California Bar Journal
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California Bar Journal

The State Bar of California


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Front Page - January 2000
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News Briefs
Former Unruh aide appointed to serve on State Bar board
Ardaiz, O'Leary named jurists of the year for '99
Judicial Administration fellowships
Public law section online library
Board meets Feb. 4-5
51.2 percent pass July '99 bar exam
Board hires search firm for new bar chief
Litigation section offers MCLE week in legal London
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Trials Digest
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From the President - Reciprocity reform: The future is now
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For most Americans, our system is a failure
Ethics 2000: On target, or lost in space
Letters to the Editor
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Public Comment
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MCLE Self-Study
Of Counsel: Avoiding Conflicts
Self-Assessment Test
MCLE Calendar of Events
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Important Information About Your 2000 Membership Fee
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You Need to Know
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Apply to serve on a bar committee
Bar seeks applicants for ABA delegates
Judge evaluation positions open
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Ethics Byte - Warding off the foul tort in a new year
Bankruptcy attorney disbarred after abandoning clients
Attorney Discipline
With the dawn of a new century comes the goal of higher productivity
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Continued from Page 1
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bly help the firm stay competitive — Campbell expects to enhance profitability by improving the firm's attorney-secretary ratio.

Going mobile

The second major trend is to increase attorneys' computing capabilities while they are away from the office. At some firms, this translates to increased use of notebook PCs.

Lozano Smith is a five-office, 38-attorney, public-entity firm that is going through rapid growth. Executive Director Karen Alford sees “a trend toward laptops with docking stations” so lawyers can be more mobile and take their PCs to clients' offices.

Several firms plan to add or enhance remote-access capabilities. Among them is Landels, Ripley & Diamond, whose 81 attorneys practice environmental, labor, employment, real estate and corporate law and litigation.

For Tim Blevins, director of systems and technology, replacing the firm's Citrix WinFrame remote-access server is likely to be at the top of the list. By switching to Microsoft Terminal Server and Citrix MetaFrame, Blevins expects to improve speed, reliability and compatibility with today's application software. In addition, MetaFrame will present remote users with the same PC desktop that they see when they are in the office.

Steefel, Levitt & Weiss, a 63-lawyer firm with a general civil practice in San Francisco, sees improved remote access as one reason for moving to a unified e-mail and voice messaging system. Maryanna Bell, director of management information systems, notes that attorneys will be able to check both voice messages and e-mail with a single telephone call — a definite advantage when time is tight.

Embracing the Internet

The third trend is toward greater use of the Internet and intranets. For five-attorney Kalisch, Cotugno & Rust in Beverly Hills, moving from dial-up Internet access to a full-time, high-speed DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) connection will present new opportunities.

Partner Lee Cotugno sees Internet access as a way the labor law, business and litigation firm can compete with larger rivals. “We're a small firm, so we can't have a complete Federal library in hard books,” Cotugno notes, “but with more computer research recently, books matter less and less.”

Cotugno especially likes the ability to find other attorneys who have similar cases via the Internet. “With a click and a quick little e-mail message, I can establish relationships I didn't have before. I can get work done in minutes that used to take days or weeks,” Cotugno says.

Some firms will devote additional resources to marketing on the web. Lozano Smith's Alford notes that while the firm has not yet put up a web site, its clients use the web, so it makes sense for the firm to market there.

Moss & Enochian's White says that his firm has received several cases from its existing web site. As a result, the firm plans to add more attorney-written articles and list more successful appellate cases to bring in even more business. Similarly, Lyon & Lyon plans to give its web site a makeover and additional content.

Several firms are planning significant enhancements to their intranets. Lyon & Lyon wants to make its intranet more useful by adding both administrative and practice-related materials. Steefel Levitt sees its intranet as the groundwork for future developments, such as sharing information with clients via an extranet.

Intranet enhancement will be a key activity at Littler Mendelson, a 30-office, 363-attorney labor and employment law firm headquartered in San Francisco. Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Michael Williams reports that “we will be focusing more of our attention on information management.”

Littler Mendelson will look most closely at client relations, knowledge management and precedent management. According to Williams, the goal is to maximize the extent to which information is available to and shared by all the attorneys in the firm.

Connecting offices

All of the multi-office firms plan to enhance interoffice communication.

Until now, Lozano Smith has relied on dial-up connections for sending information between offices. This year, the firm will set up a wide area network (WAN) connecting all its offices.

Furthermore, Lozano Smith will implement a firm-wide document management system (DMS). Together, the WAN and the DMS will allow the firm to organize documents easily, find them quickly and ensure that lawyers in all offices provide consistent advice to clients on all issues.

Lyon & Lyon plans to implement videoconferencing. By establishing point-to-point connections among all offices, the firm plans to reduce travel costs and provide greater immediacy than is possible with telephone conferencing. Equally important, many Lyon & Lyon clients have videoconferencing that they want to use with the firm.

Littler Mendelson is moving toward the multimedia “convergence” that we read so much about. The firm is upgrading the speed of its WAN, which will carry not only interoffice data, but also telephone calls and videoconferences.

Getting the most

Of course, the best technology in the world is useless if people do not know how to use it. Thus, it is no surprise that several firms will look at training and support this year.

Hillyer & Irwin is a 40-attorney San Diego firm with a broad civil practice. Last year, it set up ProLaw's integrated front- and back-office software.

Managing shareholder Howard Susman reports that the accounting department is using the back-office component quite effectively, but the firm's lawyers have not yet embraced the front-office (case-management) component as eagerly as had been expected. Susman anticipates that a combination of additional training and technical enhancements will help attorneys to get the most out of the system.

Littler Mendelson will make application software training available on users' PCs. In what CTO Williams characterizes as a “just in time” training program, users will be able to choose training on specific software features and functions that they need help on at any given moment.

Landels Ripley plans to pay attention to the support side of the equation — specifically, by providing remote-control software to support staff so they can see, on their PCs, what users see on their PCs.

Needing the least

Robinson & Wood in San Jose earns the “less is more” award for 2000. The 28-lawyer civil litigation firm finished a complete overhaul of its computer and telephone systems late in 1999. Firm administrator Greg Baba hopes that he “won't need to do anything” on the technology front this year.

At first glance, it may seem that the technology plans for these 11 firms are all over the map. Yet, while each firm has its specific needs, several trends stand out.

Increasing productivity — whether attorneys are in or out of the office — is the most important objective. The Internet and intranets are crucial enabling technologies. For multi-office firms, wide area networking is essential. Finally, training and support really make these technologies work.

This looks like a good formula for any firm interested in improving productivity, profitability and competitive success.

Dana Shultz is an Oakland-based certified management consultant, speaker and coach specializing in office technology. He may be reached by e-mail at and on the Web at His legal technology column appears regularly in the California Bar Journal.