Peer to Peer Magazine

March 2012

The quarterly publication of the International Legal Technology Association

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Page 8 of 103

best practices No More Calls at Midnight: Effective Collaboration on a Global Level by Keith Lipman, Esq. of Prosperoware Until recently, globalization was a trend largely confined to big companies. Today, however, we've entered a new era where even small firms, recognizing the growth opportunities, are proactively broadening their global reach. My own company, which is less than two years old, operates in three countries — albeit with a shoestring staff. Globalization takes a number of forms, some of them very complex. But in the legal industry, the model is fairly simple: establish networks of offices in numerous cities and unite the global and local within the services you offer your clients. Not surprisingly, setting up offices as far apart as New York and Tokyo and London and Hong Kong has both strategic advantages and tactical challenges. Among the very real strategic advantages is the ability to work on a matter around the clock. To effectively collaborate on a global level, however, requires an environment that is both standards- based and flexible. This is a tricky balance to maintain, but advances in IT, coupled with Web technologies, make it possible. An effective mechanism for global collaboration will include two elements at a minimum: • A set of standards flexible enough to accommodate a wide variety of matters, yet sufficiently formalized to enable lawyers to look at a matter, understand its structure, locate data, and hand it off to another lawyer (without calling anyone). • An adequate degree of data centralization that provides global access without sacrificing the firm's standards for confidentiality and data privacy. Flexible Yet Formal Standards For most lawyers, their desktop is their office, and a significant amount of information — including documents, spreadsheets, presentations and email messages — clutters their systems. Most law firms organize this information in a workspace to make it more broadly available as electronic files. This is an important first step for both managing risk and facilitating collaboration. For each matter, firms typically have at least one and possibly several workspaces. These workspaces house "virtual" case files that can contain tabs, document folders and search folders. Where the system breaks down, in a way that is especially detrimental to global collaboration, is in the traditional approach to workspace design. Traditional workspace design is front-loaded, which requires the practice group to decide on the "perfect" structure. This process takes too long, requires multiple meetings and produces suboptimal results. The fundamental reason this approach doesn't work is that users often do not understand what they need until they begin managing an electronic file. 10 Peer to Peer

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