist in forming the basis of Electronic Discovery Best Practices.
February 02, 2004
E-Gads -- New Pentiums add E-GHz
Today, Intel is bringing out five new Pentium chips with a sixth due out later this quarter, according to ZDNet:
"The new crop of Pentium 4s, which will spawn a number of new desktop PC models, will include three chips based on a fresh processor design, code-named Prescott. Intel will add two new speed versions of its current Pentium 4, dubbed Northwood. A sixth Prescott Pentium 4, running at 3.4GHz will be announced Monday, but it won't be available until later in the quarter.
Now, did everyone catch all the technolingo? Pop-quiz on each new chip in five minutes! ;^)
The Wizard of OS: Should You Upgrade?
Microsoft Windows 9x (95, 98, ME, and their sub-versions) have been around for a long time. Probably the most successful, and relatively stable of the bunch was Windows 98 Second Edition. In business and home use, it is arguably the best of the 9x series. However, it's over five years old, and in computer doggie years, that makes it fairly ancient. Add to the fact that Microsoft has already begun phasing out support for Windows 98, and it raises some tough questions.
However, should you upgrade all of your computers to Windows XP? The answer to this loaded question is the typical lawyer's response: It depends.
An Operating System (OS) upgrade cannot be considered in a vacuum. There are practical hardware requirements, software application considerations, and the fact that OS upgrades often are the tail that wags the IT budget dog. If you upgrade an OS to one that is several generations newer, oftentimes it will cost much more than the OS upgrade to get new hardware capable of running it, plus obtaining new programs, peripherals, and their associated drivers that will work with the new OS.
Here to help answer that question are two good TechRepublic articles which nicely illustrate both sides of the coin:
For business use, I still lean towards Windows XP upgrades because of the enhanced stability, and the fact that you are buying into longer overall support -- Windows XP won't be replaced until Longhorn comes out in 2006, so there's virtually no chance Microsoft is going to phase out support for Windows XP any time soon. This also means that software vendors will need to support it for some time yet. Also, if you are considering doing any type of networking between two or more computers, whether it's wired Ethernet or Wi-Fi, I strongly recommend paying the extra money for Windows XP Professional over the Home edition. The difference is usually less than $100 and the enhanced networking support will more than pay itself back in saved time.
However, if you have critical legacy software or hardware that you must continue to use for whatever reason, then an XP upgrade may generate some serious challenges that requires savvy planning and implementation talent. If your application program versions are mostly up-to-date, then an XP upgrade may not be too painful overall. Also, if you're still running Windows NT, run, don't walk, to upgrade to Windows XP if you have sufficient hardware. NT's architecture was fairly unique and clunky, and it lacks support for any USB device, so many software and hardware developers have already dropped it from their supported OS list. If you're running Windows 2000, it's still a good operating system that has much in common with Windows XP under the hood, and will likely to be supported for a while yet.
Windows 98 SE is still a good home and SOHO computer OS for people with older hardware. Let's face it, if most of your tasks are related to running Corel WordPerfect or Microsoft Office coupled with Internet access (most notably, web surfing and e-mail), some light printing and graphical tasks, and some miscellaneous fun, then you don't need a lot of CPU power to get by for a little while longer. Windows XP will choke on some slower processors with less memory installed.
The main concern I have at this time is that if you need to buy programs that are updated annually, you may get a surprise to find that Windows 98 was quietly and suddenly dropped from its supported list. Windows 95 and even NT have already dropped off a lot of software vendors lists. So Windows 98 is definitely next, despite its huge popularity. However, as good as Windows 98 was, in terms of stability, it can't hold a candle to Windows XP. In Win98, when one program crashes, it can still take your entire computing session and unsaved work with it.
Lest one wonders why on earth I would be discussing Windows 98 when most new computers have been shipping with either Windows 2000 or XP for several years now: I still know a lot of people who run Windows 98 on their home PC, as well as solo and small firm practitioners who are just trying to get by with what they have. Hopefully, this post will help them determine where they want to go both today and tomorrow.
