Sep 28 2016

RIP Project Managers


OK the title is a bit “click bait” as this isn’t quite the case, but I’ve just been on a Scrum training course for a couple of days and realised the traditional project manager (PM) isn’t part of the team anymore! Product Owners and Scrum Masters are the new roles for Agile project management. Kind of ironic when legal has just embraced project managers, always behind the curve eh! [edit]: I am not saying the PM isn’t required, more that to work in the scrum framework their role changes, see below for more on why trad PM skills are still needed.

It’s impossible to distill a two day course into one blog post, let alone a whole framework. And after two days I don’t profess to be any kind of expert! But with a background in project management, I thought a post that explains some of key takeaways would be worthwhile.

  • First off it’s not a replacement project management methodology, it won’t work for everything and is most suited to “projects” where a product is being developed (the product can be a software development or a “hardware” product).
  • The aim is to deliver to the customer a minimum viable product as soon as possible, thus introducing value as soon as possible. Addressing one of the key issues of the traditional waterfall, that of something tangible for the customer not being available until right at the end of the project in the release or implementation phase. This allows for early feedback.
  • The key aspects are the small teams; the product owner, the scrum master and the dev team.
  • The team has a product backlog that covers everything that might be needed (features, requirements, enhancements etc) is an ordered and estimated list.
  • The sprints (typically of a couple of weeks in length) go through a sprint planning to determine the product backlog items to tackle, then create a sprint backlog of the tasks to deliver a potentially releasable product increment.
  • After each sprint a review and retrospective allows immediate feedback into the process for the next sprint. Improving planning, product and the development as a whole.


There were some key points that were raised to watch for.

  • As we covered the Agile Manifesto. In particular the need to keep teams together as much as possible, as the successful team relationship with all the required skills is key. As is the need to face-to-face conversation, it’s not impossible to run across disparate sites but productivity decreases dramatically.
  • The PM isn’t finished, some key aspects of traditional project management isn’t catered for in Scrum. For example, stakeholder management, ROI, governance, marketing, feasibility etc. Scrum caters for the “How we build stuff” phase.
  • Also keeping the “noise” from the team is crucial, avoiding constant interruptions. This could prove difficult where teams are traditionally balancing projects and support demands.
  • Overall it was clear that moving to a Agile framework isn’t an easy task, it’s not just a case of deciding to do it and renaming all your project managers. There needs to be thought on how things are set up, the office, the people and the institutions.

It’s not a solution to all project failures and without a lot of effort I suspect could cause more. But I can see areas where agile would work really well, much better than traditional waterfall methods and would recommend anyone with a stake in delivering projects to find out more.


Aug 31 2016

A helping hand for following ILTA from afar via twitter by hashtags


Better late than never, but following #ILTACON on twitter can at times be a little confusing when trying to match the session title to the session hashtag on the tweets. So I pulled together all the session titles together with a link to a hashtag search for that session. Also grouped by the time in UK time in case you’re following live and want to catch what the session is (US East coast take off 5 hours). Hope it helps!

