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Archive for the ‘CEO’ Category

As the “The Collapse of the Microsoft-Intel Monopoly” continues to accelerate, the response from the both the broader legal technology profession as well as the eDiscovery chattering classes has been what I can only describe as a collective yawn.

But that’s not completely surprising – after all, the the legal profession is characterized by it’s insistence on staying mired in the same technology swamp. And as such, it’s only today these organizations are getting around to examining their ongoing investment to find a replacement for Windows-reliant applications like Summation or Concordance. These warhorses have not been working for quite a while and are requiring ever increasing expenditures to keep running.

But this analysis is not coming easily. What is an easy call – supporting multiple operating systems and mobile – is being met in many instances by a deep state of denial that extends deeply into the purchasing decisions of large organizations. While we are seeing our users are moving rapidly away from WinTel based laptops and toward a variety of mobile and tablet devices, including Apple products, most of these organizations express little enthusiasm for supporting them.

This, by the way, is the opposite of the trend we see occurring in the small to midsize organizations, who are more nimble and adapting to their users preferences more readily.

So as we talk to law firms looking for a replacement for Concordance or Summation, future-proofing the emerging platforms should be of paramount interest, right?

These should be first questions in a RFP for a replacement Summation or Concordance. “Does your software support users in non-Windows environments? Do you plan on supporting iPads, Android devices, mobile computing platforms and Apple products generally? Can you support any browser besides Internet Explorer, which now controls less than a third of the overall marketshare?”

Legal IT needs to recognize the dislocation, and match it’s buying strategy to the way its users work. It’s not too late to match the needs and motivations of internal litigation support and IT departments with the needs of their users.

It’s time to ditch, in Silicon Valley speak, concerns orthagonal to the needs of their users. Based on this graph, is there any rational response from a law firm IT department other than to immediately cease any further capital or operational investment in technology not designed to support emerging platforms?

It isn’t rational to justify a purchasing decision that ignores 50 percent of the computing devices in the marketplace? It is not possible to develop a business case for spending capital expenditures on software that only works on a WinTel laptop. Yet it continues to happen today – is this state of denial sustainable?

Of course not. It never is. But now is the time to make the change, before falling off this Window/Intel cliff.

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Back in January of 2010, we published a post that the legal industry could be in for a technology disruption on the scale of newspapers. The signs abound that a disruption is now underway.

I recently ran across this chart in The Business Insider from famed internet analyst Henry Blodgett that provides vivid detail as to exactly the degree to which traditional newspapers have been dislocated:

Image

The legal industry has already experienced a lot of turmoil in recent years, as a number of law firms, including some former heavyweights, have dissolved. Even worse, the economic model at many law firms remains under intense pressure. The Wall Street Journal notes that a few of the largest law firms in New York have seen profits grow, but for everyone else, the “outlook is grim.” They note that firms that have any money are not investing in new business, but are socking it away in the hopes that a cash reserve will help them survive. Most distressingly, legal industry consultant Kent Zimmerman noted, “law firm expenses are growing faster than revenues during the first half of the year.”

That’s just not sustainable. The journalism industry was actually enjoying record profits and extraordinary growth in the years leading up to the ongoing collapse. But they never adapted to rising costs and the disruption of their business model from the Internet. As noted in the Business Insider article above, the newspaper industry’s peak year was the same year blogging software first appeared. Since then, smaller, more nimble, Internet startups like the Huffington Post have enjoyed explosive growth while traditional players like the Chicago Tribune have had to seek bankruptcy protection.

So the question is, have we already passed the peak law firm revenues? Is it possible that law firms can go through the same type of structural decline in the demand for their services and survive? The traditional law firm partnership model is under pressure from many directions. It’s not hard to imagine Big Law giants might one day be replaced by lean, hungry startup law firms, staffed with refugees from large law firms- much like newspaper veterans who moved to the Internet to start digital dynamos like Politico.

The most important question now is what growth drivers might be on the horizon for the traditional legal services. Are there reasons to believe the legal industry is not going to endure the same kind of upheaval?

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Over the years, eDiscovery pundits and analysts have suggested that there’s a generational gap in eDiscovery. They say the reason the legal community was slow to respond to the challenges of digital data in discovery was that the partners and lead litigators graduated law school before computers were common. The thinking is that the new generation, raised with computers and educated in eDiscovery case law, will be prepared to manage electronic records in litigation.

