Law Firm IT Whiplash

Head and Neck - Gray1194The Mayo Clinic staff describe whiplash as,

a neck injury that can occur during rear-end automobile collisions, when your head suddenly moves backward and then forward — similar to the motion of someone cracking a whip. These extreme motions push your neck muscles and ligaments beyond their normal range of motion.

Whiplash is what I experienced this weekend. The backward movement happened when I read early reviews of the newly released ILTA 2014 Technology Survey. The forward movement occurred when I read Riverview Law’s announcement of its new Software-as-a-Service offering entitled “In-House Solutions.”

Without a doubt, the ILTA survey is an enormous undertaking that provides a real service to the legal industry by shining a light on current IT practices among law firms. As Jobst Elster of Inside Legal reported, the survey results reflect the input of “454 law firms (33% of the ILTA membership representing more than 106,000 attorneys and 217,000 total users) responding to almost 200 questions about what technologies they are using to run their firms.”

Legal IT for the rest of us

While ILTA provides this incredible resource to the legal industry, it is not responsible for the data. That responsibility lies at the feet of law firm technologists and the senior partners of each firm who make the technology decisions. In reviewing the survey’s findings, Ron Friedmann of Prism Legal noted the following:

  • Social Networking and Collaboration Tools: “The results here disappoint but do not surprise.”
  • Legal Project Management and Budgeting: “The survey did not ask about  legal project management, pricing, or budgeting software. … As clients demand value and as more firms respond, demand for LPM, budgeting, and pricing software surely will grow. So I hope the survey will cover this area in the future.”
  • Contact Management and Marketing: “Corporate CMOs looking at these results, if they understood all the software listed, would undoubtedly chuckle.”
  • Predictive Coding / Computer-Assisted Review: “…I was surprised to see what I consider fairly low percents of larger law firms using what I thought was a well-established (if not universally accepted) technology and process.”
  • Document Assembly: “Less than half of responding firms report using any document assembly.”
  • Chargebacks to Clients: “Many firms continue charging for items that many clients likely consider overhead.”

There may be good news inside the survey, but the items noted by Ron Friedmann, Randi Mayes (ILTA’s executive director) and Jobst Elster suggest that, among survey respondents, law firm IT is constrained externally by client concerns about security and internally by partner concerns about cost.

Legal IT for the best of us

What’s behind the new Riverview Law product? According to their website, they are responding to a clear client need:

Having met our people and seen what we do, visiting General Counsel and In-house lawyers often ask whether we will license our technology. Whether we can help them design, implement and roll-out processes, workflows, and data analytics tailored to their in-house function. As one General Counsel commented “If I had your systems, if I could tailor your model to my function, it would help my team make quicker and better decisions.”

In the words of Karl Chapman, Riverview Law’s CEO,  they are “taking the Riverview Law model and enabling general counsels and legal teams internally to actually tailor it to suit their business.”  This means that corporate legal departments that purchase these tools get the benefit of the technology platform that gives Riverview Law a competive advantage in delivering managed legal services. Their SaaS customers can now use the Riverview expertise embodied in a collection of modules to

  • manage the flow of matters,
  • manage “new contract creation from start to finish via multi-channels (desktop, tablet, mobile)”, and
  • manage their processes and productivity through the analytics module that “provides detailed management information and business insight” to help GCs “preempt risk and reduce future cost.”

As Katy Robson, Riverview Law’s head of IT, observed: they have built these tools from the bottom-up, from the lawyer’s perspective and reflecting lawyer user requirements. Equally, they have built these tools from the top-down to ensure the tools provide the necessary data and analytical capability to run a legal business more efficiently.

 Treating whiplash

So what happens after you suffer from whiplash? According to the helpful Mayo Clinic staff:

Whiplash injuries can be mild or severe. Treatment typically begins with over-the-counter pain relievers and ice applied to the painful neck muscles. If pain persists, prescription medications and physical therapy may be helpful.

Most people recover from whiplash in just a few weeks, but some people may develop chronic pain after a whiplash injury.

While most people recover within a few weeks, I suspect the denizens of the legal industry will take much longer. However, all is not lost. Karl Chapman has kindly offered to license their technology to in-house counsel who do not use Riverview Law’s managed services. I wonder how other law firms will respond when their clients purchase Riverview Law’s In-House Solutions? The contrast between a client’s new software-enabled efficiency and their external counsel’s approach could be quite striking.

[Photo credit: Wikipedia]

 

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4 thoughts on “Law Firm IT Whiplash

  • December 9, 2014 at 10:19 am
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    Hey, Mary – great post, as always! My thought to add: Maybe another solution for the whiplash we experience in reading the ILTA results (and comparing them to the Riverview announcement) might be a determined effort by ILTA to include law department tech leaders in their surveys going forward, and to examine how in-house lawyers are deploying technologies to the operations and collaborative efforts of their law department when working with firms, LPOs and other legal service industry suppliers. I find it incredibly perverse that so much attention is placed on law firm tech issues without a corresponding effort to examine client use of technology or even an effort to connect law firm tech efforts more deliberately to the client solutions those firms are hopefully focusing on (in addition to their internal operational tech issues). Maybe they will thus be able to cover events like the Riverview Law offering as part of their reports going forward. Legal life is measurable in places far beyond law firms, and it’s the life on one of those alternative universes that pays law firms’ bills.

  • December 9, 2014 at 10:46 am
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    Susan –

    Thanks for reminding us that there is more to the legal industry that just law firms. I like your idea of surveying the entire legal ecosystem. It would surface mismatches and opportunities.

    Undoubtedly, expanding the ILTA survey to include law departments would require some work, but ILTA is uniquely placed to do this since it has members from both law departments and law firms. I hope ILTA a will find a way to expand our view of the legal industry’s technology.

    – Mary

  • December 14, 2014 at 6:39 am
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    Excellent comment Susan and great post Mary. Thanks. In house side is overlooked. Large legal departments have been pushing the boundaries for long time already. Law firms seem to be much slower to respond. I have just recently sent a survey to Finnish General Counsels asking for their opinions on legal department and legal services status and development needs. The first response seems very interesting. I will share at some data and conclusions early 2015 in our Laissa blog .

  • December 16, 2014 at 1:59 pm
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    Thanks very much, Jorma. I’m looking forward to learning more about the results of your survey.

    – Mary

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