Law Office Technology 2009 Overview By Joe Kashi
The Basic Challenge You must be efficient AND effective Reducing costs while increasing effectiveness is within our control We cannot directly control income but must position and market our practices This implies practice area differentiation, a hallmark of a maturing practice
Our Basic Premise • Effective automation is more critical than ever to a successful law practice • Efficiency and effectiveness both require good planning and user group input. • Don’t merely throw expensive technology and staff time at what is really a law practice management and planning issue.
Modern Legal Business Models Michael Porter’s work at Harvard Business School Basic principle - Low Volume, High Profit Law offices very suited to this approach This approach benefits from technology differentiation
4 Generic Business Strategies Competitive Advantage Many Clients Many Clients Few Clients Few Clients
Choosing Software Systems • VERY hard to change financial systems • Don’t decide upon price alone! • Long term product viability is critical • Good support is just as critical as features • Look for integration capabilities • User interface critical • File formats critical • Don’t forget training, reliability and ease of maintenance • Bring the staff into the decision!
Financial Control Real time data entry Real time reporting Necessary for good case evaluation and personnel management Amicus, Time Matters, PC Law, ProLaw
Accounting & Finance • Time and Billing tracking • Real Time Mgmt Reports • Personal, dept and overall • Ability to bill immediately • Receivables tracking • Disbursement Tracking • Access to banking information • Real time Trust balances • Integrated with Case Management
Build the Right Systems… • Back Office: • Integrated Legal General and Trust Accounting • Time and billing • Cost recovery • Real-time financial reports • Budgeting, goal setting, monitoring • Front Office: • Acrobat/other imaging • Knowledge management • Document Assembly in practice areas • Document Management • Case/Practice Management software
Knowledge Management • Centralized form file and precedent system • Enterprise level search – Brainware, Worldox or Interwoven • File briefs, research memos, cases for reuse • Increases ROI on intellectual effort!
Cultural Shifting • Examine and rid your office of comfortable but obsolete practices that are no longer optimal in the electronic era • Premise – Paper printed only as needed • Follow through is critical to effectiveness, efficiency, and avoiding malpractice through inconsistency
Abandon the paper file approach to office organization and embrace electronic documents as our primary file – the federal courts did this years ago. • Re-using imaged documents very efficient • Requires substantial cultural change and change in how staff hired and utilized. • Allows remote access and easy coordination with attorneys and clients
Legal Transition Not Difficult • Evidence Rules 1001 (3) and 1003 make explicit provisions for the use of printouts, electronic records and duplicates – keep only critical paper originals. • No major difference between photocopied duplicate and scanned and saved document and later printed as needed
Making the Transition • Don’t elaborately plan a transition to a digital filing system, just start doing it with new documents as they’re produced and received • Within three months, you’ll find that most documents that you need daily are already imaged in your computer system.
Cost Efficiency Premise • When possible, personally perform minor clerical tasks that can be accomplished just as easily by you using technology • Often faster, more reliable and less costly • Example: Image, annotate, name and store client documents reviewed by you during interviews
Office Infrastructure Phone systems – VoIP, Centrex, Internet Networked storage and computers Imaging: scanners, storage, software, and printers. Photocopiers basically obsolete Document imaging is key to modern law practice – Adobe Acrobat preferred
Hardware Purchase Premise: Purchase only the hardware and software that you will be able to install and begin using within the next two months or so. Purchasing binges are inefficient. Buy mainstream technology and avoid both dead-end and “bleeding edge” technology
Business needs are paramount Choose software systems with great care. Be particularly careful about ease of use, low demands upon staff, avoiding the last 20%, and full user buy-in Document imaging is key to efficiency.
Smart Purchase Principles • “Sweet Spot” is ½ generation back from the ‘bleeding edge’ • Consider custom-built • Put $$ into top quality components rather than cutting edge! • Don’t pay for ‘gamer’ video and other needless features • Fast CPU and lots of RAM will be beneficial in the long run • Plan for external file backup *(at home)* • Have RAID drives in the office • Consider redundant internet capacity
Hardware Considerations • Hardware should reflect software requirements • Voice Recognition and photo/video require higher-end components • Otherwise no need for bleeding edge • Concentrate on: • CPU • DRAM • Hard Disk Space • Screen size • Large wide screen or Dual monitors • Video to support dual monitors • Networking cards
Basic Networking Hardware • Need gigabit network switch, not a hub • Cabling should be at least “Category 5E” or, better, “Cat 6” • Gigabit networking on all computers • Western Digital SATA drives currently favored for small systems • RAID array levels 0,1, 0+1, or 5 0+1 preferred • Use SATA drives • Reliable power supply • High capacity UPS • Lots of good fans! • Data offsite data backup
Basic Server Requirements • Server OS -MS SBS, Windows XP x64 or Windows Server • High reliability key • Central file server with RAID disk array • AMD Operton or Intel Xeon CPUs • 4 GB or more RAM • Security, backup and recovery systems
Desktop Systems Desktop OS - Windows XP or XP x64 Vista bombed; new Windows 7 seems promising, but wait on compatibility AMD X2 or Phenom II or Intel Core 2 dual core or quad core CPU, at least 2 GB RAM, 500 GB -1,000 GB SATA hard disk Large wide screen or dual LCD monitors and matching video card
Store all imaged documents and electronic file on a single network file server. • Be sure that you have the hardware to completely back up your network file server every evening, and be sure that you actually do. • Avoid data obsolescence
Buy fast but still cost-effective computers, particularly for image preparation. I favor progressive upgrades • Hard disk performance is crucial - Western Digital Caviar Black and RE3 series good for networks. Use Diskeeper to defragment. • Plan on a three year replacement cycle
You’ll need fast color laser printers if you plan to use a digital filing system. I now prefer Konica Minolta 5670. • Ideally, you’ll be using many more color photos for all purposes, including attachments to complaints and pleadings • Combining a scanner, Adobe Acrobat, and laser printer also works well as a copier in your office.
