Monthly Archives: October 2008

New document search tools that can help you work smarter and leaner

When it comes to technology, we tend to find that the larger firms lead the way because they have more resources available and can generate more of a return on investment because of the number of people and offices involved. So if you work in a firm outside the top 250, it’s always a good idea to keep tabs on what they are doing. Here we cover an important example of this, where there are new solutions becoming available that ought to be investigated.

Search tools that enable you to search all documents in all formats across the whole of your practice are one good example where firms can learn and benefit from the investment and experience of the firms that have already taken a lead here, with new lower cost solutions becoming available – even on the basis that you can download it free and configure it yourselves, or employ specialists to do this job for you at an affordable and justifiable cost; an attractive option for firms of any size.

Lawyers and support staff waste a huge amount of time trying to find documents and duplicating what they can’t find, so the ability to search all the documents and data on your IT systems quickly to find a document that could now be in one of many formats – Word, Excel, Powerpoint, PDF, email, images, SQL data and html web pages, to name just a few – can make a big difference to productivity and your bottom line. These documents can be live in your case management system, on your website, in Microsoft SharePoint sites (where searching using the inbuilt tools is not easy) or archived away to free up space. So finding them through your case, practice or document management system is not going to work as well as you want. How do you find them now?

The documents themselves can include counsel’s opinions, case law reports, templates, cases, notes from training seminars, so they are also the documented part of the know-how of your practice, so a search facility that can find what you want easily (without tedious coding and filing systems) can now become a significant part of a firm’s knowledge management system. The market leaders amongst the top 250 firms in this area are Solcara Solsearch (www.solcara.com), Recommind MindServer (www.recommind.com) and Tikit Know-how Systems (www.tikit.com), each with between 10 and 15 users of their systems amongst the top 250 law firms in the UK. These are effective and powerful solutions that produce very significant benefits for the firms that use them, enabling their people to spend more time earning fees and helping them to provide better quality advice at all levels. However, their solutions are delivered and appropriately priced for top end law firms.

In the e-document environment in which lawyers now work, the benefits of using this kind of technology are clear. Jane Bradbury, Director of Knowledge Management at Field Fisher Waterhouse confirms that: “Our lawyers and support staff needed improved access to relevant information that was scattered across a variety of sources. We are confident that Recommind will provide our people not just with better information, but will also enable them to find answers swiftly and so make them more efficient in the delivery of service to clients. MindServer Legal is not only able to provide us with powerful search across our internal document repositories but also gives us the combined ability to search external websites and information repositories …”

The same issues need to be addressed by firms outside the top 250 (and those in the top 250 who have not yet introduced a solution), each of which can now be mounting up millions of electronic documents. One of the new solutions that is tailored and priced for firms of any size is “Flax.” Flax Legal (www.flax.co.uk) is a fast, user-friendly practice wide search engine tailored for legal firms that can search deep into all your systems in many formats in milliseconds. It can draw together data from many different data sources, searching across different databases and applications, computers and networks; and it can integrate with your existing practice and document management systems and applications.

We are now used to the speed of Google for searching on the web, so it helps that Flax Legal will handle over four billion records as standard. Being open source, Flax software is free to download and use. There are no license fees or any other charges payable to use Flax, but you employ consultants – Lemur Consulting (www.lemurconsulting.com) – to tailor it to your needs.

These are solutions worth exploring further now if you want to make your practice lean and as productive as possible.