Musical Chairs for Gonzalez, Baker et al.
By Monica Bay
NEW YEAR'S resolutions seem to be kicking in a bit early this year. Several folks on the tech circuit have decided that the eve of 2001 is a great time for some major changes in their lives.
Earlier this fall, Sally Gonzalez was promoted from her C.I.O. spot to a new position as "Chief Knowledge Office" at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld L.L.P.(which just announced a merger with Troop Steuber Pasich Redick & Tobey L.L.P., bringing its ranks up to 1,050 lawyers worldwide and greatly expanding its Hollywood interests.)
Gonzalez joined Akin Gump two years ago, to lead the firm's migration from Banyan to Microsoft NT and to direct the firm's Y2K operations. Well, change your contact manager. Gonzalez left the firm's Washington D.C. office on Dec. 15.
"At this stage in my life, my goal is to find a satisfying alignment between my personal and professional lives -- balancing interesting work and financial rewards," she says.
Gonzalez is viewed by many as a star in I.T. circles, with special expertise about international technology issues. She was the keynote speaker at Legal Tech Atlanta, where she drew a standing-room-only crowd, even at 9.a.m. (Check out the profile in the Oct. issue of U.K.'s Legal IT (archive menu). So we'll all be watching to see what organization will win the beauty contest to offer her that "satisfying alignment."
Another probable post-Y2K defection: Howard Baker, currently deputy commissioner for technological development at the New York Police Department. (See December's MIS@ column). Now that Y2K has come and gone, and his boss (Howard Safir) has come and gone, Baker's getting itchy to go.
"I hate admininstering the routine," says Baker, who says he accomplished his Y2K goals for the world's largest police department. "I need to move on to another challenge, where things need to be redone entirely," he acknowledges. "Change agents and catalyst agents have short life spans in organizations."
After seven years as an independent consultant, Guy Wiggins jokes that he "decided I had to go out and get a real job."
So he did. Wiggins is the new director of practice management at New York City's Brown Raysman Millstein, Felder & Steiner L.L.P., which focuses its practice on technology matters.
"I'm essentially the chief knowledge officer for the firm, which means that I am in charge of making sure that the firm uses technology properly to assist the lawyers and their staff in getting their jobs done, and to provide a better service to the firm's clients."
Duncan Sutherland has landed in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he is the new chief technical officer at Oppenheimer Wolff & Donnelly, based in its Palo Alto (Silicon Valley) office. He'll also be earning a lot of frequent flier miles traveling to the firm's Minneapolis home office, where, at least initially, most of his staff is located.
Stanley Wasylyk has also said his goodbyes at Morgan Lewis & Bokius L.L.P., after three years in the top I.T. spot, in order to "explore a number of alternatives that include starting a consulting business or professional services firm."
"I have had the opportunity to set an I.T. strategy; assemble an effective team; deploy a variety of new services; and upgrade a number of existing services," says Wasylyk, noting a long list of projects including document management, litigation support, Web projects, etc.
Bye Bye SRA Legal
Kevin O'Connor, vice president of SRA Inter-national Inc., says he's heartbroken about the decision to shut down SRA Legal, a division of SRA International Inc.
"Market conditions have made it hard for us to continue to provide significant value to our clients in the integration space, while simultaneously keeping our staff happy and making a consistent profit," he explained.
SRA Legal did work for about half of the top 250 firms, and generated about $100 million in business in the last seven years, he says. Integration efforts accounted for about 90 percent of the SRA Legal's business.
But the firm's attempts to focus on "knowlege management" consulting and tools just didn't add up to a viable business plan, admits O'Connor.
"I am personally anguished by the impact of this decision to our people and our clients, but I think the decision is the right one," he says.
The first Legal Sys-Tech legal technology conference was held in Singapore, Dec. 7-9, organized by the Asia Business Forum, and co-sponsored by several organizations including the Law Society of Singapore. It drew lawyers from the entire region, including Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, Australia, and more, reports participant Ross Kodner.
Other panelists included Sam Guiberson, Liz Broderick, Simon Chester, Neil Cameron, Wells Anderson, and, via video link from London, Richard Susskind.
Singapore, reports Kodner, "has a real mix of technology use in law firms." Much of the discussion "centered about how law firms must shift focus to become client/customer driven, leveraging technologies such as knowledge management, proactive anticipation of service needs, and the Web-ization of everything."
Kodner confesses that he spent much of his free time in electronics stores and was mesmorized by the plethora of televisions.
