Thursday, August 28, 2008

Building Bridges to Practices

Continuing my live-blogging from International Legal Technology Association's Annual Conference. . . .
How many times have you heard that technology projects "need buy-in from the top" or that IT needs to "connect with the practice?" Many projects, and sometimes whole IT departments, find it hard to establish this connection, leaving them little recourse than to buy what others buy, follow the herd and hope for success. We explore "structural" ways to connect IT strategy with business strategy. It is not enough simply to acknowledge the need to connect. You need to have a plan to do so and take specific steps to carry out that plan. We discuss organizational structures, communication methodologies and other techniques designed to help you make the connection.

Speaker: Sally Gonzalez - Senior Director, Knowledge Management at EXENET LLC

My Notes:

Sally started off with some examples of being "connected" to the organization and being "disconnected." It is important to focus on what the technology "does," not what the technology "is."  You need to characterize IT as an investment, not as a cost center.  Don't be an order taker. Be innovative, find what the attorneys needs and anticipate what a lawyer needs.

You need to understand the business. You need to understand the economics, trends, services, competitors and clients of the firm.

IT can look for ways to bind the clients to the law firm. You can create extranets and external applications for the client.

Look for ways that IT can help in the war in talent. You need to deliver the best tools to the lawyers to help them do their job.  

To create a connected strategy, you need to understand the current state. You should focus on the "information," not the "technology."  Then you need to form the vision and figure out what you want to be and where you want to go.  Then develop the plant to go from you are today to where you want to be. Communication is key.

Focus on the "field of gains" first. Those projects that are easy to implement and deliver a lot of value.  Create programs with links to business and a program description.  Outline the benefits, risks and costs of the program. Sally recommends that you also create a program for ongoing operations.

Sally thinks setting up practice service team are a great way to connect the lawyers to the technical people. You designate specific contacts for practice groups, identify liaisons and foster tight working relationships.  Think about embedding IT in client teams.

Don't hide your light under a barrel. Show your success. Communicate like a business leader.

This was a great presentation from Sally.  The audience seemed to rally catch onto these ideas and looked ready to go back and change (or at least give some thought to making a change) with the way they operate their groups at their firms.

Resources to help learn about the legal market:
  • David Maister’s books on managing professional service firms
  • Business Press (WSJ, Managing Partner Magazine, The Lawyer, Law Firm Inc, American Lawyer Publications)
  • Your firm’s website and intranet
  • Hildebrandt Headlines and Publications
  • Adam Smith Esquire
  • Roll on Friday
  • Internet search alert for your firm's name
  • In person: seminars and conferences
Download the session materials.

My ILTA Schedule

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