When Clients and Law Firms ACTUALLY Collaborate #ILTACON

2016_ILTACON_logoSession Title: A New Approach to Aligning the Objectives of Outside Counsel, In-House Legal, and Corporate Business

Session Description: The past few years have brought a lot of discussion about how to better align the interests of law departments and their outside counsel through alternative fee arrangements, but the discussions generally end there. What if there was an approach that aligned outside counsel and legal departments in their pursuit of better business outcomes that extended beyond pricing? How can the strength of that relationship help demonstrate the value that the legal department brings to the organization as a whole? Come hear a case study exploring how one legal department and its panel of law firms have partnered differently and how their holistic approach to solving legal problems has the power to transform the way the department delivers value to the business.

Speakers:

  • Chris EmersonDirector, Practice Economics Bryan Cave, LLP
  • Bryon KoepkeSVP, Chief Securities Counsel Avis Budget Group, Inc.
  • David A. RueffShareholder and Legal Project Management Officer, Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz

Session Slides: Available through the ILTACON website

[These are my notes from the International Legal Technology Association’s 2016 Conference. I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, so they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]

NOTES:

  • The Avis Story.  They undertook a convergence effort to reduce their legal panel from 700 law firms to seven firms globally. The winning seven firms are guaranteed work, provided they maintain expected quality levels. In addition, these firms work within a “target” (or fixed) fee structure. This convergence provided several benefits for the Avis legal department and their related business clients:
    • reduced administrative burden
    • cost certainty
    • legal risk mitigation
    • increased efficiencies in legal services
    • improved business outcomes
  • The New Way in which Avis wanted to work with its panel firms:
    • focus Avis resources on tiers of work that were created based on business risk and complexity
    • foster collaboration between Avis and its panel firms, as well as among the panel firms themselves
    • provide incentives to panel firms to invest in innovations that result in better business outcomes for Avis
  • The Work. Avis did a wide-ranging risk assessment and then asked their panel firms to bid on the work. Avis identified 3 categories of work:
    • Cream — high-risk work that requires high levels of legal expertise
    • Core — moderate-risk work that requires moderate levels of legal expertise
    • Commodity — low-risk work that does not require much legal expertise
  • Activities in Preparation for RFP. Avis asked 130 law firms to complete a “pre-qualifer” (PQ) that was quite similar to a law school exam. The questions in the exam reflected the real issues Avis faces. Each question was multi-disciplinary.
    • Law firms had a tight timeframe (about 10 days) within which to respond. Plus Avis sent this challenge out during Spring Break, which put added pressure on the law firms. This was a way of gauging responsiveness.
    • Of the 130 firms invited, only 80 responded.
      • 50 firms did not respond. Some thought Avis was trying to get free legal advice. They were wrong; Avis already had the answers to the questions in the PQ.
      • Some of the firms that did not respond thought their relationship with Avis was so solid that they did not need to go through these hoops. They were wrong; they were eliminated from the Avis panel
    • Some of the firms provided responses that simply were wrong.
    • All firms were asked to tell Avis how they would staff these matters and what they would charge.
    • Avis also asked how they answered these questions, whom they involved?
  • The RFP. They invited 45 law firms to participate in the RFP. (This was 45 out of the 80 firms that responded to the PQ.) There were three areas of emphasis:
    • Legal expertise
    • Pricing
    • Universal Requirements (Operations) — focused on actual examples of innovations these firms had developed to better the firm or outside clients. According to Avis, they were looking for Jetsons firms (firms that were innovative on behalf of themselves and their clients), not Flintstones firms that are stuck in the Stone Age.
  • How did the Firms respond to the RFP?
    • They researched the business goals of Avis so they could align their responses better to Avis’ needs
    • They managed tight turnarounds on drafts of the RFP as they involved a wide range of firm personnel in the RFP process in a very short period of time
    • Bryan Cave took a divide-and-conquer approach. They put the legal questions in the hands of the lawyers and kept the Universal Requirements in the hands of the legal operations team. The Bryan Cave legal ops group had the expertise to discuss the range of technologies they had invested in (or were contemplating) to improve firm and client outcomes, as well as completed or contemplated process improvement efforts.
  • The Semi-finals. During the semi-finals, Avis invited 17 firms to meet with the company. Each firm was asked to bring four partners of their choice and their legal operations person. During the interviews, the partners expected to lead the conversation. Instead, Avis said they would review their slides later. Then Avis asked to begin the conversation with the most important person in the room — the legal operations person.  (Partner jaws dropped!) Avis started with legal ops because they were serious about understanding the technology and innovation potential of each firm.
  • The All-Star Team. Avis invited the final seven firms to a Summit at which they met with business and legal department leaders of Avis. At that meeting, Avis made it clear that the chosen firms were stars that now had to find ways to work together as if they were on an All-Stars Team. This meant not just solo excellence, but collaborative excellence as well.
