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November 2001
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Snap Shot: Brenton Miller

Snap Shot: Brenton Miller
Photo by Monica Bay.
Location: Cleary, Gottlieb's temporary Help Desk, Citigroup Center, midtown NYC
VITALS: New College of Florida, B.A., 1980. Northeastern Univ. School of Law, J.D. 1984.

HONORS: I went to non-traditional schools, which affords me the illusion of thinking that, had I gone to grade-giving schools, I would have garnered all sorts of honors and awards.

A.K.A. No nicknames. Well, there's something my wife calls me when I come home late, but I don't think that's printable.

CURRENT POST: Director of knowledge management at Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton, an international law firm with more than 750 attorneys in nine offices around the world. Our New York office is at One Liberty Plaza, across from the World Trade Center.

WTC Aftermath

WTC Aftermath
Members of the Cleary, Gottlieb tech team at temporary Citicorp digs.

TEMPORARY SITES: Initial recovery efforts centered on our midtown conference center at 153 E. 53rd (Citigroup Center). Through the generosity of other firms and clients, we are now operating in several temporary locations in Manhattan. (See page 30.)

TEMPORARY TECH: I simply don't know how our I.T. staff managed to do it, but in two weeks' time they constructed the computer infrastructure to support a "virtual" law firm of approximately 350 lawyers and 650 support staff spread across seven locations. Nearly all applications and data that were available previously are now available in our temporary setup.

HOW WE MOVED: After the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, the firm established its midtown office as a disaster recovery center. Backup servers and some desktop systems were up and running or quickly activated late in the day on the 11th. Starting on the 12th, key personnel converged at the midtown office to setup computer operations, communications, personnel, duplicating, messenger, fax, billing/ accounting, records, library and other services. Our commercial real estate lawyers secured short-term office space. The marketing/ communications and KM teams posted key information on our firm Internet site and set up a temporary Extranet.

A key challenge for our team was gathering and publishing contact infor-mation (cell phone numbers, e-mail addresses, etc.) of employees during the critical days before we could provide office space, phones and computers.

LOCATIONTENANT PROVIDING SPACE
919 Third Ave.Debevoise & Plimpton
150 E. 52nd St.Debevoise & Plimpton
1285 Sixth Ave.Paul Weiss
885 Third Ave.Ropes & Gray
850 Third Ave.Instinet
153 E. 53rd St.(Citigroup) Ziff Brothers Investments, L.L.C.; Kirkland & Ellis; Skyscraper.com
900 Third Ave.Brown Raysman; Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges
885 Third Ave.Latham & Watkins; Heller Ehrman

Our I.T. desktop support staff scrambled to acquire more than 300 new laptops and 300 new desktops and configure them with our standard applications. We set up more than 30 new servers to supplement existing backup systems in our midtown office.

Our networking staff installed a state-of-the-art point-to-point laser system with radio frequency backup between the temporary offices and the midtown center to provide high speed LAN connectivity between all New York locations and the rest of the firm. The firm's wide-area-network services were shifted to our Washington, D.C. office due to difficulties getting access to additional high speed data lines out of New York. Vendors and consultants were extremely responsive and critical to the success of all these efforts.

Things finally began to settle down once we got phone systems with direct dial up and running at all temporary office loca-tions, and were able to move the lawyers and staff into their temporary quarters. Lawyers are double- or tripled-up in offices, or assigned to cubicles, and many staff are garrisoned in even closer quarters. But the joy of having a desk, computer and a phone to call one's own makes it all worthwhile! Now we're looking forward to reversing the whole process and moving back into our One Liberty Plaza home in November.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: Coming to grips with the fact that everything that normally takes twice as long as expected takes at least four times as long as expected in a crisis. The sheer effort of communication and coordination was gargantuan. I shudder to think what this would have been like before the advent of cell phones and personal e-mail accounts.

BIGGEST SURPRISE: How interconnected everything is in a law firm. The departmentalized organizational structure creates a deceptive perception that functional operations are autonomous. They're not. Try bringing up a firmwide computer system without a list of personnel, without easy access to photocopying equipment and without a food service to keep you pumped full of coffee, coke and bagels!

LEAST AMOUNT OF SLEEP: Our help desk manager is reputed to have pushed close to 72 hours without shut-eye. There were many nights during the first two weeks that the midtown conference center was more crowded at midnight than our main office normally is at noon.

