Oct 5 2015

The future of document management?


I’ve been reading a bit on Office 2016 this week and getting interested around their real time collaboration on documents using any device, true mobility (meaning ubiquity not device type). The challenge for legal here is the DMS (document management system), how does this fit into the picture?

It feels we’re on the cusp of change here, like the shift in DMS when Windows 95 and Word came online, out went stand alone DMS desktop apps and in came integrated Open, Save etc within Word. What we need now is a DMS that is fully aware of Microsoft’s emerging ecosystem to allow us to take full advantage of the new features of Office 2016. Ignoring Windows 8 and, to a large extent, Office 2013 (by ignore I mean taking advantage of the new systems rather than compatibility) was fine, most law firms skipped these, but Windows 10 and Office 2016/365 I think will be different.

You get the feeling this is no longer just about access on mobile devices, but something more fundamental. It’s ubiquity of access to what you want to do. Working wherever, whenever, on whatever. I’m sure for law firms Microsoft Office will still remain the core to this, as will the need for industry strength robust DMS’s. But the the next generation DMS needs to swim faster with the Microsoft Office tide in true document mobility rather than just constrain itself to addressing iPad access and being in the cloud.

Maintaining a good electronic file in the DMS is key but it can not afford to be at the expense of efficiency in creation of what is part of the core business, the legal document.


Sep 22 2015

Outlook groups in Office365 – this could put the nail in the coffin for emails sent to all and sundry


I came across a small article on news site for Windows Phone (yes, yes, small readership) about a new beta app from Microsoft called Outlook Groups. This is a feature I hadn’t heard much about, but that has apparently been introduced to Online Outlook in Office365. Anyway long story short, this could very well be one of the best additions to Outlook in a long time. A way to finally kill all those “All-<insert distribution list here>” emails that clog up exchange email systems of law firms. Basically it’s a collaboration space built around groups.

Say you have a distribution list for “Project Work Related”, rather than create a traditional list of email addresses under the distribution list you create an Outlook Group. People are then added to the group.

Outlook Online Page

You can then email this “distribution list”, the emails are collated though in the Group view as shown above, I can reply to the conversation in this view. I can also start new threads. So rather than having to find emails and threads in my Inbox where I lose context of the particular project in amongst all the other junk email I see all the communication in one place.

Outlook Groups AppAs well as using Online Outlook to view and collaborate with the group I can continue the conversation using the mobile app.

The emails I send and receive also appear in my Inbox, this to me is both a pro and a con. Pro: I can continue to use a familiar tool (Desktop Outlook) and therefore don’t have to go to yet another product to use groups. Con: It’s not quite getting rid of my email clutter, though I know I can delete the emails quickly if they are emailed to the group. Maybe Office 2016 will integrate groups much better than the Office 2013 client shown below?



But the great thing about the groups concept is that it isn’t limited to just email, it hooks in the whole Office365 ecosystem. So as soon as I create the group I get a shared calendar (events are displayed in the group and I can simply click or tap a link to add to my own calendar).

Calendar Event

I get a OneNote notebook, where the group can share notes amongst its members.


And finally I get a OneDrive space for my documents. So for example I can add and use documents using either the outlook group page or outlook group app above. However I can also go into my Onedrive and get access to the documents there.


Now at the moment it looks like the functionality isn’t integrated into the OneNote apps, nor directly in the Onedrive apps. So I can’t go into the Onedrive app on my iPad or Windows Phone and get the documents (even though I have my Onedrive for Business account set up). But I really can’t see why this functionality won’t be extended into these apps, when it does it will mean direct from within the Office Apps (Word, Excel etc) on the iPad I have access to create and edit documents within my group space.

For me this is the really exciting part for law firms. Having all the shared emails, documents, notes all in one place and that one place not being your personal inbox is fantastic. It will be interesting to see when the Office 2016 announcements soon, whether the groups functionality is brought into the desktop applications as well. Imagine if this collaboration space was surfaced through Outlook 2016 on the desktop, through the Outlook apps on your phone and online. That the documents could be edited directly from Word 2016 or Work on your iPad. And that notes made on the train on your iPhone would appear in the same notebook as your colleagues OneNote on their desktop in the office.