January 30, 2004
Five Good Articles on Electronic Discovery Issues
Via Law.com, these links to five articles from the Law Technology News magazine on EDD (Electronic Data Discovery) are well worth the read:
January 26, 2004
Just Around the Corner: New PCs and Longhorn
Okay, with a release date set for 2006, Longhorn, Microsoft's long awaited successor to Windows XP, is farther off than just around the corner. However, that doesn't dim the usefulness of two great articles at CIO.com.
First up, "Dawn of a New PC" explores what to expect in next-generation PCs. (Hint: Raw speed isn't everything.) Next, "The Real Meaning of Longhorn" takes a good look under its hood. First, be prepared for a serious hardware upgrade to take full advantage of its new features. Second, with XML at Longhorn's core, the distinction between desktop and webtop apps will be blurred considerably.
January 16, 2004
More Legal Tech Trends for 2004
The beginning of a new year naturally brings a number of predictions, or put more accurately, trend analysis. Ron Friedmann kicked things off with his savvy crystal ball, and Dennis Kennedy just posted his. As usual, these are excellent articles well worth the read.
To these interesting points, I'll add five of my own:
I believe a number of projects law firms will be working on this year won't be "new" per se, but in actuality are a natural extension from their prior efforts. Specifically:
Over the past five years, law firms have invested massive amounts of time and money to install and upgrade office suites, billing and accounting, e-mail, practice management (CMS, DMS, KMS, etc.), marketing, contact management, human resources, recruiting, and intranet and extranet systems, among others. The problem is that for the most part, the data is still located in silos throughout the organization. In many cases, human resources, marketing, accounting, and practice groups all have their various databases in separate applications. In terms of internal business intelligence and responding to RFP's, there are just too many hurdles in the way. In order to gain the necessary productivity, effectiveness, and timely responses to inquiries, firms are looking at ways to bridge these gaps.
2. E-mail & Attachment Management
Most businesses have a real love/hate relationship with e-mail. Spam, viruses, web bugs, malware, document retention, electronic discovery, attachment management, and content search and retrieval has become some of the largest challenges to both IT directors and lawyers alike. Then mix in the additional issues with instant messaging and instant file transfer. As Dennis Kennedy has aptly stated, spam and spam filtering has broken the trust upon which we've come to rely in communicating via e-mail.
Thus identifying and implementing effective solutions to these challenges will most likely be high on the project lists. The problem is that there is no one program, no silver bullet, that will magically address all of these issues. With that said, more documents are received electronically, and there are systems available which help automate the storage and indexing of e-mail attachments. Note the use of the word "help", as the human element is still critical. Therefore, look for firms to try to find an acceptable balance between automatic system controls (i.e., spam filtering), ease of use, and meeting both their staff's and clients' needs in filing and finding those electronic needles in ever-growing haystacks.
3. Proactive Client Partnering
There have been quite a number of recent articles explaining why law firms get fired by in-house counsel. Controlling costs, lack of responsiveness, and failure to adapt to their clients' evolving needs are among the top reasons. Firms who want to retain their clients for the long haul are learning the value of proactively meeting with them to best determine what they want and what they need. There's been a lot of buzz regarding how portals can bridge this gap. However, the smart firms will be the ones who take the time to get to know their clients' business, and work backwards to mold their services (professional, technological, etc.) to fit those needs like a glove. A portfolio approach in this regard will serve firms quite well. Lastly, they need to bake these new processes into their staff's daily routine so they are not perceived as "extra work".
4. Electronic Discovery & Litigation Support
This topic was already mentioned in other "trends" articles, and for good reason -- this is hot technology. Lawyers in firms of all sizes are being dragged into electronic discovery whether they like it or not. Nearly gone are the days of the gentleman's agreement, "I won't ask for yours if you don't ask for mine." Ever-increasing percentages of electronic documents and data never make it to paper. New cases are refining the factors used for determining scope and cost-shifting. Thus it's probably only a matter of time until lack of due diligence in electronic discovery-related matters will have consequences with many sharp teeth.