  • The Legal Ops Bounce. Crucially, the legal ops folks from the law firms met with the legal ops folks from Avis. This combined client/firm legal ops group has unleashed powerful tools and methodologies for the benefit of Avis (and the panel). Further, the emphasis that Avis has placed on legal ops gave the law firm legal ops teams greater confidence and enthusiasm in the work they do.
  • Avis Success Factors. Panels are graded on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). These KPIs are assessed on a matter-by-matter basis and, in the aggregate, feed quarterly and annual performance assessments. Here are the KPIs:
    • how well a Matter Assessment Form (MAF) was filled out. (The MAF helps the firm and Avis scope out a potential matter very quickly.)
    • submission of MAF in 3 days
    • the number of changes in scope requested per matter
    • the firm’s ability to accurately predict legal spend and outcome
    • the ability of the firm to avoid surprises to business units
    • how the firm uses technology to improve accountability and efficiency
    • value-adds the firm provides to the Avis engagement
  • How Baker Donelson revised its processes to meet the Avis KPIs:
    • They created an intranet Client Site that tracks the Avis engagement
    • They created workflow to ensure they can turn around an MAF within the required 3 days. This workflow is managed via their  Avis client site
    • They use budget and project monitoring tools internally so that they can notify Avis before something happens. This allows them to meet the critical KPI of avoiding surprises.
    • They created workflow to manage changes in scope and budget
    • They developed an external communication plan for the Avis engagement
      • monthly case management updates
      • quarterly reports to in-house counsel
      • annual reports
      • how to deal with emergency issues
    • They developed an internal communication plan for the Avis engagement
      • phase and task code requirements for matters
      • training regarding the initial budgeting, MAF and change processes
      • training regarding regular updates on budgets and contingent liability
      • training on and communication of Avis’s outside counsel guidelines
  • How Bryan Cave has invested to improve the Avis engagement:
    • they developed new internal processes and technologies
    • they trained attorney teams on this new way of working
    • they created and provided to the Avis legal department training on alternative fee arrangements (AFAs):
      • how law firms construct AFAs
      • the types of AFAs and their typical uses
      • how to frame AFA requests to obtain responses that support business objectives
    • they worked with the Avis legal department to build a dynamic technology platform that
      • facilitates the MAF process for Avis and for all panel firms
      • capture critical data points in structured format
      • leverage workflow tools to enforce operational standards
      • integrate with Avis’ e-billing system to automatically open matters
      • display actionable information to all users via flexible dashboards
      • provides dynamic authoring tools to create/update forms within minutes/hours rather than days/weeks
      • stores information in structured databases, but can generate documents in formats attorneys are used to reviewing (e.g, Word or PDF)
    • Who reviews, tests and suggests improvements to the technology?
      • Bryan Cave engineers, business analysts and other operational professionals do the initial work
      • Avis attorneys and legal ops professionals advise on integrating the panel’s technology with Avis’ e-billing, advanced workflow reporting and alerting, dashboard structure and key metrics
      • Baker Donelson (and other panel teams) provide recommendations on U/I enhancements and how to integrate the shared technology with the proprietary technology platforms of the panel firms — this eliminates duplication of effort and strengthens their shared common sources of record
  • The Collaboration is Growing.
    • Now panel firms share Avis work with each other if they believe this approach will benefit the client.
    • If Bryan Cave creates new technology, Baker Donelson  will do acceptance testing. When Baker needs automated data feeds, Bryan Cave provides it. Both firms confer with each other (and the other firms) to find solutions that benefit the client.
    • The collaboration among the panel firms has generated new ideas and approaches to matter intake and AFA construction
    • The technology used by the panel firms has improved because these firms now have a reason and the ability to share ideas as never before
  • Next Steps. Both Avis and its panel firms have ambitions for growing and improving their collaboration.
    • On Avis’ list of next steps: Creating metrics to measure and dashboards to communicate progress in key strategic areas of operations.
    • On the panel firms’ list of next steps: Creating metrics to measure and dashboards to communicate progress by the panel firms in helping Avis manage its legal issues.
  • Results. This collaboration has been an unqualified success for  Avis and for its panel firms.
    • Avis: Thanks to the collaboration, the Avis legal department has now established itself as a critical business partner of the larger organization. Through its pioneering work in this collaboration, the legal department has modeled better ways of managing liability and expenditures that can now be applied across the company. Further, the work of the legal department has become a source of competitive advantage for the company.
    • Panel firms: Their experience with Avis has demonstrated how non-attorney professionals can be critical to the selection of the firm for a legal panel, as well as the on-going relationships between the firm and its client. The panel firms now have clear confirmation that their investments in innovation, project management, and process improvement have enabled them to differentiate themselves in a competitive market. Finally, these firms now see the benefits of not only collaborating with the client but also with the other panel firms. The Avis collaboration has become a significant win-win situation for these firms.
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Frans Johansson Keynote #ILTA12

