Wednesday, March 8. 2006
Ixio Corporation released version 1.8 of Qshift, its online document assembly and knowledge management system last Sunday. I had been eagerly awaiting 1.8 since I saw a demo of it at LegalTech in January. I could see that 1.8 was going to be a big step forward, and I haven't been disappointed.
I first saw the Qshift system in January '05 (see Ross Kodner's 2005 LegalTech presentation for more information), and I've been working with it since last fall. There was a lot I liked about it, but there were a few things that needed some work. I'm happy to report that the release of Qshift 1.8 addresses nearly all of what I saw as the previous version's shortcomings.
Our law department is now beginning to roll Qshift out to 25 users as a replacement for our no-longer-supported Attenex Structure document assembly system, and the release of 1.8 should speed up that transition.
Once we complete our transition, since Qshift is a hosted system, our IT department will no longer have to maintain the Attenex system, which IT never liked and users in some of our locations were never able to acess anyway (for reasons we and the vendor were never able to determine). Qshift will allow our users in seven locations around the world (as well as anywhere they have an Internet connection) to share standard contract forms, preferred and alternate clauses, and associated knowledge.
Qshift users are either authors (the people who input the content and design the document models) or drafters (the people who use the system to create Word documents from the authors' models). Version 1.8 adds a number of useful features for both authors and drafters, many of which were the result of our requests.
Qshift is intuitive and easy to learn. Although Ixio offers a full day training session for authors and a shorter session for drafters, I was able to go through their training manual on my own and pick up most of what I needed to author documents in a couple of hours. Similarly, I was able to boil down the drafting instructions to a page and a half of step-by-step instructions for people who only need to know how to find the models and use them to create Word documents. It really is a pretty simple system, but it's powerful enough to allow us to create quite sophisticated model documents.
Some of the new features in version 1.8 include:
I've written before that the people at Ixio are great to work with. They have clearly listened to their customers, and the product just keeps getting better and better. Ixio offers a person edition free of charge if you want to try it. http://www.ixio.com/get_qshift.aspx.
If you've been thinking about trying document assembly, this may be the time to jump in.
Thursday, February 23. 2006
I was able to sit in on a demo of Office 12 and the next version of SharePoint (apparently to be called the 2007 Microsoft Office system) the other day. I can't comment on specifics, but it does look impressive. This will clearly be a major improvement over the current SharePoint system, and it does look like Microosoft intends to be a player in document management. Microsoft is talking about a release in late 2006.
Since this is technology most companies are eventually going to get, legal departments should be looking at this now. I believe there will be tremendous opportunities for legal departments to not only improve their management of documents, but also many of their processes. For example, this is causing me to completely rethink our plans for contract management. There are great advantages if legal departments can use the tools the rest of the company uses rather than trying to bring in products to address the specific needs of the legal department.
Thursday, February 2. 2006
Because my current practice is focused on technology contracting and my current challenge is to figure out how to make my company's contract processes much more efficient, I pretty much ignored the approximately 70% of LegalTech vendors who were pitching their e-discovery products. There are a lot of interesting things going on in that industry, but it doesn't have much application to what I do. Judging by the number of vendors, there are a lot of people who see a lot of money to be made in e-discovery (of course, it's mostly coming out of our employer's, and hence our, pockets), but I have a hard time believing there's a need for that many vendors. It will be interesting to see how the industry shakes out over the next few years. Corporations are going to be spending their dollars and energy on getting their records in order and reducing the volume of saved records so there could be much less of a need for all the e-discovery vendors as we get our acts together in that area.
Leaving out all the e-discovery technology, my vote for the most potentially useful technology that I saw goes to Litéra® Corp. I spent some time talking with founder Deepak Massand today, and I immediately saw how Litéra's Intelligent Document System (IDS) could solve a number of problems for my company, as well as any document-intensive practice.
First some background: At a couple of the LegalTech programs a speaker from Baker Robbins mentioned that some lawyers in private practice are getting 500-800 emails per day. My suggestion that nobody could possibly deal with that many emails and that something needed to be done to fix the underlying processes that create so many emails was met with something like "lawyers like email and that's just the way it has to be. They all have Blackberries so they can handle all the email."
Well, something is wrong here. No one can possibly deal with anywhere near that many emails and get any real work done. I say we need to reengineer our processes to reduce the number of emails people get. Lawyers don't seem to get that -- yet. It may not apply to all practices, but certainly in a transactional practice, we can get creative and figure out better ways to do things that don't require massive amounts of email. One way is to get rid of all those Blackberries in favor of smartphones that can allow lawyers who are out of the office to interact with systems that, in the future will be designed specifically for mobile access.
So, back to Litéra. Litera creates a place to manage document collaboration in a way that could significantly reduce the need for the back-and-forth email exchanges. It looks like it could put an end to the problem of having to sort out revisions from multiple document reviewers, some of whom may have been working on different versions. Rather than sending a Word document to multiple reviewers, you send a link to the Litéra system, where people make their edits and comments in one place. All edits and comments are stored in the system, so you can easily view the history of the document. Much more efficient than sorting through a string of emails to find out what happened.
Litéra seems to be aimed at some of the same problems that Workshare Professional is, but Workshare is based on email, so it does nothing to reduce the volume of email.
