Deeper Into the Extranet Meanwhile, law firms are adding groupware functionality to their extranets with Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Notes, and their own home brewed programs.
Increasingly, law firms are taking extranet building into their own hands. While they often build on collaborative work/extranet programs—such as Nikus Niku for Legal and IntraLinks DealSpace—customization is done in-house. Law firms typically also add on other functionality like e-mail and calendaring. Its the classic integrator model youre used to, aimed directly at the legal vertical.
Law firms also are constructing Web sites, developing knowledge-management systems, building wireless networks and setting up videoconferencing systems. In short, a few firms are actually becoming full-fledged technology service providers.
Theyll need your help, though. Asserts Nogle: "Law firm verticals are staying out of this space. Most of them feel they dont have the expertise in law and practice mechanics. Still, we would certainly want to partner with portal sites and xSPs. Theyre great fits." Others that can benefit from working with the technology-generation law firms are security, Exchange and Notes/Domino specialists.
Meanwhile, some law firms finally are making progress on the paperless office, asserts John Tredennick, a partner at Holland & Hart, and CEO of CaseShare Systems.
Before you say, "Not that again!" hear Tredennick out. While paper will never completely disappear, Adobes Portable Document Format standard is helping law firms and their clients cut down their paper use. And that could lead to higher profits for law firms, where up to 20 percent of a firms billings can involve paper costs, says Tredennick.
Technology-savvy companies are keeping close tabs on those legal trends. Businesses like Cisco Systems and UPS, for instance, now demand that when law firms enter a beauty contest—a competition to win corporate legal work—they must present technology plans and qualifications along with their legal strategies, says Monica Bay, editor in chief of Law Technology News (www.lawtechnews.com).
Corporate clients are driving firms to abandon their paperbound ways of doing business. Todays corporate counsel want legal services at Internet speed and law firms must deliver it to stay competitive
"Law is going through a seismic change in how were approaching the whole concept of how to practice law," says Bay. "The billable hour will be dead in five years" and any law firm that doesnt get it will be "roadkill in 10 years."
Shes not the only one predicting change. "The pendulum is swinging to firms that are looking to nontraditional businesses," adds Hassel Parker, president and CEO of the Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice technology spin-off, FirmLogic.