Frans Johansson is an innovation expert and author of The Medici Effect. As CEO of The Medici Group, he leads a team which helps clients improve their innovation efforts through an approach they call Intersectional Thinking:

Your best chance to innovate is at The Intersection. Here, concepts from diverse disciplines, fields, and cultures collide to form an explosion of unexpected idea combinations. It is from this large number of possible new combinations that one or two can emerge as high potential innovations.

[These are my notes from the International Legal Technology Association’s 2012 Conference. Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]

NOTES: Act Collaborate to Drive Change

  • What Drives Innovation?. We innovate best when we connect with others and share new ideas/perspectives. The key is to connect across our differences.
  • Why is it necessary to innovate quickly?. If you want to keep your competitive advantage, you have to keep innovating because there has been a stunning drop in the amount of time it takes for your competitors to catch up with you.
  • Why is it so hard to innovate?. (1) As an organization gets larger, it moves more slowly. (How do you create a small firm for yourself? Buy a big company…and wait.) (2) We tend to use logic when planning innovation. However, since our competitors are doing the same thing, we’re likely to converge in the middle with eerily similar offerings, thus eliminating that which makes us distinctive. (3) Because change is hard (and threatening), we tend to settle for tweaking things around the edges rather than making a wholesale change. The impact of this is adding more widgets to a Yahoo portal page until the clutter is overcome by the spare and elegant design of a Google search page.
  • His Working Understanding. (1) Most truly stunning innovations result from combination two different ideas. (2) People that change the world try FAR more ideas. The greater the number of ideas that you generate and implement, the greater your chance of a breakthrough. You need to try many things because humans are very bad at predicting what will work. The key is to keep trying until you perfect your execution. When your first idea doesn’t work, you have to try again. (3) Diverse teams can unleash an explosion of new ideas. (He says this is a mathematical argument. He illustrates this by showing the number of combinations possible in rock music and classical music and then what happens when you start combining across these disciplines. You end up with an exponential increase in new ideas that leads to more opportunities for innovation. (e.g., He uses the example of “Tubular Bells,” which was huge crossover between rock and classical music.)
  • Create the Environment Necessary to Foster Innovation.. We can help organize our firms to foster innvation. This ranges from seating people within your department in such a way that they can’t help be exposed to new ideas and new ways of working. Individually, you also can ensure that you personally make connections with people within the firm who are in different disciplines or from different backgrounds or have different interests.
  • Use Technology to Drive (not just serve) New Business Models. Start by making it easier to collaborate internally and externally. Baker Donelson has a technology toolkit that made it possible for the client to work differently with its external counsel. The client liked it so well that they moved all their business to Baker Donelson. Goodwin Proctor collaborates with PBWorks to build wikis that help collaboration with clients and co-counsel.
  • The Pit StopTeam Exercise. Frans Johansson asked the audience members to team up with the person next to them to ask how they could apply example of the pit stop team to law firm life? Here are some suggestions that came from the audience: (1) have the IT team observe lawyers in their natural habitat and then ask what IT could do to help them. Rinse. Repeat. (2) Rather than having IT working in the background, waiting for instructions from the client-facing lawyers, find ways to put allow IT access to the lawyer team AND the clients so that you reduce the translation errors and give IT a better chance to sense the client needs.
  • What’s the Most Effecitve Way to Execute?. Start with a good idea. And then act on it. Johansson calls this the smallest executable step. It’s not about going directly to the desired Big Hairy Audacious Goal. Rather, execute the first step; adjust based on results; execute again. The key is to iterate your way to success.
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What’s the Right Question for a Better Answer?

QuestionsThey say that getting the right answer depends upon asking the right question. Perhaps that works in the courtroom, but lately I’ve begun to wonder how well it works in our networked world.

