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To what degree has technology improved law department productivity?

What do you think of the opening proclamation of Bob Kirtley, a technology consultant to law departments, in a profile by the Met. Corp. Counsel, Vol. 14, May 2006 at 22? “Technology has dramatically improved efficiency in legal departments during the last 20 years.” He goes on to describe the “first wave” as matter management software, the “second wave” as electronic invoicing systems, and predicts that the third wave will be “legal business intelligence.” By that term he encompasses fancy capabilities such as benchmarking, real-time exception reporting, “multidimensional databases and on-line analytic process (OLAP) technology.”

I disagree that law department-specific technology has since 1985 dramatically improved in-house efficiency. Personal computers, a profusion of PC software, e-mail, voicemail and PDAs have unequivocally boosted in-house productivity, but software customized for law departments is not in their league.

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One response to “To what degree has technology improved law department productivity?”

  1. Hello Rees. In my view, matter management and electronic invoicing have improved efficiency in legal departments. Let’s consider a “typical” law department that has properly implemented a matter management/electronic invoicing system. The ability to generate basic reports has become much simpler. Analysis around budget to actual, internal staff load, matter cycle time all are done with the running of a simple report from data contained in your matter management system. Without it, collecting this type of data and reporting on it is time consuming and burdensome. If electronic invoicing has achieved anything, it has allowed a corporate law department to more efficiently review, route and approve outside counsel bills. It has also allowed for the effective implementation of outside counsel billing guidelines. Without an electronic invoicing system, each of these steps can be completed but not without considerable more time and I would argue, less accuracy.
    Even with the above-stated benefits, I am not sure that matter management and electronic invoicing systems have lived up to the hype. It has nothing to do with the systems themselves, but in the use and understanding of the data that is being collected. We coined the term Legal Business Intelligence(tm) (“LBI”) to represent a level of data analysis that as far as I know, has not been done before. As an example: When UTBMS was being implemented within corporate law departments, the goal was to have a hierarchy of codes to help in understanding the services that were being provided by outside counsel. The goal was not to review the codes on a matter-by-matter basis but to collect a significant amount of data (a year for example) and mine that information for meaningful metrics, benchmarks and data anomalies. This, for the most part, is not happening.
    LBI can make that happen. OLAP tools have been around for a number of years and are used successfully as a method for understanding the key information that a large data set has imbedded within it. It is a method for extracting the type of information that a General Counsel needs to run the law department more like a business. Why hasn’t this type of analysis been done before? In truth, it’s difficult to do and without the right approach, can be a time consuming exercise that leads to insignificant findings.
    Matter management and electronic invoicing have made law departments “data rich and information poor”. I hope that this next trend will help a General Counsel become “data and information rich”.
    Matthew Petrich