Given that conventional wisdom, this Above the Law piece from last week was surprising. Michigan State Law Professor Adam Candeub introduced a new eDiscovery course to his students, promoting it as the first of its kind. The tipster who forwarded the course listing to Above the Law lamented her alma mater would offer such a frivolous course. “I love my alma mater, but a class on e-discovery? Is this really what the legal profession has come to?” Even more, in the unscientific poll question published with the blog post, 82 percent of the respondents answered the question “Should law schools teach classes about electronic discovery?” with “Yes. It sucks, but you have to know it.”

eDiscovery review can suck. But given that eDiscovery is an integral part of litigation, it was surprising  that there’s so much resistance and disdain for this type of education in law schools. This week, Above the Law received a letter signed by fourteen attorneys, including one state judge, pointing out that there are in fact “over a dozen law schools that offer eDiscovery as a stand-alone course.” They concluded by arguing that “a law school does its students a great service by offering a course an eDiscovery.”

Nextpoint’s Proposal for Law Schools

Nextpoint agrees with these prominent attorneys that eDiscovery is an important part of a legal education today. Which is why we have an offer for any accredited law school teaching eDiscovery. Nextpoint will provide our technology platform at a deeply discounted or pro bono basis for any school looking to provide students with real-world, hands on eDiscovery training. Our services run from archiving and preservation for social media and websites (Cloud Preservation), a complete eDiscovery review platform (Discovery Cloud), and evidence management and presentation for trial (Trial Cloud). We have the same standing offer for law firms offering gratis legal help for pro bono clients. If you fit one of these descriptions, please contact us. We’d like to help students see eDiscovery doesn’t have to suck.

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This past week I was quite surprised to read no less than two different articles published by Law Technology News ( one and two) outlining new technology products aimed at a more simplified, DIY strategy for eDiscovery. (Pinch. No, I am not dreaming.)

The articles showcase several EDD products that purport to offer a SaaS buying proposition, and deliver aspirational phrases like: “the cloud will be an important part of an organization’s eDiscovery evolution,” “aiming for simplicity,”  “no up-front investment in hardware, IT training or staffing for installation or maintenance, and no maintenance or upgrade fees,” and “a do-it-yourself approach.”

This language around eDiscovery, and legal technology in general, sounds fantastic to us. And it should. We wrote it about 6 years ago.

Nextpoint has understood the industry need for better, more flexible technology tools for over ten years now. We have been delivering a cloud-based, simplified, flexible, lower cost, SaaS platform for the last six. We built a powerful, mature, integrated platform that simplifies management of ESI at every stage of discovery/litigation. We have been banging our marketing drum for a SaaS model of technology delivery and the benefits of cloud architecture over that entire period.  We have a tremendously smart and loyal client roster that “got it” earlier than most, and that continues to grow each week.

Sincerest Form of Flattery

Now, it seems we finally have some imitators who actually “get it” too…or at least they are speaking our language. Awesome. And the “mainstream” press is now finding the idea newsworthy. Even better!

Well, to those who have recently joined us, we just want to say “welcome to the party.”  We knew you would finally arrive and, really, we are glad you are here…But you won’t mind if we keep moving forward, will you?

We’ll just keep doing what we’ve been doing… “understand, innovate, evolve.”

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Answering the question, “What do you do?”

Invariably after I meet someone, one of the first questions after “what’s your name,” and perhaps questions about my family, is “what do you do?” In my quasi-rebellious youth, I might have answered “I do lots of things,” and regaled the new acquaintance with tales of independent film making, travel, surfing or other adventures. This was primarily because I was usually jobless, and saying, “uh, I’m unemployed” made for a conversation killer.

Those were the days…

Now I find myself struggling to answer that question, but not because of the lack of a career, but because my career is in a dynamic, esoteric field that few people outside of it understand. The quick answer to “what do you do?” would be that I’m a project manager at Nextpoint. But given that Nextpoint is a player in a quickly evolving industry, even that is a moving target.

What is the “Hotseat?”