Litéra also provides workflow capabilities, which is another thing we need to improve productivity and potentially reduce the volume of email. I'm excited about the productivity possibilities Litéra offers and I'll try to provide more information as I learn more about it.
Tuesday, January 31. 2006
The most interesting LegalTech program I sat in on today was titled Current Trends in Managing Information in the Law Firm. However, the topic was just as applicable to corporate law departments as law firms.
What was interesting about the presentation is that one of the three speakers predicted that the next version of Microsoft's SharePoint product, due out later this year, would "cause a disruption in the legal document management (DM) market," and two of the three (the other didn't weigh in on the topic) predicted that Interwoven and Hummingbird, which now control the legal DM market, may not be able to survive Microsoft entering the DM market in a serious way. To quote one of the speakers: "SharePoint will kill document management."
Reportedly, SharePoint 2006 will feature:
Wikis (a possible way to share information in the legal department)
Much tighter integration with the the next version of Office
Records management capabilities
A recycle bin
See http://www.sharepointblogs.com/dustin/archive/2005/09/14/3503.aspx for more info.
Not sure what this will mean for the SharPoint integration touted by Interwoven http://www.interwoven.com/news/press/2005/082205sharepoint.html. Will Interwoven still be able to offer additional value to SharePoint users when the new version of SharePoint comes out later this year?
Friday, January 27. 2006
I'll be attending the 25th annual LegalTech show next week in New York City.
If I see anything I think would be of interest to corporate counsel, I'll try to post it here or on the legaltech.com site as time permits. (Note: My legaltech.com web site is not affiliated with the LegalTech show in any way.)
Monday, January 16. 2006
I firmly believe that enterprise contract management systems (ECM, aka contract lifecycle management (CLM) systems) are going to become an essential part of how companies manage a growing volume of contracts in an increasingly complex world, both on the buy side and the sell side. While not strictly a legal technology, ECM will undoubtedly affect corporate legal departments that deal with any volume of contracts. I think corporate legal departments can make a significant contribution to their companies' bottom lines by becoming the corporate champions for this technology.
I've posted additional information and some links for more information on the legaltech site.
Monday, December 19. 2005
I've been working with the Qshift document assembly and knowledge management system from Ixio Corporation for the last couple of months. www.ixio.com It's a web-based system that is relatively easy to learn and use. Our department had been looking for a replacement system because our current document assembly system, Attenex Structure, is no longer supported by the vendor. Qshift has a similar design to the Structure program, with a clause library and document models, but it's much more intuitive and flexible. Since it's delivered as an ASP, it doesn't require support from IT, which is a big plus for a corporate legal department.
The people at Ixio have been very supportive and helpful. The product is still relatively new, and Ixio has been good about seeking our feedback and incorporating it into new versions of the product.
Another plus of a web-based system is that you can provide access to your outside counsel or even temporary attorneys. All they need is a web browser. Access permissions are controlled by one or more administrators.
Creative outside counsel should look at a system like this that would allow them to provide their corporate clients with a document assembly system that the firm could populate with content appropriate to the client.
My biggest gripe about the product is the cost. Ixio recently raised their price from a bargain price of $55 per month/$150 per quarter to $99/month per user. For someone who uses the product heavily it's a bargain - less than the cost of lunch for a month. However, for a larger department with a few power users and a large number of users that will access the system only occasionally, the price will quickly mount. I’m hoping Ixio comes out with a more flexible pricing scheme to encourage companies to roll out the system to a broader group of users.
You can try a limited personal version of the program for free.
Thursday, December 8. 2005
The December/January issue of Law Office Computing includes an article titled Matter Management Systems Matter to Most Firms - ILTA survey shows corporate law departments are harnessing the technology.
According to the article, "Comprehensive matter management systems are becoming the industry standard for the corporate legal community. . ." The article is based on a survey of 53 organizations, with 21 responses. The author is drawing conclusions based on 21 responses out of the thousands of corporate legal departments.
I'm sorry, but that survey is way too small to develop any meaningful information. The mean number of attorneys among the survey respondents was 67. That's hardly representative of the corporate legal community, which is overwhelmingly made up of small departments. The only conclusions that can reasonably be drawn from the survey relate to the 21 responding organizations -- certainly not the general corporate legal community.
Only five matter management vendors were mentioned (one of which, Hummingbird's LawPack, has been defunct for at least three years). Perhaps the small number is not surprising given the size of the sample, but there are a lot more choices than that. And I can state with certainty, without doing a survey, that the vast majority of corporate legal departments do not have any comprehensive matter management system -- unless you consider Outlook to be a matter management system. Most of us are lucky to have a document management system.
And although the article mentioned with some surprise that few of the responding organizations were using electonic billing, the article didn't even mention my personal favorite, Serengeti Tracker. http://www.serengetilaw.com/ Tracker is a web-based matter management system that incorporates electronic billing -- and it can be affordable even for relatively small departments. It was designed from the start to incorporate e-billing. Since it's web-based you can avoid one of the major obstacles to technology adoption in corporate legal departments, which is the corporate IT department.
Since Tracker was the top-rated system in both the matter management and electronic billing categories in the most recent General Counsel Roundtable survey (admittedly based on an even smaller sample size), I'm surprised it didn't even merit a mention in this article.
The bottom line is that corporate legal departments in general are a long way from adopting matter management systems, and this article doesn't do justice to the subject.
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