In addition, there has been an explosion of new service provider entrants in this area. Lawyers don't have time to meet with them all. So the savvy law firms are compiling a list of "preferred providers", ones they've pre-screened or have tested previously. Recalling the previously "Hot" ASP market from several years ago has taught us this lesson: Trickling down, this will result in shakeout and consolidation in the ED market over the next several years. Indeed, there is already noticeable instability in this market niche. I have observed much mobility of key people between ED vendors -- people I've spoken with at one provider only 6-12 months ago are now with a competitor. Some ED businesses are already being acquired by larger companies. Expect all of these activities to continue during 2004 and beyond as the marketplace continues to self-adjust.
5. Mobile Technology
Let's face it: The more one uses technology, the more one generally becomes dependent upon it. Thus having access to the right information at the right time at the right location is key. Remote access isn't enough anymore. Professionals need mobile access to their calendars, address/cell phone books, e-mail, document attachments, research, notes, databases (both online and internal), and much more from a growing number of locations. Thus look for firms to take more of a portfolio approach to their mobile technology systems and offerings, rather than having just one or two pat solutions. A combination of desktop-like remote access, webified program extensions, wireless (Wi-Fi, broadband cellular, Blackberries, Palms, combo devices like the Treo 600, etc.) are already being offered at firms. Therefore, look for savvy firms to approach these not as discrete technologies, but as part of a broader plan to further integrate and yet untether their attorneys.
Well, there you have it -- my take on where things are headed for 2004. While challenging, most of these are not "rocket science", but rather are just the next evolutionary steps for those willing to move forward.
January 06, 2004
New MS Office 2003/XP Add-in to Remove Hidden Data
Microsoft just published a free tool to remove hidden data (metadata) from the following Office applications:
Microsoft's overview states: "With this add-in you can permanently remove hidden and collaboration data, such as change tracking and comments, from Word 2003/XP, Excel 2003/XP, and PowerPoint 2003/XP files." There is a "readme" file included in its installation which provides a complete list of all of the types of data that the tool will help to remove.
Per MS, "you can run the Remove Hidden Data add-in on individual files from within your Office XP or Office 2003 application. Or, you can run Remove Hidden Data on multiple files at once from the command line."
Here's the big catch (you knew there had to be one): Currently, the only supported operating system for this add-in is Windows XP. Microsoft states that "[t]he Remove Hidden Data add-in has not been tested on Microsoft Windows 2000. Also, the add-in cannot be installed on Windows 98 or Windows Millennium Edition." While I'll resist the temptation to mention this appears to be yet another MS ploy to drive Win XP upgrades, I have to admit the thought crossed my mind. It could also be that MS wanted to release it as soon as they had a Win XP-ready add-in. Here's hoping they will support other Windows versions (but I'm also not holding my breath on this one).
Apparently this add-in is free to licensed users of these programs. Please note this is not a separate standalone program, so you must have the necessary Office program installed in Windows XP for the add-in to work. Microsoft's web page above also lists a number of helpful tips, such as saving to a new file so as to preserve any wanted items (e.g., Track Changes) in the original collaborated files.
I mentioned the readme file so that savvy users could compare its functionality to other metadata removers on the market. Although it's free, I strongly suggest that you make sure this tool removes everything you need it to remove. If it doesn't, then I recommend obtaining a program that will do the necessary job rather than rely upon this free utility. Otherwise, it could create a false sense of security, which when relied upon can cause many of the same problems as not using a metadata remover at all. Still, if you do not currently have a metadata remover and use the Office XP or Office 2003 suites, then using this add-in is probably better than the alternative.
On another note, while speaking at a recent legal technology conference, I was glad I attended a presentation from Donna Payne of Payne Consulting. She emphasized that metadata issues and improved metadata control is at least one compelling reason to upgrade to either Office XP or 2003 from prior versions. Of course, she then "scared us straight" by demonstrating metadata issues about which MS was unaware until she showed them. Yikes.