Here’s a case in point: I was puzzling through a technical problem and realized I needed the input of an expert. So I contacted an expert to set up a meeting. Mindful of the many demands on his time, I carefully thought through my problem and sent him before the meeting a list of the questions whose I answers I thought would solve my problem.

As soon as we sat down to discuss my questions I realized that I had made a critical mistake. By setting out the questions beforehand, I had limited the range of answers and set up false boundaries for our conversation. Now we could ultimately have reached the right answers, but he would be forced to first answer and dispose of my questions before we could progress past the limits of my knowledge to get to the heart of the problem. And he would have to clear this path through the undergrowth because I had insufficient expertise to frame the problem with sufficient precision.

Thankfully, I saved us both this slog through the undergrowth by changing course on the spot. Just as he pulled out my list of questions and prepared to answer the first one, I apologized to him and asked him to put the list away. I explained that while I had the best of intentions when I sent him the questions, it was the wrong approach. Instead, since I didn’t know enough to articulate the problem properly, I would explain what I wanted to accomplish (and why) and describe the roadblocks in my way.  Then I would leave it to my expert to draw on his knowledge appropriately to help me achieve my goal.

The fruitful conversation that followed proved my intuition correct. The right answer was within the expert’s range of knowledge, not mine. In fact, my careful questions would have led us down the garden path to a dead end. By throwing away the questions and focusing on my goal, I immediately tapped into the full range of my expert’s experience rather than restricting us to that part of his experience that seemed most directly applicable to my questions. I also got him invested in the ultimate goal rather than merely focused on answering a discrete set of questions.

Now, why does this matter in a networked world? Because limiting the conversation at the start limits the opportunities and insights available through your network. As much as I might dress it up in good intentions,the reality is that the questions I sent the expert were an attempt to control the conversation and the outcome. Granted, it was done in the name of efficiency, but ultimately would have resulted in inefficiency. The more efficient and effective method was to give up the command-and-control approach in favor of a more open and collaborative attitude that acknowledged the strengths of my colleague and the limits of my ability to control. For those of us raised in a command-and-control organization this open approach can seem risky, but it is the best way to tap the tacit knowledge of your network.

True collaboration results in something better than just my answer or yours. But to get to that better answer, you might need to throw away your questions and focus instead on a goal worth sharing.

[Photo Credit: Oberazzi]

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When Collaboration is For the Birds

Collaboration is key.  We’re told by social media mavens that it powers networks and unlocks the potential within individuals and the groups with which they associate.  However, collaboration is not always an unalloyed good. Sometimes it can go badly wrong.

Now, before you throw me out of the social media club, consider the following: collaboration isn’t just about working together; it’s about working together towards a shared goal.   However, sharing a goal is not enough it you are looking to optimize the situation for your group.  Merely accomplishing a shared goal doesn’t guarantee good if the goal itself is flawed.

If you aren’t convinced, watch these two brief videos in which groups of birds act together to achieve a common goal:

Here’s an example of great collaboration to achieve a worthy goal:

Now, here’s an example of a crowd realizing too late that the goal towards which it was working was the wrong goal:

So here’s the takeaway:  If you’re going to go to the trouble of collaborating, make very sure that the goal towards which you are working is worth the effort.  Otherwise, you might discover that your collaboration effort is for the birds.

 

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How Would You Handle “The Ask”?

James Bond Island No man is an island. And no single person can do everything that needs to be done to meet client needs. So why do so many of us operate at work like islands within an archipelago?

To be fair, not everyone is misanthropic.  Some work in solitary fashion because they have not yet developed the necessary network within their organization to get things done in a way that leverages all the assets of that organization. Meanwhile, others work by themselves because they have not been given (or have not learned to use) the latest tools that facilitate collaboration. Others may work largely on their own because their organization does not have a culture that fosters information sharing.

No matter what the cause of this lonely approach, it is useful to consider the alternative. While the video below is admittedly a marketing piece, it does provide a graphic example of the type of efficiency that is possible when you have the tools and culture to connect people and share information effectively:

Now, because I can’t help myself, I have to ask you this:  do you know of a law firm that operates like this?  If not, please tell me how your law firm would handle “The Ask” if your client needed something done quickly? How many emails and phone calls over what length of time would it take? How does your organization’s approach compare to the approach in the video?  And, please be honest — which approach do you prefer?

If you think this is all too much like science fiction and isn’t appropriate for your organization, don’t be misled. It could be the future for all of us. In fact, some lucky organizations may already be enjoying it today.  Don’t you wish you could too?

