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The International Practice Management Association is your primary resource for information and education on the management of practice support professionals including paralegals in law firms, corporations, and law departments globally. Its mission is to advocate for the effective use and management of these professionals, to promote and enhance the proficiency and professionalism of its members, and to provide practical resources and cutting-edge solutions to the membership, the legal industry, and the public at large on the value of utilization and management of practice support professionals.

April 2020


© International Practice Management Association. The contents of this publication may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the written consent of the IPMA. Opinions expressed in Inspired Leadership are those of the writers and are not necessarily those of the IPMA. The appearance of advertisements and product or service information does not constitute an endorsement by the IPMA as to the quality and/or reliability of the products or services. Product information is based solely on material received from suppliers.

 

IN THIS ISSUE:

A New Way to Work and Manage... Sorta
Infringement of Intellectual Property
You Don't Even Know What You Know
A Look from the Other Side- Reflections on Moving In-House
COVID-19: Tales from the Trenches at Home with Kids
Leveraging Professional Teams to Build A Sustainable Innovation Strategy for Your Firm

  Save the Date!


36th Annual IPMA Conference & Expo 
Hotel Omni Mont-Royal
October 14-16, 2020

Registration will go live on June 1, 2020. 
www.theipma.org/savethedate

 

A New Way to Work and Manage... Sorta

By: Lisa Ricchezza, Paralegal and Legal Professional Administrative Manager, Dechart LLP

This is not the article I intended to write when I was asked a few months back. Who could have imagined the amount of change that has taken place in such a short time span? The vast majority of us are now working remotely.  I think back to our conference in Seattle where this topic was discussed thoroughly. There were many firms who were early adapters, some thinking about the possibility and others firmly against the concept. Well, here we are, with or without, our well thought policies and procedures. How is it going?
 
I have spoken to several colleagues and the answer seems to be surprisingly well. It looks like most firms have handled the technology piece. My paralegals were well placed for starters as everyone has laptops with secured VPN connections. Other firms permitted the desktop, monitors and printers to be taken home. Some firms have allowed purchases. Many are using personal computers with remote connections. Incrementally, the technical challenges are being met.
 
The universal complaint is that connections are slow. Especially if you are competing for bandwidth being used by your new co-workers. I am at home with my adult daughters, now unemployed, and husband who is trying to digitally review blueprints and run complex estimating tools. We have been kicked offline a couple of times. This is to be expected and we just have to roll with it.
 
Managers have an opportunity to make a real difference with our staff. While some are seasoned remote workers, for many more this is a first-time experience. Some will do fine and others will struggle. Communication continues to be the key to all successful management. Depending on your responsibilities, you will need to play different roles. I don’t delegate work or supervise the work product of the paralegals. I have begun to look at my role as more of the “Cruise Director” who is out there encouraging engagement and keeping spirts up. One paralegal told me earlier today that this was the first time she used her voice to communicate with anyone in days. The lack of in-person connections take a toll.

Many managers are using calls, videoconferences, sharing pictures and words of wisdom, happy hours etc. to bring their teams together on a personal level. If the personal communication is not happening in your organization, go for it!! The communication will do a world of good for you too!


 

Infringement of Intellectual Property

Luis A. Rodriguez, Client Service Representative, United Corporate Services, Inc.




International IPR infringement is a growing concern for United States companies especially in sectors such as pharmaceutical, agricultural, chemical & textile manufacturers as they spend billions in developing new products and in fighting piracy or counterfeit goods, resulting in huge revenue losses. Many countries understand the importance of intellectual property protection to the development of their economies as U.S. companies employ more than 400,000 people in the United States and many more abroad, so protection is warranted and needed.
 
Intellectual Property rights are often not treated as a top priority when running a business. This is a critical step that every business owner should closely examine.            
 
Failure to recognize IP rights can have steep repercussions for your business including financial and reputational damage. Violations can open doors to potential lawsuits with big price tags, civil damages, injunction, impoundments, lost profits and significant legal fees to attorneys for expensive litigation so avoiding infringement is critical.
 