Wednesday 31st August 2016

All times UK
KEYNOTE: Your Keynote Antidote: ILTACON’s Hard-Hitting News Show – #ILTAKEY3
Remote Users: The Walking, Talking Security Risk – #ILTA093A
Refining Your E-Discovery Reporting – #ILTA093B
Alternative Email Arrangements To Reduce the Clutter – #ILTA093C
Finding a Needle in a Haystack with 21st-Century Expertise Systems – #ILTA094
The State of Play of Artificial Intelligence in Law – #ILTA095
Matters from Laterals: A Matter Mobility Workshop – #ILTA096
Keep Up With Trends in Today’s Data Centers – #ILTA097
Is Enterprise Search Worth the Money? – #ILTA098
Learning Management System Wild West Shootout! – #ILTA099
PM vs. LPM Project Modeling: Differences, Applications and Templates – #ILTA100
Risk Management Unboxed – #ILTA101
Exchange 2016: Why and How To Upgrade – #ILTA102
Grading Susskind: The State of Legal 20 Years After the “Future of Law” – #ILTA103
From Production to Trial: The Tools We Use and Still Need – #ILTA104
Lights, Cameras, Action! Producing Blockbuster Training Videos on a Budget – #ILTA105
Similar Issues and Solutions: A Small Firms Discussion Forum – #ILTA106
Burnout to Badass: Energize. Engage. Ignite. – #ILTA107
Life After Death by PowerPoint – #ILTA108
A View from Above: The C-Level Perspective on Change – #ILTA109
Face Your Fears: Embracing Change in the Legal Environment – #ILTA110
Governing Data In the Cloud – #ILTA111
Danger! Navigating the File-Sharing Minefield – #ILTA112
Building KM Together: Creating Collaboration Between Law Firms and Law Departments – #ILTA113
When Project Management and E-Discovery Management Collide – #ILTA114
Mapping the Customer Journey – #ILTA115
Two (and More) Heads Are Better Than One! A Pricing Roundtable – #ILTA116
It’s a Multifactor Authentication Shoot Out! – #ILTA117
Dot Your I’s and Cross Your T’s with the Right Document Proofreading Software – #ILTA118
Preventing IT Procurement Pitfalls – #ILTA119
iManage Company Update and Road Ahead – #ILTA120
Law Firm 101: A Sneak Peek at ILTA’s E-Learning Initiative – #ILTA121
RFPs: Is There a Better Process? – #ILTA122
The Essential Toolbox for Data Quality Management and Visualization – #ILTA123
Can We See What They See? A Preview of What Law Department Analytics Tools Look Like – #ILTA124
Finding the Fun in Writing Fundamentals – #ILTA125
How To Effectuate a Better Legal Services Delivery Model – #ILTA126
Unleashing the Performance Power of Your Desktop – #ILTA127
Developing and Managing Emotional Intelligence – #ILTA128
Don’t Do That! Lessons from the IT and KM Trenches – #ILTA129
Windows Server 2016: What’s New, What’s Not? – #ILTA130
The Future of Law Firms in the E-Discovery Space: A Client’s Perspective – #ILTA131
The Why and How of a Paper-Light Office – #ILTA132
Automated Contract Review: Machine Learning Comes to Corporate Law – #ILTA133
Checking for Weak Links: Security Audits of Your Most Popular Platforms – #ILTA134
Effectively Managing Outside Counsel Guidelines – #ILTA135
Aderant Expert Billing – #ILTA136