 

[hat tip to John Tropea for sharing this video.]

[Photo Credit: Joan Campderros-i-Canas]

 

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Knowledge Management Supporting Innovative Service Delivery #ILTA11

The speakers in this session: (i) Howard Nicols, Global Managing Partner, Squire Sanders & Dempsey; (ii) Brynn Wiswell, KM Associate, Baker Donelson; (iii) Scott Rechtschaffen, Chief Knowledge Officer, Littler Mendelson.

[These are my notes from the International Legal Technology Association’s Conference 2011.  Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error.  Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]

NOTES:

  • Impediments to Knowledge Management. Nicols believes that KM Collection, Currency and Delivery efforts have never achieved success within law firms. Most firms fail with their brief banks and precedent collections. Often the collections are incomplete. Once established, many collections fail to remain current. Finally, KM has failed in delivering this valuable content to the lawyers in the place they work at their moment of need. “If a lawyer won’t go to the filing cabinet, it doesn’t matter how full that file cabinet is.” Their firm was the first firm to pilot Lexis Total Search / Lexis Search Advantage. They do this to automate collection and ensure currency since the tool sits on top of their document management service. If a document is not current, they signal this in the system. Finally, they put the search window in the place where lawyers draft so they can easily search the collection.
  • Lawyers are Precedent Bound and Have Poor Vision. Blind adherence to the past makes is difficult to adapt to changes in the environment. To overcome these tendencies, Squire Sanders has reformed its structure to move from repeated action to innovation, they have established a project management steering committee, a process improvement steering committee and a knowledge management steering committee.
  • Nicols thinks the Cleveland Clinic has some important things to teach lawyers and Knowledge Management.The clinic has reformed every step of its patient handling process by engineering from the perspective of what makes sense for the patient — not the clinic. Systems are electronic and linked by a logical process. At each step of the process, he was assisted by a staff member with excellent people skills. They provided wireless network throughout so that he could stay in touch with his office and use his marginal time efficiently.
  • How has Squire Sanders Adopted the Cleveland Clinic Example?They have created matter sites that are shared by clients and their legal time. These sites show key contact, documents, financials (showing progress against budget), etc. In addition, they trained everyone from the secretaries, paralegals and lawyers to work entirely in this space. Sanders refers to this as the shared “play pen.”
  • Baker Donelson’s Service to Health Care Client. This case study shows how the firm developed from scratch tools to provide the client with transparency (client files, team calendar, team blog, team forms listing). The blog is completely open to the client — it’s the only blog the legal team uses. To improve Efficiency, they provide organized access to experts, deposition transcripts, access to law and administrative regulations (this is kept current by the team), resources (sample discovery, precedents, just verdicts, useful links), online processes to improve day-to-day business (organization cchart, administrative policies, physician insurance tracking, litigation hold systems, data mapping (of the client’s data storage). This case was the first step in moving into consulting for clients. The service is called BakerConnect (includes BakerCorp, BakerLit, document assembly, vendor information, a patent pending legal project management system).
  • Historical Objectives for KM.Littler is a large employment and labor law boutique. They have historically published a great deal of information. Originally, they focused on giving their 800 attorneys in 50+ offices instant access to the insights and experience of their peers, enhance access to a vast library of work product, give clients access to their experience and expertise. They have 10 knowledge management attorneys who act as professional support lawyers and provide a KM concierge service. In addition, they have another 10 staff members focused on technology, content, research and library.
  • KM Makes Money. About one-third of the firm’s KM expenses is covered through its subscription service called Littler GPS that provides clients with premium content relating to employment and labor law across the country, as well as the firm’s publishing activities..
  • KM’s New Objective:“You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” (quote from Rahm Emanuel)
  • Littler’s Custom Built System for a National Client.In an attempt to bid for an entire class of the client’s work, they created the Littler CaseSmart Approach. In effect, the client outsourced this whole class of work to Littler. Components: assemble a multi-disciplinary team (including several consultants/vendors); conduct a legal process analysis to understand every step in the process and identify possible efficiencies; creating an advanced technology platform; provide transparent client access on a 24/7 basis (includes key stats on each matter showing major decisions made and how many matters are being settled or prosecuted); an alternative staffing model (program director, responsible supervising attorneys (partners), a group of dedicated flextime attorneys who work from home and have a career path), dedicated administrative staff; KM resources (KM attorneys, document automation, SharePoint team site with legal resources, team social networking, client-specific document templates).
  • What’s Littler’s Value Proposition for this Innovative Project?This project provides enhanced efficiency and cost savings (30%), coupled with enhanced transparency to manage risk. For the attorneys, efficiency need not result reduced revenue or reduced profitability. In fact, Littler’s margins on this work are “sensational.” Further they have learned that legal process re-engineering actually results in high quality work product. Finally, they proved that the “New Normal” need not mean the end of life as we know it.
  • Is SharePoint the key?Both Baker Donelson and Littler Mendelson use SharePoint. However, Littler will move away from SharePoint for their next version.
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SharePoint Collaboration [LegalTech 2011]