The first step in protecting your intellectual property is recognizing one of the four types you might encounter:
 
  1. Copyrights are original artistic works including music, literature, video, movie, architecture and computer software.
  2. Trademarks protect branding words like phrases, symbols, logos, goods, services and companies.
  3. Patents cover inventions and rights to the invention for a predetermined time.  These include utility, design and plant patents. The inventor’s identity is secretive in nature until the patent is published.
  4. Trade secrets protect information of a proprietary nature which includes formulas, programs and data.
 
What should you do to protect yourself?
Small businesses should begin by checking the United States Patent & Trademark Office databases to ensure a brand, logo, design or product name isn’t registered. A few ways to avoid infringing is to:
 
  1. Create original images or music,
  2. Obtain licenses from the copyright holders
  3. Use royalty free media to name a few
 
The Trade and Tariff Act of 1984 clarifies the conditions under which unfair trade cases under section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 can be pursued. It was strengthened by the 1988 Omnibus Foreign Trade and Competitiveness Act.
 
Until all foreign leaders police this issue within their countries, the U.S. will continue to experience exorbitant loss on infringement in the U.S. and abroad.


 

You Don't Even Know What You Know

By: Patty Maxwell, Litigation Specialist, Arnold & Porter LLP

One year ago, I was called into a meeting with my Directors with ten minutes notice. My first thought was “oh no, I’m history.”  Sadly, that is all too common these days. However, I held out some hope as it was a Monday at 4 pm and not a Friday. So, filled with a looming sense of dread, I went to that meeting having no idea what was going on. I was informed that I was being moved out of “Legal Assistant Management” and into managing the firm’s largest fixed-fee client. At that moment they might as well have been speaking Martian for all that I could wrap my head around this concept. My one real takeaway was that I was going to be managing time-billers and that one of the reasons that my name was floated was that I was not afraid to tell lawyers what to do. There was a lot of truth in that statement and it gave me hope that maybe, just maybe I could make this work.
 
My first call was to HQ to make sure that this change did not affect my membership status or my upcoming Presidency. Kelly Ash assured me that since I was now managing all time billers (the attorney side, the paralegals, and any other time biller) I was good to go. Once I had that measure of comfort I went home and wept for the next 24 hours. How could they do that to me? Why? What had I done wrong? I certainly went through the usual litany that all of us go through when some unexpected work wrench is thrown at us. 
 
After dozens of cold compresses and a ton of concealer (I am not one of those people who look good when they cry), I had to come up with a plan.  I knew that I had to make a success of this, and not only that, I wanted to do it so well that I opened a whole new career path for myself. Great idea but how?
 
My first step was to meet with the responsible partners and the finance folks to get a sense of what was expected of me. It was a simple directive - make a formerly traditional hourly billing client who has moved to a fixed fee arrangement profitable. No sweat right? Nope more like the stuff of nightmares. How do you shift the mindset of an enormous team of time billers? I tried to figure out what tools I had my disposal since what I had been doing for the last 15 years was managing paralegals. After several days of panic attacks, I had a gigantic “AHA” moment. What did I already know? I knew productivity. I knew how to look at the monthly reports for 125 or so paralegals and see who needed work and I knew how to make them more profitable. I had the finance folks (or as I call them my new best friends) run reports for me showing profitability at differing billing levels as against a fixed fee billing number. I ran more reports that showed workflow distributions and was able to determine by looking at bills where people could be moved to be more profitable. One of my areas of responsibility was and continues to be reviewing pre-bills for narrative accuracy, etc. This gave me a very fulsome idea of who is doing what and where there are inefficiencies. I began to make little suggestions of ways that staffing at lower levels could be tweaked. I added some lower level billers to cut down on non-exempt overtime. I instituted a policy whereby every minute of overtime is approved by me before it is worked so that associates had to be mindful of real deadlines. As we implemented these things the teams began to work better and more efficiently.
 
