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Changing the Way we Work

By Amol Bargaje, CIO, Jenner & Block


Amol Bargaje, CIO, Jenner & Block

Technology as a Game Changer

Value creation is the best example of  technology’s new role in our organizations. We all know technology must pay-off the promise of innovation but when it creates value—both internally and externally—then it’s a game changer.

At Jenner & Block, our recent successful implementation of NextJen–our virtual desktop environment—has been a catalyst for system-wide productivity. NextJen leverages Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) to provide a consistent look-and-feel of the firm's desktop from anywhere (on network or remote) and regardless of the device (Mac/PC/tablet) used. Reduced downtime and enhanced security have been other NextJen advantages.

 "We all know technology must pay-off the promise of innovation but when it creates value–both internally and externally— then it’s a game changer "

This initiative is a good example of how the role of technology within the law firm environment has matured from being a tactical, operational one to a more strategic function. Today, technology provides a competitive advantage.

Legal Project Management is another area where Jenner & Block has used technology for strategic advantage. For example, we created a one-of-a-kind matter budgeting tool that provides transparency to fees incurred throughout the month as well as an automated comparison to actual results, among other features. The greatest benefit of our approach is that it is not a one-size-fits-all program but rather, a menu of tools and customizable taxonomies which our practice groups embrace. Culturally, this has also fostered an important level of buy-in among our lawyers.

Concerns that Tremor the Industry 

Not surprisingly, information security and data protection concerns keep me up at night. The concern is how to find practical, end-to-end solutions that help us use our sensitive data in the most efficient, effective, and compliant manner possible. New vulnerabilities are unearthed every day and the threat landscape is constantly evolving. Keeping up with the pressures of innovating, and keeping the lights on while keeping the firm secure is a very challenging conundrum. It does help by the way that Jenner & Block has a leading Privacy and Information Governance practice that includes three former Chief Privacy Officers in its ranks.

What helps everyone is when solution vendors provide holistic solutions that are easy to integrate. They need to partner with clients like us to understand our business needs and create custom ways for us to address them.

Rendering the Needs

The pressure in the legal industry to innovate has never been greater than it is today. We look at every possible way for technology to allow us to be more efficient. Any technology that will help automate a higher-cost, resource-intensive task into a lower-cost, reliable alternative is going to be disrupting—and may be something for us to adopt. Technologies like IBM's Watson Artificial Intelligence (AI) are making inroads into the legal industry. Projects like ROSS Intelligence are helping move lab prototypes into reality. Predictive analysis for e-discovery has been getting better and better every year.

Another technology trend to watch is Blockchain and the 'Internet of Value' that it is heralding. Blockchain is the technology underpinning the well-known cryptocurrency— Bitcoin. Though Bitcoin results have been mixed and its reception tarnished by ransom-ware demands in that currency, Blockchain has the potential to disrupt many industries by democratizing and decentralizing transactions without sacrificing security. The implications to legal industry are huge—not just because of the regulatory concerns that Blockchain brings to the forefront, but also due to the effect it has on contract drafting, administration and enforcement in the form of 'smart contracts'.

Looking for the Silver Lining

The legal IT industry has traditionally been behind its peers in terms of getting attention from a lot of suppliers. This had resulted in oligopolistic markets where a few players had the majority of the market share, not because they were best-in-class, but because those were the limited choices for the legal industry. Another issue I have seen is that the solutions designed for the corporate market were modified to fit into the legal sector. This affected the congruity of the solutions to our business processes and hence, affectedtheir adoption. This has begun to change in recent years. Large suppliers have started paying attention to the legal industry, realizing the untapped potential of our sector. This is a welcome change. In the past decade, many suppliers have built solutions from scratch, with the legal industry in mind, and the results are there for everyone to see. This trend needs to continue.

Although we are now beginning to see promises to support new versions of Office and Windows within 90 days, sometimes it takes multiple quarters for critical vendors to provide a compatible version. This needs to change and legal industry vendors need to be more agile especially in their support of underlying Microsoft technologies.

Grabbing the Opportunity

Invest time to understand the business your clients (lawyers and other legal support staff) are in and what their pain points are. Establish relationships to become a trusted partner to your business stakeholders. Technology is the seat of innovation in every organization and as a tech leader, it puts you in the driver's seat. If you are well-prepared and organized, then it’s time to enjoy the ride.

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