SharePoint Collaboration Across Your Team. Panelists: Meredith L. Williams (Director of Knowledge Mangement at Baker, Donelson) and Steve Fletcher (Chief Information Officer at Parker Poe).

[These are my notes from LegalTech NY 2011.  Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error.  Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]

NOTES:

  • Agenda — Best practices for leveraging SharePoint across your firm; serving clients and adding firm value; what they’ve learned NOT to do; design and development option.
  • Using SharePoint for Practice & Industry Teams — Baker Donelson is using SharePoint 2007, but are moving to SP 2010. They have 30 practice & industry teams. Each team appoints knowledge management lawyers who assist with KM projects, including maintaining the resources for the SharePoint site. (Each team has a SharePoint site. The sites are different, depending on the needs of the relevant team.) The sites provide acess to a bank of standard form documents, sample work product search (via West KM), sample clause & defined term search, and practice guides.
  • Cross-Department & Practice Group Teams — While not every Parker Poe practice group was interested in building and maintaining an SP site, several teams have found SP sites to be powerful tools. (Teams are multidisciplinary groups focused on a particular issue (e.g., health care reform, green buildings, etc.)
  • Efficiency Tools — Baker Donelson uses Deal Builder/ Contract Express to put together document drafting packages, They have also created expertise location tools that allow lawyers to identify their own expertise and locate other experts. They also have created a training platform that provides training materials (including podcasts, slides, case law, practice guides, additional resources) to lawyers within the firm and direct to clients. These materials are created and maintained by the lawyers themselves.
  • Staffing — Baker Donelson does not have a large dedicated SP staff. Instead, the small KM group teams with the three web developers in the It department to create materials that can be maintained by the lawyers themselves. One of these web developers is entirely dedicated to creating and maintaining key SP workflow. Parker Poe’s SP deployment was their first experience of portala. To begin, they created a cross-department team to create and the SP site. This team included IT, Marketing and the Library. Marketing helped with the look and feel and planned the formal launch of the portal. They worked with XMLaw to plan and carry out the initial deployment. Parker Poe now has a dedicated SP administrator
  • Information Governance — the Baker Donelson KM team is responsible for governance. All materials are housed in their original silos to ensure security, ethical walls, and accessibility for legal holds.
  • Client-Facing Sites — Parker Poe started with their Resort Hospitality team site. The site includes tips for clients, info on new Portal resources, industry news and events, information on new client matters, they included links to 10, 000 documents in an iManage folder. Once they heard that lawyers in the team were showing it to clients and getting rave reviews, they created a related client-facing site that provides information on a location-specific basis. For example, a location-specific site includes information on local resources, weather, news, legislation, local contacts, documents relating to that location. They gave HubbardOne XMLaw OneView Extranet 60 days to create the client-facing site.
  • Client-Team Sites — Baker Donelson has automated workflow whereby the moment a new matter is opened, that triggers the creation of an internal SP site that includes every piece of information they have relating to the client and matter. Sample content: client contact information (drawn from Interaction), working with Monitor Suite; they provide a live feed of public information showing the practice trends of that client. The client-facing view of the client service team site shows: a real-time view of the matter calendar; information on external experts involved in the case; Baker Donelson created a litigation hold management system for the client and mapped the client’s data workflow (each node on the map is linked to a wiki that is populated by Baker Donelson lawyers, thereby creating transparency into matter documents).
  • Management Dashboard — Baker Donelson has created a dashboard to provide an overview on top clients and top prospective clients.
  • Legal Project Management — Baker Donelson is using their SP portal to help run their LPM effort. They have a project management office to run their administrative projects AND a Legal Project Management Office that helps manage legal matter. They created a template that helps generate a project site that integrates models, samples, budget information (including actuals) using the Budget Manager tool,
  • External Toolkits — Baker Donelson has created toolkits for clients: Board of Directors toolkit, IPO toolkit. Among the resources, they provide access to model and sample documents, as well detailed legislative resources. Many of the resources are populated by wikis maintained directly by lawyers within the firm. These are built in basic SP (like the internal sites) and are sold to clients on a subscription basis.
  • Lessons Learned — Assemble the right cross-departmental team to plan, deploy and maintain the portal; create diverse test groups and use them; test before release and then test again; don’t force adoption — pull them in with relevant information that’s quick and easy to find; identify your authoritative source of data (e.g., Active Directory) and make sure the data is clean and reliable; make sure the content is refreshed frequently — especially on the home page; start with critical low-hanging fruit to drive traffic and usage (e.g., HR data and financial data)
  • Design & Development — interview users and create pilot groups to guide the design process. They in turn will become portal advocates. Many users are now looking for more personalized interfaces — this presents new design challenges. It is also a departure from the cookie cutter SP sites many firms provided before.
  • Metrics — Be sure to monitor everything down to individual links. It’s important to know what is being used, when it is used and by whom.
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Collaboration for Good

