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July 2001
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London Insider

Looking for Insights

By Charles Christian

Looking for Insights LONDON-BASED software house Perceptive Technology Ltd. has just published the results of a survey, conducted earlier this year, to assess how knowledge management is being applied within the legal industry. The results tend to confirm my own long held concern that many law firms are still relatively clueless when it comes to KM projects.

For example, on ROI (return on investment), although 65 percent of firms in the sample said there had been an ROI benefit, only 5 percent reported increased revenue and just 3 percent said profits had increased. Instead, 30 percent talked about the rather more woolly benefits, such as increases in overall efficiency/productivity, while 24 percent cited reductions in research time.

It was also worrying to see that although some firms claimed they were spending more than $1.5 million on their KM projects, 32 percent were not providing any staff training on how to use the system, 12 percent were not providing support staff (including secretaries, legal trainees and assistants) with access to the system, nearly 40 percent did not update the system on a daily basis, and 9 percent left the updating to trainee solicitors.

There again, as 53 percent of firms offered their partners no incentives to update the KM system -- and many of those that did resorted to short term gimmicks such as handing out chocolate bars (as if that is going to sway a lawyer on $400 an hour) -- perhaps it is a good thing that only three percent of firms offered their clients access to their knowledge management systems!

Perceptive's Expansion

Perceptive Technology Ltd. just signed a deal with Midlands-based law firm Wright Hassall, which will install Perceptive's Mentor software system. Perceptive describe Mentor as an "intellectual capital management" system -- although probably a more accurate term is business intelligence software -- as it combines aspects of both knowledge management and data mining but with an emphasis on extracting useful information out of existing database records and legacy systems.

Wright Hassall will use Mentor to enhance the capabilities of the firm's existing practice management system. The firm's I.T. partner Andrew Payne told me that Mentor was a critical component in the firm's growth plans as it provided an e-business toolset and gave users easy access to the firm's existing knowledge base.

"The new system is an integral part of our plan to provide clients with value added and personalized services," said Payne. "Mentor has enabled us to speed up our planned growth, through leveraging and building on our existing I.T. investment, rather than throwing away all the time, effort and expenditure we have invested on systems to date." Wright Hassall deserve congratulations for spotting this opportunity as, sadly, far too many U.K. law firms never seem to break out of the endless cycle of spending all their I.T. budgets on replacing or upgrading their existing accounts systems rather than moving onto newer technologies that might give them a more competitive edge.

Arbitrators Get Courtrooms

Because London sits mid-way between two important time zones -- The United States and the Far East/Pacific Rim -- it is fast becoming a world center for commercial arbitration work. However, to-date, most arbitration sessions have been relatively low-tech affairs. This soon could change, thanks to a new DigitalCourtroom initiative devised by Smith Bernal International Ltd. (now part of the Boston-based WordWave Inc.) and the U.S. company Doar Communications Inc.

As part of the deal, Smith Bernal and DOAR are installing digital courtroom equipment, including videoconferencing and LiveNote realtime technology, at the London offices of two arbitration organizations: the International Dispute Resolution Centre (IDRC) and the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. The new facilities, which became available from this month, are available for the parties to arbitrations to hire from around $750 a day.

Adrian Carey, the managing director of Smith Bernal, said he was confident the cost of hiring the facilities "will be saved many times over due to the considerable efficiencies that will result." David Goldenberg, the vice president of DOAR, believes technology is critical to the future of ADR as "allowing the digital presentation of evidence, along with the ability to conduct remote testimony, provides both sides of an arbitration the tools needed to make a more effective presentation."

Each center cost nearly $90,000 to set up, but Smith Bernal and DOAR are not charging the arbitration organizations for the capital cost, saying they believe that by making the technology available, they will help jump-start its use.

Bailey Launches Aurra Consulting

Mike Bailey, who until last year was the U.K. director of operations for CMS and, as such, largely responsible for getting the CMS Open product on the map in the U.K., is back with a new company and a new product. The company is Aurra Consulting Ltd., which was founded by Bailey along with David Gallagher and Karen Bailey earlier this year. Services include training, project management, implementation and consultancy, thereby pitching Aurra directly into competition with the likes of Baker Robbins & Co. in the U.K.

Aurra already offers a range of services in conjunction with products such as CMS, Elite, Carpe Diem and InterAction. In addition, Aurra has now concluded a reseller deal with Canadian software house Whitehill Technologies Inc. to provide sales, implementation and support services for Whitehill products in the UK. Whitehill specializes in added value reporting software that can transform text and numerical data from accounts systems into customized spreadsheet, word processing or Web documents (but to-date has not had a dedicated U.K.distributor).

Hoad Is New CMS Euro Head

The Australia-based Solutions 6 group has scored a notable coup in securing Chris Hoad, the former head of financial systems at the global law firm Clifford Chance, as its new general manager for CMS Europe. Reporting directly to Cindy Sessions in Tallahassee, Hoad will be responsible for driving the CMS Open product further into the U.K. and Continental Europe markets. During his five years at Clifford Chance Hoad held a number of posts, including head of I.T. architecture, however prior to that he worked in both sales and consulting roles within the I.T. industry for companies such as Wang and CAP/Sema.

ResSoft Module

London-based legal systems supplier ResSoft Ltd. has introduced a new "best of breed" integration module for knowledge management applications. Called DOCS Open Fetch, it links the Autonomy search engine and Hummingbird's DOCS Open document management system. ResSoft already has an Autonomy integration option for users of the iManage DMS.

For those of you unfamiliar with the name ResSoft (it was previously called Resolution Systems) - the company is generally reckoned to be the only other legal systems supplier (apart from the Elite Information Group Inc., Solution 6's CMS Open and Keystone Solutions Group plc) with a world class practice management system (called FirmControl) suitable for international law firms. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is its flagship site.

Charles Christian, a member of the LTN Editorial Advisory Board, is the publisher and editor of the UK-based Legal Technology Insider newsletter and ezine.

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