The question for Legal IT vendors, particularly in the document management and collaboration space, is how they will react. Surely the time is coming again to stop the proliferation of point solutions and hook up to the Microsoft 365 bandwagon. This has got to be the future for document and email dominated industries like law firms surely!

For a more in depth look at the features of groups have a look at this WindowsITPro article

Legend of the Boy and the dyke


Sep 9 2015

A product Leonardo da Vinci would be proud of!


This second post looking at workflow and process orientated software brings me to a product from IntApp and their aptly titled “Flow”. IntApp Flow is borne out of their “Open” product which supports the Intake and Conflicts process in law firms. Flow is a lot more open and can be used to automate a number of processes or workflows.

Underpinning it is the IntApp Integration Builder product (as with a number of the IntApp solutions), this handles the integration into a number of Legal systems, it is likely there are integrations for the majority of legal systems you’re using. Update: From the looks of the IntApp website this product has now been rebranded to IntApp Integrate, a list of some of the key applications and systems is on their website here.

On top of this integration is a simple interface for building forms and modelling workflows, you can quickly knock up a form to capture information or a trigger to initiate a process and then create a complex workflow that triggers other systems, notifies people, gets authorisation at key points etc. The beauty is the simplicity of the interface and I guess the aim here is that once all the integrations are set up a business analyst is able to build up the workflow realtime with the lawyer and have something ready to run almost immediately. As Leonardo da Vinci said “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication“.

There are other features like dashboards, metrics, reporting available to help manage the workflows or monitor KPI’s. Overall it’s a really simple product and that is a real positive. I’ve been in IT long enough to realise things can look easy in demos but when it comes to implementation you really start to see the reality, but for those that have already gone through a project to implement integration builder the hard part to me looks to be done as I’d imagine getting all the integrations correct is the most difficult part.

For those law firms looking at business process re-engineering it’s worth having a look at flow. If you haven’t already got integrations built between your legal systems then it may just help.


Sep 7 2015

Best thing since….well for me since Hatton Blue. Legal IT for the iOS generation!


“Workflow” was my introduction into Legal IT, after a number of years in the utility industry where my work included; the introduction of VAT on your fuel bills for those in the UK and also ensuring the customer service dept. were aware of faults affecting people calling from within Yorkshire. My first few years in legal involved looking at personal injury workflows, case management systems but there was some aspects of workflow built in. The product under the bonnet (hood for US readers) was the Vectus product from Hatton Blue. Since then I’ve not really been involved in workflow technology. However over the last couple of months I’ve come across two products that are really nice entries into the Legal IT landscape and show how far the products have come since the early days. These aren’t big heavyweight BPM (business process management) solutions but neat solutions designed with legal in mind.

The first I’m going to cover in this post and the second I’ll highlight in another post in a few days time.

This particular product I could have been dealing with firsthand if I’d made a different career choice back in 2010, however my first view of this product was through an invite to a launch briefing in London. The venue was intriguing as “Bentley’s Oyster Bar and Grill” is not your average place to catch a software product demo, but then maybe this is the answer to my vendor hall woes :-)

The products name is “sharedo” by a company called Slicedbread. One of a new wave of Legal IT companies that have a bit of a silicon valley start up feel to them, both in their approach to tech and the quality look and feel to their products. A welcome trend! To call this a modern day Hatton Blue is doing sharedo a massive disservice, it is born our of an adaptive case management system but through a number of iterations and an 8 year long R&D cycle what we have is much more.

Underneath is now an “intelligence based” system, an IT technology called “complex event processing” (CEP), a method of tracking and analysing (processing) streams of information (data) about things that happen (events), and deriving a conclusion from them. All this is wrapped up in a slick modern interface. No more Windows 95 “look and feel” to Legal IT systems with their grey “Windows”, this is more an iOS or Windows 10 feel to Legal IT.

