bly help the firm stay competitive
Campbell expects to enhance profitability by improving the firm's attorney-secretary
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.
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.
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.
& 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
All of the
multi-office firms plan to enhance interoffice communication.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Dana Shultz is an Oakland-based
certified management consultant, speaker and coach specializing in office technology. He
may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and
on the Web at www.ds-a.com. His legal technology column
appears regularly in the California Bar Journal.