What’s New in Legal KM?

Sun and clouds Is it true that there’s nothing new under the sun? Given my fondness for innovation, I always find myself hoping there are at least a few exceptions to the rule.  In this spirit, I went to several knowledge management sessions at the recent International Legal Technology Association Conference looking for something new in KM.  I’m not sure I found anything that completely fit the bill — lots of interesting things, but not much that was truly startlingly new.  Now, to be clear, this is not in any way intended to be a criticism of ILTA.  By all accounts, the conference committee did a great job organizing the conference. [Disclosure: I was honored to be a member of that committee.] And, it’s not in any way intended to be a criticism of the terrific legal KM folks who made presentations at the conference.  Lots of them are engaged in useful and interesting projects.  However, I was left with the persistent feeling that what I was seeing was largely more of the same.

So if this was not the year of massive legal KM breakthroughs at ILTA, what could we take away from the KM sessions?

  • Legal KM is maturing.  Most firms I heard from seem to be focused on improving and upgrading incrementally rather than on doing something radically new.
  • I don’t remember hearing about any provocative new technologies. However, there was lots of interesting news about vendors in the legal vertical.
  • People are trying really hard to make SharePoint work for them.  Some have gone so far as to customize SharePoint heavily in order to make it user-friendly.  Meanwhile, other firms have decided that they will NOT use SharePoint because it doesn’t provide the flexibility and support they need.  Still others are concerned about Microsoft’s commitment to the legal vertical.  These are discussions that need to be held more openly.  We could all learn from them.
  • A few firms are doing some interesting work with respect to providing clients with legal resources and, above all, access to their legal teams.
  • While some firms are “playing” with iPad apps, others have decided that the key is to provide full mobility of data to their legal teams. (I heard from attendees at this session that the highly innovative team at Mallesons is working on some wonderful tools to help clients and lawyers on the go.  However, I didn’t have a chance to see this presentation. (For information on their impressive Mallesons Connect tool, see my earlier report.))
  • Alternative Fee Arrangements are providing an interesting place of engagement for some legal KM folks.  However, it sounds like many are still trying to figure out how to crack the code.
  • Balancing information sharing and data security is becoming tougher, especially in light of increased regulatory and client demands for data protection.
  • Kingsley Martin (President and Founder of KIIAC) has made a fascinating and potentially very powerful tool available for free.  His contract analysis website can help the smallest firm undertake detailed analysis and rapid document assembly.  If this gains widespread adoption, it could be an interesting way to crowdsource legal knowledge sharing.

Even if we didn’t have many presentations on innovations, there were hints about the next new thing.  Here’s what I heard:

  • Firms are struggling with email filing and management.  Look for announcements about firms that believe they have cracked this puzzle.
  • The legal process outsourcers are growing in strength and penetration of the legal market.  Some firms are looking for ways to use this trend for their benefit.  Perhaps by co-opting the LPOs?
  • Social media advocates have been promising big wins for organizations that can harness the “power of social” behind the firewall.  While some firms have internal blogs and wikis, I didn’t hear of many firms that had a well-integrated, well-utilized social business platform for legal work.
  • Some believe that the next big win will result from conquering the Electronic Matter File Challenge. Do you know of any firm that has done this yet?
  • The presentation on Future-Proofing Your Law Firm spawned lots of hallway conversation during the conference.  What concrete steps are firms taking to ensure their viability? How do IT and KM play a role in this?
  • One ILTA session that was definitely forward-looking focused on Transformation Through Emerging Technologies.  (See David Hobbie’s report on the discussion.)

Finally, if your firm or KM department is committed to innovation.  I’d commend to you the keynote presentations on innovation by Chris Trimble and Tom Koulopoulos.  In addition, take a look at the three nominees for ILTA’s award for the Innovative Member of the Year. There is lots of food for thought there.

Based on what I saw and heard at the ILTA conference, my sense is that most of the legal KM community is consolidating past gains rather than forging ahead in new directions.  This may be a reflection of the recent tough economic times.  Hopefully it’s not a sign that law firms are investing less in their knowledge management systems.  Perhaps next year we’ll see some real innovation.  In the meantime, please do let me know if I’ve missed some noteworthy innovation in legal KM.  As Ambrose Bierce said, “There is nothing new under the sun but there are lots of old things we don’t know.”