In a world of fierce competition, it’s marvelous to hear of instances of active cooperation and collaboration that make a positive difference in the lives of others. During this National Pro Bono Week, I’ve been learning more about the truly impressive work of a nonprofit organization call Pro Bono Net. This innovative, award-winning organization uses technology to increase access to justice in the United States and Canada. As effective as they are, the need for their services keeps growing. According to an American Bar Association study cited by Pro Bono Net, “at least 40% of low and moderate-income households experience a legal problem each year. Yet studies show that the collective civil legal aid effort is meeting only about 20% of the legal needs of low-income people.”

By connecting and leveraging networks of volunteer lawyers and public interest groups with the millions of people who need legal services but can’t afford them, Pro Bono Net is transforming the legal landscape.  In existence for just over 10 years, it’s clear that the impact of Pro Bono Net is real:

  • Their oldest program, probono.net is a rich online resource of the materials volunteer lawyers need to provide effective legal assistance to their pro bono clients.  This program has a membership of 65,000 pro bono and public interest lawyers who use it to find and volunteer for pro bono cases, and then rely on the  educational resources made available through the site to ensure the representation they provide is effective.
  • LawHelp.org is the site Pro Bono Net has created for clients.  It is “an online resource that helps low and moderate-income people find free legal aid programs in their communities, answers to questions about their legal rights, court information, links to social service agencies, and more. This resource was built and is maintained in partnership with hundreds of legal aid, pro bono and court-based programs….” According to Pro Bono Net, LawHelp is visited by 4 million people each year.
  • LawHelp Interactive uses the power of document assembly to help unrepresented people create and complete legal documents without the need to hire a lawyer. Subject matter experts create interview templates that are then “used to assemble court forms and other legal documents based on a user’s input. The system increases opportunities for self-represented litigants to achieve justice on their own and improves efficiency for legal aid, pro bono and courts-based access to justice programs.” The documents focus on areas of real need such as child support, protection orders for victims of domestic violence, consumer debt and eviction. In 2009, LawHelp Interactive helped unrepresented clients complete 150,000 document.  In the first six months of 2010 alone, they have completed 100,000 documents.  This fantastic trajectory is part of the reason why LawHelp Interactive won the College of Law Practice Management’s 2010 InnovAction Award.
  • Pro Bono Manager is an innovative web application that helps law firms efficiently manage, support and expand their pro bono practice.  It replaces ad hoc, homegrown efforts within law firms with a thoughtfully-organized platform that “integrates content from the public interest legal community regarding training events, volunteer opportunities and news with powerful reporting, knowledge management and lawyer matching tools that draw on data from the law firm’s internal personnel, billing, time keeping and docketing systems.” To date, Pro Bono Manager is in use by 10 leading international firms and, through them, by the 7,200 lawyers within those firms.

While there are many wonderful stories of lives changed for the better through individual instances of pro bono representation, I must admit that I was drawn to Pro Bono Net because it puts into practice what fortunate knowledge managers learn every day about the power of networks, collaboration and knowledge management.  Through the innovative use of enabling technology, Pro Bono Net puts people in touch with people, and then empowers all of them by providing a huge knowledge base.   In the process, they help lawyers achieve the high professional goal of acting in the public good and help the change lives of their pro bono clients.

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I’d like to extend my thanks to Michael Mills (Vice Chair of the Board of Pro Bono Net) and Pam Weisz (Pro Bono Net’s Director of Corporate Sponsorship) for helping me learn more about Pro Bono Net. If you’d like to learn more, I’d encourage you to watch one or both of the informative and inspiring videos Pro Bono Net provides on its website.