January 04, 2004
Palm OS Devices Deliver Lower TCO, Higher Satisfaction than Pocket PCs
I sometimes get asked why I favor Palm OS devices over Pocket PCs. My short answer is that in my humble opinion, Palm-powered devices are simply easier to learn and use out of the box (i.e., are more intuitive) and have many thousands of programs available. Chances are that if I'm looking to do something new on my Palm-powered PDA, someone else has already thought of it and posted a program (often free) or the solution online. Here's not only my thoughts on this much-debated topic, but the survey results of thousands of PDA-toting PC World readers regarding reliability and service. It confirms much of my own experiences and why firms are smart to support them.
Only now am I beginning to seriously eye up the Treo 600 as its replacement. The GSM model is a true world phone and GSM phones often get nearly double the battery life compared to their TDMA and CDMA counterparts. Also, the SIM card portability of account and other information between phones is very handy indeed. However, the swiss cheese-like U.S. GSM coverage maps are still problematic as the Treo 600 has no analog or other fallback capabilities, so it's GSM all or nothing. Metro areas aren't much problem, but I still want better coverage overall. After all, I live in Wisconsin, which has many great outdoor activities throughout the state and I like to have a cell phone along for safety reasons.
With Palm-based devices, I've had very few problems that couldn't be corrected in fairly short order. Lastly, with nothing more than the stock plastic snap-on cover and a screen protector, my Handspring Visor Platinum has weathered and endured numerous drops, car keys in the same pocket, and worse with nary an adverse effect. It's been one tough hombre and is still in great shape. That plus its unique ability to plug in memory card, modem, and PowerPoint presenter modules has extended its use and kept me satisfied for a long time. How does your PDA compare?
Well, as I said above, it looks like the December issue of PC World magazine confirms my Palm OS-powered experiences. The conclusions drawn from their reader survey reports:
"There's a clear consensus in our survey of handheld owners: Respondents with PDAs that run the Palm operating system had a better time than those running PocketPC-based PDAs. The three companies at the top of the reliability class, Handspring, Palm, and Sony, all use the Palm OS. Meanwhile, companies including HP, Dell, and Toshiba--all of whose PDAs run the PocketPC operating system--lag behind this group."
The PC World article also posted the reader rankings of specific PDA manufacturers for reliability and service.
Am I biased? You bet -- biased by my direct numerous positive experiences with Palm-powered devices. This certainly seems echoed by Walt Mossberg in his recent WSJ Personal Tech column. While reviewing the same two new Pocket PC-powered smartphones I reported on here back in November, he even goes so far to mention "the brilliant Treo 600, from palmOne, uses the Palm operating system and is the gold standard in smart phones." He had more positive things to say about the Treo 600 back in September when it debuted.
While Pocket PC's have improved overall, I've tried playing around with them and still conclude that for the average person, the Palm OS is still easier to use. Note that I'm not saying "more powerful" or "better". The processing power of high-end Palms and Pocket PC's is quite comparable. "Better" would be far too subjective, and that call depends upon how close a particular PDA met its owner's specific needs and style of working.
A PalmInfocenter post covering this survey reports that "Palm OS owners had 22% fewer support problems, and were more likely to be highly satisfied than their Microsoft-powered counterparts according to the 32 thousand subscriber respondents."
Fewer problems equate to a lower support cost and lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). For any firm that supports handheld use, they know firsthand how that makes a difference both in productivity and the bottom line.
December 06, 2003
Legal Uses for Tablet PCs
I was pondering where Tablet PCs might fit in well with legal practice needs, and recalled Marc Lauritsen's recent ABA LPM Magazine article, "Smart Pads on the Wireless Web". He did a nice job itemizing a number of things one might be able to do on a Tablet PC, particularly considering the pen (or stylus) interface, namely:
With Marc's extensive expertise in document assembly systems, he insightfully picked up on the opportunities that an automated and pre-populated practice system would bring. He also notes that web-enabled knowledge tools and Wi-Fi accessibility further enhance its capabilities.
