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Archive for March, 2009

It’s an exciting day for us today here at Nextpoint.  We’re excited to be announcing our new product lines and the pricing.

But more important than that, we’re excited because we believe these products represent a breakthrough set of technologies, offered at a breakthrough price. The same great technology we’ve been developing for and providing to leading companies and law firms is packaged and priced so anyone can buy it.  And we mean anyone.

What’s the price?

Native file processing as low as $50 to $250 per GB, including a free month of storage. Review, preparation and presentation platforms at $50/GB, and an archival storage cost of $10/GB.

It’s a price at which any size corporation or law firm, from 1 lawyer to 1000 lawyers, can get great, defensible litigation technology to build work flows, procedures, and best practices around.  It’s a price at which lawyers and law firms can stop worrying about what they are going to do with data and get back to being lawyers.

It’s a price at which anyone handy with a computer – lawyers, paralegals, consultants, IT support staff  – can process, review, prepare and present large volumes of electronic data quickly and easily with no upfront investment, with no installation required, and at a great price. It’s a great value.

Why This Price?

It’s simple.  Because we can do it and still be profitable.  And that feels right.  Not a predatory profit, but a fair and right deal.  A deal that makes sense for both us and our customers.  Isn’t that what being in business is about?

Our customers need this pricing. The legal process is demanding this pricing.  The merits of cases are being ignored because of the costs.  It’s crazy. And we can do something about it.

Why this price?  Because it feels right for our customers – both our existing ones and the future ones.

Couldn’t you charge more?

A question many people have asked me who got a sneak peak.  The answer is yes of course.  But we don’t because of innovation. When great innovation does what it does – make heavy lifting not so heavy, make things faster, better, and easier – that drives costs down.  Always has and always will.

So we could charge $1000/GB, but our technology is better than that. It’s way better. The challenge is to get an industry that associates higher price with better quality to learn that technology works differently.  True technology breakthroughs make things less expensive, not more expensive. It has been the major problem with legal technology for the last 20 years – it has had the perverse effect of making the process more expensive and difficult rather than easier and less expensive.

How is it possible reviewing a native word processing document is more expensive than copying,  scanning, ocr’ing and coding a typewritten letter?  It makes no sense. I’ve heard lawyers say it’s cheaper in paper.  How is that possible?

It is time for a change.

What is it?

Nextpoint delivers four applications for each step in the litigation process:

  • A processing engine and storage cloud
  • A document review platform
  • A trial preparation platform
  • A set of trial presentation tools

What is guiding the development?

These products have been developed around certain core values — not feature sets.  Here are the values that drove our development.

  • Designed to address the every day needs of lawyers in organizing electronic data
  • Easy to use and self-service so people can help themselves
  • Simple set up without requiring any IT support to get started
  • Flexible enough for any phase of litigation, and powerful enough for every phase of litigation
  • The data should be integrated in a systematic way

What does it mean for me?

  • Great litigation technology that gives you command of your evidence.
  • A great value, that’s core to every objective we set out to achieve above
  • Powerful functionality that is already meeting the needs of leading companies and law firms are already using us on a daily basis.
  • Web-based, meaning no IT support required.  A huge cost savings.  A huge time savings.  A huge hassle savings.
  • Easy entry and easy exit – user facing import/export tools mean our customers control their data and where it goes, not us.  It’s their data after all.
  • World class customer support – it’s central to everything we do.

So if you’ve been wondering what Nextpoint is all about, we hope you sign up and give us a try.  We think you’ll find what our existing customers already know – we are a great value because we help them get back to doing what they love – practicing law.

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I love the articles about lost productivity during the NCAA tournament.  First off, I love the tournament, we turn it on here at the office and don’t think twice about hanging out with our colleagues for few minutes watching it. But every year there is a spate of articles about how productivity gets crushed by the tourney, which of course is bogus.  A good article in Slate deconstructing the clever PR machine that generates this annual hand wringing.(March Madness and bogus stats about worker productivity. – By Jack Shafer – Slate Magazine)

That said, there are lots of real technology problems that are a huge time suck that seemingly go under the radar screen.  If you want to talk about productivity loss, here are some of the real culprits.  Not just because they are time consuming, but because they are time consuming, and then they don’t work!