Thursday 1st September 2016

All times UK
KEYNOTE: ILTA Showcase: Fast and Furious Presentations by Distinguished Peer Award Nominees – #ILTAKEY4
Business and Legal Aspects of Mobile, Social and Emerging Technologies – #ILTA138A
Innovative Data Exchanges and Collaboration with Clients – #ILTA137
The Evolution of SharePoint 2016 – #ILTA138
Maximizing Efficiencies with Technology-Backed Workflows – #ILTA139
The Intersection Between Records Information Management & Info Governance – #ILTA140A
LEDES Oversight Committee Bi-Annual Members Meeting – #ILTA137A
Evolving DMS Security Models To Meet Client & Compliance Requirements – #ILTA140
Respond Effectively to Your First Client Security Audit – #ILTA141
A Lab for Next-Generation Leaders – #ILTA142
Data Mining: Leveraging Information To Make Strategic Decisions – #ILTA143
Innovating Together: Building Partnerships Between Law Firms, Clients and Vendors – #ILTA144
Building the Right Infrastructure for VDI – #ILTA145
How Future Technology Will Affect Litigation Support – #ILTA146
Laptops and Tablets and Hybrids! Oh, My! – #ILTA147
Supporting Lateral Attorney Integration Through Knowledge Management – #ILTA148
Making Educated Decisions with Cost-Benefit Analyses – #ILTA149
Is Physical Office Space Really Needed? – #ILTA150
Why UTBMS Codes Aren’t a Waste of Time – #ILTA151
The Wikipedia of Legal: ILTA Staff Legal Industry Perspectives from the ‘80s, ‘90s and Today – #ILTA152
Choosing the Right Artificial Intelligence for the Job – #ILTA153
Kicking It Up a Notch with System Center Configuration Manager 2016 – #ILTA154
How To Establish Data Classification and Improve Client Audits – #ILTA155
Threat Protection for Virtual Systems – #ILTA156
IT Project Portfolio Management – #ILTA157
Reinventing Traditional Support Staff Roles in a Buyer’s Market – #ILTA158
A Road Map To Gathering and Analyzing Client Discovery Data Across Matters – #ILTA159
Helping Lawyers Meet Ethical Obligation of Technical Proficiency – #ILTA160
Pain-Free Video-conferencing with Clients – #ILTA161
I’m in Charge! Now What? Skills for New Managers – #ILTA162
Can Information Rights Management and Document Management Systems Play Well Together? – #ILTA165
ILTA Town Hall – #ILTA166
Hacking Law Firm Innovation – #ILTA167
The Dark Web: The Wild West of the Internet – #ILTA168
Learning to Prosper Using Client Data You Already Have – #ILTA169
A New Approach To Aligning the Objectives of Outside Counsel, In-House Legal and Corporate Business – #ILTA170
Gather ‘Round for a Litigation Support Roundtable – #ILTA171
The Gang’s All Here! A Marketing Technology Roundtable – #ILTA172
Onboarding: A Process Mapping Exercise – #ILTA173
Current Threat Landscapes and Protective Measures – #ILTA174
Extreme Makeover: Webinar Edition – #ILTA175

Jun 22 2016

Tikit signs new partnership deal with NetDocuments


I don’t usually blog about press releases but the news today from Tikit is worth a post. It’s been quite a year in the document management world (looking back at my last few posts, there are a higher proportion of DM posts than anything else), and today Tikit announce  they have signed a global partnership agreement with NetDocuments.

From a purely commercial sense as a reseller it seems an obvious move, there are likely to be more new installations for NetDocuments, simply because most folks have already got iManage and if you’re moving the only alternative is ND. I suspect resellers make more from new sales than ongoing support costs. Also there are many competitors in the iManage reseller, services and support space and not so much in the ND space, so first to a new market and all that.

Does it change anything for iManage customers? Probably not. But it offers a bit of validation that ND has moved into the space of #1 challenger in the DM space. As the world moves to a SaaS/cloud/hosted model it will be good to have two companies vying for business to accelerate development.

For Tikit it gives comfort that they are still  pushing in legal, though when I heard rumours of a press release this morning my initial hope was to follow iManage’s lead and an MBO from BT :-)

A few lines from the Tikit release:

This new partnership, which makes Tikit the first Global Premier Partner for NetDocuments, is a continuation of our strategy of offering choice to the market and offering customers the best of emerging technologies from existing and new partners across the world.

Our product roadmaps will remain the same, but integration with NetDocuments will shortly be available for our products, TMS and eMS. As always, we will continue to invest in our own products, making sure they are kept up-to-date, to deliver what our clients and the market wants and needs.



May 25 2016

Well it’s back! iManage Gear Up returns with a new moniker ConnectLive!



Through the dark days of Autonomy and HP, iManage blew away the cobwebs and returned with a new version of the old “Gear Up” user conference, titled ConnectLive 2016. To celebrate it’s return a rather unique post , dual authored with Mubashir Mian. First my view of the conference through a view of day one and Mubashir will cover his view through day two.

Day One – author Jason Plant


Things kicked off at the Park Plaza Riverbank London with the usual keynote address, giving a chance for some old faces (Dan Carmel, Neil Araujo, Mohit Mutreja, Rafiq Mohammadi) and some new faces (Dean Leung the new Chief customer success officer) to run us through the rebirth of iManage and what it means for customers. It does feel like someone at the top of the new iManage issued a “The Internet Tidal Wave” style memo to the firm, that famous call to action that Bill Gates sent round Microsoft in 1995, the one that refocused the software giant back on the right path.