However, he aptly observes that we're not quite "there" yet:
"[...] legal technology vendors have yet to adjust their software for optimal performance in tablet modes. Handwriting recognition, like voice recognition, still makes too many mistakes. [...] We need more Wi-Fi hot spots—and unquestioned data integrity.I agree with Marc that tablet PCs won't truly be "enabled" for legal professionals until there are legal-specific tablet-based systems and tools available. Palm-based PDA usage soared as the needed applications (including Windows-based data synchronization programs) entered the marketplace. Will software developers rush out and create them for the legal tablet market? I believe the answer to that question is ultimately dependent upon how deeply tablet PCs penetrate the legal market. Right now, very few attorneys use them. As with regular PC-based document assembly, many forms and other documents are jurisdiction-specific, further limiting their marketability.
Thus we may eventually see several developer niches for tablets. However, I think that is still a ways off, again, because there is not a substantial market to which they can currently sell. It's partially a chicken-and-the-egg conundrum: Developers need legal professionals to buy and use more tablet PCs, in order to grow the potential market to where it is viable for developers to jump in. However, many attorneys may not buy a tablet PC until they know there are legal-specific tablet applications to justify the investment. This reluctance will most likely continue while tablet PCs command a substantial price premium over traditional, higher performance notebooks. When tablets equalize with notebook prices, we should logically see wider adoption.
Another factor could contribute to faster adoption: Current PC-based software developers might be able to add tablet-based features, and therefore extend their existing programs, with only a marginal cost required. This leveraging or adaptation of existing applications could break the status quo stalemate and give the market the necessary boost.
For the near-term, however, I believe that if attorneys want to be have such a well-enabled tablet-based practice system, they will more likely have to develop them in-house or with the direct assistance of a qualified consultant or vendor. Of course, some developer may come along and prove me wrong, but that's my best educated guess for now. The convergence of PDA and laptop features into the tablet format is definitely intriguing. I'm still waiting for the evolutionary break to make them compelling to more than just the early adopters in the legal market.
December 01, 2003
What To Do When You Get an Odd Electronic File
It's only a matter of time before you receive a data file you can't open. Perhaps it was created by a program you don't have, such as a CAD or a graphic design program. Regardless, the first thing you'll need to do is identify the type of file.
I've collected a list of sites that identify and describe computer file types by their extension or suffix, e.g. .BMP for Windows Bitmap file. This is particularly handy when dealing with files obtained from clients, opposing and co-counsel, or various parties via electronic discovery, especially when you don't have copies of the original programs that created them:
Then, of course, you'll need to open the file in a program that can understand it. Therefore, having a versatile file viewer is a handy tool for viewing and/or printing those files. While there are a lot of them, I particularly like these two:
File viewers, while not a complete substitute for the full original program, also enable you to open a suspect file safely. They do so by opening the data files without executing any embedded malware such as viruses or trojans.
Lastly, some software developers provide free downloadable viewers so that people without their software can still view those formats. Adobe has long made their Acrobat Reader free via download. Even Microsoft offers some freebies. For example, Microsoft provides free viewers for Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Access, and Visio. Other vendors' viewers are easily found via some savvy Google searches.
So the next time you receive that oddball file, there is much more help at your fingertips than you may have realized.
November 20, 2003
Highlights from the WI Law & Technology Conference
I had the privilege and pleasure of presenting at the annual Wisconsin Law & Technology Conference & Expo in Milwaukee this week. As I've participated in each of the last three years' shows, this was the best one yet as it just gets better every year. It was very well attended, and featured national speakers such as Kingsley Martin, Craig Ball, Donna Payne, Dale Tincher, David Whelan, Sheryn Bruehl, Ross Kodner, and a host of great talent from across the state.
My presentation was on mobile lawyering, and it was satisfying to see a large number of WI attorneys looking to improve their mobile capabilities to serve their clients better as well as make things easier and more efficient for themselves. This is a favorite topic for me, and it was fun to present with David Whelan from the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center, who was full of great tips and tricks, being another mobile gadget hound.
Kingsley Martin gave a thought-provoking luncheon keynote about KM and the "skeptic's toolbox", which are methods for quantifying leverage and return on investment. He is one of the few people I know who can take complex mathematical formulas, break them down, and explain them in byte-sized chunks for lawyers to understand. If you ever get a chance to see Kingsley speak, run, don't walk to see him.