I soon realized that what makes a successful paralegal manager is completely translatable to my new job. Pre-bills and narratives- no problem- I had been teaching baby paralegals how to craft emails and time entries for years. Productivity- been there done that. Staffing- check. Working with difficult people- got the tee shirt. Managing up and down- I’m good. Organization- well what paralegal isn’t already the best organized member of the team? And of course- telling lawyers what to do- well they got that right- love it!
 
In short, my new job is a whole lot like my old job in many ways and entirely different as well. I was able (after the deep breaths) to realize that as paralegal managers we have a diverse skill set that translates to other jobs. Maybe its managing records or lit support or secretaries or docketing, but the takeaway is the same: Management. Once you understand that what you know is how to manage then you do what you do best - manage.
 
I am almost a year into my new job, and I love it. I had a lot of challenges to get up and running but I quickly figured out who could teach me what I didn’t know how to do and for the rest I used what I had painstakingly learned over 15 years. My takeaway was that I really didn’t know what I already knew.


 

A Look from the Other Side- Reflections on Moving In-House

By: Laura Porter, Manager, Corporate Services, OMERS
      Emily Visone, Senior Analyst- Global Mobility & Immigration, CSG

Laura Porter
Currently Manager, Corporate Secretariat for OMERS (pension fund company)
Previously held Manager, Corporate Services for Wildeboer Dellelce LLP

 
It has been almost 6 years since I moved from a Law Firm to In-House and while most of my main responsibilities remain the same, there are many things that have changed. What is different you may ask, and one of my favorites is that I am no longer required to track my time (I really do not miss this). I am not taking instructions from 100 different lawyers and trying to juggle the conflicting priorities. I am fortunate enough to no longer pull all-nighters (sorry, but that’s partly why we hire law firms). While some differences are small others took a long time for me to adjust.
 
In a law firm you are all working towards one goal, servicing the client well and making sure you get your time in so clients can be billed and in turn the firm gets paid. In my current role, the legal department is a very small part of the bigger picture, which can create challenges that took some getting used to. There is often more red tape with respect to getting answers and implementing new processes. I have had to adjust my thinking beyond the transaction.

 
Emily Visone
Currently Sr. Analyst – Global Mobility & Immigration for CSG (business-to-business software company).  Previously held Paralegal, Practice Support Coordinator, and Paralegal Manager roles with Gibney, Anthony & Flaherty LLP (New York), Steptoe & Johnson LLP (D.C.), and Ogletree Deakins (Denver).
 
Moving into my current role about one year ago, brought along MANY changes. Prior to this position, I had only worked within law firms since graduating from college.  When I moved in-house, not only did I go from a law firm to a software company, also I went from a Legal professional to a subject-matter expert within a Global HR team.  This has challenged me in many ways, but has introduced me to new ways of thinking, communicating, and operating.
 
I am now directly accountable for making decisions that impact employees, stakeholders and executives around the world as part of a rapidly growing tech company.  This has certainly changed my working hours – early morning calls with colleagues in India and other far-off time zones are a regular part of my life now!  But it has also helped me develop the skills to more effectively communicate with people from a variety of cultural and professional backgrounds, and to adjust to the rapid pace of continued business growth.  I’m still learning to be comfortable being the “expert” after so many years of deferring all final decisions to a supervising attorney. 
 
Similar to my work as an immigration paralegal, I am still managing many small “cases” and working on matters that directly impact the lives of the people that I support; however, I have needed to quickly adapt to less structured ways of working.  There are many days when I miss the systematic and organized approaches to the work at hand (no shock to those of you who know me!), as well as the strong camaraderie that can be found amongst fellow paralegals.  But, overall, moving in house was the right decision for me at this point in my career because it is allowing me to professionally develop and evolve at a rapid pace.
 
 

COVID-19: Tales from the Trenches at Home with Kids

By: Brian Bernhard, Office Administrator, 
Dentons US LLP

Starting a new job during a pandemic has been an interesting experience to say the least. During the interview process while I pondered whether this would be the right move for my family and me, I would have never thought the timing of my mid-March start date would be so unforgettable. I reassured my hiring manager numerous times that I can roll with the punches with the best of them and that she shouldn’t worry about my somewhat unusual onboarding. Truth be told, she could have never prepared me enough for what I was in for! 