[Photo Credit: wili_hybrid]




Breaking Strategic Groups Out of IT [#ILTA11]

The speakers in this session: (i) John Alber (Bryan Cave), (ii) Timothy Corcoran (HubbardOne), (iii) Gerard Neiditsch (Mallesons) and (iv) Jeffrey Rovner (O’Melveny).

[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.]


  • Why is this Issue Important? Changes in the marketplace, in how infrastructure and applications are managed, changes in staffing models, changes in pricing and client expectations — all of these factors cause firms to consider new ways to achieve a competitive advantage.
  • Consider Two Extremes for Discussion Purposes. One extreme is an enormous IT department that handles everything that has any technology function. The other extreme is an extremely lean IT operation, that keeps the basic operations in order, is reponsible for architecture and basic apps, but many of the specialized functions (e.g., client-facing technology, marketing technology, litigation support, practice support, etc.) are distributed throughout the firm. Which is the better approach, or should your firm aim for a hybrid? The answer lies in the problem you’re trying to solve. Are you trying to achieve the lowest possible cost? For example, a distributed model may lead to overlaps, duplication and inefficiencies. Alternatively, a consolidated group may be monolithic and sluggish. Mallesons is optimizing for agility. This has implications for how they approach legal practice AND technology.They are doing this in order to be able to respond rapidly to changes in their clients and in the environment. As a result, they are focused on specialized initiatives that are technology-enabled. The IT department then imposes discipline to ensure that there is no duplication of effort across the firm.
  • Considerations Applicable to Both Scenarios. Nimbleness, creating/supporting and R&D function, duplicative technology, duplicative personnel, career paths, IT discipline and project management. Gerard Neiditsch reminded the audience that even if you create separate “tiger teams” or skunkworks, be sure to recognize the contributions from the rest of the IT organization (the “performance engine”). Otherwise, you run the risk of losing the best people from your performance engine operations. In a similar vein, Jeffrey Rovner reminded the audience that whether you’re dealing with a skunkworks project or a performance engine project, be sure to recognize every single member of the team who made that possible. Just like the credits at the end of a movie, it’s important to acknowledge everyone who contributed to the success of the project.
  • The Importance of Reintegration. John Alber and Constance Hoffman at Bryan Cave frequently consider whether a group that has been broken out of the IT department should be reintegrated with the main IT department to ensure the overall benefits accrue to the firm and to avoid unnecessary duplication or silos of capability.
  • Consider the Extent to Which a Group is Tied to Revenue.Timothy Cororan noted that being tied to revenue can preserve a group (and give it legitimacy within the firm), but it also changes the expectations of the group. (One panelist noted that fee-earners can go to the golf course because meeting clients on the golf course is supposed to contribute to the top line.) Gerard Neiditsch also observed that if you have a group that you intended to spin out of the firm altogether (perhaps even to sell the technology and the team to another company) you should keep that in mind when you first start planning to create the group.
  • Consider Visibility. Creating a separate team can be a means of providing viability inside and outside the firm with respect to that team and its projects. John Alber noted that when they created a group focused on alternative fee structures, members of those teams started attending client meetings and internal client meetings. Jeffrey Rovner includes IT and library personnel in his KM meetings to ensure transparency of projects across functions. Gerard Neiditsch’s project managers are involved in every project in order to promote efficiency across the firm.
  • Career Path.Gerard noted that it can be hard to attract top specialist talent if they are concerned that they are buried in a large department and won’t have appropriate visibility. Tim suggested that by encouraging personnel to work across teams and departments, you can foster a cross-pollination of good ideas and best practices. John said that when you spin groups out of IT, you create additional opportunities for people to learn how to be better managers. However, Gerard said that you most likely will have to pay more to personnel who assume additional management responsibilities. Jeff and Tim both cautioned against creating new groups just to separate personnel who are having trouble getting along. This is an issue that requires better management. Separating them just perpetuates the problem, but on an inter-departmental basis.

Creating an Optimal KM Value Strategy [#ILTA11]

The speakers in this session: (i) Sally Gonzalez, Senior Director, HBR Consulting, (ii) John Gillies, Director of Practice Support, Cassels Brock, (iii) Steve Lastres, Director of LIbrary & Knowledge Management, Debevoise & Plimpton.