Lastly, as a fellow lawyer once said to me, "in a perverse desire to increase my anxiety level", I attended Craig Ball's and Donna Payne's session on "Computer Forensics For Lawyers". Craig was as entertaining and educational as ever, and Donna showed us some very scary aspects of metadata that shocked even the Microsoft folks when she had showed them (which is another scary thought in of itself). Suffice it to say, lawyers and businesses working with common business software (MS Office, WordPerfect, Adobe Acrobat, etc.) need to have very good metadata cleaner tools and need to know exactly which features in Word to turn on and more importantly, off. This is one of those sessions that could have been called "Computer Forensics: Scared Straight for Lawyers".
All in all, it was a well-planned and executed conference, and if you're in the area, I strongly encourage you to attend next year's show.
November 17, 2003
Wireless Networking Made Understandable
The November issue of the ABA Law Practice Today e-zine is out, and features no less than five great articles on wireless networking. While they were all informative, I particularly enjoyed Jeff Flax's article which warns against using Wi-Fi networks until the security holes are better addressed. All in all, another great job by the LPT team.
November 10, 2003
Microsoft to Release Office 2003 Add-On Today
Per CNET News, Microsoft should release today one of the first add-on packages for Office 2003: a bundle of software and services aimed at helping sales professionals create better proposals. It's available as a free download for Office 2003 customers enrolled in Microsoft's Software Assurance licensing program. What looks promising is that planned packages include tools for creating financial reports and administering compliance projects for new Sarbanes-Oxley Act accounting rules.
Today's package includes templates and tools to help sales professionals create proposals. According to CNET, it also includes guidelines for building services that cull data from corporate databases, so proposals reflect the latest facts and figures. It uses XML and Web services to tap into the corporate knowledge base.
Say, for example, you receive an RFP that asks how many financial institution M&A's your firm has done. It sounds like there is potential for integrating the data between your back office and front office suites. However, I note that it states "guidelines for building services", so some assembly may be required. Just in time for Christmas.
October 24, 2003
EMC/Documentum Head Scratching
Several days ago, I made a post about the consolidation moves in the document management and content management provider markets. As I mentioned, the iManage/Interwoven deal made immediate sense to me. Only time will tell if it's financially successful, but the strategic importance is self-evident.
However, EMC's acquisition of Documentum left me scratching my head. Would acquiring a software company make a large impact on increasing demand or achieving market growth for EMC's hardware storage solutions? Thus I originally decided to decline commenting on the situation while I considered it. Was it a desperate move, or is EMC being crazy like a fox in getting a jump ahead? Since I first read the announcement, frankly, my money has been leaning more on the former interpretation.
Well, at least I now have some company. Rick Klau, a fellow visionary and tech-savvy attorney, has saved me the blogging exercise. He recently posted many of the same thoughts that likewise made me say, "Huh?" about the deal. Nice job, Rick.
October 21, 2003
Document Management Consolidation and Evolution
Ron Friedmann has an insightful post on his Strategic Legal Technology blog outlining some of the recent developments (i.e., consolidations) in the DMS developer community. I've been watching these with more than a little interest. The iManage/Interwoven merger sends a clear signal that portalizing your DMS with a content management system is one big enabler and business driver for firms and clients alike (think of the collaboration and KM implications alone). This is a key trend which bears watching, and in my humble opinion, participation from law firms who want to keep their edge in the market.
Ron offered several comments which struck a chord with my thoughts on the matter:
"The business dynamics of the DMS space may be changing and law firm technology managers - both operational and strategic - should keep an eye on the market."
I've recently commented on Longhorn's anticipated storage capabilities and how Microsoft's combination of NTFS, SQL Server, and XML data labeling could be an important single storage solution if it lives up to the hype.
Document management isn't going away, but how documents are managed, secured, shared, and presented is evolving at a quicker pace. Add to this the fact that Microsoft's Office 2003 suite's main feature improvement is the addition of digital rights management, and you can see how important this trend has become.