  • Poor technology buying processes.  Or actually, no technology buying process.  “People here just do what they want”
  • Multiple databases for the same case.  Just the documents have multiple databases, transcripts are a separate database in a separate application of course.
  • Highlighting transcripts.  Dozens of people billing hundreds of hours to color.  And color badly by the way.
  • Physically applying stickers to documents.  Can’t we get a montesorri class in here to do it?
  • No databse at all, the old “digging through boxes technology” model.  Let your fingers to the walking. Because humans scan and index information better than computers.
  • A separate virtualized OS when running local versus tied into the network matrix.  A law firm IT special.  Unspeakable time drain.
  • Trial teams too busy to plan their technology.  Like the lumberjack too busy to sharpen the axe.
  • An entire courtroom watching a disorganized lawyer fumble through a binder.  A huge cost to our legal system.
  • Checklists for software purchases
  • Network protocols.  Release and renew your IP address and maybe you can access our system.  Blech.
  • Installing an OS, wiping a hard drive, finding drivers.  I’d rather have a stick in the eye.
  • Downloading and installing a patches at inopportune times (are you ready to reboot?)
  • Comparing specs on anything.  A totally manic inducing time flusher.
  • RFP processes when companies are just looking for spec consulting work.  Really, its not nice.
  • Technology committees.  Need I say more.
  • In-person demo’s, I’ve given dozens of these, and while I love because it gets me out of the office and talking to people, on more than one occassion I’ve wondered if its isn’t an elaborate ploy to allow people to ask dumb questions and not feel bad about it.
  • Did I just read a tweet that someone lost their glasses?  Sheesh.

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A good first-person point of view from a practitioner that hits on the top level impact of technology and why law firm management should be interested.  A quick disclosure that McDermott is one of our customers but we haven’t worked with the author of this article.

And really this good set of values for evaluating any new technology you are considering.

1. Does it help us get paperless?  Can we stop printing?
2. Is it instantaneous or not? Can everyone see the changes immediately?
3. Can I access it from anywhere via the internet and how easily can I access it?

We base our development decisions with these criteria first in mind.  If a feature or product compromises any of these values, we’ll opt against it because soon enough, it will be an anachronism.  This is where we’re headed.

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The Jetpack: An Idea Whose Time Has Never Come, but Won’t Go Away – WSJ.com

One of my favorite analogies is comparing the legal technology market to people waiting for a jetpack. But jetpacks clearly aren’t a feasible technology.  And that’s the funny thing about technology, a good idea is just that – a good idea.  Doesn’t mean it’s practical or it works.

Sort of like the idea of being able to search all of the data everywhere in your enterprise and return it at the touch of a button with only the relevant information you need from the relevant folks you need it from, only for the time period you are interested in. Sounds pretty jetpacky to me.

Or being able to store all the data you need to review and keep track of for every litigation the company is involved in, inside your firewall, because that’s the way you can make sure it’s “secure” – very jetpacky.

Sure these are great ideas – they are just practically impossible to implement.

A much better idea is to get small, focus on putting in practices that make sense, use efficient, lean technology you can move in and out of, not get buried into a proprietary platform. Do your best, be smart, and avoid flailing around from shock to trance.  That’s what the judges are saying about e-Discovery, do your best, be professional, be able to defend your decisions.

That’s it.  Its simple in the end.  Simpler than a jetpack. Believe in the flywheel concept of technology transformation in great companies identified by Jim Collins.  It’s slow and steady, adding the next step best today — not expecting a huge investment, a huge capital expenditure, or some feature in a technology to fix the problem.

Don’t get me wrong, I love jetpacks.  I want one.  I’m frankly angry I don’t have one yet.  I grew up fully expecting to be flying around via a jetpack by today, personal propulsion is obviously the wave of the future.  At a minimum, I thought I’d have a hovercraft at least  . . . .

That said, I never thought about the internet.  Or digitial cameras.  Or Amazon.  The right technology emerges organically, not as a result of massively centralized design and deploy strategies.  Avoid them, you’ll spend less, sleep better, and be happier generally.

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Values We Cherish

I love technology and the values they represent, here’s my quick laundry list (but not a checklist!)