There were three key things that came across to me at the keynote: 1) They understand the “new professional” in law firms and their requirements, 2) they understand the desire for firms to use the data from their DMS’s for other purposes and 3) they realise quality and customer service was lacking in the dark days of Autonomy and HP and are actively doing things to improve this.

To highlight point one, there was a video that was shown during the keynote that for me summed up the vision for iManage products and how they see them enabled the new professional, better still gave a timeline for this to happen. If there is anyone from iManage that reads this, can you point me at a direct YouTube or Vimeo link so I can link it here?

Edit: Thanks to iManage here is the link :

And on point two there were some nice demos of the analytics work iManage Labs are doing, for example, using the data in the DMS to look at threat analytics using machine learning. A nice concept to identify rogue behaviour that is more intelligent than simple thresholds. There were also demo’s of the compass UI that uses analytics to show you info around documents, emails, matters, people, relationships etc. Given the number of documents and vast amount of meta data in our DMS (Document Management System) it will be interesting to see how these concepts develop to leverage value from that data.


At this point in the day I got hijacked by Dan to record some customer thoughts on the key concepts iManage brought up in the keynote. It was a glimpse into the life of television and endless takes, I’m sure I answered one question five times and really got sick of hearing “just try that one again”.

I did then get to a number of the sessions, but I’ll highlight a couple:

iManage Share

I saw what was LinkSite quite some time ago and the current incarnation is still very similar to early days, just more polished. The view that you get from within the worksite application (sorry iManage Work) is really slick and has a great UI and UX. And although the client view is nice, with a slick interface now using “html5 type” functionality, like drag and drop files to the website for me I can’t get past the feeling that it’s still another interface for the client if already using a deal room (e.g. HighQ)

But within worksite the UX back and forth is really very slick, very few clicks to do stuff. Audit trails kept etc. Integration into outlook so if attachments go above limits it suggest replacing attachments with smart links (however if you’ve got Workshare too this could mean a pop up for send and file with WorkSite EMM, another for meta data stripping from Workshare and then one for smart links!!). Again with attention to detail they’ve thought through a few of the client access requirements too, so the login requirements are minimised.

On the roadmap are SAML SSO compliance (H2 2016), responsive interface (H2 2016), BYO key for encryption (H2 2016) and in 2017 video, comparison and enhanced collaboration.

iManage Cloud

I posted a tweet during this session that sums up my thoughts, I don’t need to say who the other cloud is in the Legal DMS world is do I?

The iManage solution is more a “hosted” solution in my opinion, it’s the iManage stack that you know but built, managed and looked after by iManage in their datacentres. The benefit is that moving to it really is as simple as a DNS change from the address of your servers to theirs (once the data migration is done of course!). There was lots of information in the session on the hardware that will support this, that the implementation is yours and not shared, on the security aspects and on the locations they’re building out in the US, Europe and AsiaPac. It’s a different proposition to the competition, thus my tweet, and it will be interesting to see which get’s traction as I’m sure “cloud” will become more and more a part of legal.

Summing up day one

One of the most surreal things about the new iManage is the number of old faces that are back, and it was great to see so many of them over in Europe (Aaron Rangel, Tim Hurren, Melody Easton) along with those folks who stayed through the HP days but rarely got to these shores (Chris Rubert, John Fenley, Garth Hermanson) and of course Geoff who’s been with us all this side of the pond through the whole journey. A great opportunity to catch up with these folks.

Overall I thought the day was a great start to a two day conference, I only could attend one day though and as such the day felt a bit rushed. The keynote didn’t kick off until 11am and then the sessions were pretty much back to back until the day concluded. If I could offer a suggestion it would be to start the day earlier and have more gaps to network and chat to vendors. The end of day drinks are a great time to catch up and the time between these and the dinner was just about right.