While you're at Ron's site, I highly recommend reading his immediately prior post on "Knowledge Management and Law Firm Compensation". Ron aptly describes why firms with "lock step" partner compensation are perceived to better able support significant KM initiatives over competitors with "eat what you kill" compensation. However, he uses UK firm Clifford Chance's recent partner defections to suggest that pressures may be developing against UK firms maintaining their primarily lock step systems. It will be interesting to see the impact on KM initiatives moving forward.
October 16, 2003
Microsoft's Sneek Peek at Longhorn Storage Transition
Microsoft unpacks details of Longhorn storage "The Longhorn edition of Microsoft's Windows operating system is at least two years away--but the company is revealing some details on how it intends to create a smooth transition from today's Windows PCs."
"One of the most significant enhancements to Longhorn is a data storage system called WinFS, technology designed to make information easier to find and view. Clearing up long-standing confusion, a Microsoft senior vice president said that WinFS will work with--not replace--the existing file system in Windows, called NTFS, when WinFS debuts in late 2005 or 2006.
WinFS "uses NTFS," Bob Muglia, senior vice president of Microsoft's enterprise storage and enterprise management divisions, told CNET News.com. "We built on top. NTFS does what it does incredibly well."
Essentially, Microsoft is trying to create a single storage solution that would work across various types of applications. Their WinFS strategy builds on NTFS while pulling together other technologies such as the querying capabilities of Microsoft's SQL Server relational database, and incorporating the data labeling capabilities of Extensible Markup Language (XML). It will be interesting to see if MS really pulls this off or whether it's just another MMP (Microsoft Marketing Ploy). In the meantime, we get to enjoy XP for several more years. Security issues aside, compared to prior Windows releases, living with XP isn't a bad 3-year sentence in my opinion.
September 28, 2003
Better Check Your Zipper
While thumbing through the Sept. 2003 issue of PCWorld, I saw an update on the WinZip / PKZip encryption incompatibility problem. In essence there's been no progress, so it was mainly a caution: For now, if you're using the newest version of either program and sharing Zipped files with others, you'll probably want to send them as unencrypted, standard .ZIP files. Read on for more details.
In a nutshell, PKWare, original makers of PKZip for DOS and Windows, introduced new encryption technology earlier this year. However, according to the press, they chose not to post or share the specs with their main competitor, WinZip. Naturally WinZip Computing felt they had to offer better encryption, as normal password-protected Zip files have been easy to crack for some time. So WinZip introduced a different encryption method, and thus the newest versions of PKZip and WinZip generate incompatible encrypted .ZIP files.
This brainy move between the two developers blows the one thing the Zip format really had going for it -- full compatibility. Also, a new WinZip 9.0 beta feature allows the new Zip format to hold more than 65,535 files and be larger than 4GB, which wasn't possible nor is compatible with older versions of either program.
To confuse things even further, both Zipping programs use the same .ZIP file extension for the standard (unencrypted) and encrypted Zip files . Many have suggested they simply implement a second file extension for encrypted Zip files -- to make it much easier for users to differentiate between the two when they download or receive them via e-mail attachments. But, no dice -- it appears they want to keep slugging it out between themselves at their customers' expense. (Uh guys, really bad plan...)
Ever since WinZip beat PKZip to the Windows platform years ago, they've been the clear leader in market share. My money is on WinZip, especially since they released their encryption specification back on May 12th. This is key so that others making Zip-compatible software can incorporate it into their own programming. Since PKWare has been less forthcoming, many question its intentions for keeping Zip an open standard. This move also makes it doubtful their new format will become the new Zip standard or will even be used by others. (That "bad plan" thing keeps coming up, doesn't it?)
The good news is that they both continue to generate the standard compatible .ZIP file if the new encryption is not used, and you don't create larger Zip files than what was supported previously. So unless you know for sure which Zipping program and version your recipient is using, you're best off not using any new encryption or compression feature, unless it's for yourself. No sense in sending a client a file they can't use. If you're regularly receiving Zip files from clients or vendors, you may just want to send them a quick e-mail asking them to use the standard "classic" features, for lack of a better term.