In 2006 when I started at Nextpoint, the company specialized in providing support for trials, and also had a little web-based application that could be used to designate deposition testimony. We provided top-notch service on many high-stakes trials, creating demonstrative graphics that could be shown to a jury to help the attorneys get their points across. We would take the information, develop visual concepts, and create graphics to explain complex material in a simple visual way. I would often help out on the creative side of things, but my primary duty was that of a “hotseater.”

The hotseater sits in court with the trial team with all of the graphics, trial exhibits, and other multi-media on a computer (and a back-up computer – we hotseaters are a paranoid bunch). When attorneys ask questions of a witness they often need to show documents or graphics. That’s where we come in. The hotseater is asked to pull up documents or files to be displayed on monitors and projector screens throughout the courtroom. As they go through the documents, the hotseater will zoom in on important areas, highlight key text, and create other annotations to help pull the jury’s focus to the appropriate areas. It seems very simple, and yet it can be a terribly stressful endeavor. With the sheer volume of documents and the endless ways they could be asked for, a hotseater’s brain becomes saturated by information that must be recalled instantly, and often without warning. Hotseating is a live performance in which everyone in the courtroom is watching what you are doing, and if a document takes 10 seconds to appear on the screen, it seems like an eternity.

Another source of stress for the hotseater is the anxiety and uncertainty associated with ensuring all necessary documents are accounted for. Despite all the best efforts to gather every thinkable necessary document, invariably one will creep in there that had never been mentioned prior to that moment in court where the hotseater is scrambling to find the elusive document as the jury sits waiting. In the past I would get new items delivered to me in court via a USB drive or CD-R. However, if I thought I might need something, it was always difficult to get word to the appropriate person to deliver it. Now, more and more, courts are either allowing, or providing Internet access in the courtroom. The ability to email a paralegal or fellow Nextpointer to ask for a document relieves a great deal of the stress. But what happens when the file is too big to email? Enter Nextpoint’s Trial Cloud.

Trial Cloud, All Growed Up

Now remember earlier when I mentioned that back in 2006 we had a little web-based application that could be used to designate deposition testimony? Well that little application has grown into a ground-breaking, robust, SaaS platform that has become an indispensable tool in our trial support arsenal. With Trial Cloud, we have the ability to host all the documents that might be used in a trial in a fully indexed and searchable database. Since it is web-based, any changes or additions made by one of my colleagues back in the warroom (that’s what we trial support folks call our trial offices) is instantly accessible by me in court. Got a new 50mb PowerPoint file that I need ASAP? Just upload a new version and click the email notification, and I’ll be able to download it in court in moments. Is an attorney struggling to recall a document? Just pop in a few search terms and I can find it. Along with Trial Cloud, Nextpoint now offers a couple other products: Discovery Cloud (our native file processing and review tool) and Cloud Preservation (our social media and website archiving platform).

Now that I am also involved in training and support for our products, I have fundamentally changed my answer to “what do you do?” But even more so, it seems the question has changed to “how do you do it?”

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It’s difficult to not be tempted to oversimplify the Egyptian Revolution and call it a “Facebook Revolution”.  It’s simplistic and glosses over the real fundamental shifts in the minds and hearts of the Egyptian people that caused them to take to the streets.

And in many ways, it’s parallel to the election of Barack Obama in 2008 – driven in great part by social media and huge turnout numbers from the young.  It’s silly to say Facebook elected Barack Obama or caused the Egyptian Revolution.

But if you have time, check out the interview with Wael Gohnim who was the admin of the Facebook page We Are All Kaled Said, just to get a sense of the passion and here you can read the transcript.

Some quotes:

“What are called the “facebook youth” went out in their tens of thousands on January 25th, talk to them. This is the era where people who have good intentions are considered traitors.

“My wife was going to divorce me because I didn’t spend time with her, and now they call me a traitor. I spent all my time on the computer working for my country.”

Just the fact we have to step back from the conclusion is a powerful proof of the magnitude of significance of social media.  The communications channels are changing, dispersing, uprooting the old guard in every imaginable context.

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We’ve been kicking this idea around a lot lately around here. Thought I would share a cool little video to maybe put “why this is important” into perspective.

Here’s the link to the blog with the sources for the stats. There’s so many it’s hard to place them in context, but as a whole it’s a compelling compilation.

http://socialnomics.net/2010/05/05/social-media-revolution-2-refresh/

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