Main | Don't modify the software, modify the way you practice law! »

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Andrew Davis

Hi Charles. I can certainly relate to your dissatisfaction. In my brief time as an attorney (4 years), I was amazed by law firms' apparent disinterest in finding ways to help their lawyers work smarter (particularly in relation to document drafting and negotiation).

With regared to your conference call issue, would a web-conferencing tool (such as Webex) not provide you with the collaborative drafting/negotation environment that you seek?

Jerry Lawson

Thanks for the promising new blog. You are off to an excellent start.

Tom Collins

Great name for your blog!

It's good to see practicing lawyers begin to acknowledge the profession's blind spot. Having retired from practice (appellate) after 25 years to consult on legal research, writing, information design & knowledge management (see my blog, Knowledge Aforethought, for why I believe those areas to be intimately related), I rarely get to express it so bluntly in public.

Your conference example is compelling. As Andrew Davis' comment points out, tools do exist. I believe services like Webex are still to exhorbitantly priced, using the doomed pay per seat and per minute pricing structure that has never survived in any communication medium (local phone, long-distance, cellular, ISPs, etc.). But tools like Centra's or the Blackboard virutal classroom package we use in the Informatics program at SUNY/Buffalo allow for true, real-time collaboration. I recently worked on a team semester project building a website for the Informatics Graduate Student Association. With two members in the Informatics lab on campus and two of us at home (mine is near Rochester), we were able to display the website live and edit it in the Dreamweaver program. We collaborated on the text content for individual pages, using the live white board. Each of us was able to take the "floor" as we had something to contribute.

Adopting these technology tools will eventually become a survival imperative. If clients are using them (and nearly everyone who graduates from high school - yes, I meant HIGH SCHOOL - will be familiar with them), they will expect their lawyers to use what will soon be regarded as basic business communication tools.

Can you imagine telling a client, "Oh, we don't use those telephone [substitute fax, or copier, or word processor] things"?

M. Sean Fosmire

The phenomeon is not limited to corporate law. I am a trial lawyer, and I have been urging the use of document imaging to produce electronic documents in addition to paper documents for litigation exhibits, particularly medical records. In a presentation of a "Lawyers Document Management System", I used the scenario of a deposition of a physician in a medical malpractice case:

Q What entry did the nurse make the next morning?
A [looks for the next day's entry]
Q It's on the sheet entitled "Daily Notes".
A This one?
Q No, the one with the "8/20" written at the top.
A I can't seem to - oh, here it is.

By Mr. Smith -- Where is it?

These scenarios happens in depositions day after day, with several lawyers, all of whom are paid by the hour, sitting around the table, waiting for the witness and for lawyers to fumble through the records.

My system would produce the following alternative:

Q What entry did the nurse make the next morning?
A [looks for the next day's entry]
Q Look at Tab M, p. 21.
A She noted that the patient was breathing much better. . .

A service called QuickTopic has a document editing module called QuickDoc Review, used for the purpose you describe.

Dave!

First, great name for a blawg... definitely!

Second, you are not off base. I am not a lawyer, I'm a web developer. But my wife is a lawyer. She's working on some large litigation now, with a lot of document review. Well, the IT department at her firm put together a "database" for the document review... using some "for lawyers" software I wasn't familiar with. It's horrible. I mean, horrible. The software limited the number of input fields, so they have to split the documents among multiple databases, there are no input forms, and the IT department gave lots of the fields really cryptic names. Each file has to have the employee number entered (which is linked to a specific employee... ) but they didn't normalize the data, so you have to enter things multiple times, in multiple locations, hell, even the *tab order* is different from screen to screen, which slows down input immensly.

How this is supposed to *aid* them in the litigation, I have no idea. I'm encouraged by the number of Blawgs I see, and some of my wife's friends who are younger attorneys, who by all rights seem as frustrated as you. However, the culture at her firm (and most it seems) is very "old" and therefore I think changing it will be a hard task. Of course, I think those firms that realize using IT effectively will give them a competitive edge will prosper, and those that don't... well *cough*Altheimer & Grey*cough*

Charles Soule

Took me a little while to get around to reading this - my apologies, Charlie. All of the articles are interesting and well-written. Lawyers definitely have failings in this department. I feel like once my generation - younger associates - comes of age it will lessen a bit, but of course by then there may be some new level of tech that we refuse to master. Nanotech? Bio-implants? Anyway, great start, and I look forward to becoming a regular reader.

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How things have changed in the last four years. There is one collaborative tool available in the market now which allows for seemless drafting and secure document sharing. It is being introduced to the market by Imprima Group - the firm that brought us the iRooms VDR platform. Keep an eye out for iDrafts collaborative workspace or contact Imprima Group for more information.

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