Fortunately, by the time I joined the firm, the remote work plan was all in the execution stage. My timing for that couldn’t have been better. Since most of the office was already working remotely at this time, I was only able to meet a few people during the two days I had in the Denver office before heading home to work for an undetermined amount of time. Normally, I’d think - what a gig. I don’t even have to negotiate my remote work schedule!!!! And considering that it was my kids’ Spring Break, it really couldn’t be better (I thought).

During our Spring Break staycation, the schools announced that the children will be remote learning for the rest of the school year. Not only will our sixth grader and kindergartener be home until August, we have to be the in-person teachers for the next two months.  How is this going to work? I have a new job and I have to invest the time and effort to get up speed on the operations of the Denver office while working remotely and not really knowing anyone or anything about the office. Aside from that, my wife is the Executive Director of Foster Source, the nonprofit we founded that supports foster parents and kids in care, which is busier than ever at this time. At this point, we already don’t have enough time in the day to get our work done as it is, but now we are supposed to have time for schooling too?

We’ve read all of the social media posts that tell us to be patient and to just do the best we can. We were told to give ourselves some “grace” when it comes to schoolwork. Early on it was clear that the sixth grader will be fine on her own. Sure, we planned to check in to make sure the work is getting done. We were already familiar with the school’s missing work system and she already completed and submitted most of her schoolwork on her Chromebook. Being a tween, the social-emotional rollercoaster is the most significant issue we faced with our dear daughter.  She misses her friends, she’s happy, she’s sad, she’s stressed, she’s overworked, she’s bored, she’s not texting with boys, etc. Our focus for her has been on creating a balance. We are making sure she has a good balance of time to do her work, to do some chores, and to go outside to get some fresh air and exercise, which we hope will keep her spirits up while spending so much time with her dreadful parents. The phone and computer dominate her life and often times we determine her mood. Admittedly, we gave her some leeway with her phone. She can use  it to connect with her friends more during the day BUT we tightened up the rules on when the phone needs to be put away for the night to ensure she gets some good sleep. That, after overhearing her talking to lord knows who at 11:00 PM one evening. 

And then there’s our little guy. He’s a six-year-old boy with distractions everywhere. He’s home with all of his toys and devices and games and the dog and his family. He also has what may be the world’s shortest attention span. How are we going to get any schoolwork accomplished? Fortunately, the school has activities that can be done on-demand and not at a given time, and we can work on them at times that work best for everyone. I spent the first week just figuring out how the system works and how to access and submit the assignments and complete the learning opportunities. By the beginning of the second week, I was ready to knock it out of the park! I had a system worked out, and we were going to front load our week and get all of the work done early on. That didn’t work so well for him and my patience flew out the window. My system didn’t work as planned and the balance of the schoolwork and our full-time jobs did not work at all. I was trying to squeeze the work in between emails and other projects. Time to rethink things a bit, because this was going to kill me!
In preparation for week three, I knew I had to work out a better plan. This was not working for anyone and driving everyone crazy. All we needed in our house was more stress!!! So, I revised my plan again and this time I gave him more choices of assignments with a balance of math and reading, easy and hard for each day. We were going to do no more than four assignments per day and if we didn’t get all four done, who cares! The goal was to just get through it healthy and happy. The most important change was that I was no longer going to (try to) multitask during his schoolwork. We were going to get to a point where I could focus solely on working with him without worrying about my inbox. This week was much more successful in creating a balanced and harmonious environment for everyone and probably more productive as well. It is by no means a perfect system, but it’s working for now and I can tweak it more along the way. At this point, more schoolwork is getting done and my work time is more productive, too. 

Now that we have the children settled (the college kid does not accept guidance or assistance from his parents anymore), the next thing to worry about is self-care for the parents. We have been cycling through all of the tools in our toolbox and are being very understanding with ourselves and each other.  For an extravert like me, it’s hard to stay home especially with people who always want to be fed and either talk incessantly or not at all!!! We have relatively successfully employed all the great tools of meditation, exercise, alone time, together time, movies, binge watching TV, social media, board games, games on our phone, cooking, drinking, yardwork, church time, and zoom meetings with friends and relatives. You name it, we’ve tried it. But we still found ourselves getting stuck in ruts.