You get the feeling that as a lawyer this system would be a joy to use, all the key information at your fingertips with the data analysis and intelligence to help you make decisions. And the product is designed to provide a unique feel to the clients as well, as the marketing blurb says “When you buy a new mini you are presented with a product configurator with literally thousands of options enabling you to choose your unique customer experience and also unique price. Why shouldn’t you be able to configure your legal service in the same way?”

To analyse the data the slicebread team use Microsoft’s PowerBI which fits nicely with the look and feel they are trying to achieve with the product as well as being a really powerful reporting tool.

Clearly the product is suited to personal injury work and you can see the fit with those firms looking at the insurance markets, however as they say “Whilst I have lots of features that are applicable for law and law alone I am not a platform for legal per se” and you could see how it could be applied to other legal processes, in fact during lunch I did discuss possibilities for using it for internal business processes within law firms and you could see with a little bit of work it could potentially apply to these as well.

As mentioned this is one of a number of new products from new Legal IT vendors that are starting to freshen up the legal market, long may it continue!


Jul 21 2015

The HP and Autonomy era is gone! iManage leadership completes buyout.


Well this morning sees the official announcement that the iManage leadership team has completed a buyout from Hewlett-Packard (HP). I’m not going to post comment yet, I’ll let the dust settle a few days before that. But here are some links to read what’s currently being said:

From the Legal IT Insider : “The Boys Are Back In Town as Team iManage complete management buyout from HP

From Legal IT Professionals : “iManage Leadership Completes Buyout of Business Unit from HP

The brand new iManage website press release : “iManage Leadership Announces Buyout from HP

From Phoenix’s website : “Phoenix congratulates iManage

Post from Neil Araujo on the iManage site : “Who is iManage Today?” and on LinkedIn Pulse “Who is iManage Today?

Post from Kraft Kennedy : “iManage Splits from HP, Becomes Independent Company

From Forrester : “The Rebirth of iManage: A New Company With A Familiar Name Re-enters The ECM Market

From Ascertus : “iManage buy-out great news for the market

Nothing from Tikit as yet?

I’ll update this page through the day with new articles, so if you’ve got any comment or posts that’s not just the press release please point them out to me on twitter @planty



Jul 7 2015

Someone has poked the iManage lion and it’s realised there are a few other predators on the plain


iManage seems to be back in the game, technically I realise it never went away but over the last month or so they seem to be on a real social media push. I mean I’ve actively been encouraged to blog about some of their new products on the horizon, those who’ve followed this blog for a few years will know just how surprising that actually is!! I’m not complaining at all, this is great news.

So this blog post is just some of my thoughts on the products they’ve had on show over the last month or so at user groups and CIO briefings.

First up the “White Rabbit project”, this has been in development for a while but is starting to near an initial rollout. What is it? Well it’s effectively a new interface for the WorkSite DMS (document management system), not a replacement for FileSite or DeskSite but a brand new web interface using responsive design, built using HTML5. So this should work as well on your PC as it will on your Mac or Android phone.

I have to say it’s pretty impressive. With an intuitive design and “in app help” it should be easy for the lawyer to pick up without too much training. As said it’s not intended to replace exisiting interfaces into WorkSite (although overtime I suspect it will replace WorkSite Web), but there will be a rolling programme to rollout some of its features into some parts of FileSite/DeskSite; the admin dialogues etc This can only be a good thing as the search, profile and security dialogues are looking a bit old fashioned and unintuitive in this day and age. There are some really well thought through amendments to viewing, this is built to facilitate better mobile experience. The document is streamed to you as you read, so on a mobile device that 500 page document won’t kill your 3G connection.

