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Following the lead of two law firms, Andersen Legal, Arthur Andersen’s corresponding international law network, is launching a new Internet-based service for corporate transactions. The new service, called “Dealsight,” provides virtual deal rooms that enable teams of attorneys, corporate clients, accountants, investment bankers and others to collaborate on deals, such as mergers and acquisitions and corporate financings, on secure, Internet-based Web sites. The service lands Andersen on the cutting edge of law firm technology and demonstrates that the Big Five legal networks are not about to be beaten by traditional law firms on the technology front. “In order for us to sit at the top table, which is where we want to be and where we expect to be, we have to provide services that are at least as good as what [traditional law firms] can provide, and that’s where the additional firepower comes in,” says Chris Hinze, Andersen Legal’s spokesman. Andersen Legal is the first of the Big Five law affiliates to announce the launch of such technology, following similar announcements by London’s Clifford Chance and Allen & Overy earlier this year. “That’s part of our strategy to be recognized as a new-economy law firm,” says Patrick Bignon, Andersen Legal’s worldwide managing partner. However, two Big Five firms say that they have similar services available. Bob Wessels, chair of the law steering group at Ernst & Young International, based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and London, says that for some time, his firm has had similar technology in “DealSpace,” which E&Y has been using for complex, multijurisdictional deals. “If we’re doing these big projects where 15 countries are involved, it’s good to have a discrete site for the transaction,” Wessels says, adding, “It needs plenty of documents and plenty of parties, and then it really makes sense.” Simon Walker, head of the Internet practice at Landwell, Pricewaterhouse-Cooper’s law network, says that his firm offers similar deal sites through an outside service provider, which he declined to identify. As for KPMG’s new law network, KLegal, it’s working on developing a similar capability, says Mark Haftke, head of e-commerce and digital media. “We are rapidly developing a series of products, and the Internet is a core feature for us,” he says. Dealsight enables Andersen Legal to set up discrete, secure sites for corporate deals and other legal matters that become the virtual repositories for document drafts, revisions, communications between parties, and other data or news feeds that might be relevant to a deal. Clients, lawyers, accountants, bankers, and other teams of professionals can have access to all or discrete portions of the site. The deal room can be set up to restrict who can access which documents and who can make changes. The technology can help speed up complex deals, particularly when teams of professionals are working on a deal from different locations and for deals in which multiple documents are being revised. According to Andersen, other advantages of the technology are that it is more secure than e-mail or fax and is the most efficient way for people involved in the deal to get up to speed without having to wade through piles of documents. The technology is particularly useful for large international transactions in which professionals are collaborating from distant locations and varying time zones. For those Big Five firms determined to become major players in the global legal services market, state-of-the-art technology is a means by which they hope to gain an advantage over established law firms. Unlike many law firms, they have the resources, including annual revenues in the billions of dollars, to push ahead on the technology front. That’s one of the ways the Big Five have been able to attract lawyers and whole law practices into their legal network. So far, Andersen has piloted the new technology in Australia and Singapore. Dealsight is slated to be widely available to Andersen Legal clients worldwide in September.

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