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New York’s Cravath, Swaine & Moore isn’t used to playing catch-up with other firms. But when it comes to technology, the firm hasn’t always lived up to its second-to-none reputation. “We realized a couple years ago that there were ways to deliver our product more efficiently,” says Robert Joffe, the presiding partner of the firm. Two years ago, Cravath’s associates put it even more bluntly in a survey by AmLaw Tech. The magazine asked midlevel associates to rank their firms’ technology. Cravath finished 145th out of 157 firms. At about the same time, the firm initiated an overhaul of the firm’s technology. “What we wanted to do required boosting up our IT department and our technology in general,” recalls Joffe. The firm hired a new IT director, Jeff Franchetti, and resolved to improve its technology. The firm upgraded each of its core applications, switched to PeopleSoft enterprise software and built up both client extranets and CravathNet, an intranet. “It was a lot to get done in two years,” says Franchetti, “but we made the transitions without overburdening the lawyers.” Now the firm’s about to put the silicon on the chip. Late last month, Joffe announced the launch of Cravath’s “Remote Lawyer” program. The program is designed to enable all Cravath attorneys to work as efficiently outside the office as they do inside it. “The reality is that the legal business has become a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week industry,” says Joffe. “This makes it easier for our attorneys to conform to that.” By the end of the year, the attorneys all will have swapped their desktop computers for laptops. The laptops will come equipped with docking stations, full-size monitors, keyboards and mice for use in the office. And they’ll be loaded with “regional dial-in software,” for easy access to the Cravath network from anywhere in the world. Cravath is committed to recycling its inventory of laptops every two to three years: They’ll be leasing rather than buying them. “Laptops inherently have shorter lifespans than desktops,” says Franchetti. Franchetti explains that the firm looked into giving all the attorneys two computers but decided that was overkill. “When you give lawyers both, more often than not the laptop just gets used for word processing,” says Franchetti. “That’s a lot of wasted capability.” Franchetti adds that each laptop becomes a fully functional desktop once it is connected to the docking station. “Some might judge it as a success only if most attorneys are taking home their laptops every night,” he says. “We don’t share that attitude. We just want to give our lawyers more flexibility and choice.” Cravath has a long-standing client relationship with IBM. Guess which company is supplying the laptops? The firm also uses IBM-owned Lotus Notes for its e-mail. Lotus has developed a Web-based e-mail platform for the firm. This platform will allow Cravath attorneys to access their e-mail accounts over the Web. Franchetti maintains that the platform will avoid the messy duplication that comes with running one e-mail system both over the Web and through an internal server. If all goes according to plan, an e-mail deleted from an Internet cafe in Hanoi, Vietnam, will automatically be deleted from the Cravath system. The third prong of the initiative involves the use of hand-held computers and communication devices such as Palm Pilots, Motorola PageWriters and RIM Blackberries. By this fall, all Cravath attorneys will be able to access their Cravath e-mail address as well as Lotus Notes-based contacts, calendars and to-do lists from hand-held wireless devices. Franchetti is the first to admit that the initiative isn’t doing anything that hasn’t been done before. “What sets this move apart is that it’s so comprehensive,” he says. “In just two years, we’ve managed to get ahead of the technology curve.” At least one large-firm IT director shakes his head over the situation. “Cravath is just pulling up to where a Cravath should have been a long time ago,” he says. “They’re just now starting to do things we’ve been doing for years.” If any firm in the country could afford to make a sweeping, soup-to-nuts technology overhaul, it’s probably Cravath. The firm only has one domestic office. It also ranked third in The American Lawyer magazine’s 2000 ranking of per-partner profits, at more than $2 million. Cravath isn’t saying how much this initiative costs, but it’s not cheap. “We didn’t really debate the costs of this much at all,” says Joffe. “Of course, we tried to be cost-effective, but our primary goal was to do this in the best possible way. We weren’t going to cut corners.”

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