Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Current Awareness - Critical Information Management Tools in the Legal Industry

  • Doog Hoover from Thomson West
  • Dennis Kennedy from the Dennis Kennedy Law Firm LLC
  • Meredith L. Williams, from Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz

Dennis took the position that or current information environment has four characteristics:

  1. Information silos - you need to visit too many places to find things
  2. Information overload - spam interference mixed in with good things.
  3. Information underload
  4. Continuous partial attention - always thinking about all the things going on around you and clambering for your attention distracting you from your current task

We used to live a hunter-gather information era. People went out to get information. They searched for information and checked websites for changes.

Moving beyond the hunter-gather era, there are tools to bring the relevant information to you. Email updates was one of the first steps in the area. Email updates are sent to you. Unfortunately email is overloaded, clogged with spam and hard to search and retrieve.

Intelligent agents came next and alerted you to some changes and new information on topics interesting to you. Google Alerts is an example.

The next step is the use of RSS feeds and feed readers to create a "Daily Me" site. Also you want to be able to make this information actionable. RSS is news for you. Dennis, in 2003, called RSS feeds as "life-altering technology."

In the audience, only half the audience used RSS feeds so he spent some time giving background and explaining RSS. There are two keys to using RSS: having an RSS feed on the site and a RSS feedreader to consume and display the RSS feed. Check out the CommonCraft video for more background. Dennis showed us his feedreader to give the audience some background. [It looks like he organizes his RSS feeds based on priority. It also looks like he is a NASCAR fan.]

Doug stepped up next to focus on taking the next step and turning that news coming to you into actionable intelligence. The challenge is to get the lawyers to triage large amount of information and pass it onto the person who needs the information to act on it. The best information to deliver to lawyers is information on their clients and their clients' industry.

Competitive intelligence seems really attractive for law firms. Largely because it is creating actionable content that could directly lead to revenue generation. He also points out that technology is key to cross-selling clients. The technology helps you identify what services you are selling and to identify what services the client may need. He also thought it may be possible that firms will outsource competitive intelligence activities. ShiftCentral creates regular buckets of information and summarize the information.

Meredith demonstrated her tools. As a knowledge management person, she sees her role as increasing efficiency. She is helping the decision-makers get the information they need and to help them to digest it.

She started off showing her client page. It breaks down matters into open matters and closed matters. They also show all the people who have billed time to the client and all the ethical walls for the client. Each client site also has links to information on the client and information on the client's industry.

The litigation profile is generated from West 360 and client pulls information from Westlaw. It shows the volume of litigation for the client and who is representing the client, ranking the firms by the amount of representations. The system links out to all of the dockets.

They have a news site for each client with all the news items for the client and some ranking as to whether it is positive or negative.

They have an alert function that send out an RSS notification when there is new information for the client.

On the practice area level, they feed news onto practice area sites. They can show changes in the law, fed form Lexis. They also display courtlink on the practice area page.

Key factors for Success:

  • Seamless integration - No passwords.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Keep it easy to maintain.
  • Make it part of their daily practice.

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