Day Two – author Mubashir Mian

To echo Jason’s comments, there was a great vibe throughout the event, an energy and enthusiasm from the iManage folks that hasn’t been seen in a while. A distinct and memorable theme was iManage viewing their different types of users as personas. A “new professional” is someone on the move, accessing and sharing content across smart devices and remote working options; “classic users” requiring performant, stable software on their day-to-day workstations to carry out the bulk of the work. It’s a pretty good idea and although I’m not sure it is as neat as that in a law firm, the definition is well enough to work around requirements for both camps.

I talked to a number of iManage team members at the event, each keen to share the developments in their respective areas – management, mobility, support, server, consulting. Everyone displayed great passion in what they do and were full of optimism for the future. A cynic might say the post-MBO high is still at work, but to counter, there have been major milestones delivered – White Rabbit, 9.3 and there’s strong strategic planning across all the components which are complementing each other harmoniously.

Just a quick follow on from the first day sessions, Mohit did an in-depth technical session on Work Communications server. Personally, I’ve been closely involved with the product since the beginning (see here and here) and have gone through its many iterations and faults. The strong message given was think about upgrading to 9.3, or at least 9.2.2. There is a lot of work gone into these later releases and even though due to the ever-evolving nature of Work-Outlook-Exchange it’s always been “work in progress”, the latest version is robust and can handle many different scenarios around delegate filing & sent item filing (every Work techie’s nightmare) and Mailbox Sync. I’ve resisted Mailbox Sync so far and speaking to my peers they have similar concerns about it’s impact on Exchange but the new “event driven filing”, which will come in 9.4 sounds interesting and will work with Exchange on a lighter footprint.

Moving on to the second day, Nancy had an interesting session on Office365 covering amongst other topics, co-authoring in Word. Admittedly, I’m not sure how much uptake there is for co-authoring over here, but as Office365 and Office 2016 deployments are taken up within the enterprise, this will become more common. Working with Exchange online and Work’s use on the iPhone and Mobility were delivered in some detail.

Something you hear with the new iManage is a recurring message of “we should be doing this already”, a tangible example of which is the introduction of Control Centre. This is designed to update the admin tools that have been around for years and are woefully out of date. The team were clear to convey their direction – that the Work product software should come with its own ability and tools to administer the software. There was talk amongst peers of an inevitable clash with partner products, however I don’t see it this way. The products that are widely used in the customer base have been around for some time and have matured to what they are today. iManage seems like they’ll focus on rebuilding the core and so there will always be a market for supplementary third-party products.

A regular feature in iManage events is a Feedback from the Field session, where the support teams relay back what common issues they’ve seen and what the latest patches & software builds are recommended if you are looking to upgrade today. It’s almost always run by Chris Rubert, this time joined by John Fenley and its still invaluable now as in the past – this session itself makes it worthwhile attending an iManage event. One thing I did relay was that even though it disseminates excellent knowledge, it never quite finds it’s way back into the iManage websites where you can find it again. A tip I found that works for me is before looking at a version upgrade, find the slides from the last known event, an ITLA or a user group and use the recommended release versions from there. Hopefully this will be taken on board and using the (now excellent) Help Site, this dynamic information can be found quickly.

The team are involved in generating a lot of content and knowledge which will be hosted in the Help Centre. Personally I’m a big fan of the podcasts, I find them an easy way into a topic that is new (the iPhone app, for example) rather than picking up and reading the huge manual. A really interesting feature that’s coming is to expose the NT lifecycle on the Help Centre, meaning when a problem is reported by another client, iManage will make it visible at the earliest possible point whilst working to apply live updates on when the problem will be resolved. If I had a pound for every time I reported a bug and got given an existing NT number…

There was ample time to network with partners and colleagues from other firms and overall, it was a superb event. Clearly a lot of effort & dedication by Geoff, Melody and the rest of the UK team and great engagement from Dan, Neil, Mohit and the exec team.

Mubashir Mian is the Senior Applications Specialist at a major City law firm. His LinkedIn profile can be viewed here.


