Category: Technology

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Visit our new site! Like building a house, the completion date is often later than the due date …. But, this baby is well worth the wait. We’re excited and hope you will be also. Let us hear from you.  

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Knowledge – Who Owns It?

I had the pleasure of keynoting a recent conference sponsored by LexisNexis.  During a panel discussion among practitioners, technology consultant and myself, the topic of the cost of new technology was discussed. One of the suggestions I made was that the successful law firm of the future will use technology to create and enhance its effort at knowledge management. The firm that is able to retrieve its pre-existing knowledge and use it again will be more efficient, reduce its costs and therefore provide excellent results for clients at a lower price.

Then, the question arises: Who owns the knowledge, who owns the forms, the precedent knowledge? Does the client who paid for it own it? Does the law firm own it? Or does the lawyer who created it own it?  This becomes more important in an age of greater lateral movement.

Some clients have as a condition of engagement that they (the client) own the intellectual property … and that the law firm must share it with other law firms who handle the client’s affairs (e.g., product liability litigation) in other parts of the country.

Do you have a firm policy on this? What do you do concerning your intellectual property when a lawyer leaves your firm? Is your policy different when the lawyer is a partner as contrasted to when the lawyer is an associate?

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Revenge and Social Media

See today’s (Dec 1st) article in the Wall Street Journal (Personal Journal) entitled "The Dark Side of ‘Webtribution.’" This is truly scary where revenge as a motive with little thought to consequences can impact and perhaps destroy someone’s reputation. Because hitting the "send" button is soooooo easy and too often "anonymous," the temptation is huge to lash out at someone for a perceived wrong (whether correct or not).  And the internet cannot be erased!  We know from the print media that "retractions" are seldom effective, even when made. On the internet, the stain is permanent.

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Is the cloud ready for prime time?

Some folks are now advising the implementation of a hosted exchange server. They appear to have become more stable and reliable. Is this true?  Is the "cloud" now being effectively seeded by qualified and capable technology?

What are the pros and cons of hosted exchange servers?

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Knowledge management is the difference between thriving and failing.

Today, I talked with a solicitor from London who is studying knowledge management and its implementation in UK firms to increase profits.  Since much of their work is based on fixed fees, any improvement in efficiency will go directly to the bottom line. 

They even employ a group of lawyers whose primary function is to improve their knowledge base, organize it and make it more searchable, all with the view to reduce the time needed to create documents for a new transaction and increase the margins of profit.  These lawyers do not engage with clients; their focus is on the infrastructure of the firm and its improvement.

Since her firm (she says most are like hers) uses only the fixed fee billing model, there is no focus on the billable hour; this, then, allows the focus to be on efficiency. Thus far, American law firms do not use this model much … and thus their focus on cost cutting today is primarily because of the decrease in demand they’ve experienced from the crises of their clients. That is a far cry, however, from having a focus on efficiency … Cost cutting and efficiency are not necessarily the same.

An interesting contrast presented today by the solicitor:  Increased profit by increased efficiency under a fixed fee engagement agreement.  While the American law firm model is increased profit by incresing the hourly billing rate.  As clients begin to revolt at annual price increases, American law firms will need to look at alternative fee arrangements to keep clients … then, their focus might turn to efficiencies in the delivery of those services.

My wife is fond of say, "there is no free lunch."  The fixed fee approach is not necesarrily a panacea for profitability. With a fixed fee, there is the inevitable pressure to reduce that fee and squeeze the firm’s profit margins. It’s an easier target than is the billable hour (where the number of hours can be fudged without much challenge). But, that’s another story for another day.

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Twitter and money – an oxymoron?

Can you imagine that Twitter, WITHOUT any revenue stream, is valued at $1Billion! Wow. Not many employees and no revenue stream … and no prospects in sight to get revenue.

Just think what your law firm, with a decent revenue stream, might be worth? What is the difference? And why isn’t your firm worth $1B?

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FTC restricts bloggers

FTC is interested in restricting bloggers … wanting them to disclose any interest in products they promote … At first I was concerned but then realized that the ruling was no more severe than being applied to broadcasters.  So, what is different? Perhaps it’s that this may be the first time that the internet is being regulated.

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Watch Your Face – book, that is

Florida’s Bar Board of Bar Examiners, through its Character and Fitness Commission, will examine applicants’ Facebook and MySpace websites under certain circumstances, such as where there previously was substance abuse and the like.  Why they don’t do it in all cases is not explained … but the Bar has been notified, Beware! Big Brother will be watching to see if you express remorse and are rehabilitated.

I wonder how many other bar associations are doing this without any announcement … Seems to me that social networking media is public and no permission is required to review your public pronouncements, whether for initial application or even license recertification. And what impact will this have with the Bar … or even for an adversary in some matter for a client. This is the downside of the internet for some who take a more light-hearted or flippant approach to this media … it is more than a personal expression. It can have professional consequences. Beware!


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Social media can be a dangerous sport

On more than one occasion, I’ve talked about how Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn can be dangerous. That is, our posts in these public environments that never disappear and cannot be erased can be dangerous. New lawyers have had job offers retracted; lawyers have been asked to leave their firms; and secretaries have been fired … all because of posts of personal activities or comments seemingly unrelated to the job at hand. But, everything is relevant as the advocate would say.

Today, I’m in Chicago, preparing for the ABA’s annual conference. In reading the newspaper, I can across an article about a Chicago corporate landlord suing a former resident for an apparent offhand remark on Twitter about her supposedly moldy apartment.  In comes the "sheriff" (the landlord) with a suit for libel.

Courtney Love was sued earlier this year for calling a designer something nasty.

Needless to say, there has been an incredible amount of publicity in both matters … Unless you believe that all notoriety is good publicity, you might think twice not only about what you post publicly, but also about what you sue for … Both sides will walk away with mud on their face.

One thing is for sure, though. This new environment sure is powerful and far-reaching!

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Twitter beginning to slide?

Some lawyers are beginning to leave Twitter.

I started with Twitter several months ago and within 48 hours received 2 invitations to speak at conference, one on the West Coast and one in the Northeast. Beyond that, I haven’t seen any revenue generated, but I have made connections with folks whom I value.  Is it worthwhile? That depends on your metric for success. For revenue, no, not yet. For connections and an avenue for quick conversation, I think so (at least that’s my current thinking. And I know a number of folks who swear by Twitter.

The problem with all of this social media is that the human body needs no further inducement to hunch over … we’ve tried for so long to stand tall, straight. And being hunched over to look at our portable screen takes us back to our origins … and takes multi-tasking to an entirely new level of understanding.

What has been your experience?

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