Next up the cloud is back on the agenda, can’t help think this is a response to the emergence or netdocuments and Matter Centre from Microsoft. Though I don’t see this as a transition to SaaS ala Satya Nadella’s moves at Redmond. This is more a “look we know you’ve got all these terrabytes of old archive data now, let us look after them for you” approach. At least that’s the way it seems to me at the moment. Given the success of Mimecast maybe this is a sensible move?

Finally a word on LinkSite. There was a big rush a year or so ago to be in the “dropbox” space by many vendors, unfotunately I don’t think though firms saw this as big enough of an issue to rollout out an enterprise wide solution. My personal view is that it’s such a shame LinkSite its not platform agnostic as their interface into WorkSite is excellent! It’s that “other end”, the HP cloud access, it’s a little too parochial for me, the ideal would be the LinkSite integration with SkyDrive or Box at the other end with the app support they bring across multiple platforms. Still I understand their (iManage) reasoning, because they own the whole experience they can develop something that looks so seemless. The Apple approach!

To wrap up, just a final word or two on cloud. Last month saw netdocuments announce new developments in their encryption, and today (7th July) they announced they received the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 27001 Certification confirming NetDocuments meets or exceeds international standards for data privacy, security, and information governance practices. You’ve also got Microsoft pushing their auto encryption ability in the Office 365 Exchange email platform based on the emails content (ie if it seems personal information such as bank details it will encrpyt the message). Email and Documents are the staple ingredients of law firms and their clients, so inevitably there is still the “on premise, on premise, on premise” mantra (you only have to read the recent LinkedIn online discussion following comments in an article in the latest Legal IT Insider – page 9 comments from Farrer & Co IT director, Neil Davison), but the consumer demands of access from anywhere combined with security offered by SaaS providers surely is pointing to a cloud based future for the core functions. After all, as I said in the LinkedIn post above, “why as IT depts would we want to spent all our efforts keeping operational systems running when we could use our sparse resources on strategic projects to help grow our firms?? We’ve allowed the Iron Mountains of this world to look after our clients data for years in paper form, it’s only a matter of time before we make the shift surely”.

But I love the fact that the DMS (document management system) world is hotting up up again. It’s been a stale environment for a few too many years andso I hope the iManage developers crack on and deliver White Rabbit asap, netdocuments continue to push their product and Microsoft continue to build on Matter Centre in their 365 world. I suspect we may see at least two out of the three 😉


Jun 8 2015

“The good, the bad and the could do better” – a look at Legal IT conferences


This post is from an article I wrote for Legal IT Today magazine (you can download the issue in PDF format here) and was published in their March 2015 copy (issue #9).

Unfortunately due to work commitments I didn’t make it to either the “British Legal Technology Forum” or the “Inside Legal IT” events in London earlier this year, but if you did let me know what you thought of them in the comments.


Best conference ever attended? Well that would have to be the Microsoft Office 97 launch in the UK, I think it was held at the QE2 conference centre in London. This was Microsoft at its peak, no Apple or Google to be seen and the bar had yet to be raised by a Steve Jobs event. Since then every Legal IT conference I’ve been to has had this benchmark to measure against, some have come close most have come up short.

In my experience the early days of Legal IT conferences were poor. My first was what can only be described as a trade show held at the Barbican Exhibition Centre in London, I’m reliably informed it was called the “The Solicitors’ & Legal Office Exhibition”. It was relatively unmemorable, in fact the only way I remember it was back in 1998 was the image below of a caricature that Shaw’s legal office stationery were churning out on their stand! Other than this my recollection is a little vague but from what I remember it was just a hall full of vendors stands, people would come and dip in and out (usually during a lunch hour) rather than take a full day for the conference.

Sketch of Me

Thanks to a couple of “Legal IT historians” Chris Dale and Charles Christian answers to some crowdsourcing that there was the above show at the Barbican (which was bought by the LegalTech US owners eventually), then there was another than ran for a number of years in Islington. I also recall attending the latter “Legal IT Show” when it tried some regional variations. My local variant was held at the Royal Armouries in Leeds. But again all I remember was that it was the typical trade show format with nothing more than vendor stands. This was early internet days, so the lack of availability of product information online meant face to face was the norm I guess. But even so these early events weren’t a patch on that Microsoft event that had set my benchmark, in fact after a while I gave up on these general legal IT events and it wasn’t until 2010 that I attended another one.

