Merger Mania and Pro Bono Efforts
by Monica Bay
FULCRUM Information Services hosted its fourth annual Law Firm Chief Information Office Institute in San Francisco, Feb. 26-27. The tech ramifications of law firm merger mania was Topic A, not surprising considering how many firms are wrestling with recent or pending marriages -- including conference co-chair Nancy Karen's Sidley & Austin. Her Chicago-based firm is in negotiations with Brown & Wood.
and Nancy Karen
Karen gave a fast-paced and entertaining kick-off speech, identifying key issues that "keep I.T. staff up at night" in firms worldwide. (That, btw, inspired the little boxes scattered throughout this issue of LTN.)
Mergers, globalization, and connectivity, all make the list. "I.T. is turning away from internal focus," she warned her colleagues, and "reaching out to clients." Another change: Strong marketing departments are a new constituency, notes Karen.
She should know! Sidley & Austin is one of the leaders of the current salary wars for marketing staff. It recently handed its new chief marketing officer, Alfred Romanoski Jr., an annual salary of about $325,000 (potentially $400,000, with bonuses), reports The American Lawyer's March issue (our sibling publication).
Karen's co-chair was the irrepressible Duncan Sutherland Jr., who recently moved to the Bay Area to join Oppenheimer, Wolff & Donnelly L.L.P. as its chief technology officer. He previously was tech guru at Wilmer Cutler & Pickering, in D.C. (His bride, attorney Vernell Sutherland, is the new Chief Operating Officer at San Leandro's Meyers Nave Riback Silver & Wilson.)
Also at the podium: FirmLogic's Marvin Chavis, who did some energetic soothsaying.
"Corporations tend to run two to three years ahead of large firms, and 10 to 40 years ahead of other firms," he cautioned. "Clients are calling the shots. Clients are changing the rules of engagement."
Technology costs are increasingly brutal, reminded Chavis. "On average, firms spend 2 percent of gross revenues on technology." That's going up. "Typical expenses run $5K to $8K per user," he said.
Want more info on the CIO program? You can get copies of the audio. Details at Fulcruminfo.com).
While in San Francisco, I had a chance to reconnect with John McGuckin Jr., general counsel of Union Bank of California N.A. McGuckin served on the State Bar of Calif-ornia's board of governors back when I was at our sister publication, The Recorder newspaper.
John McGuckin Jr. in front of the Diego Rivera fresco at The City Club.
These days, he is a member of the board of the American Corporate Counsel Association, and chair of its advocacy committee. It was great to catch up with his latest activities and to revisit San Francisco's elegant The City Club. One of the club's trademarks is a fresco by Diego Rivera, The Riches of California, which hangs in the club's main entry stairwell. It's stunning and well worth a visit if you are near 155 Sansome St. on your next S.F. trip.
McGuckin has graciously agreed to join the LTN Editorial Advisory Board. He'll keep us in touch with the perspective of corporate counsel -- a critical component of the legal technology community. (See his article at page 24.) .
Kevin Voccia, practice support manager of Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison L.L.P., introduced me to Karen Klein, director of operations of the firm's Concord Technology Center.
Karen Klein and Kevin Voccia
We had a great visit, and the pair outlined the firm's current technology operations and gave LTN some strong hints that there may be some interesting tech news from the San Francisco firm in the near future. As they say, "Watch this space."
Is the mothership beginning to pay attention to legal again? After Microsoft Corp. reorganized its staff, and transferred the fabulous Allison Walsh from her legal industry advocate spot, everybody in the legal tech circuit was wondering if we'd ever have somebody to help us at Redmond.
Maybe this is a good sign: for the first time, Microsoft has included a session aimed at the legal industry during its Microsoft Office Developer Conference in Orlando, April 8-12.
Donna Payne, of Seattle's Payne Consulting Group, has been invited to present a session, Using Office XP for the Legal Profession. (XP is Microsoft's newest version of its word processing, etc. suite.). Let's hope Microsoft will continue to keep legal on its radar. Details: msofficeconference.com.
Ouch at ELF
Don Murray, president of Seattle's ELF Technologies, is keeping his chin up despite having to pink slip 80 people. ELF dropped to 50 employees, from 130, he reports.
Part of the reason: ELF's recent partnership with eVelocity, the creators of ProvideIT, an electronic invoice processing and management system. ProvideIT will become a new service on ELF's Serengeti ASP (application service provider) platform, says Murray. That eliminated the need to offer ELF's eInvoice service, as E-Velocity's staff is handling the development and customer implementation of the service.
But Murray insists there's no need for doom or gloom. "We're going to be fine."
Pro Bono Tech
If there is one area where legal technology can make a significant, tangible impact on society problems, it's in pro bono legal work.
Michael Hertz, executive director of probono.net, writes in Management Information Exchange about current efforts to build a comprehensive delivery system to integrate information from local, state and national programs; and to build alliances with organizations outside the traditional legal services communities. "We have only scratched the surface of what is possible," writes Hertz.
Very interesting March 10 article on the technolawyer listserv, by Dennis Kennedy, of Thompson Coburn L.L.P. in St. Louis. Lawyers, he says, should consider six issues when evaluating your firm's technology portfolio in these bumpy times:
1) Technology that cuts costs; 2) Technology that makes you indispensible to your clients; 3) Technology that helps you get new clients; 4) Technology that helps you move into new practice areas; 5) Technology that helps you recruit and retain great people; and 6) Technology that makes you saner. ("Identify sources of real aggravation and deal with them. If you are overwhelmed by e-mail, learn to use the management features of your program.")