Peer to Peer Magazine

March 2012

The quarterly publication of the International Legal Technology Association

Issue link: http://www.mygazines.com/i/57001

Contents of this Issue

Navigation

Page 9 of 103

Let's look at the three common models for workspace design. All three approaches are characterized by many empty folders and/or general chaos. • A minimalist approach, which creates one folder for documents and one for email messages, and lets users create subfolders • The generic practice-area approach, which creates lots of folders to cover different circumstances using fixed structures • Crafting folders according to the type of matter, which — while more precise than the practice-area approach — also requires the creation of lots of folders using fixed structures None of these models works well in a collaborative environment. A labor and employment practice, for example, typically provides a variety of services, ranging from discrimination litigation, union negotiations, employment contracts and employee handbooks. A minimalist approach (one folder for email messages, one for documents) means that no matter is organized in the same way. Typically, each user builds his own folder structures under each root folder, such as Sally's documents and Joe's documents, for example. This might serve some goals of risk management, but it is a useless model for collaboration. The generic practice-area approach produces whole sets of folders that are unnecessary to the matter, forcing users to navigate through many empty folders, which creates confusion in a collaborative environment. In addition, if end users are allowed to create subfolders, the tendency is for people to create their own world that no one else understands. Crafting folders according to the type of matter requires too many different workspace templates and also creates confusion, the death knell for collaboration. In this scenario, the determination of the workspace design is made at matter opening. However, because lawyers often do not have a good understanding of all the work the matter encompasses, they are forced to guess the matter type. If they are wrong, the whole structure will need to be reworked, which creates a burden for both IT and the user population. The other challenge with traditional models for workspace design is that none of them deal with cross-practice matters. For example, any matter involving a merger or acquisition will not only involve the corporate group but, depending on its complexity, could also involve many other practice areas, including tax, labor and employment, real estate, finance, intellectual property and even litigation. The ability to allow each group to have their own folder structure for their part of the process is essential for collaboration. Put the Responsible Lawyer in Charge A concept I like to call "on-demand foldering" allows law firms to minimize the upfront business process and rapidly make adjustments as lawyers begin to map out their structures. This approach starts at matter opening with a simple, common core — working drafts, correspondence and matter administration — that can be added onto as standards, practices and adoption evolve. This approach is ideal for global collaboration for several reasons: • It puts the responsible lawyer in charge of the matter. • It ensures that group standards of the practice are observed. • It improves adoption of the electronic file with an easily understood structure that can be quickly rolled out. Control Who and What On-demand foldering also provides two dimensions of control: • The ability to control the "who" (i.e., who can add/delete/edit folders) • The ability to control the "what" (i.e., flexible naming standards by practice area) The first dimension of control, the "who," gives specific people control over folder operations — typically the responsible lawyer, the lawyer's assistant or a designee. This approach has a number of advantages, not the least of which is making the responsible lawyer actually responsible. In other words, on-demand foldering gives the matter a file steward who knows the matter well — and knows how it should be organized against practice-group standards — better than anyone else. Preventing other users from creating folders stems the chaos that foldering typically creates. Peer to Peer 11

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Peer to Peer Magazine - March 2012