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[FYI] Seven Keys to Law Firm-Client Tech Communicatio


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Seven Keys to Law Firm-Client Tech Communication  

By Doug Caddell  

New York Law Journal  

Tuesday, October 10, 2000  

What can law departments and their technology people do to work more 
effectively with their law firm colleagues?  

During last month's LawNet 2000 meeting in Palm Springs, Calif., a 
panel tackled that very topic. Joining me were technology directors 
and managers from three firms: John Green, of Memphis's Baker, 
Donelson, Bearman & Caldwell; Sharon Gietl of St. Louis's Bryan Cave 
L.L.P.; and Amy Stewart of Detroit's Honigman Miller Schwartz and 
Cohn. The moderator was Frank Kilsdonk of Johnson Controls, Inc.  

The panelists identified seven key steps to help law firm 
technologists better serve corporate clients:  

Communicate early, often  

Give law firm technology staff a technical contact at the corporate 
law department. Too often one attorney will talk to another about a 
technology idea and the translation given to their respective 
technology staff turns out to be inconsistent or not feasible. Get 
technology people from both organizations together early on.  

Take inventory  

There is often more than one way to make a technology initiative 
work. Law firm technology departments often are told that the client 
"demands" that they use a specific product or service. Ask what 
technology the law firm may already have in-place. Many times 
existing technology can work as well and be implemented more quickly. 

Understand reality  

Historically, law firm technology departments were staffed to support 
word-processing and then basic e-mail communication. Many firm 
leaders are only now coming to grips with the realities of today's 
demanding technology. Many technology departments can only support 
the day-to-day internal needs of their firm. Individual lawyers will 
make promises to clients without checking the availability of 
resources and the viability of a projects success with their 
technology staff. This problem is expanded when multiple attorneys 
make multiple requests.  

Set realistic deadlines.  

Deadlines that are communicated to law firm technology people are 
usually one of near-immediate implementation. Communicating directly 
with law firm technology staff will help identify the real due dates. 
Law firm technologists often rush ahead, only to find that the 
corporate law department's deadline is weeks away.  

Order Equipment In Time  

Knowing the hardware and software required for the project is 
critical. This may sound like a no-brainer, but understanding the 
requirements with sufficient lead-time to order, receive and 
configure hardware and software is a key element for success. 
Remember: equipment may be backordered and immediate delivery may not 
be possible.  

Talk about communications  

T1, ISDN, X.400, Notes, and the Internet are just some of the options 
available to allow parties to connect and communicate. Far too often 
the word that reaches the law firm staff is that the client requires 
a "xyz" connection. Sometimes this is true, but often there are 
multiple ways to connect and/or communicate that are acceptable to 

Coordinate with IT  

Corporate law departments can be at the bottom of their in-house 
technology food chain, receiving reduced help from the corporate IT 
department. It's only natural that corporate technology departments 
are focused on the revenue generating side of the business.  

However, don't ask law firm staff to bypass corporate IT. Eventually, 
law firm technology staff will have to coordinate with them, and not 
doing so up-front only makes this important relationship more 
difficult to nurture.  

Keep these key steps in mind when discussing your next technology 

Corporate departments and their law firm counterparts share the same 
pressures to reduce costs, improve efficiency, deliver service 
quickly and improve results.  

Doug Caddell (dcadell@foleylaw.com) is the chief information officer 
at Milwaukee's Foley & Lardner.  

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