London ABA Draws Disappointing Numbers
by Monica Bay
THE TURNOUT at the London sessions of the American Bar Association's annual meeting was disappointing to A.B.A. organizers, who expected many more than the 3,300 members who showed up. But that didn't stop the pomp, circumstance and parties. Highlights of the four-day meeting included the opening assembly, which featured a very tardy Prime Minister Tony Blair. But nobody complained, because it was a hoot to be in the famous Royal Albert Hall, serenaded by the Band of the Scots Guard and the Band of the Corps of Royal Engineers. In fact, it was almost surreal -- the bands were dressed up in uniforms that could have been stolen from the cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and yes, they were playing Beatles' tunes. (See page 85.) You could almost hear the ghost of John Lennon command the royalty in the boxes to rattle their jewels.
The finale to the week was just as fabulous: The President's Reception at the Tower of London. The opportunity to explore this fascinating site as a private party -- without throngs of elbowing July tourists -- was a once-in-a-lifetime treat.
The A.B.A. 2000 annual meeting also brought a special thrill for me: It was delicious to see two women rise to two of the A.B.A.'s most important posts: Martha Barnett, as the ABA's new president; and Karen Mathis, as the chair of the House of Delegates.
In law school, I served as vice-chair of the A.B.A. Law Student Division, and I counted both women on my roster of mentors and role models. When I became a legal journalist, both women continued to be accessible, gracious, and generous with their time.
Congratulations to both!
Assuming her post at the conclusion of the annual meeting, one of Barnett's first acts was to establish a new Commission on Multijurisdictional Practice, lead by Dallas' Harriet Miers.
"Because of changes in technology and globalization, clients and their transactions are far less likely to be confined to a single state," Barnett explains.
"Clients should not be restricted in their ability to choose their own lawyer just because they do business in more than one state." The group will recommend new admissions and ethics policies, and report to the House of Delegates at next year's session.
Around & About
It was a hectic week in London. In addition to attending the technology programs (See Charles Christian's report at page 56), we had the opportunity to visit with several lawyers and vendors.
Michael Simmons held a lovely garden party for the A.B.A. Law Practice Management section, at his home in Highgate. Among the attendees were outgoing chair Arthur Greene, and section members Ellen Wayne, Jay Foonberg, and Harold Burstyn and his wife, Joan Burstyn.
During the week, we got a helpful orientation from Sweet & Maxwell's Jane Adkins, about its upcoming services and programs; and also visited with Heidi Izzard, who brought us up to speed about Elite Information Systems International Inc.'s efforts abroad. We had delightful lunches with Jonathan Mayo, of Keystone Solutions U.K. Ltd., and with Martin Rowley, of Jones Day Reavis & Pogue, who gave us insights about American firms operating in the U.K.
We also checked in with the California contingent: Alameda County public defender Pauline Weaver; solo Lily Kimura; and James Towery and Kathryn Meier, from Hoge, Fenton, Jones & Appel Inc., brought reports from the San Francisco Bay Area.
Mary Heaney, editorial director of Legal IT and LegalWeek (both publications of Global Professional Media) performed a miracle and got us into The Ivy's -- one of London's most trendy (and quite delicious) West End restaurants. (Great service, great food and quiet, understated decor.)
Heaney is very excited about the upcoming Legal IT Forum, to be held at The Gleneagles Hotel, in Scotland, Oct. 18-20. (Golfers and tennis addicts, heads up!)
Professor Richard Susskind, who spoke at the ABA "Wiring the Profession" sessions, will chair the conference. (He's the author of The Future of Law.)
Also on the agenda: Chief technologist of British Telecom, Peter Cochrane; Tony Williams, of Andersen Legal; Julie Wilson Marshall, chair of the computer and technology practice group at Latham & Watkin; Laurie Adams, European legal counsel with Citibank; and author David Maister, "a guru of management techniques," says Heaney.
(Maister is the author of True Professional-ism, and is about to release The Trusted Advisor.)
Information about the "GlenLegal" conference should be available shortly at www.legalit.net.