WORST HOUR: The hour that started at 8:47 a.m. on Sept. 11 when I looked up from my computer to see an American Airlines 757 crash into the World Trade Center and ended when the shouts and screams from fellow pedestrians made me pause in my trek up Broadway to look back at the collapse of the South Tower.

BEST HOUR: Attending a firm meeting, seeing my friends and colleagues, and learning that nobody from Cleary, Gottlieb was killed or seriously injured.

I work on project planning, prioritization and management, and I supervise the KM staff, and promote KM within the firm. KM is all about building connections -- connecting associates with model documents; connecting partners with key practice and client news; connecting clients with deal or case information and legal developments; connecting data from different departmental systems into a meaningful whole.

We have knowledge managers (lawyers and paralegals) dedicated to developing, annotating and categorizing content for these applications.

BAR ACTIVITIES: Actively involved in organizing a New York-based law firm knowledge management special interest group.

OFFICE TECHNOLOGY: The firm has standardized on IBM ThinkPads (T and X series) for all lawyers; Hewlett Packard printers; Compaq servers running Novell 5.2 over Ethernet and a WAN between all offices. We provide infrastructural support (connectivity) for Blackberrys and PDAs, and Web-based and VPN remote access to major applications.

Desktop software and key applications include Lotus Notes/Domino for messaging and collaboration, Microsoft Office Suite (97 with planned upgrade to 2000), iManage for document management, Law Manager for records management, InterAction for contact management, and Elite for time-and-billing.

FAVORITE GADGET: I love my Hewlett Packard G85 OfficeJet. It prints, faxes, copies and scans with aplomb.

LAPTOP: IBM Thinkpad, Model T21.

HOME SYSTEM: IBM Thinkpad 600E and a Gateway 2000 Pentium II, networked together and to the Internet via a Linksys Router/Switch. Printer: The aforementioned Hewlett Packard G85.

HOME ISP: Optimum Online (cable modem).

PAGER: Nope. Hate the damn things.

PDA: Palm Pilot. We're talking the original Palm Pilot, here -- released shortly after the conversion from clay tablets to papyrus.

FAVORITE COMPUTER GAME: Computer addiction runs in my family (case in point -- my 11 year-old son), so I try to stay away from computer games. The fact that I blew past 6,000,000 on the 3D Pinball game that comes with Windows 2000 should be attributed to luck, not obsessive behavior.

FAVORITE PDA SOFTWARE: Because my ancient Palm only holds about eight addresses and five reminders, I don't load many applications on it!

CELL PHONE: Sprint. The lesser of many evils as far as I can tell.

FAVORITE NON-TECH MAGAZINES: The New Yorker and Atlantic Monthly.

FAVORITE TV SHOW: Hard to get excited about this category. Iron Chef on the Food Network is about as good as it gets.

LETTERMAN OR LENO: Letterman by a receding hair.

CARS: An old Honda Accord that's just begging me to be traded, and a Honda Odyssey.

LAST BOOK READ: Just finishing A World Full of Gods -- The Strange Triumph of Christianity, by Keith Hopkins. The Soul of a Chef -- The Journey Toward Perfection, by Michale Ruhlman (a good read for anyone foolish enough to admit to watching Iron Chef).

WATCH: An Eddie Bauer model of some sort.

WHERE WOULD WE FIND YOU ON A SATURDAY AFTERNOON: This time of year, chopping wood behind my house (great therapy, great exercise). Despite what my wife contends, I'm never to be found asleep in front of a TV broadcast of a college football or basketball game.

APPOINTMENT I NEVER MISS: Name a partner, any partner.

MOST IMPORTANT LEGAL TREND: It's not sexy anymore, but e-mail is what brought the horse to water. Now the problem is trying to get lawyers to pay attention to anything other than e-mail.

MOST IMPORTANT TECH ACCOMPLISHMENT IN LAST YEAR? I've worked hard on expanding the functionality and usefulness of our Notes-based discussion forums. We've taken forums beyond the basic Q&A discussion format and incorporated other kinds of knowledge content (model documents, reference Web links, evaluations of outside experts, etc.) in ways that integrate with the discussion process but also stand on their own.

FAVORITE URLS: theonion.com, wired.com, salon.com (before it went "premium")

FAVORITE SEARCH ENGINE: Google. Is there any other?

LAST VACATION: Took the family to Europe -- Rome, Florence, London, Paris. Surprisingly, my kids don't seem to hate me for dragging them through all those museums.

FAVORITE QUOTE: "The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts." --Bertrand Russell

Inside
Editor's Note
Publisher's Report



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