Avoid the Shiny Objects

Avoid the Shiny Objects–  Why the Use Case is More Important than the Technology

Key Takeaways:

  • Be as proactive as possible in a reactive environment.
  • Focus on the goal not on the tool.


  • Scott Rechtschaffen, Chief Knowledge Officer, Shareholder, Littler Mendelson P.C.,
  • Chris Boyd, Chief Knowledge & Talent Officer, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati,
  • Richard E. Robbins, Director of Knowledge Management, Sidley Austin LLP,
  • Anand R. Upadhye, VP of Business Development, Casetext

[These are my notes from the 2018 Ark Group Conference: Knowledge Management in the Legal Profession.  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.]


  • Use Case: A software and engineering term that descibes how a user will use a system to accomplish a goal.
  • Don’t fall for the Buzzwords
    • Don’t be snowed by the slick sales pitch filled with buzzwords
    • Keep your vendors honest — ask them to unpack their sales pitch, explain what their technology really does
    • You and your team will have to drive adoption. Make sure you are ready to make your pitch for this tool with your lawyers. And make sure you are ready to partner with this vendor for a while.
    • The best vendors are not just vendors — they are partners who help you lower costs and improve outcomes.
  • Be Proactive
    • YOU are the one who should define the appropriate use cases
    • YOU should think early about what you should be doing for your firm and what your firm should be doing for its clients.
    • Practice group plans and firm strategy are the best sources for important use cases.
  • Build vs. Buy Decisions
    • These seem to be highly cultural. Some firms really believe that they can do the best job. Other firms say that they are not in the business of creating and maintaining software, they believe others can do it better.
    • Remember that you don’t always use what you have.
    • Once you have identified your use cases and prioritized them, see whether you can use a pre-existing tool. If not, see whether you can buy and then later build, if necessary.
    • Littler has a neither build nor buy option:
      • Their Knowledge Desk required neither a build nor buy decision. They used existing personnel to provide a knowledge concierge service.
    • Wilson Sonsini has a neither build nor buy option:
      • They have created a knowledge base populated by pardon-the-interruption emails. They tweaked Outlook to create an automated outbound/inbound email to collect/distribute questions and answers.
  • Takeaways
    • Before you contact vendors, know what you need to accomplish.
    • Avoid solutions in search of problems at all costs.
    • Hold yourselves accountable for your vendor arrangements. If you haven’t demonstrated adoption, then get out of the contract.
    • Focus relentlessly on the goal, not the tool.
    • Be proactive not reactive.

Session Description:

Avoid the Shiny Objects: Why the Use Case is More Important than the Technology

Law firms and those responsible for driving innovation within have been inundated with pitches and proposals from legal tech companies, particularly start?ups, offering them the latest and greatest solutions to their latest and greatest problems. But what are those problems and how credible are those solutions? Which legal technology solutions are truly valuable and address real?life problems and which are nothing more than concepts, or worse— vaporware that neither exist nor solve actual problems? This lively discussion will assist those responsible for driving innovation within their firms to better understand the importance of identifying their most pressing use?cases before deciding upon a particular legal technology solution. Choosing a technology solution before identifying the use?case will always be like choosing a solution in search of a problem. Law firm innovators are now confronted with a myriad of legal technology solutions and could greatly benefit from a paradigm for helping choose between multiple technology options. In this discussion, panelists will cite specific examples of use?cases and the technology solutions adopted.