[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.]


  • Why do Firms Need a KM Strategy? Sally Gonzalez says that if you focus on tactics (every day blocking and tackling), you will make progress, but not necessarily in the right direction. A strategy document helps identify the benefits to the business, forces you to create concrete plans of action, facilitates communication with lawyers and build lawyer support for KM. One of the problems with simply limiting activity to grassroots efforts for enthusiastic lawyers is that the projects are largely dependent on the energy and commitment of those lawyers — there may be insufficient support from the firm. Further, the strategy helps identify priorities and allows you to say no to extraneous projects.
  • How to Align the KM Strategy with the Firm’s Business Strategy? An electronic poll of the attendees revealed that over half either thought their firm had no strategy or they didn’t know if there was one. Sally Gonzalez believes that every firm has a de facto strategy, but it may not be well articulated.
  • How to Develop a KM Strategy?
    Start by holding conversations within the firm regarding what KM is and should be within the firm. Understand what the business needs from the perspective of your clients and from the perspective of people within the firm. In addition, take a look at what your competitors are doing. Should any of that be adopted by your firm? To gather this information, hold some fact-finding interviews — either individual or in focus groups. Then as you gather the information, use the opportunity to socialize the information within the firm and thereby ascertain and build consensus.
  • What’s the Planning Horizon? Aim for a three-year planning horizon. (This can be tough because lawyers sometimes have trouble with “whiteboard” planning and envisioning the future.) To help lawyers focus, ask them to provide concrete details regarding what their work lives should be like over that planning horizon.
  • How to Organize and Prioritize the KM Projects?During the interviews and during KM planning, it may be possible to identify hundreds of current and potential projects. First understand what projects are tied to specific strategic goals. Write each project on a post-it note and arrange all of them on a grid where one axis is is “Value to Firm” and the other is “Ease of Implementation.” Rate each project in relation to each other project. Do this exercise with firm management, practice leaders, KM staff and other stakeholders. Once you have these arrayed, identify the quadrants: (i) field of pain = low value, hard to do — just say no (apparently 80% projects typically are here if you don’t have a strategy); (ii) field of distraction = low value, easy to do; (ii) field of gain = high value, easy to do — these are quick wins; (iv) field of dreams = high value, hard to do — you need to start these now, but understand it may take time to accomplish.
  • Roadmap to ImplementationStart with your Field of Gain projects and assign near-time deadlines to them. Then schedule your Field of Dreams projects and allocate the necessary resources to ensure these projects can be accomplished. Minimize your Field of Distraction projects and eliminate your Field of Pain projects.
  • Be Careful About TechnologyIn this process you should not spend more than 30% of your time on technology. It’s a time sink. (Tom Davenport identified this problem long ago.) Then move the conversation to strategy, policies, etc. Those are the issues that drive strategy.
  • What Costs are Involved?One of the biggest costs of strategic planning is hiring a consultant. Not every firm will have the resources or appetite to do this. While the panelists who hired consultants were happy, they acknowledged that there are resource (including via ILTA’s website) that can guide you if your firm wants to devise a strategy itself. Sally Gonzalez reminded the audience that it is important to interact with your consultant as a partner in the exercise, not a sub-contractor. If you just hire the consultant to work independently and deliver a strategy whole cloth, the resulting strategy document is likely to become a doorstop.
  • Communication is Key.Make sure your strategy planning includes a detailed communication plan. Unless you do this, you’ll constantly find yourself fending off unwanted or low value projects because people don’t know about or understand the strategy and, therefore, don’t realize they are proposing something that is not aligned with the strategy.

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.]


  • 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.

New Free Contract Analysis & Document Assembly Tool [#ILTA11]

Kingsley Martin, Founder and President of KIIAC LLP announced at the International Legal Technology Association’s Conference 2011 a new resource that he has created and is making available to the legal community free of charge. His hope is that through this website we can work collaboratively to improve the quality and efficiency of legal drafting. His new website, www.contractstandards.com contains tools to help analyze legal documents and identify component provisions, to generate drafting checklists, to automate document drafting, and a discussion forum to develop contracting standards. On the website, Martin describes their mission statement as follows:

Our mission is to openly share contract standards–contract analysis, checklists, and clause libraries–in an effort to establish global contract norms. It is hoped readers will share their knowledge through comments, practice guidance and other contributions. Contract Standards is a work in progress with new materials added daily.

