Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Web 2.0 - What is Means to Law Firms

Join the G100 CIO Advisory Board as they provide a recap of the G100 CIO event held on Monday, August 25 in conjunction with ILTA '08.  The focus is “Web 2.0 - What It Means to Law Firms,” including a summary of what Rajen Sheth, Senior Product Manager for Google Apps shared with the group around the phenomenon of Web 2.0 in general.

  • Peter Lesser - Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher + Flom, LLP
  • David Rigali - Husch Blackwell Sanders LLP
  • Karen Levy - Debevoise + Plimpton LLP
  • Peter Attwood - Simmons + Simmons
  • Jeff Brandt - Crowell and Moring
My Notes:

G100 is a forum for the CIOs from the 100 biggest law firms in the world. This year, the topic was Web 2.0.  Some of the things they heard were speakers from an Australian law firm, Microsoft and Google.

The panel started off with a definition of Web 2.0, then moved on to Enterprise 2.0. They wonder if there will really be an impact on corporate information systems.

One panelist noted that it changes their way of looking at information and whether it needs to be as structured as it currently is structured inside their firms.

They were surprised to find out that more of the content being added is coming form partners and not junior associates.  (We have the same experience. We are getting much more contribution from partners than associates.)

Two big factors they noticed. One is that the content gets in very quickly. Second, you need very little IT control or input after the initial set up.

It is very cheap to fail with these tools.  There is very little incremental cost for each additional wiki page.

The panel although impressed with web 2.0 are not sold on them. Most of panel was not ready to start adoption of wikis. 

They had the same view on blogs.  One panelist stated that they have a ban on external blogs. But just the same, they had one internal blog that is highly viewed.

The panel moved on to Google apps. They were very impressed with a presentation from Google on Google apps.  They were very impressed with cloud computing and the ability to quickly push out updates to the programs. (I hate to rain on their parade, and Google does not use the term, but Google Docs is a wiki system.) They are intrigued with moving from an integrated desktop to a virtual desktop.

My view. I think the CIOs need to get out more often. They are missing the change that is coming.

My ILTA Schedule


  1. I think it is likely that we will see Word embracing the Wiki concept in a later version. It is a natural extension of the Word processor, especially when it comes to sharing documents (and the built in versioning of most wiki's does not hurt either). I think that Atlassian is showing that Word can be used to edit a wiki, and I can see MS using the wiki concept to provide a cloud based collaborative environment.

    Is it really much of a stretch to envision the document format of Word migrating just enough to be natively published on a wiki (or maybe it is already there)?

  2. Sean, I don't think it's very far off, Word 2007 can already be used to publish to a blog, so why not a Wiki?

    Doug, loved your take about CIO's needing to get out more. I find many restrictive policies, like the "no blogs" policy from the session, come from IT and or Attorney's fears of something they don't quite understand, as opposed to any actual analysis of the risks versus the potential benefits.

  3. @ Sean and @ Mike - Microsoft is already using Word 2007 as a way edit wikis and post blogs into Sharepoint. I agree that there it likely that Word will be more collaborative in the future.

    @ Mike - The reasons people say not social tools is out of lack of understanding. The key is education and proper policies. See my notes on the Web 2.0 Boon or Boondoggle:

  4. Generally speaking, IT does not set policy. It may influence policy, but it's role in my opinion is more to enforce policy set by risk management and the firm. I think that enlightened firms will provide training to attorneys on consumer Web 2.0 technologies in order to mitigate what is a very real risk. It wasn't covered in the presentation, but the firm that presented mentioned that they do this.

    As far as the coming revolution is concerned - Always difficult to predict. I think there are two questions that have to be looked at. Is using wikis for collaborative authoring going to provide firms with a competitive advantage (i.e., in the zero sum game of technology investments is this where the attention should be focused at this time)? Second, I'd love to see more analysis on the document creation process and whether it tends to be a serial process or one that lends itself more to a wiki approach. During the G100 presentation, the example document provided has something like 934 versions - every edit ever made to the document. Obviously, this is not without it's own risk.

    I don't know whether CIOs need to get out more. I do think that CIOs are going to be increasingly forced to critically examine the cost/benefit or risk/benefit of any technology in order to justify investments. In the end, it was the economics of something like Google Apps that caught the CIOs attention. Isn't this where their focus should be?

    Dave Rigali
    Husch Blackwell Sanders

  5. @ Dave Rigali

    I do not think anyone is talking about using wikis to draft legal documents. I personally do not think wikis work well for the structured documents. Google Docs is an outlier in wikis where it keeps creating versions on its own. Every other wiki platform I have seen only creates a new version of the wiki page when someone hits the save feature.

    Wikis work better for internal communication than external communication. Take a look at some of my articles:

    Wiki While You Work

    Wikis Versus Document Management Systems

    You and panel were intrigued by Google Docs as a plumbing change. I think it does make sense to move lots of the internal application out into the cloud. It can be cheaper and easier. But effectively that is just taking Office and moving to Office Online. Instead of connecting to the application on your desktop, you connect to the application through the internet cloud. I think that has lots of potential for time and money savings.

    Enterprise 2.0 tools offer an ability for attorney and professional staff to better collaborate and better capture that information. Too much communication and too much collaboration is taking place in email. This information is getting locked in hard to leverage, hard to store and hard to find email.

    Most firms (unfortunately, including mine) do not have polices on web 2.0. IT should understand these tools, both the benefits and the issues to help advise the decision-makers. IT should be looking at innovative new ways to get work done. The great part of most web 2.0 tools are that they are inexpensive. Look at "safe-fail" projects. Cheap and easy to deploy.

    Thanks for your comments, the presentation and the discussion.


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