"Consultant Compatibility: Take the Quiz"

Always good to have thoughtful checklists for hiring vendors, I say. And this quiz from Legal Technology looks very helpful:

"There's a saying that starts, 'You know you're in trouble if ...' But sometimes, by the time you know you're in trouble, it's too late to start asking 'Why?'

"One example of such a time is with e-discovery and legal technology projects. If you're halfway through the project and run into trouble, backtracking to correct the problem usually isn't an option. A nearly ironclad way around that problem includes proper preparation and having the right team. These are key elements to the success of any legal technology project, from e-discovery to product-implementation schemes to training sessions.

[snip]

"In this article, we offer the nitty-gritty for attorneys and others involved in e-discovery and other legal technology projects. Start the process of answering key questions by taking the consultant compatibility quiz...."

Authors Christin Martin and Kelly Lumpkin are consultants with Simpson Neely Group Inc., which provides technology consulting services to corporate law departments.


"The Problem with Time Management"

Ah, the "trying to do my job, but people keep interrupting" problem. Do you have time management on the job under control?

"If you've been living in the corporate world for some time, you've probably attended a training session where one of the exercises was to conduct a 'time spent' analysis in order to increase your efficiency. You cracked open your calendar, reviewed how you spent your time for the past week, and identified black holes that were wasting your energy. Maybe you even went so far as to break your activities into categories, separating the 'urgent' things from the 'important' things and both of these from the 'insignificant' things.

[snip]

"The problem lies in our approach. Time management programs usually focus on your personal productivity, analyzing how you choose to spend your time. This is all fine and dandy, but it misses one essential truth: In an organization that's devoted to banging pots, you better bang pots or have a damn good reason for not banging them.

"That's why, after the PowerPoint presentation had ended and the trainer went home, you fell back into your old, unproductive rhythms -- not because you didn't agree with the time management expert's analysis, but because you returned to normal life in the world of The Middle . . . which means doing what you think your boss wants you to do. Bang! Bang! Bang!"

Highly recommend reading this complete article. It contains some good advice for managing your managers.

BTW, the author of this article, Vince Thompson, also wrote a just-published book, Ignited. In it, "Thompson depicts the realm between upper management and the workforce as rife with turf battles, firestorms and ongoing struggles to keep the troops from revolting."


Using Technology (& a paralegal!) to Cut Legal Costs

Interesting profile of Mark Chandler, senior VP, general counsel, & secretary for Cisco Systems Inc. This technology company (based in San Jose, CA), produces Internet protocol-based networking services:

"Chandler is keenly focused on applying technology, some developed by Cisco and some that it has purchased, to lower in-house legal costs on repetitive but crucial work. 'If you are dealing with a compliance matter that will affect how the company is perceived, you have to get it perfect, but other times very good is good enough,' he said. 'There are areas where you want to make sure you are doing the best you can, but you also want to be very efficient at the way you do it.'

[snip]

"Outside counsel: TurboTax can replace the tax preparer and Travelocity allows anyone with a computer to become his or her own travel agent. The same forces are engulfing the legal profession. 'Fundamentally, service businesses like law are not dissimilar from any other industry,' Chandler said.

"For example, Fenwick & West of Mountain View, Calif., which does nearly all of Cisco's corporate, securities and mergers and acquisitions work, notified Chandler last year that its hourly rates were going up. He replied that he planned to pay Fenwick 5 percent less in 2007 than he had the year before.

"'To do that, I wanted them to figure out what was the 10 percent of their work that was the least value-added,' Chandler said. 'We found they had lawyers billing us $400 to $500 an hour doing fairly routine work filling out forms associated with some of our acquisitions.'

"Chandler and Fenwick came to an agreement. Cisco is adding a paralegal to fill out the forms and will save $400,000, but it is reducing its payments to Fenwick by just $250,000."


"Why Do You Always Need This Yesterday?"

How many times have you asked this question when handed a new assignment?  LawCrossing looks into why this happens & how paralegals can handle these situations:

"Some projects—especially the most urgent ones—seem to demand time traveling as a requisite skill. Everyone wants work done ASAP, but there's only one you and 24 hours in a day. What's to be done?

"Paralegals are the workhorses of the legal world. Unlike the attorneys they assist, paralegals and legal support professionals play a largely behind-the-scenes role. While feats of productivity and grace under fire can force many paralegals to take on superhero proportions, even Superman has to eat, sleep, and have a life outside of work.

"Everyone has heard the phrase 'I need this yesterday.' In almost all situations, it is intended to convey a sense of urgency and an impending deadline. After 'Is this billable?,' this is probably one of the most frequently uttered phrases in the entire legal world. Yet for many legal support personnel, the phrase inspires a sense of confusion cum frustration. How can every task be the most important?"


"Document Imaging: Keeping It Simple"

Author Tony DeLoera, the chief technology officer at Ice Miller, describes how to manage document imaging the right way:

"Simplicity. This was the guiding principle in our selection of a document-imaging system. In early 2005, Indianapolis-based Ice Miller was overrun with paper. With 225 attorneys, and three branch offices in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Naperville, Ill., we decided to leverage the decision to change our office copiers as an opportunity to gain more control over our workflow.

"We needed a document-imaging system that our attorneys and other professionals could use with little or no training. We wanted our users to be able to walk up to a copier and scan documents directly to a PC desktop or to software, such as Microsoft's Word and Outlook, or Hummingbird Enterprise. We wanted a simple system so our users could copy without calling the IT help desk.