[The site is developed and maintained by kiiac.com.]

In an educational session on Low-Cost Information Management and Knowledge Management (ILTA INFO7), Martin demonstrated how this new resource could be used to provide some core KM functionality free:

  • Creating Contract Standards.The contracts standards section of the web side includes a list of all major agreements types, a matrix for identifying the components of agreements, and a clause library. In time, there will also be a Definitions Library. The provisions are drawn from publicly-available sources.
  • Contract Automation. The contract automation section of the website contains free document assembly tools and end-user guides. Participants are invited to suggest new features, or even collaborate in developing open source document assembly tools for general use. The document assembly tools allow you to create a document template and then populate the template with the variable terms that are specific to each contract such as the name of parties and economic terms. Finally, the website can automatically generate a drafting checklist containing all variable terms, optional text and questions that you should ask clients to help you with the drafting.
  • Drafting Guidance and Discussion.This discussion section of the website is intended to collect the comments, questions and recommendations of users. The hope is that this discussion will contribute to the development of contract drafting standards, as well as the development of document automation and analysis software.

Kingsley Martin and KIIAC welcome comments, questions and suggestions. The main question is how lawyers will react to a free resource that has the potential to change the way we draft — at a price that is hard to ignore.


Tom Koulopoulos #ILTA11 Key Note: IT-Based Innovation

Tom Koulopoulos (“TK”) is an ILTA Conference favorite. He is the author of nine books. (His energy is much appreciated for flagging conference attendees.) [Please take the time to listen to a recording of this talk. I’ll be capturing as much as I can, but I’ll need to leave early to moderate an educational session. That’s ILTA — too many educational choices, not enough time.]

[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.]


  • What’s the Secret of Life? To find the one thing you’re really good at and then become the best at it. This is your core competency. (TK showed a clip of City Slickers in which Jack Palance explains this key principle to Billy Crystal. Palance says that the major task is to figure out your core competency and then master it.)
  • What’s is Core Competency? It is the place where your abilities “meet the market.” It’s where your organization’s core competency meets the market.
  • What is the Core Competency of It? The ability to take the complex and simplify it. Simplicity ultimately defines the success of your organization. The more IT can reduces the complexity around us, the more successful your organization and your life will be.
  • What’s the problem?Geeks have an uncanny ability to complicate life. The next challenge is for geeks is managing the complexity surrounding risk. TK cites Paul Strassmann who said that while only CFOs are liable to go to jail today for false reporting, CIOs should be subject to jail time for failing to ensure the security of knowledge assets.
  • What was the Knowledge Management System of Ephesus? According to TK, it was the communal toilets directly across from the Library of Celsus in Ancient Ephesus. That was where people could share what they had learned in the library and in the town center. Today, he believes that our “communal toilet” is the Internet.
  • What’s Today’s Challenge? To simplify work.The doubling of the rate of change can make work extraordinarily complicated. The advent of semantic networks has the potential to complicate life exponentially. (TK says that all IT personnel need to understand the concepts and impact of semantic technologies and semantic networks. The Department of Defense is working on this now.)
  • What’s the key to IT Success? Master semantic IT. TK belieeves that the first organizations that master this will have an enormous competitive advantage.
  • OnStar OnStar is the single business asset of General Motors. Yet, it was the part of the company on which GM spent the least money. Initially, no one at GM wanted OnStar. However, it was critical to building a relationship of trust between GM and its customers. TK notes, that OnStar was a “weed” in the GM garden. They didn’t want it; they tried to kill it. Nonetheless it was a powerful idea that built success over time.
  • Are you a failure at failing? You have to become better at failing. The key is to fail faster. Another important component is to give your employees the freedom to experiment. This freedom let 3M change from a company focused on abrasives into a company focused on adhesives. Now, we can’t imagine life without masking tape and post-it notes. The moral of the story is that once you create a culture of fast fail, you can become an engine of innovation.
  • How Should You Manage Innovation?In addition to creating a culture of fail fast, you should calibrate your investment to the associated reward. In the beginning, use free or nearly free resources at the experimental stage. Once you start getting results, ramp up your investment so that you can generate more return. The key is to calibrate this carefully.
  • Disrupt, Don’t Destroy. In a process of constant innovation, you improve through manageable, incremental improvements without sending everyone into a panic.
  • Use Scenario Planning to Build an Agille Group. TK used a “morphology matrix” to show how complicated various processes can be. Scenario planning involves taking random elements from across the Morph Matrix and then figure out how to solve problems using the “market” problem presented by those elements. If you repeat this exercise regularly, you build a team that is flexible, agile, and confident in its ability to conquer any challenge presented by the market.
  • How to you keep Star Players on Your Team? Recognize that the main problem is not the situation their are facing, but the “background noise” that affects their view of the situation. The best way to key star players on your team is to get them past the background noise by focusing on ambition and purpose. Give them aspirational goals — stretch them — and the revelations AND innovation will exceed your expectations.