For us, we have also found that it’s all about the balance and being flexible with one another. When I have a bad day, my wife finds errands for me to run to get me away from it all for a while and see what the outside world is like. When she gets cabin fever, I encourage her to go for a run or at least to get outside for a while. We find we have to watch out for each other more than we may have ever had to in the past. We have to patient with each other and ourselves, too, and give ourselves some grace in dealing with ourselves and each other, too. 

We are experiencing a very unique time in our lives filled with worry and anxiety. For the first time in my career, I also have the rare opportunity to spend every day and night with the ones I love most. I have to remind myself of this regularly. We have been given this unheard of opportunity and I don’t want to blow it. And most importantly, I don’t want our children to look back this time thinking, I thought my parents were crazy and cranky before COVID19, but that was nothing compared to how they were during the stay-at-home order. I want them to look back and think that was a scary time, but we got through it as a family and we loved spending so much time together. It’s a work in progress, and with a little patience and grace, I think we’ll all get there.  


 

Chapter 1: Leveraging Professional Teams to Build A Sustainable Innovation Strategy for Your Firm

By: Anna McGrane, COO and Co-Founder, PacerPro





Over the last decade or so, law firms have felt both internal and external pressure to innovate. However, innovation without direction is akin to a boat without a rudder – lost at sea. Oftentimes, real innovation comes from taking a hard look at today’s processes and figuring out how to improve upon them.
 
“Innovation isn’t about starting from scratch – you want to look at what your strengths are, and where you can grow from internally.” Gwen Watson, Winston & Strawn
 
Contributors:
Amber Goodenough, Andrea Markstrom, Elaine Screechfield, Gary Melhuish, Gene D’Aversa, Greg Lambert, Gwen Watson, Patty Maxwell
 
Mining your own data – where to start
Leveraging data to create a new strategic approach requires two things many firms struggle to maintain – good data and good process. Who on your team can help? Try docketing.
 
“I know that I still get surprised responses from finance or marketing of ‘Oh! We can get that from docketing?!’” Elaine Screechfield
 
Industry overview
Docketing has undergone substantial changes over the past ten years, moving from a decentralized back-office function to, in an increasing number of firms, a cohesive business unit with expertise in data capture, data organization, and risk management. Centralization and professionalization of the docketing department (moving docketing from a task performed as one of many by a non-specialist to specialized docketing teams increasingly led by a JD) is an effect of a variety of factors:
 
●  Risk management pressure from insurance companies;
●  More cross-office work, requiring greater collaboration between docketing teams; and
●  Higher volume of filings, pushing firms towards greater use of software tools.
 
Centralization of teams and the adoption of software tools enables standardization of process, and clean, consistent data capture. Automation tools also free up docketing time, enabling managers to spend more time on value-added projects, such as business development, competitive intelligence, and legal research.
 
Characteristics
“The type of person who responds well to this position is someone who is in love with detail and structure. You’re dealing with rules-based folks.” Elaine Screechfield
 
As calendaring and filing specialists, docketers are intimately familiar with the underlying data in litigation matters – and take the time to make sure it’s properly tagged and organized. And because of the nature of the work (any incorrect calculation or missed filing can be the source of a malpractice claim), the profession attracts detail- and process-oriented individuals focused on compliance in a complex litigation environment.
 
“Our job is to help mitigate risk, which we can’t do effectively unless we have people who are both well versed in rules and procedures and have the relationships and political capital necessary to execute.”
Amber Goodenough
 
“You hire people who understand the importance of workflow. But as the manager you have to understand if your workflows are reasonable. Given the consequences of making a mistake or missing something in the dock- eting world, you know you can’t just create something that looks good on paper – it has to be sustainable with a high chance of compliance.” Elaine Screechfield
 
Future
The future is a story of collaboration – leveraging the people and processes developed and battle-tested in docketing departments to expand the scope of information gathered and tagged to help law firms and case teams gain greater insight into the work they are performing.
 
