Monday, March 30, 2009

Janders Dean Law Firm Knowledge Management Conference - Speaker Faculty Updated

*** Click here for pre-registration reservation requests ***
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We are excited and pleased to announce that the speaker faculty for the second annual Law Firm Knowledge Management Conference to be held in Sydney, May 28th 2009 has been updated. This year's faculty will include the following industry thought leaders and innovation specialists:

- Matthew Parsons (author of Effective Knowledge Management for Law Firms and previous Global Director of Knowledge Management, Linklaters LLP)
- Justin Harness (Associate Director, Macquarie Bank - previously Head of Know-How Lovells LLP)
- Janet Young (Chief Operating Officer, Freehills)
- Vanessa Lewis (Assistant Director, Australian Taxation Office)
- Rachel O'Connor (Head of Knowledge & Risk, Allens Arthur Robinson)
- Justin North (Director/Founder, Janders Dean International)
- Simon Price (UK Director, Recommind)

This year's event is proudly supported by LexisNexis, Autonomy iManage, Recommind, Trinogy Systems, the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA), and Lawyers Weekly. The full agenda will be available in the coming days.

Mark your diaries and email to reserve your places for this essential Knowledge Management event. Delegate places are again strictly limited to this year's event.

Innovate Your Development Approach

Now is the time to innovate - and no, that does not mean spending money. The term 'innovation' has been hijacked by the software industry during the Web2.0 craze, and we have lost sight of the true meaning of the term from a business perspective. Some of the most valuable innovations are actually related to people, processes, structure and strategy - and have very little (if anything) to do with technology.

Take your development methodology as an example, or your project management methodologies (if you have them). Can these be reviewed during the downturn and transformed? Does this classify as innovation?

The following is a simple summary of the rapid development methodology which has successfully been employed by a number of successful KM and IT projects. Firms such as Blake Dawson have been utlising the approach for a number of months now with great success. Asked if they considered the approach an innovation, we're confident that the team would say 'yes'.

Freehills is another firm that has adopted the approach on a number of their KM system projects in the past six months with great success. We're currently working with an international firm to transform their internal and external development approach to a very similar model.

The concept of a rapid methodology involves undertaking small “bursts” of development which results in incremental deliverables being released, rather than a traditional approach of trying to fully specify and develop a complete “product” to be delivered at a single go-live point. At the core of rapid development is the concept that “requirements evolve, but that timescales are fixed”.

During more traditional application development projects it was seen as critical to gather all requirements prior to development, freeze the functional scope of the application during the development phase, take the process of development out of sight (or outsource to technical resources), and then undertake testing and implementation. After this, it was then common to re-develop the application based on future or changing requirements, or redevelop based on incorrectly analysed requirements.

Because of the historical high costs associated with software development, and the fear that changing scope during a project will cause timescales and budgets to blow out, it is not uncommon that functional specifications and design briefs for developers included everything that a project team or user community could think of. This in hindsight is not necessary the most cost effective or efficient way to proceed.

Unfortunately, usage and behavior statistics across the software industry (including Microsoft’s own analysis of their product suite’s feature lists) indicate that only 20-40% of the total functionality available to a user within a software application is ever used.

Another way of stating this is that anywhere between 80-60% of software which is included within detailed functional specifications, and then subsequently developed (and paid for) is never used. The cost wastage is not just restricted to the initial development. It also leaves the organisation with ongoing direct and indirect maintenance costs for unwanted and/or un-used software.

Even when a significant requirements gathering exercise has been completed, and a large number of features are included for development (“just in case” they may be used in the future), the requirements gathering process itself and the interpretation of requirements into design can often be problematic and inaccurate while also rarely being truly representative of user behaviours.

Rapid and agile development methodologies encourage building less, and in doing so, delivering more value to the user by only developing those pieces which are proven to be true requirements and ensuring that they are developed well.

From a project and cost management perspective, this process of incremental feature development allows for clearer and more transparent oversight of project costs. It also assists with cost planning and development prioritisation for each individual “burst” or feature rather than having a single quoted price for an entire “product”.

In true rapid or agile development projects, it is always scope which is the variable – timescales and costs are always fixed. It is important to note however that scope variation does not equate to development or delivery quality variation. During the project, where an original high priority feature cannot be delivered in the fixed timescale or cost restriction, it is re-prioritised against other features which may not necessarily be as essential.

The benefit of a truly rapid approach is that the daily and weekly collaboration of resources and regular status “pokes” during the project day allow for these issues to be immediately identified and dealt with.

From a return on investment perspective, developing and incrementally delivering small sections of valuable functionality (rather than developing a full, complete application in the traditional sense) means shorter development periods and faster deliverables to users.

The faster a deliverable is released, the shorter the period for a potential return on investment to be realised. For a rapid approach to be successful, it is critical that developers, users, and analysts are working together during the “burst” – ideally in a co-located environment where progress is monitored daily and weekly.