Chris Trimble Keynote: The Innovation Revelation [#ILTA11]

Chris Trimble is an author and adjunct professor at the Dartmouth business school. He works with companies on the cutting edge of technology. Through this work he learns from the stories of dynamic innovators in these companies.

[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.]


  • Climbing Mt. Ranier It’s a very difficult climb but can be accessible to novices, provided they have an expert guide. However, no matter how hard it is to get to the summit, it can be even harder to climb back down. Most novice climbers don’t realize this so they tend to relax on the way down. As a result, they become susceptible to the hidden dangers that lurk on the downward slope. Trimble believes that innovation initiatives work the same way. Yes, the struggle to launch something new can be substantial, but most of us forget that what comes after can be even harder.
  • Definition of Innovation “Any project that is new to you and has an uncertain outcome.” Innovation is more than an idea. On “the other side of innovation” (e.g., what happens after launch), every new idea really is a new project.
  • Models of Innovation. Model #1 = ideas + environment. If we can create an environment of innovation, we can generate lots of new ideas/projects. This can be a powerful model, but it is hard to execute because it happens in the tiny slivers of free time that people have. It’s best suited to small, continuous improvement efforts. Model #2= ideas + process. Treat innovation as a business process. Script it, make it efficient and then measure your results. The limit of this model is that it works best when every innovation in the process fits with the existing process. (Not disruptive.) It’s a great way to push out this year’s version of last year’s model. Model #3 = Ideas + Leaders + Plan. Execution + Organizational Excellence. We need less emphasis on ideas and more emphasis on execution. Equally, we need less emphasis on individual achievement (i.e., innovation heroes) and more emphasis on organizational excellence. Although great companies have great performance engines (delivering every task/process on spec, on time, on budget and driving towards profitability this quarter).
  • Breaking All the Rules Doesn’t Work Innovators need the support of the performance engine. (it provides the financial and operational resources to get things done.) Further breaking all the rules sounds like “breaking the performance engine” and, by extension, breaking the people in authority over that performance engine. Break all the rules can also sound like “no rules,” which can be highly threatening to business leaders.
  • Mutual Respect is Critical Remember that some conflict between the innovators and the organization is perfectly normal. Remember also that no performance engine lasts forever. (“Blockbuster RIP.”)
  • Model #3 in Practice. You need a small dedicated team that focuses on a single project from inception to completion. They need a partnership with the staff that’s shared with the rest of the organization (the performance engine). The dedicated team should be created as if you were creating a new company from the ground up. You may need to hire externally, you may need new titles. The object is to create something that is radically difference from the existing organization, but understands that it must cooperate with that existing organization. The shared staff works with/for both the performance engine and the dedicated innovation team. The challenge is that the shared staff is needed for concrete projects critical to the performance engine as well as more aspirational projects for the innovation team. Unfortunately, when this conflict arises, the performance engine (and its concrete goals) usually win.
  • Dominant Law Firm Model. The most experienced lawyers manage the business, have the most authority and manage the client relationships. It’s been this way for years since (until now) it has worked for the performance engine.
  • Innovation in Law Firms. Breakthrough innovation does not happen without breakthrough organizational design. Change means changing the performance engine. This is a very risky strategy that threatens the performance engine and triggers lots of resistance. Innovation means running experiments along side the performance engine, all the while conforming with the first rule of innovation: “Do No Harm” to the performance engine until your case is proven. In this case, the performance engine is not threatened (at least immediately) and will provide resources for the innovation effort.
  • Lessons from The New York Times DigitalThe New York Times tried to be innovative in creating its digital presence. They hired smart people working in a dedicated team, with considerable resources and a fair degree of autonomy. However, they weren’t able to be truly innovative and found that companies like Yahoo and Monster.com were cleaning their clocks. The problem was that every member of the team was an insider (except for the head of the team) and the unit reported to the head of the newspaper (i.e., the head of the performance engine) rather than the head of the company. In order to revitalize this effort, the dedicated team was transformed by hiring more outsiders, offering a completing new compensation program, moving the team to a new location. Unfortunately, this led to conflict with the performance engine and disputes over fundamental issues such as who owns the NYT brand and can determine use of NYT content. However, the company opted against integrating the dedicated team into the performance engine, and instead focused on managing the conflicts more carefully. This yielded better performance overall and better innovation.
  • Planning for Innovation. Every innovation plan contains some wild guesses. The key is to use learning to turn those wild guesses into experiments that yield useful results. To do this you need to conduct disciplined experimentation, ensuring that you compare initial guesses with the actual results in order to generate learning that can be used to improve the innovation plan. You also need to convene a separate forum to discuss results — you shouldn’t mix the day-to-day innovation operations discussions with performance evaluation.
  • How to Measure Performance.Don’t just focus on the numbers (how much was done, how much resulted). Rather, focus on whether the leader and team ran disciplined experiments that yielded lessons learned that were then pushed back into the innovation process.
  • How Stella Saved the Farm. This is a parable that summarizes Trimble’s approach. You can get it on www.howstellasavedthefarm.com.