Apr 8 2016

Technology for the future lawyer


To kick off 2016 (where have the first three months gone!!) I thought I’d put up a post based on my recent talk at the British Legal Technology Forum in London. The talk was titled as this post and looked at some of the key challenges Legal IT have for the core technology lawyers use in their day to day work.

I started by using consumer technology to show how a simple tool can become really complicated.

Old style simple TV of the Eighties! Multiple TV channels, Multiple platforms

We started with a simple concept of a handful of TV channels.

Then we introduced digital television through satellite and multi-channel offerings, which was great initially as we had choice. But then came the competing sports channels, meaning if I want to watch all football competitions, the cricket and the boxing I needed to pay for multiple extra channel packages.

Then came the multiple delivery platforms, so I no longer can watch everything with just Sky I need Sky, Netflix, Amazon etc.

So before you knew it something simple had become a complex range of services and channel packages to watch all the TV you wanted. Posing the question:

So are we better off?

If we then play through a similar story in Legal IT we see the same complexities.

Whether it’s the choice of mobile device, do I go iPhone or Blackberry? The choice of device to work on, is the future Surface type hybrid devices or iPad Pros? Then even in the software delivery things get complicated, so do I download Outlook from the Appstore or use the desktop app or maybe I use the web app?

It’s enough to drive a lawyer mad!

Stress. Woman stressed is going crazy pulling her hair in frustration. Close-up of young businesswoman on white.

So what does the future hold?

In the talk I took a journey through the key areas for a lawyer to see how things could become simpler. How do we go from the existing, at times still very Windows XP type world, to a simpler future?


Documents are key to a lawyer and in this space Microsoft are already moving into a much simpler Office model with Office365. The ability to edit documents on different devices or on the web. Bringing mobility and allowing you access, through OneDrive, to your documents wherever you are. And the big DMS (Document Management System) providers get this, talking to the new HP  free iManage you get the feeling they understand this new world and have real plans for the direction Microsoft are going. In the shorter term they are already releasing versions of their mobility app on iOS that allows easy editing within mobile versions of Office.

NetDocuments are also aware of this and have plans for 365, they’re also in the cloud already so document access anywhere is easy.

Finally I touched on some discussions I’d had with Microsoft and their move to look at allowing document mark up using their pen technology that they have with the Surface. Imagine being able to mark up the documents with a pen and then manage them inside the .docx using track changes/comments in document review.


Here I briefly talked about the IntApp/Rekoop merger and the indication that there is a real understanding of the mobile news of lawyers, moving their technology very much into the cloud and mobile space.


Finally I talked about communications and how in the consumer world it’s simple enough for grandparents to set up and use video calls, but that also we need to be aware that there is a new wave of people entering the workplace where using a phone to talk is quite alien! A lot of law firms are using Skype for Business, some enlightened ones are actually replacing handsets off desks and really making calls and IM truly mobile.

Skyping the Grandparents

What do you mean talk?


The final section of the talk took a look at mobility, looking at the different ways two software giants are taking. Focusing on mobile as the device or looking more at the mobile person.

The mobile lawyer


The Citrix strategy seems more about making your desktop or your application available on many devices, so in the talk I showed the concept of running your firms desktop on an iPhone or iPad using Citrix Receiver (and XenApp or XenDesktop in your datacentre). I also showed a cool device that Citrix have launched called the X1 Mouse, this talks to Citrix Receiver on the iOS device and allows you to use a mouse with an iPad! So when paired with a Bluetooth keyboard aswell gives a very mobile desktop experience.

