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Posts Tagged ‘litigation technology’

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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This week is the opening of the 2012 American Bar Association TECHSHOW, the premier legal technology event for small and medium-sized law firms. If you’re attending the event, stop by to meet with Nextpoint. We’re not promising any crazy tchotchkes, but we guarantee anyone interested in social media archiving, trial presentation software, trial support services, and eDiscovery software will learn something useful. You can also follow us on Twitter at @Nextpoint for our take on the most interesting presentations and news from the event.

Most importantly, Nextpoint is the sponsor for the Cloud Computing track of the 2012 ABA TECHSHOW, offering topics including,“How to Stay Safe in the Cloud” and an overview of cloud computing applications and services for lawyers.

The Cloud Computing sessions begin on Friday, March 30 at 8:00 am in the Expo Hall. If you’ve never heard Nextpoint CEO Rakesh Madhava speak, you can catch his presentation “Cloud Computing for Lawyers” on Thursday, March 29 at 3 p.m.

The conference will take place at the Chicago Hilton & Towers on March 29-31, 2012. Visitors can also meet our team in person at booth #813 in the Southwest hall for a demonstration of Nextpoint’s cloud-based, end-to-end litigation technology platform. Hope to see you there!

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Continuing our discussion about the legal rights people assume they have with local install software, here’s another post, this one unfortunately from the ABA.

SaaS and Cloud Computing Considerations–Software Longevity and Access to Your Data

First off, Intuit is pretty lame.  No reason they couldn’t port a lot of data into Mint. I’ve used Quickbooks for years with my teeth gritted.

Intuit are among the worst offenders in forced paid upgrades and charging for support for features that should be built in ( I paid $200 once to have an Intuit help desk support person tell me to hit “Shift” while I started the application when that fix was not in the support docs.)  So boo on you Intuit and I’m bummed they bought Mint, because I like and use Mint.

Back to the post, a couple of problems:

Software Lock In
Software by nature generates application-specific lock in.  That’s the whole point.  Local or not, you can’t generally port everything “as-is” from application to another. CSV isn’t perfect but that’s industry-standard.

More importantly, fundamentally, it is the same problem if Intuit stopped making Quicken locally.  Cloud or not – pick an application and you’re locked in to an extent.  To what extent is up to you.

Ownership
The part below I’ve quoted is particularly inaccurate and may be leading people to violate their license agreements with software.

“With these examples in mind, a bottom line to consider is that when you buy software that you install locally on a computer, you generally will always be able to access to it as long as you maintain the computer, and can even reproduce the software if you keep a copy of the installation materials and have access to computers with compatible operating systems.”

This just plain doesn’t make any sense.  Come on, ABA. SaaS, done right, is far safer, easier to use and economical, allowing small lawyers to compete with mega firms.

First, what does “maintain” mean?  Does “maintenance” include security upgrades or even software version upgrades?  The latest version of Intuit products doesn’t support every previous version. What if you upgrade your operating system?  In addition to buying the OS, Intuit will force an upgrade. So you won’t have access – unless you keep buying the software you’re already locked into.

BTW, that’s the whole business model folks. The total cost of ownership is not just the original install, but every upgrade version after it in addition – much higher than just buying the shrinkwrap.

Then you have to keep it backed up.  So it’s not just maintaining a single computer.  It’s the computer, and a backup of the data. And the backup can’t be stored on-site — that defeats the purpose.  It has to be off-site backup.

So if by “maintain” you mean take a computer, freeze the applications and operating system, in essence turning it off and unplugging it, boxing it in a fireproof case, putting the computer in a closet and never using it, and having a second computer exactly like that one stored offsite – then maybe this statement becomes accurate.

Breach of License Agreements
Second, reproducing the software in many cases would be a violation of the software licensing agreement.  Installs on new devices will generally be prohibited – otherwise you buy one copy and install it anywhere.

Check out the agreement.  It doesn’t give you a situation where it’s okay.  Your license agreement doesn’t say “if you have to buy a new hard drive, or if you had to buy a new computer, or if you gave your old computer to your mom and bought a new, then that’s okay.”

They all say the same thing.  It’s our software.  You don’t own it.  You license it.  And we only authorize you to use in a very particular way of our choosing.