For all of you social media mavens attending the International Legal Technology Association’s Conference 2011, there will be an official conference tweet up this year. Please join me for the tweet up on Sunday, August 21, at 4:00 p.m. in Ryman Studio M. If last year is any indication, it will be a terrific opportunity to compare notes on favorite social media platforms and share strategies for managing your online life. Best of all, you’ll be able to meet face to face the great folks you’ve been interacting with virtually via Twitter (and now Google +).  If you aren’t able to join us in person, please join us via Twitter. Given the folks who are likely to attend the tweet up, more than one will undoubtedly live tweet the session.

See you there!


Navigating the #ILTA11 Schedule

For new and returning attendees at the International Legal Technology Association’s Conference 2011, I’m reprising a post from last year that provides guidance on navigating the extraordinarily rich educational offerings in the Conference program. If you haven’t yet seen the the wide range of educational sessions, what are you waiting for? Take a look at your options on the conference website or the mobile app, plan your week, and then brace yourself for an intense but rewarding week. Good luck!


Too many choices! That was the reaction of one ILTA 2010 attendee. And, he is an ILTA Conference veteran. For the newcomer, those choices can seem overwhelming. The availability of so many educational options is a testament to the marvelous work done by my colleagues on the Conference Planning Committee and the ILTA staff, but that still doesn’t make it easier when several interesting sessions are scheduled for the same time slot. What’s a conscientious attendee to do?

Here are some tips to consider:

  • *Download the ILTA10 Mobile App or Mobile Website to have immediate electronic access to the schedule, conference center map, speaker info, conference news and updates, and much, much more.
  • *Set up your online itinerary or download session appointments for your Outlook Calendar.
  • *If you’re facing a scheduling conflict, go to the session that offers the best of the following options: experienced, engaging speakers and the chance for audience participation. This is one of the better ways to ensure you learn.
  • *Choose a session that promises new information or new ideas over a session in an area that you know extremely well. One of the great benefits of an educational conference like this is to broaden your horizons.
  • *Still can’t choose? Take a look at the session resource materials posted in the detailed session descriptions on the ILTA website. That should give you an idea of what the session is intended to cover.
  • *If you have a colleague who takes excellent notes, ask if he or she can attend the session and then share their notes.
  • *Alternatively, follow the session hashtag on Twitter to catch contemperaneous commentary on individual sessions. You can find hash tag information in the detailed session descriptions posted on the conference website.
  • *Yet another approach is to follow bloggers who are reporting on the conference this week. (Yes, this is shameless self-promotion! To make it a little less self-referent, please post a link to your blog in the comments below if you are reporting on ILTA10 sessions. Thanks!)
  • *Keep a list of the sessions you can’t attend and then look for the session recordings when you get back home. Those recordings, coupled with the resource materials posted for sessions on the website should give you a pretty good idea of what was discussed. (Note: these recordings are available for purchase after the conference.)
  • *Sometimes popular sessions are reprised after the conference via an ILTA webinar. Look for those in your periodic ILTA e-mail updates.
  • Are there other tips you’d suggest for navigating the rich conference schedule and optimizing your educational experience?


