THE first annual Law Technology News Awards honor both products and legal
technology leaders. Five awards recognized the achievements of law firms
and corporate legal departments. The recipients were selected by a panel
of three jurors, all members of LTN's Editorial Advisory Board.
I was a juror, along with Andrew Adkins III, of the University of Florida's
Legal Technology Institute, and Fredric Lederer, law professor and director
of the Courtroom 21 Project at the College of William & Mary.
I.T. director of the year
Craig Courter, chief technology officer, Baker & McKenzie.
Courter, recently promoted to the firm's chief operating officer, served
as C.T.O. from 2000-2003, and led the firm's technology group in meeting
the needs of more than 3,000 lawyers around the world.
He established a "Shared Services Centers of Excellence" program to
provide improved technology resources in the most efficient and economical
way. Unlike the firm's offices, which are located in the heart of many
of the world's business centers, the services center sites are chosen
for reasons of cost and accessibility. They include a network operations
center in Manila; a global call center in Indiana; development centers
in Manila and Jakarta, Indonesia. Some centers have already delivered
cost reductions and reduced workload.
The outsourcing of so many technology and support processes is a startling
change for the legal profession, where firms have traditionally done
much of their professional and administrative functions internally.
At a time when the largest law firms continue to grow in size — and
must seek additional business advantages — efficient delivery of technology
services is critical.
Outsourcing can take advantage of less expensive pools of expertise;
placing them in multiple locations increases the availability of these
services throughout a 24-hour cycle.
As firms get larger, the economies of scale that are possible by centralizing
technology and support processes can be significant.
Technology alone cannot make a firm better. Leadership like Craig Courter's
is necessary to apply the technology systems and resources in such a
way that the firm operates more effectively and, perhaps most importantly,
the firm's clients receive even better service and support.
Most innovative use of technology during a trial
William Smith and R. J. Waldsmith, Abramson Smith Waldsmith. Ted
Court technology runs the gamut from basic video presentation systems
to complex evidentiary systems and multimedia options. Lawyers now use
trial technology to present case facts, to highlight inconsistencies
in testimony, and to help the fact finder understand the issues.
The attorneys of Abramson Smith Waldsmith, with consultant Ted Brooks,
used many of the more common options available in a courtroom. Their
technology use stands out, however, for how they used technology prior
to the trial to maximize results at trial.
Video depositions were used extensively in a complex personal injury
case. Challenged by the difficulty of telling their client's story,
William Smith and R.J. Waldsmith used video to bring clarity to an otherwise
confusing case. The goal: visual reinforcement during the trial to help
the jury to see what they were hearing about.
The firm went beyond showing static images. They replayed a witness'
deposition testimony, juxtaposed against the witness' courtroom testimony,
to heighten the effect of the impeachment by plaintiff's counsel.
Not only was this a clear, easy to understand way to deliver the information,
but using multimedia appealed to the jury and kept their focus.
Waldsmith and Smith also used video during their closing arguments,
to reinforce their case and the testimony that had been presented. They
used technology to keep witnesses — who normally would have departed
once their role in the case was over — in front of the jury from the
start of the trial to the finish.
Champion of technology
John Alber, Bryan Cave
There are many reasons why technology projects fail. One of the reasons
for success is personified by John Alber, technology partner and head
of the client technology group at Bryan Cave, who was recognized as
the champion of technology.
It is not enough, any longer, for technology to deliver the results
it is expected to deliver. Law firms and corporations must have people
who will lead in order to make the inevitable changes that occur with
technology happen as quickly and effectively as possible.
A stamp of a great organization is having a business leader who is
willing to step forward and provide the additional support to enable
that change to happen. It is not surprising, then, that John Alber's
success was not through the delivery of any specific technology.
Instead, Bryan Cave created a function, led by Albert, called the client
Rather than focusing solely on lawyers or technology staff, this new
group includes lawyers, business analysts, Web and multi-media developers,
and other staff with expertise in technological areas, including litigation
The group's work has centered on delivery of improved services to clients
using technology. Alber's leadership has meant that Bryan Cave has taken
significant strides forward in addressing diverse client needs through
better communication and delivery of information. The scope of the client
technology group ranges from electronic litigation support, to overseeing
a new docketing system, to the creation of Web logs (a.k.a. "blogs")
for practice groups.
These kinds of changes are impossible without a champion who can bridge
different staff and practice interests, and encourage everyone to pull
in the same direction. When a champion emerges who also understands
the benefits and power of technology to change how a firm operates,
it can be a catalyst that makes success that much more likely.
Most innovative use of technology by a law firm:
Steven Agnoli, Kirkpatrick & Lockhart.
Today's firms face remarkable pressure to remain innovative, not only
in the practice of law but in meeting business challenges.
Steven Agnoli, of Kirkpatrick & Lockhart, received the award for
the development of a 360° performance review application. The firm wanted
to improve its review process so that partners and associates were better
able to give feedback that would lead to assignments that took advantage
of lawyers' abilities, no matter which office they were in. For example,
they wanted a partner who may have worked with an associate, but was
not a direct supervisor, to have input into the review process.
The firm's development team used existing technology to build a Web-enabled
system that pulls data from financial and human resources systems, to
centralize information about each attorney being reviewed. This helps
reviewers see demographic information about the attorney as well as
data about hours billed and the projects that the attorney worked on.
The data integration reduces the need to access different systems to
get a full picture of performance.
Reporting capabilities eliminate the need for I.T. staff to act as
report generators. Attorneys and support staff with access rights can
generate reports on demand.
Kirkpatrick & Lockhart built this system internally. They used
standard development tools, including a Web browser, to integrate the
software with the firm's other systems.
A niche application like this can be tricky, because off-the-shelf
software may not integrate with, or otherwise meet the needs of, the
systems used by a law firm.
Most innovative use of technology by an in-house legal department.
Craig Glidden, Chevron Phillips Chemical Co.
Creativity and innovation are not the sole domain of the law firm.
Chevron Phillips Chemical Co,'s counsel, led by Craig Glidden, developed
a "Convergence Project" when Chevron and Phillips merged and the new
legal department had to address efficiency and growth issues.
Glidden, vice president and general counsel for Chevron Phillips Chemical
Co., focused the counsel's office on reducing the complexity and costs
created by the merger.
The Convergence Project set goals of reducing the number of law firms
with whom in-house counsel worked, creating closer relationships with
those firms, improving internal management of information, and establishing
performance criteria for outside counsel.
Technology was the underpinning for the project; the primary goal was
to improve business practices. The group analyzed what work was done
and how long that work took for each type of matter handled by the counsel's
office. This included a review of how many matters were handled internally
or by outside counsel, and how many attorneys were required to handle
these matters. The group then selected applications to support the Convergence
Project, including acquiring matter management and electronic invoicing
applications, and utilizing the company's pre-existing enterprise systems.
Chevron Phillips was able to leverage these systems to reduce the number
of outside firms from 50 to nine, adopt electronic invoicing of outside
counsel that integrates with internal matter management and accounting,
and increase the ability of the entire legal department to share information.
Perhaps as important as the technological benefits of integration and
the efficiencies it allows, the Convergence Project provided an opportunity
to coalesce a new legal team around systems that would make them more
These award winners are outstanding examples of the way legal professionals
can use technology to change how we operate and provide services to
Each year brings new challenges, new technologies, and new opportunities.
We look forward to the 2004 Law Technology News Awards to see the next
group of outstanding technology leaders and achievements!
David Whelan is director of the American Bar Association's Legal Technology
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