"The selection of choices available to Americans is utterly pathetic, compared to the futuristic, HDTV, wide-screen, multi-channel, flat-screen, iMac colored, Hello Kitty-logo'd TVs in Singapore stores.
Even the refrigerators they buy make ours look about as modern as the iceboxes in Norman Rockwell paintings," Kodner says.
L&H Soap Opera
Lernout & Hauspie, which earlier this year bought Dragon Systems Inc. and Dictaphone Corp., is center stage in one of the most puzzling tech soap operas in recent years. Now under investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for financial mismanagement (most specifically, for irregularities in reporting income from Korea operations), the company has filed for Chapter 11 reorganization protection, and for a "concordaat" reorganization under Belgian law. (Belgian authorities nixed the request, because of failure to provide adequate financial information, but L&H is appealing that decision.)
Lernout & Hauspie
At press time, L&H was considering selling pieces or all of the company, and there were reports that Dictaphone and Dragon were trying to annul their recent marriages to L&H. The beleaguered voice recognition maker owes about $450 million to four banks (Fortis Bank, KBC Bancassureance Holdgin, Deutsche Bank and Artesia Banking), reports Bloomberg News. In its Chapter 11 filings, it reported $2.37 billion in assets and $489.6 million in debts. Trading is suspended.
Meanwhile, GE Capital has given L&H an infusion of $20 million. Founders Jo Lernout and Pol Hauspie have stepped down from management, and three board members have resigned: including Hauspie (former co-chair and managing director); Nico Willaert (former managing director) and Gaston Bastiaens (ex-CEO/president). L&H suspended Joo Chul Seo as president and general manager of L&H Korea.
Of course, there's a legal tech angle. Remember the Chinese proverb, "Crisis is danger and opportunity?"
Well, Richard Jackson, of CyberSecretaries, sees a possible opportunity in L&H's troubles. Jackson is inviting firms that have been trying to use voice recognition to try his service instead. "With our one-hour turn-around time and 24/7 availability, input by telephone from anywhere and the increased flexiblity of using live transcriptionists, we feel that we can offer a superior alternative," says Jackson. He's offering a free trial (for info, call 800 828-3889. (American Lawyer Media Inc. has a small equity interest in CyberSecretaries).
Break Out Champagne
David Hambourger, a member of LTN's Editorial Advisory Board, has been voted a partner of Chicago-based Winston & Strawn. Hambourger, who previously served as director of the American Bar Association's Legal Technology Resource Center, joined W&S in 1999. The partnership nod was somewhat unusual, but perhaps indicative of the growing importance of technology in major firms, as Hambourger, the firm's technology guru, is a non-practicing lawyer.
Seattle's Payne Consulting Group has launched a new program, with a very Berkeley-sounding name, I.T. Wellness.It's designed to help firms and corporate law departments analyze I.T. departments. Payne staff will interview, observe, and when appropriate, test, an organization's I.T. department, and then offer a detailed report.
Bernard Stebbing, who evangelized WordPerfect in the U.K., has been given his pink slip by Corel Corp., reports our London correspondent, Charles Christian.
"As in the U.S.A., the U.K. has seen WordPerfect's market share decline dramatically, as firms switch over to Microsoft Word en masse," observes Christian.
"For the last three years, (Stebbing) almost single-handedly kept the WordPerfect flag flying in the U.K. market," says Christian. In the aftermath, Stebbing has bolted from legal, joining an Irish company that specializes in XML projects. Corel's U.K. legal marketing was handed to Pauline Munro Thompson, who will operate from Corel's "slimmed down" offices in suburban London.
Legal Tech Atlanta, held Nov. 30 to Dec. 1, was a small but highly energetic show, thanks to the aforementioned Sally Gonzalez and other terrific panelists and exhibitors.
My thanks to my colleagues on the Internet Repositories for Litigation panel: Neil Aresty, of Legal Computer Solutions Inc.; Ian Campbell, of iCONECT L.L.C.; Vic Moravitz, of TRION Technologiies Inc.; and Tom Morrisey, of CaseVault. As always, it was a fascinating closing session to the Atlanta seminars.
TRION Technologiies Inc.
Special thanks to Cathy Kenton, of Abacus Data Systems Inc., for not only teaching me about the intricacies and hidden secrets of booth break-downs, but for nursing duties at Hartsfield Airport.
Tip of the day: Get your flu shot!