    An #ILTA11 Survival Guide

    The International Legal Technology Association’s Conference can be overwhelming for even conference veterans. If you’re a first-time attendee, you’d better be prepared. To help you with this, I’m reprising a post from last year’s conference that contains helpful tips from conference experts.


    The ILTA10 Survival Guide:

    To be honest, I found my first ILTA Conference a little overwhelming and wished I had been given more advice about how to take advantage of what was offered without crashing and burning. My solution was to do as much as I could and sleep as little as I could, but I acknowledge that this was not the most responsible or healthy choice.

    In the interest of offering a more balanced approach, I asked other ILTA Conference veterans for tips on how to survive ILTA. Here’s what they told me [with my editorial comments included in square brackets]:

    The Sessions:

    **Bill Kyrouz: Map out your entire schedule -now- and have at least one backup class in case you quickly realize your 1st choice wasn’t right. [via twitter]

    **John Alber: Take a look at the session descriptions to get a better sense of what the panelists are planning to discuss.

    **Paul Wittekind: Plan your schedule the night before. [VMA: The sessions are too good to miss because of lack of planning.]

    **Jeff Ward: Choose multiple sessions for each time slot. You may get to one session and discover it isn’t exactly what you thought it would be about. [VMA: Or, you may discover that the room is full and fire marshall regulations prevent your entering the room.]

    General Advice:

    **Shawn Knight: Be sure to attend the Conference Orientation on Sunday at 6pm in Juniper 1. This session is not just for newbies — there will be information for everyone.

    **David Hobbie: No matter your challenge, someone else @ #ilta is or has been facing it too. Meet people, ask Qs, and you’ll find him or her! [via twitter]

    **John Alber: Don’t stay up too late! Conference is intense; you’ll need your sleep. [VMA: I wish he had told me this last year!]

    **Julia Montgomery: Make sure you have business cards with you at all times. You’ll need more than you expect to use.

    **Sean Luman: If you have any questions ask someone with a colored ribbon on their name tag. They’ll be happy to help.

    **Julia Montgomery: Talk to as many people as possible. It will increase the value of your conference experience exponentially.

    ** David Hill: Volunteer for something — even something small — at conference. You’ll learn lots and will make connections with others.

    **Browning Marean: Nothing good happens after 8:00pm!

    **Michele Grossmeyer: (1) Take advantage of the resources you have around you — don’t be afraid to ask anyone around you any questions. The people here are friendly and happy to help. (2) Attend sessions, attend sessions, attend sessions. (3) If a session is not quite the right fit for you, don’t be afraid to move to another session as soon as you realize it. Time is too short at conference so make good use of it! [VMA: Michele co-chaired the last two ILTA conferences so she lots of experience and wisdom to share.]

    **Honora Wade & Corby Guenther: (1) Orient yourself early. Walk round on Sunday to figure out where the main sessions and breakout sessions are. This will allow you to move between sessions efficiently. (2) Be comfortable! This means wear comfortable shoes — there’s a ton of walking. Bring a sweater or light jacket — the rooms tend to chilly and the temperature can vary from room to room. Hydrate, hydrate, HYDRATE!

    **Skip Lohmeyer: (1) Get enough sleep so you don’t fall asleep in sessions. (2) Read session and speaker descriptions before you go to a session. This will give you a better sense of what to expect. (3) And don’t hesitate to ask questions of the folks wearing “Welcome to ILTA 2010” buttons.

    Carlos Rodriguez: The ILTA website has interviews with conference leadership and those articles contain more useful tips.

    What advice do you have for conference attendees?