Matter of Law Firm Size

Does law firm size matter when it comes to technology solutions and knowledge management benefits? No, has been the conclusion in two recent articles that both challenge common assumptions in this area, although with different starting points.

Eric Hunter, Director of Knowledge Management and Technology at Bradford & Barthel LLP, has in the article “Google Apps and the Collaborative Cloud – Does Law Firm Size Matter?” challenged the assumption that collaborative cloud solutions are only for law firms. “In fact, large law firms have much more to benefit from collaborative cloud, both from a change management and behavioral change standpoint. Social media driven technology is designed to bring individuals together, communicate together, knowledge share together. My question is, why should large firms step away from this opportunity?” asks Eric Hunter.

According to Eric Hunter, large firms are actually tailor made for the collaborative cloud. “In my opinion, the complexities within a large firm and the differing cultures from region to region would actually demand a cloud hosted collaboration platform to assist in their change management roll-out. Think about the systems dispersed throughout your firm. How many are there? How many require license upgrades? How many integrate with others to the extent that you cannot roll out new releases for fear of compatibility issues? Now consider an environment that enables your firm to solely focus on strategic and change management features because the hardware, software, and development resources are all outsourced.”

The benefits of cloud solutions have also made Bryan Redding, vice president at Cavo Legal, question another assumption about law firm size in the Legal Technolgy article “Small Firms and Solos Can Best Leverage Their Work With KM”. Contrary to the general belief that KM is only for firms of a certain size, Bryan Redding points to the need for small law firms think strategically about making cost-efficient investments in technology and efficient document drafting to “face the challenges of smaller budgets, fewer support staff and the need to spend more time fulfilling clients’ needs on a personal, hands-on basis – all while providing increased value at lower costs”.

Bryan Redding points to the fact that sophisticated document management systems have been out of price range for small firms and that even though “no small firm could disagree that leveraging their existing knowledge and information is a huge time-saver, but how can you leverage your past work product if you can’t find it when you need it?”

The solution, according to Bryan Redding, is cloud based technology, especially the SaaS model. “According to a new report by IDG, 97 percent of companies are now implementing SaaS. With SaaS, a service provider licenses applications on-demand instead of storing the application on its in-house server, thereby reducing license costs, administrative overhead and the need for IT staff.”

Thus, cloud based technology could work as a kind of equalizer, making law firm size less important and providing small law firms the possibility to compete with larger law firms on the same conditions. It will certainly be interesting to follow the development in this area and see if law firms are open to cloud based and SaaS solutions or if they remain reluctant to embrace this trend, with arguments such as loss of control and security.