Printer Essentials • Color and B&W capability • Laser *not inkjet* • Ensure it is fast… • Multiple paper selection • Envelope capacity • Test before buying – many printers claiming workgroup speed are far too slow in reality, especially with Acrobat • Large format printers for exhibits
Scanner Essentials • Fast sheet feeder • Fully duplex • Color and B&W • Resolution sufficient for OCR • Takes business cards • Networkable? • Flat bed scanners, even with sheet feeders, are slower and less adapted to document scanning. • Scan directly to searchable PDF
The most efficient scanners for handling document imaging are USB 2.0 high speed sheet-fed scanners. • Preferred workgroup scanners: Canon DR-2580, Xerox 252/262/272 • Fujitsu ScanSnap on each desk. Good software, low cost, includes Acrobat Standard, which is inexpensive to upgrade
Many digital photocopiers can be upgraded to include direct-to-network scanning, but at a high incremental cost and are not a good value. • A good multi-function device such as HP’s Laserjet 3xxx MFP series combines basic scanning, faxing, laser printing and copying capabilities but is quite unsuitable for regular scanning use.
A compact portable scanner is handy for occasional use but tends to be slow and badly skew documents. Carrying a light regular scanner such as the Fujitsu ScanSnap S500 may be more effective. • You’ll need also need a high quality flat-bed scanner. I like the Epson V series or the Mustek A3 1200 11x17 series.
Fundamental Litigation Support • Digital Dictation – Dragon Legal • Office Suites – Microsoft Office 2007 is a worthwhile upgrade. • Litigation Support: CaseMap, TimeMap, NoteMap, TextMap • Case Management: Pro Law, Time Matters, Amicus
Benefits of the Electronic File • Restructuring a large electronic case file takes perhaps an hour or two • If you retain a paper file, filing that paper is much simpler when you can first search a digital file. • You can simply file any retained paper documents by date without sorting them into different categories.
By working with the full purchased version of Acrobat 9 Professional, you’ll be able to index and bookmark your PDF litigation files and produce sharp looking exhibits quickly. • Your clients can use the free Acrobat 9 Reader to comment on documents and markup your Acrobat files.
Authentication • Retain original documents to the extent that might be necessary for recording or to prove your case under Evidence Rules 1002 and 1003 • You may need to show that any scanned documents have not been altered, which is clear using a file format such as a locked Acrobat PDF
Clerical staff requirements are reduced • Electronic files confer a substantial litigation advantage and allow you to adapt quickly to new or impeachable evidence. • Print hard copies as needed and discard the paper copies when they’re no longer necessary.
Easy Client Copies • After you have imaged incoming documents, send the original incoming documents to your clients with the appropriate informational stamp. • Retain the electronic copy as your original. Back it all up daily!! • Examples of custom document imaging oriented stamps follow.
Load your entire case file on to your notebook computer or take it with you on one or two CD disks • It’s easy to share a complete file with other counsel or clients by burning a CD or flash disk • Email PDF documents and attachments to experts quickly
Document Naming • Consistently naming your retained document images is critical. • OCR all Acrobat documents and search them for content • Use a document naming convention consistently and train your staff.
Example: Discovery should have the word Discovery as the first word of the name, with appropriate identifying information. Discovery – Plaintiff first Interrogatories to Defendant XYZ served 7-26-04. • You can also scan or combine all related documents into a single PDF file, such as “accounting motion - complete”.
Use Simplest Feasible Structure. • Current Cases • Client XYZ • Correspondence • Discovery and Disclosures • Work product • Research • Investigation • Internal notes • Pleadings • Witnesses • Liability • Damages • Economic • Medical bills • Lost income • Medical records
Digital Photography/Video • Integrate digital photography and videography into your practice. • Our culture is now highly visual – lawyers tend to use too many words • Easy, inexpensive and surprisingly powerful addition to legal persuasion • Current picks: Canon G10, Nikon D90
Digital Briefs • Extremely powerful. Include video deposition clips, photos, direct excerpts of scanned documents, links to exhibits. • Requires Acrobat Professional to produce • Re-used portions of imaged documents key to efficiency and speed. Take disclosures, turn into opening visuals, cross-exam materials, closing visuals