So unless you are intentionally planning on breaching your license agreement, this isn’t an option unless again, you keep an extra shrink wrapped version of the software that has never been installed anywhere.  Because when you need it, it may longer be sold or supported by the developer.

Unlimited, industry-standard exports
The answer we’ve chosen is to use an industry standard export, like EDRM XML.  We also support download to PDF, Concordance and Sumamtion and at no extra charge with no charge for bandwidth.

Fundamentally, any data loaded to our application already exists in its native format.  Our users have the originals, we save a copy of the original native in the application, along with the image preview of the document in the Review and Trial Clouds.

Software isn’t perfect.  There are annoying things about it.  It locks you in.  It makes you pay.  But in return, you should be more productive.

Cloud or local install, software remains software.  There are plenty of issues to discuss around SaaS to make it easier for people to understand and to purchase.  The “ownership” argument simply isn’t one of them.

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The legal technology industry is increasingly being driven by a need do more with less.  This means “Doing It Yourself”.

What’s the best approach?  Borrowing a tagline from my favorite home improvement store Lowe’s, instead of going it alone, “Let’s Build Something Together.” Here’s how!

Know Your Skills
Think of yourself as a legal technology’s version of Bob Vila?  You are probably not.  In fact, I will guarantee you are not.  Unless you have a degree in computer science or related field. Or unless you’re some freak talent that’s been managing a Pizza Shack and suddenly the light went off.  That I can believe.

If you are in a legal-related or professional services company, your expertise is in client service, project management, marketing, budgeting, client communications, logistics — even if you are an internal service bureau. Focus on those competencies, compete on that landscape, and kick your competitor’s ass on those.

The reasoning is simple.  You can’t afford to be wasting time on something you have no competitive advantage in – you don’t have time to do something poorly.

Back at the Lowe’s, I love looking table saws while I am buying light bulbs.  In the end, my wife makes sure I just leave with the light bulbs and that we hire someone who is really good with a table saw. Someone who is actually Bob Vila.

Oh, that person always has their own table saw already, and it’s a better table saw then I would have bought. And for sure, I don’t try to build a table saw.

Science Matters, Scientists Matter
So what next?  I’ll use Nextpoint as an example. We started out with a group of liberal arts trained power-users who could make Microsoft Excel land a Boeing 747 and make pigs fly in Photoshop. Fantastically talented and hard-working.  Super-duper smart. Lawyers hired us to help with their technology needs.  We were and still are professional technology integrators – and some of the best in the business at it.

But we reached a point about five years ago where our customers needs were breaking the software we bought from Microsoft and Adobe, just to name a few.  Excel and Access-based databases didn’t work anymore. Networking became a nightmare.  Our servers were filling up faster than we could plug them in.  Our backups were choking.  Security provisioning was difficult and inconsistent. Our costs were skyrocketing. Our clients were complaining about our costs.

The cause was we kept seeing the data volumes growing exponentially.  100 MB, turned into 500 MB, turned into 1 GB, turned into 50 GB, turned into literally 100s of GB routinely. Computer science – namely Moore’s law – told us this was not going to change in the foreseeable future. So we needed a new strategy — we needed computer scientists to tackle a computer science problem.

Don’t understand the programmatic difference between files with the extension of  .TIF and .PNG? Not sure what needs to happen on a file structure level to change one into the other?  Me neither.  But my background is working with law firms and legal technology companies.  Not writing code.

The Nextpoint Technology Lab writes code. Read this post on Ajaxian.com about how great software gets built from the ground up. You’ll get a sense of how much you actually know.  And how much you don’t know. For servers, storage and backup, even our computer scientists went to other computer scientists.  We partnered up with the computer scientists at Amazon Web Services.  Collectively, these scientists know a lot more than you or I will ever know about security, large scale storage and processing — unless you happen to be that guy from the Pizza Shack.

Focus on Your Strengths By Being an Early Adopter
This doesn’t mean give take a “hear no evil, see no evil, do no evil” approach. Great technology needs to be adopted not passively looked at.  It doesn’t mean don’t touch the data.  But know what you are supposed to do with the data.  Maintain chain of custody.  Have an inventory.  Know where it came from. Know what to do with it when you get it. Learn the vendor landscape.  Learn about the technology landscape.  Be an early adopter.