"But simplicity didn't mean we wanted a simplistic application. We did not want to scan documents only to have them scatter, unindexed, inside our IT network. All that would do is transfer our document handling difficulties from unstructured paper to unstructured electronic data. Rather, we wanted a program that integrated with our existing software (Hummingbird Enterprise, Captaris Inc.'s RightFax, Word and Outlook) and would improve our office efficiencies."

The full article is a must-read for those interested in expanding their roles into firm management...


"Now Your Computer Desktop Can Be Just as Messy as Your Real One"

Another interesting blog post about day-to-day worklife from Web Worker Daily [links below in original]:

"With a pen-like stylus and a 'physics-enabled' virtual workspace prototyped by BumpTop, you can organize electronic files into piles just like you do on your real desktop. I’m not sure whether this shows radical innovation or utter insanity; either way, it’s impressive.

"We’ve considered the virtues of messiness before, but you’re probably wondering just why we’d want to bring the mess of the real world into cyberspace. Well, this system is not really about messiness, but rather about a different kind of order than the folders and files metaphor used by desktop operating systems today. The idea is that the way we organize papers and other items on our desk into piles holds meaning — we might, for example, create a pile for each project we’re currently working on."

The video demo looks pretty cool!


"Too Busy to Notice You’re Too Busy"

Does this New York Times article sound like anyone you know? Yourself perhaps?

"RECENTLY I’ve found myself annoyed by how busy my friends seem. Putting aside the possibility that they are avoiding me, some are so on the go that they barely have time to tell me they do not have time to talk. Every phone call, no matter how short, seems to be interrupted by several others. That is, of course, if I actually get a live person on the other end of the phone.

[snip]

"Edward M. Hallowell, a psychiatrist and author of CrazyBusy: Overstretched, Overbooked and About to Snap (Ballantine Books, 2006) writes about how he knew he had crossed into the dark side from busy to crazy busy when he got mad at a rotary phone while staying at a vacation house.

"Unable to use a cellphone, he was driven nuts waiting for the dial to return to start."


"24 Time Management Tips"

These helpful, common-sense tips come from Beth Dargis, a certified life coach & simplicity consultant:

"Planning is the best time saver there is. At the beginning of the week jot down your goals that you want to accomplish, fun things you want to do, work that needs to be done, and appointments to keep. Then write out a loose schedule for the week ahead, balancing it out between work, family, home, self and your other roles.

[snip]

"My weekly planning session usually takes less than thirty minutes. My planning session includes gathering my papers and going through the in-box to find action items as David Allen suggests in his book Getting Things Done. I also plan goals, next action items for my projects, plan a two hour time alone, plan family night, and plan a date with my husband. I schedule work, exercise, fun time, time with friends and family, volunteer work, and self-care time. Planning allows the important to take precedent over the urgent for once.

[snip]

"4. Let go of perfectionism. Not everything has to be done perfectly and some things are out of your control.

[snip]

"22. Start with the worst item on your to do list. Everything else will be a piece of cake. You also won't be thinking and dreading it while doing other tasks. Procrastination sucks out your energy."


"Legal Departments Tell Firms: Get on the Tech Train"

Well, that sure sounds like a smart slap at not-so-tech-savvy firms, huh?

"When Aon Corp. slashed its outside counsel roster from about 400 to 23 law firms in 2005, it quizzed the firms about their tech offerings. 'We asked them about extranets, e-billing and litigation management,' says David Cambria, director of legal operations at the Chicago-based insurance giant.

"But Cambria says that he didn't really care whether firms had all of those products. He had another agenda: 'I wanted to know if [the firms] were playing in the same pool as me,' says Cambria. When they crafted the tech section of their request for proposal, Cambria and his colleagues started from the assumption that all the firms they were interviewing had experienced, capable lawyers. But 'we wanted to take it to a higher level, and the most successful firms were the ones that told us how they'd help us do what we do better, with technology,' he says.

"Aon isn't alone. Law departments, once the hardware and software stepchildren of the legal profession, are steadily, if gradually, adopting more sophisticated ways to aid their work, according to Corporate Counsel's 2007 In-House Tech Survey."

Sound like a big opportunity for techie paralegals to help "geekify" their firms!


"Word 2007 Review: A Ribbon Runs Through It"

Microsoft Word users rejoice! Getting the "biggest boosts to your daily productivity," as this author suggests, makes me want to give Word 2007 a try:

"We love it, we hate it -- we can't work a day without it.

"I've witnessed more people gnash their teeth over Microsoft Word than probably any other software application. But no matter how many times we cuss at the automatic bulleting/numbering feature, we will continue to use Word to edit documents.

[snip]

"The Ribbon has become the de facto moniker for the new look of the Office 2007 products, including Word 2007. For years, we've been programmed to use the 'File,' 'Edit' and 'View' toolbar commands at the top of Word. That's where things belong.

"The Ribbon in Word 2007 -- nobody choke here -- nullifies that bygone line of commands with an incredibly functional row of controls unfurled before our eyes.

"I know what you're thinking -- the same worries crossed my mind about how I finally learned how to use styles and create a table, and now Microsoft goes and changes everything. You won't believe me until you actually use Word 2007 for yourself, but the Ribbon could provide one of the biggest boosts to your daily productivity than you've seen in a long time."

Author Brett Burney writes a monthly legal technology column for LLRX.com and contributes to ALM's Law.com Legal Technology section and Law Technology News magazine.