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Gary Rindner was looking at the Morningstar Web site when something clicked. He needed a site to size up law firms the way Morningstar sizes up mutual funds. After all, Rindner, as general counsel to New York’s Man Group USA Inc., one of the world’s largest futures brokers, had spent untold hours hunting down details about outside counsel prospects by surfing firm Internet sites, where the information was there, but not in an organized way. Rindner’s idea materialized in August 2001, when he launched his own side business, Periscope Ventures Corp., offering a Web site called www.LawPeriscope.com for in-house counsel that profiles the nation’s 300 largest law firms. LawPeriscope is not alone in cyberspace. The site shares the Internet with other firm search sites, including those sponsored by information powerhouses like FindLaw and Martindale-Hubbell. But Rindner said that his approach — with easy-access, one-page firm profiles — also highlights more subtle firm traits, like pro bono and diversity policies, clues that may reveal whether the firm will mesh with its corporate client. “Every time you select an outside lawyer, you’re betting your success on that lawyer,” Rindner said. “I knew that there was all of this information out there,” Rindner said of the Internet landscape, where firm sites often include far more than mission statements and attorney r�sum�s. Rindner mined these resources when compiling the database for LawPeriscope. SWEARS BY IT One attorney — not an in-house lawyer — swears by the site because it helps her ferret out information that is not readily accessible by surfing around individual firm Web sites. “I work alongside of and across from outside counsel all the time,” said Kathryn Kleiman, who has her own Internet law and policy practice and is of counsel to Washington, D.C.’s McLeod, Watkinson & Miller. She said that the site makes it easier for her to identify specific attorneys within a firm, their practice specialties and major clients. But some corporate and private counsel question the added value of this new resource, noting that word-of-mouth still rules. “It’s rare that I don’t have a clue” as to which outside firm to call on, said one corporate counsel, who declined to be identified. “I can’t see myself being stuck in that position” of having to use an Internet search engine to size up and compare outside firms. Jeffrey Paquin, a partner at Atlanta’s Paquin Victor, which works closely with in-house counsel to devise ways to handle conflict as a business process, said, “I generally will have a starting point in terms of substantive expertise or a geographical area,” adding that it is still de rigeur for corporate and other counsel “to rely heavily on recommendations and references.” Here is how the site works: There are search engines to locate firms by name, attorneys by name and firms by practice area. Type “executive compensation” and more than a dozen firms pop up. Click on a firm name and a one-page profile appears, listing offices, practice groups and other information, including the managing partner. Click on a practice site and you are beamed directly to that information on the firm’s own Web site. Periscope Ventures, based in White Plains, N.Y., near where Rindner’s Man Group office is located, is a private venture supported by private funding, Rindner said, and he hopes it will be self-sustaining in time. He said he has plans to court sponsors among service providers such as legal publishers, and then possibly law firms themselves, which could supplement or customize their online profiles for a fee. He also hopes firms will divulge fees, so corporate counsel can compare rates as well as experience and expertise.

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