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  The National Law Journal

     April 4, 2000

Lawyers and Technology: Vendors Spring to Act

Mark Voorhees
The National Law Journal

There's something about late March and early April. That period seems to bring vendors out of their offices and into the market with new releases, products and services. Below, a sampling. One of the hot topics these days is client collaboration. How does a firm exchange documents and ideas with clients in a secure, seamless way? Firms use groupware such as Notes, extranets such as those built by Legal Anywhere (now Nikku) or portals such as that offered by Plumtree Software.

San Mateo, Calif.'s iManage Inc. says that it has a better way to collaborate. Rather than building a new system, such as an extranet, or jury-rigging an existing one, such as groupware, iManage has built its infoCommerce product suite from the ground up to enable collaboration.

Houston's Vinson & Elkins recently set up an iManage system that will allow the firm to share legal documents, e-mail, faxes and other documents with clients.

"We can offer clients easy access to information pertaining to their projects, while ensuring that the firm maintains control over who has access to specific content," says Tim Armstrong, the firm's information technology director.

iManage entered the legal market as a document management vendor. "We've always had the software that lets you collect and share information internally," says Rick Klau, director of industry marketing for legal markets. The latest generation of products basically opens up certain parts of the document management system to clients. In this way, the security, auditing and tracking tools of document management are retained.

A primary disadvantage of extranets is that "you've created a system that has no connection to the internal system," Klau says.

iManage's main competitor in the legal market is Hummingbird Communications Ltd., the owner of the PC DOCS line of software. Hummingbird recently released a legal version of its enterprise information portal. The difference between the two approaches, says Klau, is that Hummingbird is still focused on organizing information for internal rather than external use.

iManage is not alone in the collaboration game. The company that brings you postage machines wants to help you keep track of your documents, too. Pitney Bowes Inc., of Stamford, Conn., is set to announce a document collaboration and storage service. It will be Web-based. No big surprise there; nearly all new services are these days. One of the target markets is the legal profession. No big surprise there, either, given the volumes of paper lawyers create.

ProLaw Software, of Albuquerque, N.M., has big ambitions for the legal market but hasn't had all that much success with the largest firms -- until now. The company recently snared Cleveland's Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue as a client, and they don't get much bigger than that. The 1,300-lawyer firm is installing ProLaw's software that ties together firm matters, contact and document management software into a unified desktop.

One of the few firms that tops Jones Day in size is Clifford Chance, with more than 3,000 lawyers around the globe. The London-based firm has just hooked up with one of the newest and smallest legal vendors, Ozmosys. New York's Ozmosys has three employees on a good day. It is supplying Clifford Chance with its OzmoBots, intelligent agents that scour the Web for fresh content of interest to the firm.

A firm might, for example, deploy an OzmoBot to report every time there is a Securities and Exchange Commission filing for a client. The filing can then be made available on a lawyer's desktop through the firm's intranet. Ozmosys may be small, but it has seasoned management: Joseph Bookman, one of the founders of the CompInfo matter-management program, and Eric Gross, a former vice president of NMatrix, a knowledge-management vendor in New York.

WHAT NEXT?
In no particular order, the following legal software functions have been converted to Web applications during the past year or so: litigation support, time-and-billing and document management. Now lawyers can also view depositions on a Web site. A Chicago company, I-DEP has launched a service that lets lawyers listen to and watch ongoing depositions. The first test was completed on March 27, when a group of Chicago lawyers watched a deposition performed by co-counsel in Las Vegas in a civil suit. The Chicago lawyers were able to send e-mail messages to the lawyer conducting the deposition. I-DEP was co-founded by Julie Furer, a 32-year-old associate at Chicago's Schiff Hardin & Waite.

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