Your job isn’t to build the next generation of technology is – it is to know it when you see it! Early adopters aren’t wrong — they are winning.  Early adopters get a competitive advantage. Early adopters power their organizations to be world-class.  Early adopters are adapting to cloud computing.

I was frankly surprised at ILTA how few supposed technology professionals from law firms actually spent time on the floor talking to the technology integrators, developers, and consultants who are there for their disposal to learn about the latest and greatest. It’s a shame. Don’t be one of those people. It’s like going to Lowe’s for the hot dog.

Avoid Obvious Mistakes
It’s a mistake for non-technology based companies like law firms, in-house legal departments, and even consultancies to go much past project management.  Don’t try to process it yourself.  Don’t try to host it.  Don’t move it from software package to software package. Trying to bring processing in-house is a mistake.  Attempting to provision your own review platform and install it behind your firewall is a mistake.  Attempting to network and support litigation databases is a mistake.  Throwing more money, servers, and software at a problem is a mistake unless it’s your core business.

Focus all of your energies on work flow with the technology marketplace – whether that’s an integrator or software developer. The quality varies – some are good, some are awesome, and some are smoke and mirrors. And there are real differences. Focus your energies on figuring out who is who.

Early Adopters Do Just That — Adapt
So how do you do-it-yourself? Early adopters change and restructure their work patterns to maximize great technology.

Early adopters were the first to burn CDs to MP3s and put them on portable music device. Even earlier adopters had cassette tapes to walk around with their music.  Early adopters were the first to carry PDA’s to get email anywhere.  Even earlier adopters had email.  Early adopters were the first to use LCD screens on their desk, even earlier adopters had LCDs on portable laptops.  Early adopters were the first deploy on cloud computing platforms.  Even earlier adopters had built applications that worked over the internet.

You get my point.  Adapt to survive.  Adapt to thrive.  And that is something you can do yourself today.

Great Technology Always Saves Time and Money
What to adapt to?  Great technology does two things.  Saves time and saves money.  Define what you can DIY that saves time and money without a huge upfront expense.  Go after the low-hanging fruit, not a three-year, six figure implementation.  That day is over.

If you have to spend a lot to save a little, that’s not DIY — that’s a bad idea.  If you have to spend a lot of time and money and are unsure if it’s going to work, that’s not DIY, that’s going to Lowe’s loading up your carts, tearing up your kitchen and then realizing you need to call in a contractor to fix it. Lowe’s wins. The contractor wins.  You don’t.

DIY means knowing what to not buy at the Lowe’s. DIY means being an early adopter of great technology.

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We’re thrilled to announce that this coming Tuesday night, Nextpoint is publicly releasing our new direct to market pricing for our Discovery Cloud and Trial Cloud services. These services will be offered starting at $25/GB per month and now includes free native file processing. We are also rolling out Preservation Cloud pricing at $1/GB per month. You can get all of the details here on our pricing page.

Nextpoint leverages the power of cloud computing to deliver next-generation litigation technology to the entire legal industry — from solo practitioners to the largest multi-national corporation — at a revolutionary price. And we do it by eliminating native file processing fees in total.

Our breakthrough processing costs were already leading the industry, and it’s that kind of value that explains why we’ve doubled our user base over the past year.

In going one step further by simplifying pricing for our Trial and Discovery Cloud services — products that already include free OCR, image stamping, export and download, and a host of review and trial specific functionality — lawyers with matters of every size and scope now have a defensible, stable technology platform from which they can get back to practicing law— not paying for and managing technology.

Our pricing comes from a simple mission, to deliver world-class engineering, design, and customer service to the legal industry. And it’s this service our current customers love, so we invite you to give us a test drive — free, with no risk — and see for yourself how Nextpoint is changing the face of litigation technology.

About Nextpoint:
Nextpoint is a next-generation litigation support company. Our applications flow from our dedication to a simple but essential mission: to deliver world-class software with an uncompromising commitment to engineering, design, and customer service. Trusted by leading corporations and blue-chip law firms, Nextpoint is the better way to organize electronic discovery.

