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April 2000

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Bill Gates' Supernatural Trek to Windows 2000

by Monica Bay

LET'S stipulate this: Microsoft Corp.'s Bill Gates may be one of the smartest human beings on the planet, but charismatic he ain't. He can't hold a candle to Apple's Steve Jobs in the let's-get-everybody-rev'd-up-about-a-not- terribly-exciting-revision-of-our- software contest.

The battle of the two bands, I mean, cyber giants, took place a month apart on nearly identical turfs in San Francisco, complete with blasting rock and roll, gargantuan video screens, and de rigeur electronic bells, whistles and demoss

As previously reported, (see Feb. LTN), Jobs launched Apple's OS X in January, to an adoring, overflow crowd at Moscone Auditorium, in the hip Yerba Buena Gardens section of the city.

Gates, with a little help from rocker Carlos Santana and Star Trek alum Patrick Stewart, chose the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, in the newly facelifted Civic Center, for the Feb. 17 debut of the Windows 2000 operating system.

The Star Trek theme should have been the first clue. Call me a cynic, but why, why, why do software folks keep dragging out threadbare Star Trek characters to hype their products? Haven't they seen Trekkies or Galaxy Quest? That's not a slam at the actors, mind you: I sat next to Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura) on a flight home after Noember.'s Comdex show in Las Vegas, where she was pitching Conversa's voice recognition products, and she's one of the most interesting people on this planet (or any other, for that matter.)

Anyway, to quote Leander Kahney, of Wired News, the 90-minute Windows 2000 launch was "painfully boring. [T]he weak jokes and low-power wit couldn't relieve the crushing tedium," he reported. Yup. He's right.

"One fact about Bill Gates cannot be disputed: The man's speeches could one day replace general anesthesia," concurred Philip Michael, of

Admittedly, the humongous laptop that opened into a video screen was, well, a cute gimmick. Nor will I complain about any opportunity to see sizzling Carlos Santana play his white hot hit, "Smooth." (Nevermind that the song has no obvious connection to w2000, in contrast to Microsoft's use of "Start Me Up," by the Rolling Stones, for the Windows 95 launch.)

But let's move past the silly launch and visit the real substance.

Windows 2000 is of real interest to major law firms and corporations (especially those engaged in e-commerce). Not surprisingly, several firms are "early adopters" of the revamped operating system, citing increased reliability and scalability.

But caveat: even Gates (and software packaging) cautions against installing w2K on your So/Ho computer unless you are a true power user. Instead, wait for the "Millennium" update to Windows 98, expected this summer.

There's also that other pesky little problem: The 63,000 reported bugs. See PC Week's report at zdnn/stories/news/ 0,4586,2439261,00. html?chkpt=zdhpnews01 for details.

So what's right for your firm? A quick poll of our Editorial Advisory Board found mixed opinions on whether the time is ripe to install w2000.

"Sorry, I prefer working with the OS that comes with the computer," says Arita Sims, of A.B. Consulting. "When I buy a system with Windows 2000 pre-installed, that's when I'll upgrade. The same goes for my clients. I'm not recommending that anyone upgrade their current machines to Windows 2000."

But, says Sims with a laughs, "A new OS usually prompts me to buy a new computer. No wonder I have no money."

Ross Kodner, of MicroLaw Inc., shares Sims' hesitation. "It's long been a general rule in the technology world that you should never use any product release that has a version designation ending in '0.' If you think about it, Windows 2000 has three '0s' -- What does that tell you?"

"I think caution is the watchword," muses Kodner. "If large corporations are waiting, law firms (especially smaller ones with little or no internal IT resources), would be well-advised to wait patiently until Microsoft releases at least the first major service pack."

But several large firms are taking the plunge. Among them: McCutchen, Doyle, Brown and Enersen, based in San Francisco. Says director of technology Mal Mead: "We believe that Windows 2000 will take some of the bumps out of the road for our users at McCutchen, making their daily computer experience a little bit easier,"

Another benefit: "With today's competition for IT talent, it also gives our staff a leading-edge project they can really sink their teeth into," says Mead.

While Windows 2000 is definitely not for everyone, Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering has been aboard from the start, Duncan Sutherland, Jr. told colleagues during a presentation at Fulcrum Information Services Inc.'s Law Firm Chief Information Officers Institute, last month in San Francisco.