“There are still docketers starting at firms assigned to the back office and trying to get the attention of upper management for basics like deadlines and policies, reporting to IT departments on how many records they process. That’s a challenge. But once you show people the data you have, the way it’s organized, the way we defend that data, and help them understand what you can use it for, you can be forward thinking and collaborative with other departments.” Elaine Screechfield
 
“We see everything in litigation matters – and our teams are experts in data capture. Docket 2.0 is about collaborating with other departments – helping them understand what we have, them helping us figure out what they need, and working together to figure out how we can get that for them in a reliable, scalable fashion that is as self-service as possible.” Amber Goodenough
 
Learn more
Interested in additional docketing related resources? Contact the National Docketing Association (www.nationaldocketing.org) or visit their website.
 
Communication and collaboration – where to start
The more you know about your case teams and their day-to-day challenges, the better able you’ll be to identify meaningful opportunities for innovation. But elucidating use cases can be hard in a profession where time is literally money, and user feedback may be scant or difficult to decipher. What’s a great resource? Your librarians.
 
Overview
As information has gone digital, and advanced technologies, such as machine learning and search algorithms, have become common- place, the role of the librarian has evolved and expanded, stretching from competitive intelligence to business development to knowledge management.
 
Key strengths include:
 
  • Understanding of information architecture;
  • Ability to vet and distinguish between different data sets and algorithms; and
  • Ability to connect information, people and technology.
 
“There was a saying a friend of mine used to use a lot when it came     to knowledge management and that was ‘enterprise search never kept any partner up at night’. But that doesn’t mean enterprise search isn’t important – it just means the librarian has a sales job, having to figure out how to position a needed tool appropriately so that its benefits are understood by decision makers at the firm.” Greg Lambert
 
In addition, at many firms, librarians have taken the lead on contract management.
 
“Librarians are taking on more of the business side of our firms. We’re really looking at, how do we make everyone more efficient? How do    we get the right information without duplication? How do we create budgets?” Greg Lambert
 
Characteristics of librarians
Librarians are experts at asking questions and getting up to speed in an industry with notoriously high standards. This requires a combination of people skills and flexibility – because you can’t control the results, just ensure that you have taken appropriate steps to establish the best answer possible under the circumstances.
 
“Research just doesn’t happen in isolation – it’s done for someone, and to do it right, you need to know how to develop a shared understanding of how everyone works. Those relationships and that level of communication is key as you begin to think about changing not just how we’re delivering legal service, but the types of services we’re creating and offering.” Gwen Watson
 
Future
In the same way that librarians have a diverse set of skills, there are a diverse set of opportunities for them to contribute to innovation.
 
“We’ve got a new focus, but in a lot of ways it doesn’t feel that different. It’s a natural underpinning of what we’ve always done with the research interview – really getting to understand the person and their challenges to make sure we are solving the right problem in a way that’s effective. It’s just now we’ll be working to match people with technology and process in addition to information resources.” Gwen Watson
 
What’s the end game?
 
“The goal here is not to have a technology innovation department – really we want to create the infrastructure necessary to enable the entire firm to be more innovative. This isn’t putting new frosting on the same old cake – it’s rethinking what we’re putting on the table and how it will holistically impact our clients.” Gwen Watson
 
Learn more
The American Association of Law Librarians (www.aallnet.org) offers a host of educational resources.
 
People and project management – where to start
Helping your firm reap the rewards offered by efficient modern management strategies can be a challenge. Attorneys, specialists in legal thinking and practice, do not necessarily receive management training, and, when they do, they come at a hefty price point. Paralegals, on the other hand, have years of experience managing complex multi-generational teams, making them a low-cost project management resource.
 
