Blogging was where we began, and how we built our company so we have preserved this archive to show how our thinking developed over a decade of developing the use of social technology inside organisations

Five Things Every Legal Practice Should Know About Web 2.0


Legaltech New York was a great place to take the temperature of the Legal IT world at a time of great uncertainty. As I wrote before the event, we see this as a fantastic opportunity to sweep aside some of the crufty, expensive business-as-usual legal IT systems and embrace a new generation of smarter, more connected and cheaper systems that we think will shape the future of enterprise computing
I am tremendously grateful to V. Mary Abraham for inviting me to join her to run a session about the impact of Web 2.0 ideas on KM in law firms, which was great fun and benefited from a lively and engaged sets of participants (given our shared passion for International Relations, I think the participants got off lightly in terms of historical jokes and metaphors – we barely even touched on the Peloponnesian wars 😉
Law firms exhibit a kind of flocking behaviour with regard to new technology, with partners wanting IT departments to do what the other guys are doing until a few of them break ranks successfully, and then they switch towards that new approach. This has of course, led to some collective failures, and indeed some firms are still throwing money at 1990’s ideas (portals, big CRM, etc) that have never really been proven in terms of ROI and service improvement. So I was not sure how Legaltech attendees would respond to our session, but it was very well attended and, if the Twitter stream is anything to go by, well-received too (see below for slides)
In the session, we tried to get across just how easy it is to find meaningful use cases for the use of social tools inside a law firm, and the great potential for cost and time savings they present. We touched on a few Headshift cases studies including Allen and Overy, who have been using social tools for informal knowledge sharing successfully for over three years, and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, whose wiki spaces have replaced an old intranet with increasing levels of traffic and participation. But we also looked at a classic DIY ‘mashup’ approach within the Australian firm Mallesons, who have built some fantastic applications using combinations of open source and other tools
This approach is really interesting and I think a lot of firms can learn from it. First of all, if we accept that our workflows and processes can change and are full of exceptions, then we should not seek an over-engineered, brittle solution that exactly matches the requirements as stated at the beginning of a project. Instead, we can look for 80% solutions that are quick and cheap to build, and can evolve over time through usage. In this way, legal IT departments can get directly involved in solving business problems quickly, in projects that last no more than 3 months, rather than rely on external vendors who will often mould the requirements to the tool rather than the other way around
This idea inspired us to run a mini-workshop during the session, where participants helped co-design a hypothetical business development, matter intake and conflict checking mashup, and suggested existing sources of data and insight that could be brought to bear on this process to make it quicker, more reliable and more effective. We had an encouraging amount of input from the floor in the workshop, and I think this showed the potential for doing something similar in real-world situations inside law firms.
All in all a great session, so thanks to Mary and the Legaltech team. Hope to see you all again next year

3 Responses to Five Things Every Legal Practice Should Know About Web 2.0

  1. By Doug Cornelius on February 13, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    Lee –
    Sorry I missed your presentation. I decided to skip LegalTech this year. It has been overrun by EDD. I clearly did not even look at the agenda. If I had see this, I may have changed my mind on attending.
    The presentation looked great. Hopefully, some of the attendees are bringing the message back to their firms.
    I fear that many will be sucked into the SharePoint black hole thinking it is a 2.0 tool.

  2. By Lee Bryant on February 13, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    Thanks Doug. EDD sure is boring and seemingly vendor-infested 😉
    Hope we can catch up soon. Hope the new role is going well.

  3. By Robert Pay on July 13, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    As a former Global CMO I thought your New York presentation was a timely contribution to all the law firms that are being driven by a combination of lawyers resprayed as L&D experts and the pre-credit crunch huge iT budgets have wasted $$$$$$!!