In his case, it was the right move at the right time. Sutherland, who has been the firm's chief technology officer for about 18 months, says he inherited a mess, and decided to go for the new OS as part of a complete revamp of technology.

The firm has six offices (Washington, D.C., Baltimore, New York, London, Brussels and Berlin); and about 360 lawyers and 900 employees.

In the fall of '98, the firm was using a Novell network, with a 64K frame/T1 WAN, cc:Mail, and Soft Solutions. It decided to sign up with Microsoft as an "Enterprise" customer and become part of the Windows 2000 Joint Development Partner program.

There were several reasons for the decision, he said: to get a single vendor for both desktop and network OS; to overcome the high cost of supporting the instability of w95/98; to increase control of desktops; and to reduce cost of systems/software management.

Now, Wilmer is using w2000; its WAN is E1s/T1s/128K frame; the e-mail program is Exchange 2000. The firm uses a customized version of Microsoft SiteServer for document management.

Allison Walsh, Microsoft's new legal industry manager, also was on the faculty at the Fulcrum conference. She agrees that firms should assess their environments and staff needs before deciding whether to upgrade now.

"Generally speaking, law firms of all sizes will see the power of Windows 2000 in their environments, because it was created for unparalleled stability and return on investment, says Walsh.

London Calling

Charles Christian reports from London on the recent Information Systems for Lawyers conference:

A presentation by an American, Fred Bartlit of Bartlit Beck Herman Palencher & Scott, caused the biggest stir. Bartlit argued his theory that IT could transform the economics of legal practice.

Bartlit estimates that perhaps 90 percent of lawyers' work involves little more than shuffling papers and can be handled better by technology. A small improvement in efficiency can give a firm a substantial competitive edge, he says. For example, a typical firm might charge a client $300,000 a month for a task requiring the efforts of 20 paralegals but at Bartlit Beck it can be handled by three partners at a cost of just $200,000/month.

He offered three rules for success:

1. Use simple off-the-shelf technology;

2. Every lawyer must use the same IT, with no "pockets of Luddites;" and

3. Technology must be driven from the top -- the most senior people must know how the IT works and be evangelists for its adoption.

But, Bartlit warns, this approach does involve major cultural changes. For example, his firm is heavily reliant upon IT support staff, with approximately one for every six lawyers. In fact Bartlit rates IT staff as more important than paralegals. It also is essential to have an alternative billing process other than charging by the hour, he notes.

IBA Scholarships

The International Bar Association says it is offering scholarships for young lawyers who are interested in attending its 2000 Conference, which will be held in Amsterdam, Sept. 17-22.

Funds are available to lawyers under the age of 35, who could otherwise not participate because of financial restraints. The scholarships and are designed to cover registration, travel and accommodation costs.

Applications are due by April 21. For more information, visit the organization's Web sit at or contact Wendelien Baars at +44 (0) 171 629 1206 or e-mail wendelien.baars@

Make Mine Merlot

Thomson & Thomson has kicked off its "Year of Fine Wine" Sweepstakes. The grand prize: one case of fine wine (12 bottles) per month for a year, with the vino selected by The Town Wine & Spirits Vintage Guild.

Through April, every time you order any research service for trademark, copyright or script clearance, or uses the company's SAEGIS screening service, you are automatically entered into the contest.

'Golden' Gophers

My beloved alma mater, the University of Minnesota, makes the charts again! U of M's Golden Gophers head a legal list they'd no doubt rather avoid: FindLaw's Tarnished Twenty college basketball rankings, which compares major college hoops teams based on criminal, civil and NCAA violations of players, coaches and others associated with Division 1A basketball.

U of M tops the chart for the fifth year in a row, "thanks both to a m assive academic fraud scandal from previous years, and continuing problems with its players this season," reports FindLaw, a Mountain View, Calif.,-based Web portal.

University of Pittsburgh holds the number two spot, with senior forward Chris Hawkins getting busted for marijuana possession, says Findlaw. Minnesota's arch-rival, the University of Michigan, claims the number three spot, thanks to Jamal Crawford, who was benched for eight games for trying to enter the NBA draft in high school. Number four: University of Cincinnati Bearcats. Fifth: Iowa State Cyclones.

The full list can be found at

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