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Step into Connolly Bove’s new office, and you step into the future of law firm technology. Located on three floors of the Nemours Building in downtown Wilmington, Del., Connolly Bove Lodge & Hutz boasts a six-room conference center equipped with worldwide videoconferencing; multiple plasma screens that can receive data from and transmit to a dedicated computer or to attorneys’ laptops; a high-resolution projector; electronic whiteboards; and a host of other features that, according to firm leaders, raise the bar for law firm technology in Delaware and nationwide. Jim Wallace of Gensler, the architecture, design and planning firm responsible for Connolly Bove’s layout, characterized the law firm as a technological trendsetter. Wallace said law firm design is a Gensler specialty, citing the Wilmington offices of Richards Layton & Finger, Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom and the U.S. Attorney’s Office as additional examples of the firm’s work. Connolly Bove human resources and business development director Joann Winterle said that during the firm’s recent open house, Steelcase Inc. president and chief executive officer James Hackett commented that the new office epitomized his vision of future law firm technology. A Connolly Bove client, Steelcase specializes in office architecture, technology and furnishings. Founded in 1944, Connolly Bove began as an intellectual property boutique but grew into a full-service law firm with specialties that include corporate, commercial and bankruptcy law in addition to IP work. Administrative managing partner Jeffrey Bove said that because the firm has virtually doubled in size over the past 10 years — it is now 77 attorneys strong — its 20-year home at 1220 Market St. could no longer meet its needs, prompting the firm’s September move. Firm officials said the change in location was the perfect opportunity to enhance the firm’s technological muscle. Connolly Bove information systems and operations director Bob Casey said the firm’s previous, less-beefy technology included limited videoconferencing, no interactive boards, no cable television and a lesser computer network. But Connolly Bove partner Collins Seitz Jr., who heads the firm’s technology committee, said that the investment in expanded technology was not merely a function of the new office space. Clients today demand that law offices work efficiently and contain up-to-date technology, Seitz said, and firm leaders agreed that their new technology has fulfilled those demands. “Because the attorneys are doing more and are capable of doing more for themselves, we can utilize the secretaries in different and more efficient ways than just typing the documents,” Winterle told the Delaware Law Weekly. She noted that in certain situations, two or even three attorneys are able to share just one secretary. Seitz added that in his opinion, the secretaries at Connolly Bove have assumed roles more akin to those of paralegals. According to Casey, the increase in efficiency is not limited to the changing roles of support staff: videoconferencing and the ability to transmit documents over Connolly Bove’s secure Internet connection have also saved on resources. Casey said the firm uses its videoconferencing room at least twice a week, and that portable videoconference equipment is also available for impromptu meetings. Videoconferencing and the secure exchange of documents are particularly valuable when the firm has an urgent, unanticipated matter to discuss with a client, Casey noted. The capabilities not only save on airfare while still permitting face-to-face interaction, but also enhance the firm’s ability to respond to the unexpected, he said. Connolly Bove’s updated network has also allowed the firm to design a smaller law library since “everyone does legal research online,” Seitz said. Both Casey and Seitz emphasized that while the firm’s technology is advanced, it is simple to use. Casey said that after initial training, the resident lawyers gave the technology rave reviews. “They are really impressed,” Casey said, “and we’re impressing our clients.” Wallace said Connolly Bove is unique not just in its desire to be a technological leader, but also in its dedication to its clients. “They were always thinking about their clients when we were in the design process,” Wallace said. He noted that the firm wanted its clients to be comfortable, and in part selected the Nemours Building for its wealth of natural light. Seitz pointed to the conference center’s proximity to the reception area as an additional example of comfort and convenience. He said the center’s layout and location are becoming a standard for law firm design. “Number one, you don’t have to traipse both your clients and the enemy all throughout your law office,” Seitz said. “There’s a security issue, but it’s also convenient because you can marshal all of your resources around the conference center, like food and support … and it’s right off your reception area so it’s convenient for people coming and going in the firm.” Visiting attorneys — friend and foe alike — will find that they, too, were carefully considered in the office’s design. The firm added what Casey, Seitz and others call “caucus rooms” to their conference center. These rooms, which are attached to the conference rooms, contain a computer, Internet access, a telephone, and several chairs and writing spaces, and were included to provide visiting attorneys space to break from meetings and confer with clients or their home offices. Seitz said the caucus rooms will also be used when outside attorneys arrive unexpectedly and need to be set up somewhere for the day. In addition to temporary quarters, Connolly Bove has two “litigation suites.” Winterle explained that out-of-town counsel who need to be in Wilmington for an extended period of time can rent fully equipped offices in which to set up a home away from home. The suites’ multiple rooms permit outside litigation teams to build a mini law office, including separate offices for attorneys, workstations for paralegals and secretaries, and multipurpose rooms that include electronic boards. Private pantries and photocopier and fax rooms are also part of the package. Casey said he believes the litigation suites can comfortably fit 20 lawyers and staff members. He described the technology they contain as “plug and play” so that out-of-town attorneys can use the state-of-the-art equipment with minimal intervention from Connolly Bove’s IT staff. Outside teams are also provided with their own fax and phone lines, as well as electronic keys configured differently from resident keys, providing secure work spaces inaccessible to anyone but those occupying the suites. Winterle added that because Nemours offers on-site residences, visiting attorneys and staff don’t even have to leave the building. And considering the firm’s comfortable appointments that nod toward 1930s art deco design, and DVDs viewable on plasma screens at the touch of a button (on a wireless touch screen), who would want to?

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