Nextpoint – let lawyers be lawyers
FlipVideo – super easy video capture
T-Moblie G1 (Google Phone) – stay connected to the internet on the go
Directv – content, content, content timeshifted to when I want it
MacBookPro – i feel so cool
Canon Elph – digital on the go
Nikon D50 – catch my kids in motion (shutter speed maybe a feature?)
Google Apps – all the power of enterprise at a fraction of the cost
Google Search – the internet usable
Google Maps – physical space organized
Rhapsody – exploring wherever i want to go
Sonos – music everywhere
Twitter – quick and smart
Facebook – sharing with people I’ve known over time
Zappos – shoes rediscovered
Amazon – service, selection, and the cloud
ebay – find the unfindable

What do you value? What technology do you use that helps you connect with which values?

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A technology decision about to go awry can always be identified by one really pervasive tool of feature driven technology choices — the checklist.  The checklists of what features a technology has, what protocols it abides by, where it fits into particular boxes.

Check lists are good for getting things done.  Check lists are horrible evaluation tools.  A checklist takes the omega and makes it the alpha, it looks for the punchline before getting the joke, it’s the proverbial tail wagging the dog.

Legal technology for years has been driven by checklist driven IT staffs and their corresponding brethern, the RFI/RFP believers.  These folks truly believe in their heart of hearts, and bless them for this, that through by a formal process of elimination, the proper solution will appear — generally with a score next to it indicating its degree of perfection.  “They scored a 100 on our RFP process! Of course we will use them.”

How’s that working so far?  In short, not at all.  In our industry, legal entities of all kinds are in disarray – completely unprepared for electronic evidence despite having spent billions of dollars over the last decade on technology infrastructure.

It’s time for a completely new approach, a matured technology approach, that looks at how the values of the technology match up with your values.

Not to say features aren’t important.  They are, we have lots of them.  We have many more features than most of our customers will ever use or know about.  I’d venture to say there isn’t a single person here who knows all of them.

We think about features all the time, but we think about them in a framework of values, not a framework of features.

Features are important in a technology’s infancy.  You can see this with audio technology, from when phonographs touted “quadrophonic sound”.  That’s a feature purchase.

A value purchase is, can I take my entire collection with me in my pocket?  Can I listen to it anywhere I want?  120 GB are you kidding me?

And as any audiophile worth their salt will tell you, vinyl records sound infinitely better than a compressed music file. And they do!

For some folks for whom that specific feature – sound quality – is critical, the a turntable will be the right solution. But for most, other parts of the core value of the technology – portability, ease of use, speed of access, looking cool on the bus – will overwhelm the specific feature decision.

And even when the individual features win, its because that they reference an underlying value.  The most important value for an audiophile is “does it sound the best”, not “is it vinyl”.  The vinyl is the ways to the end, not the end in itself.

If your technology purchase is based on “it has to work on our servers” or “it has to be based on a specific company’s technology” or “it has to be on our servers”, “it has or doesn’t have x feature,” its not being driven by the core value, it’s being driven by a checklist.

The next time you hear someone say “we should pick this one because it has x feature”, a light should go off.  That’s a checklist talking.

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Nextpoint is better bells and fewer whistles, in the words of our brilliant communications maestro Mike Beumer.  But how should people who are evaluating our product interpret this, and what does it mean if Nextpoint’s web application is going to deliver what you need out of your legal technology?

I’ve noticed two divergent approaches to answering the question of what is the right technology.  The first is a values based approach, top down, that starts with asking critical questions that attempt to answer the big questions about the technology to be deployed on a project.

The second is a features-based tactical approach, bottom-up that really drives the big decision from smaller evaluations, of features, formats, specific technology platforms, what is already sitting around and so on, attempting to induce the right solution from a bunch of smaller questions.

This is a no-brainer.  The best approach starts with the following question.

Does this piece of technology fit my values?

Now that seems like a loaded question, how can technology represent values?  Isn’t it just abstract coding language, impartially programmed to perform tasks?

The short answer is no.  Technology is made – designed, developed, and consumed – by people.  And the type of technology people use reflects their values.  By values I mean what is important to them.

It’s an interesting word – values.  It has a multitude of meanings all which apply.

Personal value – am I better off with this technology than I am without it
Ethical value – does this technology reflect my beliefs about individual and group behavior
Monetary value – how does this technology allow me to either generate more income or reduce expenses?
Numerical value – How much value is delivered for how much I spent on it, either in time or money? Is there enough of this technology or too much?  What volume of this technology do I need and can use it how I need it?

This is the right way to approach a technology decision, not by looking at comparison charts or rfps.

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