Finally, I’d like to thank Kate Bladow.  It was her campaign that led me to pledge to write a blog post about pro bono work during National Pro Bono Week.  Kate is gathering all the resulting blog posts on the technola blog.  If you read them you’ll find instant inspiration.

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Collaboration’s ROI

Collaboration is like motherhood and apple pie.  Who will publicly say that it’s a bad thing?  Nevertheless, many knowledge workers have private work habits that inhibit collaboration.  Further many of their organizations don’t do enough to change these behaviors.  Why?  In many cases, because they have not yet realized the enormous benefits that can accrue to an organization that fosters collaboration.

Not convinced?  Looking for some hard numbers?  Take a look at these results from Cisco’s implementation of Web 2.0 and collaboration technologies in fiscal year 2008:

  • US$691 million saved
  • 4.9 %  increased productivity
  • The technology investments, which cost US$81 million to deploy, provided a 900 % return on investment (ROI).

Now your firm may not be as large as Cisco and you may not have the same access to state of the art technology or a workforce that is tech friendly.  Nonetheless, wouldn’t even a fraction of Cisco’s ROI be welcome at your firm?  Further, wouldn’t your firm benefit from improvements in the way information and expertise are shared among employees, customers and partners. What more do you need by way of incentives?

If you’re interested in learning more about how Cisco used Web 2.0 and collaboration technologies to achieve these impressive results, read their guide,  Creating a Collaborative Enterprise (PDF), which explains their framework for achieving collaboration with significant ROI.

[Thanks to John Tropea and Oscar Berg for letting me know about this resource.]

[Photo Credit:  Bee-side]

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The Dark Side of Collaboration

Every group has its mantra. “Four legs good, two legs bad”  helped underscore the proper social and political order in Animal Farm.  For proponents of social media behind the firewall, the mantra has been “Collaboration good, silos bad.” Like motherhood and apple pie, collaboration is one of those things it’s hard to criticize  — until you meet the dark side of collaboration.

What’s the dark side of collaboration?  Collaboration done badly.  Here’s what McKinsey has to say on this issue in their article, Using Technology to Improve Workforce Collaboration:

Unfortunately, the productivity measures for collaboration workers are fuzzy at best. For production workers, productivity is readily measured in terms of units of output; for transaction workers, in operations per hour. But for knowledge workers, what might be thought of as collaboration productivity depends on the quality and quantity of interactions occurring. And it’s from these less-than-perfectly-understood interactions that companies and national economies derive important benefits. Consider the collaborative creative work needed to win an advertising campaign or the high levels of service needed to satisfy public citizens. Or, in a similar vein, the interplay between a company and its customers or partners that results in an innovative product.

Raising the quality of these interactions is largely uncharted territory. Taking a systematic view, however, helps bring some of the key issues into focus. Our research suggests that improvements depend upon getting a better fix on who actually is doing the collaborating within companies, as well as understanding the details of how that interactive work is done. Just as important is deciding how to support interactions with technology—in particular, Web 2.0 tools such as social networks, wikis, and video. There is potential for sizeable gains from even modest improvements. Our survey research shows that at least 20 percent and as much as 50 percent of collaborative activity results in wasted effort. And the sources of this waste—including poorly planned meetings, unproductive travel time, and the rising tide of redundant e-mail communications, just to name a few—are many and growing in knowledge-intense industries. [emphasis added]

If you continue to read the McKinsey article, you’ll learn about their recommendations for matching tools with types of collaboration work, thereby reducing wasted collaborative activity.  But even as you think about improving the quality of collaboration, you need to remember the emergent essence of Enterprise 2.0 tools and strategies:

Furthering collaboration excellence demands mind-sets and capabilities that are unfamiliar and sometimes even counterintuitive to many business managers. It requires trusting your collaboration workers to arrive at creative solutions rather than enforcing top-down policies. Business managers should allow time and provide forums for collaboration workers to brainstorm solutions to productivity problems. Corporate technology providers will need to provide tools that are flexible enough to enable experimentation, so that usage and adoption are widespread.  [emphasis added]

As you roll out your new Enterprise 2.0 tools, pay careful attention to their impact on collaboration.  Have you provided the means for knowledge workers to experiment and create more productive collaboration?  Or do your systems lead to activity that is no more than wasted effort?

[Photo Credit:  gonzalo ar]

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