For more information, contact Elyse Fleischman at (773) 929-4000 ext. 120.

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As interest in cloud computing and our products is increasing, I’m doing a lot of eduction to lawyers on the internet. A joke I keep using to put into context cloud computing is to say, “I think this Internet thing will be big”.

To further make my point about why the internet is important to lawyers and law firms, and why they need an Internet-based strategy is by using an analogy between large corporate law firms and newspapers.

Both have fundamentally the same product – writing
Both law firms and newspapers survive on generating content primarily delivered as the written word. Easy enough. Investigations, fact checking, interviewing, proofreading, copy/contract writing — both industries are about words.

Quality content drives reputation and market share
Both industries are fundamentally driven on the quality of their underlying content. The newspaper in the United States with the highest circulation is the Wall Street Journal, a serious business driven publication.

Both are ruled by tradition-bound institutions
A look at the 10 largest newspapers and law-firms show you with minor exceptions USA Today (1982), DLA (merger in 2005), these are multi-generational institutions where organizational change is difficult.

Both self-regulate according often somewhat nebulous standards
While some are clear cut, often times what constitutes appropriate journalistic ethics or legal ethics is often in the eye of the beholder and subject to vigorous debate.

Geographic strength is critical in a fractured marketplace
Both concentrate geographically, including establishing satellite offices/bureaus to extend reach in a marketplace where even the largest player controls at most single digit market share.

Both have business models that rely on bundling of high-value content with low-value services Newspapers are driven by display and classified advertising combined on a page with original content. Large law firms rely on relevance review, basic legal research, and contract work generally done by junior associates to essentially subsidize the salaries of their senior attorneys, who deliver the highest value content.

Physical scale, once a strength, is now a weakenss
It takes a lot of iron to run a physical newspaper. And tradition has it if you have a “big case” you need a “big law firm”. No longer. Technology has enabled the smartest folks to deliver the same quality content without the physical overhead and with far fewer people. It’s no surprise a substantial portion of our user base is comprised of “boutique litigation” shops.

Neither has been proactive about the Internet
Sort of the punch line here isn’t it? Newspapers have undergone an wrenching restructuring with many going bankrupt because of their inability to adapt to Internet revolution.

The industry can undergo wrenching changes with breathtaking speed
Think the Tribune Company believed in 2000 that they would be bankrupt by 2008? The Sun-Times? The Minneapolis Star Tribune? Did they believe it in 2005?

The legal industry has been largely unaffected by the technology of the internet in its daily operations minus one huge exception. E-mail.

Is that it? E-mail? In the end, will e-mail be the maximum impact of the internet on the legal industry? Or have we just seen the beginning?

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Let the arguments start rolling in.  Sure, you might need seat warmers in Texas for any number of reasons but most likely those aren’t the primary uses of the car.  Keeping bagels warm?  Probably doesn’t justify the extra expense.

Every time I make a big purchase, like a car, I get pulled into more and more options that I never thought I’d need.  It’s the value hunter in me.  I can get $4k in options for $2k.  Nevermind that $2,500 of those options I don’t really want.  But what you forget about is the long term complexity that gets created by that upgrade.  It’s not that I spend extra money for things I didn’t need once.  But that I won’t get that money back on resale, and that those options are expensive to maintain, and in many cases make the vehicle more difficult to operate.  If you need seat warmers, those little buttons are welcome additions.  If you don’t, they are just buttons that accidentally get pressed in the summer heat while you are getting your car washed.  Not fun on the ride home.

E-discovery technology is no different.  Most people make a list (or find one on the internet) of the features that they are expecting to see in the application.  Then they evaluate the options based on cost per feature, not realizing that unneeded features are costing them money up front and throughout their use by adding complexity.  If you only need 5 features, you should buy the product with 5 features… even if it costs the same amount of money.

And here’s the kicker.  In my experience, fewer features means higher quality.  Aren’t those extra features just distracting us from what really matters?  Safety, performance, and economy.  Okay, and maybe style.  Those are the most important factors for buying a car or e-discovery technology.  Save yourself the hassle of buttons you don’t need, accessories that always fail, and a sweltering tail end.

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