X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Every law firm with multiple offices seeks to provide “seamless” service. Firms with operations in many countries make the claim with particular intensity, in direct proportion to the difficulty of linking different time zones, cultures, and professional traditions. Fortunately, technology can help make the task easier. Shaw Pittman’s experience is a case in point. As the firm has expanded its operations to London, California, and Australia, we have sought to take advantage of technology at every turn. We have realized specific and important benefits. Some are client-centered — capturing experience, enhancing efficiency and promoting responsiveness — while others go more to the culture of the enterprise. In particular, we have found that technology can help create bonds among offices, bringing people together in ways that promote collaboration and firm cohesion. A firm needs three things for technology to bind together its multioffice operation: basic connectivity infrastructure; the right applications; and clear management determination that everyone in the firm will use those tools effectively. For lawyers in different locales to interact easily, a firm needs a wide area network, built on dedicated data circuits between offices. The circuits need to carry voice as well as data because a networked voice-mail system that allows lawyers to receive and respond to voice-mail messages as if they were working in the same building is no longer a luxury. As lawyers spend increasing amounts of time working at home, whether to accommodate particular workife balance arrangements or because work expands to fill the entire waking day, high-speed lines to residences take on added importance. DSL lines create a private virtual circuit linking home and office, giving lawyers access to all the systems and resources they would have at their desk. KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT Some types of applications are so fundamental to an integrated multioffice operation as to go almost without saying: e-mail, document management, and videoconferencing, for example. Some form of knowledge management (KM) is also essential. For Shaw Pittman, the use of Lotus Notes databases has been essential to our KM effort. We actively maintain about 300 of them, ranging from administrative applications to individual and multiclient extranets. The databases most critical to our office integration are those created to capture and distribute work product among the lawyers in a given practice. The more-developed KM databases have two important features. First, instead of merely capturing historical work product, they include standard form documents that are regularly updated to include best-of-breed provisions. Second, they include a discussion section, in effect a specialists’ chat room, in which the lawyers in a practice can draw on the experience and judgment of their peers. So, when an outsourcing lawyer in London has a question about pricing schedules, he or she can post the issue in the outsourcing discussion database and promptly learn the advice of dozens of lawyers operating worldwide. Thanks to the architecture of Notes, responses to the inquiry will not disappear into the ether like e-mail, but will be stored in full-text-searchable format. It’s hard to overstate the value of this resource in promoting efficiency, quality assurance, and practical training for new lawyers. Some newer tools that currently fall into the nice-to-have category may soon become indispensable for multioffice firms. They include: � Awareness software. A professional version of AOL’s Instant Messenger, this application tells the user who else is online and allows real-time conversation, application sharing, and videoconferencing. Notes’ Sametime is one example, Microsoft’s NetMeeting is another. � Voice over IP. Most firms are using this technology to run voice signals over their existing data circuits between offices. The next step is to extend phone and data connections from office to home or another remote location over the Internet. Thus, such features as four-digit dialing, message-waiting indicators, and caller ID are available to any authorized user with a phone and a computer. Management commitment is essential. Without a committed firm management to ensure that these technology tools are used fully and consistently, the best infrastructure and applications in the world will be of no avail. Management commitment comes in many forms, among them supporting and requiring training, constant jawboning, setting a positive example, and spending the money required to continually upgrade the system. Here are some management devices that have helped bind our offices together: � To ensure that all lawyers can use their computers well enough to take advantage of our connectivity tools, we have opted to make certain key information (including partner financial data) available only online. � Each week the Monday Memo reports on developments around the firm, with regular spotlights on the activities and accomplishments of lawyers in each office. � To promote cohesion, the firm is organized and managed on a practice group rather than an office model. Thus all the applications that tie a practice group together have the effect of uniting lawyers from multiple offices. Maintaining cohesion in a large and diffuse organization is inherently challenging, but these approaches and tools can help counteract the natural centrifugal forces of a multioffice law firm. Paul Mickey Jr. is managing partner of Washington, D.C.’s Shaw Pittman, which has offices in McLean, New York, Los Angeles, and London, with a team working in Australia.

This content has been archived. It is available exclusively through our partner LexisNexis®.

To view this content, please continue to Lexis Advance®.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber? Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® is now the exclusive third party online distributor of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® customers will be able to access and use ALM's content by subscribing to the LexisNexis® services via Lexis Advance®. This includes content from the National Law Journal®, The American Lawyer®, Law Technology News®, The New York Law Journal® and Corporate Counsel®, as well as ALM's other newspapers, directories, legal treatises, published and unpublished court opinions, and other sources of legal information.

ALM's content plays a significant role in your work and research, and now through this alliance LexisNexis® will bring you access to an even more comprehensive collection of legal content.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.