“You start and end with the idea that paralegals are billing at a substantially reduced rate to other time billers.” Patty Maxwell
 
Industry overview
The scope and complexity of the paralegal manager role involves the management of rapidly evolving resources. Factors contributing to the increasing reliance on paralegal managers include:
 
● Cost pressures from clients;
● Improving technology; and
● Availability of outside resources.
 
“Most law firms today have a robust team of staff attorneys or similarly positioned attorneys that review documents in house and work with outside services for key elements of case management. There are also   a host of ever changing software tools that need to be implemented on the ground. With flat fee arrangements, budgets have become ever more important. In the past, the junior associate would often handle much    of this – but at a higher billing rate and with less specialized project management education and experience.” Patty Maxwell
 
Paralegal teams were also some of the first to hire large teams of millennials – and are now some of the first to be working with a sizable population of Gen Z. This gives them advance notice – and expertise – as to changes in the management style required for the adequate training, development and retention of the next generation of legal professionals.
 
“At firms, we’re all expected to manage up to attorneys – learn their style and adapt our method of service delivery. But as a paralegal manager, you also have to manage down: adjusting to help make multi-generational teams function to the highest standards possible.” Patty Maxwell
 
Characteristics of paralegals
From a project management perspective, paralegals are the people that help make sure things happen.
 
“Paralegals are people who can keep things flowing, enabling junior associates and staff attorneys to just review documents and not deal with case management.” Patty Maxwell
 
They also play a key role in technology implementation.
 
“The core skill is thinking about how to use technology. This doesn’t mean building a solution, but looking at what our technology does, and finding any holes, and figuring out how we can plug them.” Gary Melhuish
 
“Paralegals often take the lead in planning and presenting technology. As far as the lawyer’s concerned, we’re the UX for many software tools.” Patty Maxwell
 
Future
Like any cost center, a sign of success in legal in 2020 is predictability and efficiency.
 
“I’m working on a team with one of the firm’s largest fixed fee clients.    I have gone from managing 100 plus paralegals to managing 200 plus time billers. The key skills seem to be budgeting and understanding of the legal process. That’s to say, they could have put someone in finance in my role – but someone with a straight finance background would have had to play catch up on what the legal teams are doing, and spend years building the relationships and political capital necessary for change management. As a paralegal, you’ve lived the workflows and grown up with the attorneys and teams. So it’s easier to identify low-hanging fruit as the firm evolves in how it delivers legal services.” Patty Maxwell
 
Learn more
Interested in learning more? The International Practice Management Association (www.theipma.org) has a variety of master classes and other resources.
 
Efficiency gains and better process – where to start
A data-driven future means more than just good data – it means deriving insight and actionable intelligence from your information resources. Need a space for R&D? Look to IT.
 
“We don’t just provide information anymore – we’re a space where innovation work is actually done.”
Gene D’Aversa
 
Industry overview
As the size of firms has expanded, the number of documents and data has increased, and the number, type, and scale of technology tools    has skyrocketed, the role of IT professional has grown from help-desk support and security to business partner.
 
“It is a different conversation and deliverable now than it was a few years ago. Today, providing stable, reliable and secure systems is table stakes.” Andrea Markstrom
 
“It used to be about delivery – getting the right data to the right place   at the right time. Now the job focuses on efficiency, connecting systems, creating dashboards, on not just getting the information to your internal team, but understanding what data and information the client needs, and how to get that to them.” Gene D’Aversa
 
IT has been particularly important in streamlining inefficiencies.
 
“The requirement is designing processes and systems  that  automate and streamline how work product and services are delivered to clients. This includes analyzing the lifecycle of a matter or work stream and applying business process optimization, lean and agile methodologies, and project management disciplines. Also, providing legal teams solutions and opportunities to share information and collaborate is critical.” Andrea Markstrom
 
Characteristics of IT teams
“In IT, it’s about a holistic and disciplined approach to leading and talent management. Skillsets such as business analysis, critical thinking, business acumen, strong interpersonal and communication skills are equally important as the technical knowledge. It is seeking to under- stand requirements, and delivering efficient and scalable solutions and services that provide business value.” Andrea Markstrom
 