September 25, 2003
A New Outlook on Spam and Web Bugs
The New York Times has a fairly balanced review of Microsoft Office 2003 by one of my favorite technology columnists, David Pogue.
Essentially, his review says that other than adding DRM (Digital Rights Management), and some minor enhancements, there's nothing new worth noting in the core office programs (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint).
However, Outlook 2003 is a completely different story, if you'll pardon the pun. I've been following Outlook 2003's development, and there have been many noteworthy improvements. While the new 3-column view sounds interesting, it's far down the page on my long Outlook wishlist. Happily, several of my Mt. Everest-sized pet peeves with Outlook 2002 appear to have been addressed per Mr. Pogue, namely:
"Outlook now comes with excellent automatic spam filtering. In my two-week test, it nabbed about 95 percent of junk mail as spam yet never flagged a legitimate message as spam. It makes a huge difference.
Finally!!! With Outlook 2002, I've been seeking a workable solution to blocking web bugs -- for the very reason listed in the previous paragraph. While I've turned off the preview pane and am pretty good in identifying spam prior before opening it, every so often a particular spam message is crafted to look like it could be legit -- spammers just get trickier every day. Almost invariably, opening it up results in the same spam-induced propagation: the very slight pause while it fetches the web bug graphic from the remote server, logs my address, and adds me to the list of people who likewise said "Here I am, I'm a live e-mail account, please send me a lot more spam, thanks!", simply by opening or previewing that bug-laden message. Argghhh.
So far I've found several ways to turn off images in HTML-formatted e-mails in Outlook 2002, but they're all pretty kludgy, especially for non-techies, and some are not easily toggled on and off on demand (unless you enjoy closing Outlook, swapping Windows registry settings, and relaunching Outlook after the change). Also, some solutions strip ALL images from all e-mails when opened, which of course makes a number of desired e-mail newsletters difficult to view in the way intended.
Thus I found the best way in 2002 is not to disable images at all, but to add the "AutoPreview" button to your Outlook toolbar. Then, before you open a seemingly legit message, you can briefly turn on AutoPreview (this is not the same thing as Preview Pane, which should be avoided, trust me) to display the first few lines of text without fetching the web bug, the remote graphic file. It's not perfect, but it definitely helps.
So say what you will about Microsoft and their lack of innovation and security in many of their products, including the core Office suite, and I'll most likely agree with you. However, regarding Outlook 2003, this is one small shining moment where I actually look forward to a new release from Redmond.
[via beSpacific, thanks Sabrina]
September 07, 2003
Welcome to LawTech Guru!
Welcome to my humble blog. Hopefully, you're interested in learning how you can improve your professional and personal endeavors by using technology, trying new approaches, or perhaps you simply enjoy hearing about cool new things.
As I haven't added an "About" page yet, here's a brief introduction: I'm an attorney-turned-consultant with a uniquely blended background in law, business management, and computer technology. I've previously consulted with over 100 law firms, and have been in-house with Quarles & Brady LLP, in Milwaukee, WI for the past five years. Quarles has 400+ attorneys, and is among the 60 largest law firms in the United States.
I'm a frequent author and national presenter, and recently served on the ABA TECHSHOW executive planning board. Lastly, all opinions and information stated here are of my own personal endeavor, and not that of my employer.
It's ironic how one can make the largest difference by doing a simple thing: communicate. I am often amazed by the improvement gained just by showing someone how to use something they already have, or pointing out something new that's actually useful (what a concept!). All of which are reasons why I created the LawTech Guru Blog. That, and an insatiable desire to write and share ideas.
Of course, learning and playing with new tech toys is irresistable too. Enjoy!
P.S. Last but not least, many thank-you's go to Jerry Lawson, Dennis Kennedy, and Larry Bodine for their generous comments and feedback for this blog. Likewise, Chris Duecker and Jack Holmes at Quarles & Brady LLP were phenomenal in their web coding ideas and suggestions.