Tag Archives: law firm

Declining Law Firm Productivity Tied to Information Governance Challenges

A new legal industry study finds a substantial decline in attorney productivity in recent years, significantly reducing law firm profitability. In its 2017 Report on the State of the Legal Market, Thomson Reuters notes that “over the past 10 years, the average billable hours worked by all lawyers across the market declined from 134 billable hours per month in 2007 to 122 through the late part of 2016.” This equals a reduction of 144 billable hours per year per lawyer. The report, by multiplying that total by the average worked rate ($463) for all lawyers in 2016, determined the productivity decline is costing law firms about $66,672 per lawyer per year.

One of the main causes for diminished lawyer productivity is the exponential proliferation of their stored emails and documents and the associated inability to recall important work product and previous e-mail communications. Another industry study assessing the productivity of lawyers and other high-end information knowledge workers found that such professionals on average spend 11.2 hours a week dealing with challenges related to document creation and management. As the table below from the IDC report demonstrates, lawyers and paralegals lose as much as 2.3 hours a week searching, but not finding, the right documents and emails and another 2 hours recreating documents they failed to locate.

Time Spent on Document Management Challenges

productivity-for-law-firms-table2Source: IDC’s Information Worker Survey, June 2012

Applying the same lawyer cost calculations used by Thomson Reuters in their 2017 report (4.3 hours per week X $463 average hourly rate X 49 annual worked weeks) reveals that an effective search capability can dramatically improve law firm productivity by as much as $97,500 annually per lawyer. Even normalizing this analysis for recovered billable time (assuming every hour of gained productivity results in less than a full hour of actual billable time) a law firm of a 1000 attorneys would realize tens of millions per year in recovered billable hours, in addition to important intangible benefits including enhanced work product, improved client satisfaction and attorney morale.

Many law firm attorneys tell us that without the right search solution, they can spend hours looking for a past proposal, a key client communication from several months prior, or many other forms of work product and client communications that are stored in emails, local drives or cloud file shares. If lawyers and paralegals cannot quickly find such information assets, then that represents a serious information governance failure. Time wasted rummaging around for past emails and documents is not billable time and directly cuts into a firms’ profit margin. To be sure, a law firm’s two most important assets are its professionals and their body of work product and other key information. As such, a top priority for law firm management should be to ensure their attorneys have the right productivity search solution to quickly find and retrieve the firms’ information assets.

However, the recurring theme we hear is that outside of the data managed by X1, enterprise search is a source of major frustration for law firms and other organizations. This is confirmed by survey after survey where the vast majority of respondents report dissatisfaction with their current enterprise search platform. Simply put, the traditional approach to enterprise search has not worked. This is largely because most search solutions deployed in recent years focused on IT requirements — which see search as either a technical project or a commodity — rather than an intimate end-user driven requirement that is core to their professional productivity.

And for lawyers especially, “good enough” is not good enough when it comes to their search. It does not make sense to invest in an enterprise search solution for business productivity search, unless there is a significant improvement in the end-users search experience for emails, files and SharePoint data.

At X1, however, many of our customers report dramatic improvements with their productivity search, with firm-wide X1 rollouts being major wins at their organization. We believe that X1’s unique focus on the end-user is the key. You won’t find many other business productivity search solutions where the end users drive demand, instead of the tool being imposed on the end-users by IT or systems integrators. We continually hear countless testimonials from business professionals, at law firms and companies large and small, who swear by their X1 and cannot imagine working without it. In speaking with industry analysts and other experts in the enterprise search field, this is an almost unheard of phenomenon, where end-user satisfaction with the companies’ enterprise search platform is usually around 10-15 percent, verses the 80-85 percent satisfaction ratio we see with X1.

Importantly, X1 is a platform. Users need a single-pane-of-glass view to all of their information – email, files, SharePoint, archives like Veritas Enterprise Vault, OneDrive, Box and other network and cloud sources.  X1 Search provides a user-friendly interface to all information that lets attorneys find what they are looking for in an instant.  But the thousands of X1 end users know all this. The key takeaway for CIOs and other IT executives is that search is an inherently personal user experience, and the number one requirement, by far, for a successful search initiative is enthusiastic end-user adoption. If the lawyers and other business professionals in your organization are not passionately embracing the search solution, then nothing else matters.

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Filed under law firm, productivity, Uncategorized

Can Lawyers Be Disqualified by Merely Viewing a Linkedin Profile? The Implications of Indirect Social Media Communications and Legal Ethics Rules

With attorneys and their hired consultants routinely collecting social media evidence for investigation and eDiscovery purposes, it is important to be aware that such activity can generate various direct and indirect communications to the subject account owners.  Sending a Facebook “friend” or a LinkedIn “connect” request are obvious examples, but there are also less overt means of social media communications. For instance, if a hypothetical law firm named Smith & Wesson were to merely follow a witness on Twitter, the service will automatically email the witness with a notification that Smith & Wesson is now following her. Additionally, it is all too easy when viewing a Facebook page to inadvertently “like” an item or accidentally send a friend request through a single mouse click.  And if you simply view another’s Linkedin profile while logged into your own account, that person will often be notified that you viewed his or her profile page.  Ethical Implication

For lawyers and their hired consultants and investigators, all this can be very problematic considering legal ethics rules that strictly regulate communications with represented parties and even jurors connected to a case. Several local and state bar associations have issued legal ethics opinions discussing this issue specific to collecting social media evidence. On December 6, X1 Discovery hosted a live webinar to delve deeper into this topic with the esteemed Ralph Losey of Jackson Lewis as the featured speaker. Ralph is the lead eDiscovery partner at Jackson Lewis and the author of “The eDiscovery Team,” considered by many to be the best legal eDiscovery blog on the planet. You can register for the recorded version of this webinar at this link here. (One hour of ethics CLE credit will be available to California attorneys).

From our perspective, this critical concern involving indirect social media communications and legal ethics underscores the importance of employing best practices technology to search and collect social media evidence for investigative and eDiscovery purposes.  Collecting evidence in a manner that prevents, or at minimum, does not require that attorneys and their proxies directly or indirectly communicate with the subjects from whom they are collecting social media evidence is a core requirement for solutions that truly address investigative and eDiscovery requirements for social media. If user credentials to the social media account have been properly obtained, that is obviously ideal. However, in many instances lawyers must resort to searching and collecting publicly available information. In such situations, it is crucial that the law firm and/or its hired experts conduct such collections in the proper manner.

For instance, X1 Social Discovery software features public Facebook capture that can search and collect publicly available Facebook pages without directly or indirectly notifying the account holder. This is critical functionality for eDiscovery preservation. Additionally, X1 Social Discovery accesses and displays Facebook pages in read-only mode, preventing metadata alternation, inadvertent friend requests or “like” tagging through a simple slip of the mouse. X1 Social Discovery includes other features concerning Twitter and Linkedin that also prevent indirect communications while effectively collecting data from those sites. We will be highlighting those features in the next few weeks, but in the meantime, we hope you enjoy our webinar.


Filed under Best Practices, Legal Ethics & Social Media