“In IT, it’s the combination of technical and creative skills. Someone who understands what work looks like in a law firm, and knows how and is not afraid to communicate to all our clients, internal and external. Someone who is bright, but looks to identify and is excited to solve problems.” Gene D’Aversa
 
Future
As the role of technology changes and expands in law firms, the opportunity for IT to not just contribute tools but to help shape innovation is expanding.
“We’re dealing with processes that  have  stacked  inefficiencies,  where people have built an inefficient process or several workarounds because a legacy system wasn’t able to adapt to what was needed. By fixing the root causes, we get quick wins. But the real value is – once you have a standardized, streamlined process – you get great data, and you can give that to the client. Then we’re not just working faster, we’re offering new services and creating new opportunities.” Gene D’Aversa
 
“For IT, the time is to be present, interact and collaborate with all areas within the firm. We cannot operate within a silo. We need to drive the discussion with legal teams and administration, understand require- ments and desired outcomes, and provide the opportunity to create, innovate and work together to differentiate the firm.” Andrea Markstrom
 
Conclusion
Defining innovation roles is inherently challenging. However, if we take a cue from other professions such as healthcare and finance, we know that better business process, better technology, better data, and more data-driven analysis can create significant wins. Fortunately for law firms, on staff are professionals with the experience and expertise to help lead those initiatives.
 
More information
Amber Goodenough
Docket manager and counsel, Winston & Strawn LLP Membership Committee, National Docketing Association
Amber works to create and implement best practices in the areas of elec- tronic court filing and centralized docketing and collaborates with business development, collective intelligence and research, and information services to find innovative ways to leverage her team’s work to contribute to the firm’s business development and knowledge management efforts.
 
Andrea Markstrom
Chief innovation officer, Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP Formerly group manager, Target Corporation
Founder, iWill Women’s Leadership Organization
Andrea has more than 25 years of experience in the technology sector. As the chief information officer at Taft, Andrea is responsible for firm- wide information technology, innovation, and security initiatives across all of Taft’s offices and practice areas. As Founder of i.WILL (Inspiring Women Igniting Leadership & Learning) professional networking organization, Andrea is committed to supporting and advancing women in their careers.
 
Elaine Screechfield
Firmwide litigation docket manager, Morrison & Foerster LLP President, National Docketing Association
For over 30 years, Elaine has overseen centralized litigation docketing, including training, court resource management, and database support. As president of the National Docketing Association, she facilitates nation- wide learning and networking opportunities in the areas of calendar management and court/agency filings.
 
Gary Melhuish
Manager of litigation support services, formerly director of legal assistants, Ballard Spahr LLP
International Practice Management Association, past president
Gary has been a paralegal manager in law firms for 30 years; in his current role he also supervises teams of litigation support and docketing personnel.
 
Gene D’Aversa
Director of project management IT, Husch Blackwell LLP
Gene’s expertise spans over 26 years in legal IT. Today, Gene supports innovations, project, and process management initiatives at Husch Blackwell LLP while leading the knowledge management, application, and development teams.
 
Greg Lambert
Chief knowledge services officer, Jackson Walker LLP President, American Association of Law Libraries, 2017-2018
Greg Lambert is the chief knowledge services officer for Jackson Walker LLP in Houston, Texas. He is also the co-founder of Three Geeks and a Law Blog and co-host for The Geek in Review Podcast.
 
Gwen Watson
Director of legal technology innovation, Winston & Strawn LLP
Gwen Watson has worked in law firm libraries for the majority of her career, from technical services to electronic resources management and eventually serving in a library director role. Today she is director of legal technology innovation at Winston & Strawn LLP, overseeing research services, intelligence resources, enterprise applications and technology learning with the aim of helping the firm continuously evolve by empowering innovation.
 
Patty Maxwell
Fixed fee litigation specialist, Arnold & Porter
President, International Practice Management Association
Patty Maxwell has been a proud member of the IPMA for the past 15 years and is the current president. She has been a member of their Board for the past six years. She has been at Arnold & Porter for the last 15 years, first as the legal assistant manager and most recently as a fixed fee litigation specialist.