However whereas the generic legal IT event had disappointed the vendors picked up the baton, especially when iManage merged with Interwoven and we got the “Gear Up” events in the mid 2000’s. I attended a couple of these, one in Florida and one in London and these were good, very good. There was a great mix of keynotes, product roadmap and specialist breakout tracks. Because the vast majority of Legal IT folk had come for a specific product the networking was great too. The Autonomy merger put pay to these events and unfortunately the user group format (albeit useful) hasn’t replaced Gear Up.

A couple of other vendors though have taken up this baton and crafted a couple of unique events worthy of mention. Bighand with their full day conferences in London and Manchester have managed to match the structure of those Interwoven events, good keynotes, product roadmap, good networking and good breakout sessions. Then there is Tikit with their Word Excellence Days, these are not product based but usually full of relevant customer led talks or panels on a range of pertinent topics (not just Word and document production).

Back to the general legal IT events and my return in 2010? This was a trip to the ILTA Conference in Las Vegas. And ILTA is something special, it has great keynotes, a huge range of smaller sessions on every topic imaginable in Legal, great networking opportunities and a vendor hall that has pretty much every legal IT solution on offer. The downsides are also due to its size. It’s difficult to catch everything you want to, the synopsis of sessions too can lead you to the wrong conclusions and into the wrong sessions. To get the most of ILTA you need to plan ahead, have multiple sessions for each time slot and leave one for another if it becomes obvious in the first few minutes the talk isn’t for you. Plan the vendors you want to see before, plan what you want to see when and if possible arrange some demos in advance. I attended a second ILTA conference in 2014 in Nashville and I wish I’d been more prepared up front. For me if you’re looking for a match to my Office 97 benchmark, then ILTA in the US is it. The other US show of note is the giant LegalTech in New York. I haven’t been myself and probably won’t, whether true or not I imagine it too much like those early days of Legal IT shows in London unfortunately.

So what about the UK shows? Well a few years back the LawTech Futures show shook things up a bit, it brought some fantastic keynote speakers and matched them with a good vendor hall and interesting mix of break out talks over three tracks. A very familiar format for those who have experienced ILTA.

The momentum seems to have continued across UK legal and has led to a great line-up of three big events for 2015, each with a different flavour.

In March we have the “British Legal Technology Forum”. The format follows a similar vein to LawTech Futures, unsurprising as the folks behind both are NetLaw Media. This year’s keynote is by Dr Michio Kaku. There are the familiar three stages and a vendor hall. It’s a tried and tested formula that works well. It’ll be interesting to see how the tracks go, across all conferences in the last few years the same old “disruptive, cost cutting, law needs to change” topics have been churned out. There are some great case studies to be told on mobility, service centres, document automation and legal project management. But I haven’t heard many yet at a conference.

In May we have a newcomer to the scene. The “Inside Legal IT” event. Now this could be interesting, it’s an attempt to forgo the keynotes and talks and focus on the vendor hall. Sort of back to the beginning with a twist, the twist is to inject some fun to try and facilitate the networking and discussion. I hope it works, if there is one problem I find with all the events it’s the vendor hall. The booth surely has to be the most awkward way to learn about new products and maybe this conference can shake this up.

Finally in November is the “ILTA Insight” event. I attended my first one of these last year and was pleasantly surprised. I had avoided previously as I’d already “driven the Golf” with the US ILTA show, surely the London one day version wouldn’t live up to it. But it was good, the format is keynotes, talks and vendors. Standard fare. But with the talks been run by ILTA firms it seemed to be more relevant and have real world examples that I want to hear.