From our experience, a successful rapid development project requires teamwork, commitment and extremely close and visible collaboration within the project team. Teamwork is even more important than the quality of the platform, skill of developers and designers, or the quality/amount of project documentation.

The Cuts Keep Coming

Although firms in Australia and the general APAC region have not seen the same scale of numbers in relation to their own staff redundancies in Q1 2009, UK and US firms continue to reduce both legal and support staff numbers.

The numbers and scale of these US and UK firm cuts can be frightening and hard to comprehend for APAC firms. The general consensus is that APAC firms will continue to undertake small, barely visible yet strategic cuts where and when necessary in the coming six months, while also continuing the "don't replace" policy on staff. Some firms will indeed undertake formal redundancy programs, but the numbers will appear small in comparison to what follows.

Fried Frank is the latest to announce major reductions with 41 associates and 58 support staff being cut loose this week.

Skadden is another. The top ranked US firm by revenue (USD$2.2 billion to be exact) has over 2,000 non-lawyer employees across the firm's nine offices, and has this week announced a move to cut this by around 5% in the first round.

Other firms have survived very well during the past six months in relation to revenue and lawyer retention, and yet have still taken the opportunity to review support staff positions and internal management structures, while also seeing this as a perfect opportunity to counsel out under performing support personnel.

Decherts also announced more cuts this week, with 125 staff (63 fee earners and 62 support staff) packing their desks. This is in addition to 29 lawyers who were made redundant earlier in 2009, and another 87 support staff and lawyers who lost their jobs in December 2008 at the firm.

A&O went to press last week stating that 47 partners (9% of the total partnership) would be leaving by the end of this financial year, with an additional 35 partners having their positions in the equity pool reviewed. In relation to support staff, 9% is also the magic number - and that translates to a massive cut when considering the number of support staff the firm has across the global network.

One of the more interesting in recent press is Clifford Chance who are following Linklaters in dramatically altering the future shape of the partnership and their business (rather than simply looking for a percentage cut across associate numbers).

This will involve a reduction in the total number of partners (between 10-15%), a move to place some equity partners as salaried partners, and a long hard look at the firm's client base with a goal of reducing the number of clients. In relation to support staff, 35 were let go last year, with the market predicting a significant second round to be announced in the coming weeks.

Expect partner promotion numbers to be very low in the US and UK (and indeed the APAC region) this year and next, with 2011 being our estimate for when the next significant number of partner promotions are announced. Also spare a thought for Philadelphia's Wolf Block - the partners voted to dissolve the firm this month. We suspect it will not be the last.

A number of firms have started to handle their second and third round of redundancies a little differently to the first round culls due to media interest, with smaller groups and individuals being gradually let go, rather than large numbers being announced in one big hit.

Interestingly though, a number of firms have also suggested that some recruitment restrictions will be lifted by management in Q2 this year for certain positions.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Law Firm Knowledge Management Conference Announced - SAVE THE DATE

*** Click here for pre-registration reservation requests ***
Please mark your diaries and circulate this SAVE THE DATE to your team

We are pleased to announce that the second annual Law Firm Knowledge Management Conference will be held in Sydney, May 28th 2009.

With the future of traditional Knowledge Management being uncertain, this is set to be the most informative and essential conference in the region.

The unique agenda is currently being finalised by the conference faculty and is being designed to both challenge the current role of knowledge management while also offering advisory sessions on achievable and affordable innovation strategies and techniques.

We are pleased to announce that Matthew Parsons (former CKO Linklaters LLP and author of Effective Knowledge Management for Law Firms) will be on-site from London and has been confirmed as a keynote speaker.

The full conference agenda, list of speakers, and registration instructions will be circulated in the coming weeks.

Given the rapid evolution and global change being witnessed in the world of law firm professional support departments, this is a must for not only for the Knowledge Management teams, but also senior management personnel from the Professional Learning & Development, Business Development, Information Technology and the central management teams.

Click here for pre-registration reservation requests. Please mark your diaries and circulate to your team and/or interested contacts.

Monday, March 2, 2009

ILTA London Event Announced

The International Legal Technology Association (“ILTA”) presents the annual INSIGHT 2009 which will be held in London. The full day session will feature presentations on virtualisation, consolidation and relocation; managing external service providers; green initiatives for legal; update on new e-filing systems; delivering knowledge management services to clients; discussing how open source solutions can fit in your IT strategy; LITIG presentation on competition law and more.

The event will be held 31st March 2009 at the Hilton London Tower Bridge Hotel and is free each year. It is open to non-members, but space is known to be limited with places always going quickly. The other piece we love about this is that vendors and consultants attend by invitation only, allowing the network of attendees to be in a relaxed environment with only trusted advisors from the outside world being present (rather than it being a sales opportunity).

If you wish to attend, we suggest that you register online by visiting the
ILTA website and look for INSIGHT 2009 listed on the "Meetings" page, or send an e-mail to Peggy Wechsler, ILTA’s Program Director, at