Citrix Receiver and the X1 mouse in action 1Citrix Receiver and the X1 mouse in action 2

Citrix Receiver and the X1 mouse in action 3Citrix Receiver and the X1 mouse in action 4



Then I looked at Microsoft’s strategy, which is more about developing the apps as universal apps. This allows them to run on any device size, but change the behaviour based on that size. It also has the advantage of not needing a large datacentre implementations to facilitate it. Plug it into a full screen and it just works like a desktop app. So as you can see from the images below you plug the phone into a dock (which has USB ports for peripherals, e.g. mouse and keyboard but also USB drives etc) and it behaves like a Windows 10 desktop with start menu etc. Clearly Windows Phone (or Windows 10 Mobile) hasn’t a huge market share, but I think Microsoft’s play is to bring in a new kind of smaller computing device to work on rather than go after a smartphone consumer. It is a concept much as the first Surface RT was, one that will iterate a couple of times until we all go “Oh Yeah, now I get it!”

Microsoft continuum in action 1Microsoft continuum in action 2

Microsoft continuum in action 3Microsoft continuum in action 4


I finished off summarising things by saying what lawyers really want for their future world are two simple things:

  1. Get the basis right – make the documents, finance, communications apps quick, simple and easy to use without all the complexity.
  2. Mobility – prepare for a world that makes it possible for a lawyer to do their work wherever they are on whatever they want. This is the mobile lawyer, not the mobile phone.

I did have a few slides at the end on Artificial Intelligence, but this was really as it was mentioned in my early synopsis and I needed to at least touch on why I hadn’t covered it in detail!

You can listen to the talk in full and see a copy of the slides to follow on the British Legal Technology Forum website.


Dec 31 2015

That was the year that was – A review of 2015 in Legal and Legal IT


To wrap up 2015 I thought I’d post a review of the Legal and Legal IT news throughout the year.

One of the big trends across law firms this year has been mergers, I touched on this trend back in 2009 and the number or mergers and consolidation in the industry continued throughout 2015.

Dentons has been the major news story as its huge growth continued through the year, we had the Dacheng merger in January, talk of McKenna Long & Aldridge joining in April, discussions with Singapore’s Rodyk & Davidson and Australia’s Gadens about tie-ups in November leaving a firm at the end of the year with a possible headcount of around a massive 7000 lawyers. Other large firms continued to grow this year with DLA Piper entering Canada in March and White & Case planning to boost City lawyer count by over 40% as it put London and New York at heart of new strategy in November. BigLaw doesn’t seem to cover these firms anymore, MegaLaw? No probably a bit too Judge Dredd that one!

Some mergers don’t come off though, in November Eversheds and Foley & Lardner broke off merger talks that could have created a £815m ($1.25bn) revenue transatlantic firm. And there were growing pains in others, in November at Norton Rose Fulbright the firm’s management looked to reconnect with City partners after years of rapid overseas expansion. But still this didn’t stop the merger talk and in November Irwin Mitchell and Thomas Eggar unveiled merger plans.

It seems the final shackles of the financial crisis had been thrown off in 2015 as growth was back on the cards or at least in the published figures, so although still an industry under pressure from clients it doesn’t seem to have affected the bottom line. Growth numbers look pretty good against most of the western economies, with 4%, 6% and even out at 7% rises in revenue across law firms according to a Deloitte survey in March. By December the Deloitte survey was still predicting firm fee income rises of nearly 5% in Q2 of 2015-16. Impressive numbers.

PEP was also on the up and into the double figures in some firms with 11% and 12% rises coming through in March figures. BLP posted PEP 22% in June! But not everywhere was rosy, some markets clearly still are ultra-competitive and this saw Hill Dickinson and Holman Fenwick both take revenue and PEP hits. As did DWF as their PEP slid 21% and revenue stayed broadly flat in August figures.

The good times though saw the top firms battle for the best associate pay rise around April/May time with 7% at Linklaters, 8% at Ashurst and 10% at Slaughter and May. White & Case then trumped them all in June with a 20% rise in London associate pay! Not to be outcome in December Slaughter and May associates were in line for bonuses of up to 16% as firms also bumped up rewards.

Was this all driven by a growth in client demand? Possibly as in London, for example, back in February TfL announced a rise in legal spend this year, the first in four years. And the Greater London Authority doubled its spend. But also I suspect a hard look at costs also help the profits in firms in 2015. Freshfields started consultation on a low-cost base in Manchester in February and announced further centres in June to create a global network of centres. White & Case mulled opening European support centres in November. And DLA Piper launched a low cost services centre in Warsaw this November, its third such centre alongside one in the US and one in Leeds.