To finish up I’m going to ask for a wish and ask a question. My wish for conferences, what I would like all the conference organisers to do is use technology! In a world of live streamed events it’s about time the organisers of all the Legal IT shows started using it. It’s impossible for large numbers of Legal IT staff from one firm to attend these events, especial from the firms in the north. It isn’t cost effective. But for a nominal fee I’m sure the online audience would be much bigger and with social media there is a massive opportunity for vendors to tap into this streaming audience. That’s my one wish.

And finally my one question, why compared to the US conferences do so few European folks tweet at our conferences? You can almost have a second conference online with the discussion generated from US events.


May 5 2015

“Lawyers are like any other machine….”


“Lawyers are like any other machine. They’re either a benefit or a hazard. If they’re a benefit, it’s not my problem”

Rick Deckard, Los Angeles, Nov 2019.


The last time I really looked at Artificial Intelligence (AI) was when I studied it in my second year at university as a module for my degree. AI bookOver the last year I’ve seen it pop up again and again at various Legal IT events and in a number of Legal publications. If the talks and articles are to be believed, then in the next 10 years or so we’re going to see AI become pervasive in the legal sector, both through the need to legislate against its usage in society and as a replacement for trainees and junior lawyers (Note: this is a link to a pay walled article, though you can read the synopsis). In fact the latter view point is becoming the new topic of choice on the Legal IT event circuit, Richard Susskind has talked about it, Dr Michio Kaku keynote at the recent British Legal Technology Forum has talked about it, Rohit Talwar talked about it at last year’s ILTA in Nashville and there are many many more examples.

I’m not convinced by the timescales, but it’s daft not to think this will feature in the reasonably near future. But then a recent article in The Spectator made me start to doubt whether this in fact will be our future? The article was actually about this year’s re-release of Ridley Scott’s ‘Final Cut’ of Blade Runner and the announcement of the sequel. But it talked about the concept of “virtual paranoia” in the original Philip K. Dick book. The uncertainty of what is real and what is not. Will this fear be the one to scupper AI in the legal profession? Will virtual paranoia mean we’ll never have the digital lawyer? Well if you’re after a key piece of legal work or advice would you be happy a computer giving it you or would you insist on a human being? I think there would be a bit of worry, this virtual paranoia is already creeping into society. We see people dislike the their online actions being used to tailor adverts for them, so much so they are removing themselves from sites that facilitate this.

The other point that struck me from this article was the question “What is the meaning of memory, now everything is a click away on Google?”, something this article on the ABA Journals site also raised recently. Will this aspect further enhance our virtual paranoia?

Maybe though what we’ll see is a future that will be somewhere between the extremes. Rather than full on replacement of the lawyer, we’ll see AI support the lawyer. AI used to speed up the legal process, provide the knowledge to the lawyer and become the KM function of law firms. I think it is unlikely that AI will ever become “human” enough, they may pass the Turing Test but I’m sure there is something of human interaction, of human behaviour and thought that will mean that the human lawyer is still required for quite some time.


Feb 23 2015

North, SaaS, East and West – split-shoring


So I’ve had a poll on this blog for a few months now asking “When do you think a top 10 law firm will take the plunge and move to the cloud for documents or email? (e.g. netdocuments, office365 etc)”. The results show a clear feeling that this will happen in the next 5 years (68%), 41% think it will happen sooner.

I’ve posted about Office365 previously and how some large companies are already on the platform, but the push for cost reduction and innovation in law firms at the same time surely means there has to be a move to focus staff on the new technology rather than the utility technology (and by the way I really dislike that term as it has connotations that this technology is old, unimportant or a simple commodity, it isn’t but it is the technology that people like Microsoft are now delivering as SaaS – Software as a Service).