One of the best parties during the London meetings was hosted by Freshfields on July 17, at the Globe Theater. Located near the original site, the new Globe is a re-creation of Shakespeare's favorite venue. It was founded by American actor Sam Wanamaker, and opened in 1997. (www.shakespeares-globe.org.)
As Freshfields hosted the bash, it was also dotting the "i"s on a major merger: On Aug. 1, the firm announced its marriage to Germany's Bruckhaus Westrick Heller Löber, creating Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.
Meanwhile, Mary Cranston, chair of San Francisco-based Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro L.L.P., also had reason to celebrate at the Freshfields party.
Earlier that day, her firm announced its merger with New York-based Winthrop, Stimson, Putnam & Roberts.
The new firm, Pillsbury Wintrop, will have more than 860 attorneys and 16 offices (12 in the U.S. and four abroad). Cranston will be chair and John Pritchard will serve as vice chair.
Following the current fad, the firm says it will have no headquarters office.
Back on home turf, some disappointing news for Allison Walsh's ever-growing fan club. Microsoft Corp. has decided to reshuffle its staffing and has jettisoned its "legal industry manager" slot. So Walsh has new duties and a new title of "Product Manager for The Business Network."
I'm not going to second-guess the Redmond gang and their strategies, but from my corner, Walsh (and her position) will be sorely missed. She not only brought endless energy, enthusiasm and expertise (she came from Lexis, where she served as a brand manager) but great humor to her post. She understands the nuances of the legal market, and was able to "evangelize" her company's products, services, and goals, while retaining the ability to speak in English. (No small feat). I know she's a survivor, but it won't be the same jungle without her!
DocumentForum.com and LegalTech joined forces to conduct a poll of about 150 attendees at last June's LegalTech show in Los Angeles.Among the results, 89 percent of those polled said their firms have adopted new technology within the past year. Of those, 52 percent say the return has outweighed the investment, reports DocumentForum.
About 18 percent of survey takers say their firms have invested in document management technology; 17 percent in litigation support and 14 percent in time-and-billing software.
What technology has had the biggest impact? E-mail, said 54 percent; but 29 percent cite the Web, reports DocumentForum.
Neil Cameron, an independent legal technology consultant who has worked with 16 of the top 20 City of London law firms, has left consulting to join Keystone Solutions U.K. Ltd., as product strategy director, reports Charles Christian in Legal Technology News.com.
His departure underlines a trend, suggests Christian: "Namely that the golden age of independent computer consultants providing law firms with purely strategic IT advice is drawing to a close, and in the future, the demand will be for full-service consultancies working in partnership with a select number of vendors, to offer integration and implementation skills."
West Group president Michael Wilens and communications chief John Shaughnessy were in New York last month, and shared a great dinner at the Redeye Grill. (Try the "dancing shrimp.")
Wilens and Shaughnessy told us about West's upcoming beta tests for WestWorks, its Web-based research and practice management package. Beginning this month, West will run pilot tests with a few 1-3 attorney firms.
But they're keeping mum about which firms and what cities. By year's end, pledges Wilens, we'll see the official launch. Where? West has picked San Francisco (no surprise), Houston and Miami to premier the new product, Wilens reports.
WestWorks targets small and midsize firms, and has been created in partnership with Microsoft Corp., IBM and Elite.com. It's built on Microsoft's Office 2000 and Exchange products, and Elite.com's Timesolv billing software. It uses IBM server technology and West legal products. The program requires Microsoft 2000 operating system and high-speed Internet access.
Meanwhile, West's long-touted e-filing project in Orange County, Calif., continues to be, um, er, well, vaporware.
Perhaps hoping to build some momentum, West has announced a new partnership with the Orange County Bar Association. The alliance is designed to give the bar association direct access and input to development plans for the WestFile electronic court filing service, West officials explain. WestFile is being designed cooperatively with Orange County attorneys and the county's superior court, West says.
The program is slated to begin in the county's family law division, followed by civil and probate divisions. West will offer training and 24/7 technical assistance and support, the company says.
The latest E.T.A.? "Early next year," said a West spokesperson optimistically.