Law firms were also looking at growing their business in other ways, putting pay to a few speakers talks in 2016? Dentons launched a tech investment arm (NextLaw Labs) in May. There were moves into the contract lawyer space in June as DLA Piper and Addleshaws moved into contract lawyer market with new ventures. DWF also launched contract lawyer, support centre and consulting offerings in June. And finally to top off a changing market KPMG boosted its UK legal capability with a Birmingham launch in September.

Quite an eventful year for law firms in general, what about the Legal IT side of things?

Starting with the stalwarts of Legal IT, Document Management (DMS) and Finance systems.

Back in January SharePoint was on the agenda again as a possible DMS in law firms with Microsoft pushing Matter Centre, by the end of the year though it was open source product. HP Worksite became iManage again with a management buyout and we saw energy back in the firm after many years of being part of a monolith. And Netdocuments continued to grow market share and cloud coverage with Europe and Australian datacentres.

In the finance arena the column inches were mainly full of Elite v Aderant, but in September Baker & McKenzie became the first global law firm to go live with the latest version of the SAP ERP system.

Elsewhere legal project management (LPM) is clearly on the move with a number of products offering support for this discipline, Umbria and Cael as examples. Strange that in the Legal press itself LPM wasn’t hitting the headlines despite strong take up by law firms and interest by clients! Proof again perhaps that contrary to the press and conferences, law firms are quietly getting on with new ways to grow the business?

I couldn’t review this year without mentioning AI (Artificial Intelligence), a marketing teams dream with a whole new “disruptive” technology campaign. 2015 was definitely hello AI, goodbye cloud in the Legal IT zeitgeist. The start of summer saw Ravn launch ACE and by mid-September, Berwin Leighton Paisner confirmed that it had become the first law firm to sign up to RAVN’s Applied Cognitive Engine. We also had US legal tech start up eBrevia has just launched its own AI offering, IBM Watson with Clifford Chance joining the growing number of City firms that work with IBM’s offering. September saw the BBC focus on Intelligent Machines, Riverview Law acquire US tech business to advance use of AI in legal market and AI goes mainstream as LexisNexis acquires Lex Machina in November and December.

The fact that cloud is now out of the news could be that finally its maturing and starting to take off, Netdocuments saw growth and Hill Dickinson kicked off a three-to-five-year IT strategy review that is expected to see a significant further shift towards the cloud.

Document automation was back in the news. Becoming more commonplace across the UK, Ashurst in September became the latest City law firm to sign up with Business Integrity’s ContractExpress solution to automate its legal precedents globally and across all practice areas. And at Clifford Chance in March, two finance lawyers were hired with coding expertise to design a template to allow banking clients to generate their own documents.

Social Media in law firms was in the news in summer as DLA Piper discussed the launch of their internal platform Grapevine.

Dentons appointed a new CIO tasked with integrating their IT after their whirlwind expansion. And we couldn’t finish the write up of 2015 without mention of the debacle at the Law Society. The start of year saw the Law Society of England & Wales endorse Eclipse Legal Systems as the one and only supplier. By end The Law Society of England and Wales’ latest foray into the role of technology supplier ended in disaster after it was forced to disband online conveyancing portal Veyo with losses upwards of £3m. Does it still have sway in Legal IT?

My final thought though for the Legal IT world in 2015 is where is the big push into mobility, business support workflow and “standard IT” that supports lawyers? Law firms are definitely looking at this, but what about the Legal IT vendors? Some show hints of the above and that they’re starting to get it. Will this be the real news in 2016 or will the marketing teams win and continue to sell us the promise of a disruptive world and robots replacing lawyers?


A big thank you to Legal Week , Legal IT Insider and Legal IT Professionals invaluable resources in researching the news from 2015 for this blog post!


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!