This week also saw the news that Freshfields was looking for space in Manchester to set up a 80,000-100,000sq ft office to house back office and possibly a legal support centre. Legal Week (no link as it’s a paywall article) talked of a an initial squeeze on the market in terms of available talent, but that this will be offset by more lawyers coming into Manchester given the attraction of big names like Freshfields. But what about the squeeze on Legal IT? Manchester has a number of mid-sized law firms with IT depts in the city, I’m sure the draw of the Freshfields name will be a pull for some in Legal IT but it’s not as if Manchester is a backwater small city that is suffering from higher supply than demand in the IT sector.

I wrote a post back in 2011 on near shoring, it was around the time of Allen & Overy’s move to Belfast. I finished that post with a comment that still holds true. The lack of movement of the big London firms to shift resources out of the capital. This goes beyond law firms, but where as in recessions business is capable of rationalising their staff they still seem to miss the obvious efficiencies of moving out of the capital. Given a lot of big law now runs offices from the US to Australia and most places in between, there seems little technological reason for those functions not needing client contact to be located outside of the high cost capital city.

Now you may be reading a conclusion into this post already? But let me first throw in the other 22% of the votes on the poll, those that said big law would “Never” move to cloud based SaaS for the core document and email systems. I presume these were based on one of two things a) the feeling that law firms aren’t tech savvy enough to take the plunge (sorry but this is as tired and as untrue as the “Manchester United fans don’t come from Manchester” line!) or b) security! I can see the latter point being an issue, but I can’t help feel we’ll bust through this one at some point soon. It isn’t as though the clients won’t be considering this kind of move.

So what is my conclusion?

Well I haven’t one. As with anything in IT there is never a one size fits all solution, what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another. But I do have a couple of thoughts:

  1. If you’re a small firm without a dedicated IT dept then surely SaaS is for you. I can’t think of many cons to this choice.
  2. If you’re a London based firm who has yet to think of moving their IT out of the capital you have to ask has the boat already sailed? Should thought be placed to a combined move North and SaaS move? (Split-Shoring?)

Jan 28 2015

A Fork in the Road : From Single Partner to Largest Legal Practice in the World – Roger Lane-Smith


Over Christmas I finished Roger Lane-Smith’s autobiography “A Fork in the Road”, definitely the first biography I have read about a lawyer. How fascinating can a corporate lawyers life possibly be? Well I have to say it was actually a really interesting insight into modern law firms.

If you look at the modern day mid to large sized law firm, this book plays through a history of how we got to where we are. The “good times” of too much work for too few lawyers and the opportunities that were there to make good money and grow firms. There was clearly an ambition in a number of the partners across Alsops and Dibb Lupton to be a trailblazer to what is the norm now in law firms, I mean take a look at Dentons’ news this month!

In the book, there are also some stories of corporate politics thrown in, a surprising number of celebrities and the world’s greatest football team to keep you turning the pages (or clicking the next page button if like me you’re on a Kindle!). One story I found particularly interesting was that of Stafford Pemberton Publishing, Starsky and Hutch, Aaron Spelling and a meeting with Muhammad Ali! To think a law firm from the North West could mix in deals like this back in the 70’s shows what opportunities were there for the law firm willing to push the boundaries and aim high.

It is definitely worth a read if you work in a law firm, there are so many aspects of lawyers and the way law firms work that come across in the book. Sometimes intentionally, sometimes not. But there are plenty that will raise a wry smile. If you don’t work in a law firm, but have an interest in business biographies I’d say it’s probably still worth a read.

Overall though I came away with two observations:

  1. This journey for law firms seems to me a big first act that is almost complete. Most corporate law firms have followed suit and there is now becoming too little work for too many lawyers. The market has definitely changed and thus the book felt like a fitting epitaph to part one of “The Law Firm” and we seem on the cusp of a totally different second act.
  2. There was no mention of support staff in the various law firms at all. For the most part that’s understandable, it’s a book on Roger’s life as a lawyer. But there is also a lot about how the largest legal practice in the world was built. It’s telling that in act one of “The Law Firm” it was all about the lawyers, you can’t imagine for one minute that part two won’t have a large non-lawyer part to it!