Articles Posted in Technology

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Every now and then law departments request software written especially for their own purposes. Usually they are very large departments and they conclude that there is no suitable package available for license. Custom software that holds promise as precisely targeted to solve a need may be the perfect solution, or it may belong better elsewhere.

For example Cisco developed the platform that it decided eventually to spin out to LegalOnRamp. According to an interview of Cisco’s Steve Harmon, Senior Director of Legal Services, on July 25, 2011 by LegalOnRamp, Cisco did so in part for economics. “Over time, … we could license the technology from LegalOnRamp … more cheaply than I could continue to pay my own staff to maintain and develop that platform.”

As a second reason, one applicable to every law department that creates bespoke software, “every dollar that I spend on maintaining existing applications is a dollar that I’m not free to spend on other innovation.” Look in the market for vendors spurred to innovate and use your own dollars for different purposes.

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If you are interested in knowing more about software for contract management, you can get my compilation of 39 of them. My list has the trade name of the package, the vendor’s name, and a website address. While it can’t claim to be the definitive list of software geared toward production, retrieval and analysis of contracts and agreements, it can certainly claim to be long!

To get it, e-mail me and tell me what software for managing contracts you use in your law department. I am asking neither about generic document management software nor about workarounds (e.g., Word and directories and naming conventions). I want to know about software that is purposefully designed for creating, tracking, and storing contracts. If enough people respond, I will write a summary blog post, disclosing no specific information but only aggregated results.

So, to get the list, write me about your department’s software that helps prepare and administer contracts.

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LawDepartmentManagementBlog is pleased to publish the submission of Phil Homburger, the founder and CEO of Synaptec Software, creator of the law department matter management system, LawBase.

“We started programming LawBase in 1979. It became an actual product in 1981. We began before the IBM PC was announced and before any of the current tools were available. There was no affordable commercial database so we created our own. The first system LawBase ran on had a 23MB (yes, megabyte) hard drive that was 8 inches in diameter, weighed 40 pounds and was definitely bigger than a breadbox.”

“LawBase has over 1,000 users in law departments in companies as varied as hospitals, multi-national banks, restaurant holding companies, media companies and mortgage banks.”

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An obvious but nonsensical, answer would be “all matters.” That cannot be the solution since it begs the question “What makes something a matter?” (See my post of March 26, 2008: definition of the term “matter”.).

Many law departments deem a set of legal activities a matter for purposes of tracking them on a matter management system when the law department retains outside counsel to assist. To keep track of how much goes to each firm, and to all law firms in general, and perhaps to charge those fees back to a business unit or staff function justifies creating and updating a matter.

More of the work of a legal department finds its way into a matter management database if the department defines matters to be tracked along the lines of those that are “significant” or “more than four hours of work” or some other criteria.

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A negotiation app that was released recently through Apple and will be released soon for Android (BlackBerry to follow) could help in-house counsel. This offering came to my attention from Don Philbin, Jr.

He wrote “We’ve been studying negotiation patterns empirically with thousands of cases and have some good models using neural networks and patent-pending algorithms. A Lite version is made available on smartphones so negotiators can run scenarios, see infographics on their progress (and projections) and see tit-for-tat type calculations [a term from game theory for a form of reciprocity].” Philbin hopes his app will help corporate lawyers plan and execute effective negotiations. He also sent a link to a video overview as well as a press release.

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Early next year, General Counsel Metrics will produce a breakthrough analysis of matter management software (MMS) in light of law department benchmark metrics. Along with the quantitative insights, there will be assembled my MMS posts from this blog. There are today 143 of them, all organized into five topical areas, with back references listed and sorted, and with a detailed index.

Within the sub-parts of each broad topic – benefits of MMS, choices if you want to license MMS, complementary software, and operational issues –the posts are in chronological order so that someone will have read what is referred back to by later post. This text portion of the analysis extends for nearly 90 pages.

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Early in the data collection this year for the GC Metrics benchmark survey, 69 law departments stated how many years they had been using their matter management system. The average number of years those departments had had their system installed was 6.4 years. Later, with 652 law departments in the survey, twice as many (139) had submitted longevity data. The average dropped a year, to 5.4, and the median number of years was 4. The law department with the longest history of a matter management system had just reached the two decade mark!

Given the cost, diversion of time and energy, and risks that face law departments when they license and install a matter management system, it surprises me to see a five-year average life. But it could be that several of these law departments had another system before the current one, so their average years of using that kind of software is higher. The question asked only about the current system and how many years since its installation date.

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Describing new developments in CounselLink, Jeff Schuett, its VP and GM at LexisNexis described one particular addition that deserves note from Met. Corp. Counsel, Nov. 2011 at 30. The matter management software has a new feature that “can support existing agreements, allowing clients to publish the billing rules, manage the partnership, set expectations and establish clear communications regarding exceptions and compliance.”

This makes sense to me. Other providers of matter management and e-billing software may have equivalent functions in their software, but I am not aware of them. So my hat’s off to CounselLink for a useful development for legal departments. True, some claims are a bit grand, particularly “manage the partnership” and “establish clear communications,” but I grant some leeway to marketing spin. Even with capabilities stripped down, to have the ability to link guidelines more closely to matter tracking represents a significant benefit.

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What can be said usefully in 1,500 words on matter management systems? Lots of vendors and consultants can’t clear their throat in that space – “huge forces at work,” “GCs under huge pressure,” “need for information and insight,” “costs spiraling out of control.” I tried to write my National Law Journal article, published in the Nov. 14th issue, to offer some metrics, some specifics, and a few operational comments of practical use. Judge for yourself and click here for the MMS article.

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The latest submission in my series features Eric Blankenship, the veteran leader of EAG’s matter management system offering.

“Founded in 1986, EAG specializes in providing matter management software to corporate legal departments, and litigation consulting services to banks, insurance companies, securities firms and individual investors.

CaseTrack was first introduced in 1995. Prior to that, EAG had been primarily developing custom systems on a client-by-client basis utilizing a variety of platforms (e.g., DOS, Windows, OS/2, Unix, Mac). These systems were costly to develop and support, putting them out of reach of most legal departments. This, combined with the fact that most corporations were beginning to standardize on the Windows operating system, led us to develop an off-the-shelf software package – and CaseTrack was born. The first half-dozen sales were the most difficult. It’s amazing how creative you can be when someone asks “how many other companies are using the product?”!