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B-to-G? The Vital New Tech Lingo That Law Firm Professionals Need To Know

Do you know what B-to-G means? Maybe not what you think. These days it means business-to-geek. And that’s exactly what’s trending for law firm professionals.

Law is one of the world’s oldest and most established industries. It’s made a name for itself by not being trendy, rather, traditional. So why pay attention to trends now?

Well, for one, technology is pervasive in today’s society, and understanding it will not only bring your firm more clients, but it will prepare your firm to better defend them. If you haven’t already formed a dedicated legal team for “technology and emerging companies,” your firm is missing out on a not-so-niche sector.

Entrepreneurs, public and private emerging growth companies, and venture capital and private equity firms are among law firms’ biggest and (potentially) wealthiest clients. If lawyers don’t understand the mainstream and trendy tech trends, it will be difficult to represent the interests, including litigation, advisory, and contractual work, of defense technology, e-commerce, Internet and social media, medical devices, semiconductors, or wireless communications companies.

But B-to-G (don’t forget, business-to-geek) is really describing the future of homes and offices. Nest—a success story for one of this decade’s biggest breakthrough tech companies—embodies everything the modern consumer is looking for in their household and their local neighborhood business.

“I think in the next five years there will be hundreds of millions of smart new home networks,” Mike Maples, Venture Capitalist, said to Forbes, about smarter wifi networks, an area ripe for disruption.

“Right now, I think Linksys and Netgear basically just call China up and say, ‘Can you make the box in my color so I can sell it?’”

But business-to-geek also means developing new business strategies, such as mobile on-demand services. Just like food service or taxis, venture capitalist James Slavet said to Forbes, “The core concept is that with smartphones, we’re all transacting with compressed planning cycles and addictive ease.”

“If you get sick at 2 a.m., rather than going down to urgent care, you’ll be able to pull up your phone and have a consult with a doctor on demand.”

Ping Li, another VC, said to Forbes in agreement: “The marketplace effects are really powerful. These things are not taking years to happen. They’re taking months.”

Law firms confront different kinds of policy and insurance issues than the average services industry. Nevertheless, legal services online and on-demand are on the horizon. Avvo Inc., already launched in 2014 an on-demand service that provides legal advice at a fixed rate via your iPhone, Android phone, or smart tablet.

No, business-to-geek may not have been why you signed up for the legal profession, but it is here to stay. Technology has, in many ways, made the law both harder and easier to practice. The same tools that facilitate doc review may also convolute it.

The same tools that streamline operations and increase profits weigh firms down in extensive training and infrastructure costs.

Still, it’s important for law firm managers to be as up-to-date on technology trends as legal ones. Don’t worry, if you’re struggling, there are now ample online courses here to help. The hardest part will be identifying the best way to transition your team from businessmen to geeks.

Here’s a good start: http://www.c4cm.com/lawfirm/recordings.htm

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Employees–Just Rats In A Maze? What Really Motivates Your Law Firm Professionals

When evaluating patterns of human behavior, scientists often turn to rats that—it turns out—behave quite rationally.

However, even if the daily grind might make you feel like a hamster on a wheel, it turns out that people, while predictable, don’t respond quite as rationally as scientists expect.

“When we think about how people work, the naïve intuition we have is that people are like rats in a maze,” says behavioral economist Dan Ariely in a talk at TEDxRiodelaPlata, reports Jessica Gross for the TED Blog.

“We really have this incredibly simplistic view of why people work and what the labor market looks like.”

Humans don’t obey all the same rational, cognitive cues of rats. Instead, they are motivated by less obvious but equally measurable activities. As a manager, tap into any one of these things and you’ll find employees work harder, longer, and more passionately than before.

Here are a few experiments presented by Ariely that explain what motivates law firm professionals to become more productive:

1. Seeing the final product of hard work may make employees more productive

Set-up: This study, conducted by Airely at Harvard University, asked participants to build characters from Lego’s Bionicles series. Participants were divided in two groups, and each group was paid decreasing amounts for each subsequent Bionicles: $3 for the first character, $2.70 for the next, and so on. The first group’s figures were stored under the table and disassembled at the end of the experiment. The second group’s Bionicles, however, were disassembled as soon as they’d been built. “This was an endless cycle of them building and we destroying in front of their eyes,” explained Ariely.

Outcome: The first group made 11 Bionicles on average. The second group averaged only seven before they decided to quit the game.

Take-away: At law firms, associates often spend time on research or due diligence that doesn’t end up in the case. Employees may even know that their work will eventually be destroyed. However, as the study shows, watching your work be belittled or trashed before your eyes is de-motivating. Seeing the “fruits of your labor”—even momentarily—increases productivity. So, save those trial prep binders a few weeks longer. Ask your employees to take out and save documents that could be useful or reused in future cases.

2. The less appreciated employees feel their work is, the more money they may want to do it

Set-up: In another experiment by Ariely, this time at MIT, student participants were asked to take a piece of paper filled with random letters and find pairs of identical letters. After each round, participants were offered less money than the previous round. Participants in the first group wrote their names on their sheets of paper and handed them to the experimenter, who looked it over and said “Uh huh” before placing it in a pile. Participants in the second group didn’t write down their names on the paper, and the experimenter placed their sheets in a pile without looking at it. Participants in the third group watched their work shredded immediately upon completion.

Outcome: Participants whose work was shredded needed twice as much money to be motivated to complete the task than those whose work was acknowledged. Participants in the second group, whose work was saved but ignored, needed almost as much money as participants whose work was shredded immediately.

Take-away: “Ignoring the performance of people is almost as bad as shredding their effort before their eyes,” Ariely explained. “The good news is that adding motivation doesn’t seem to be so difficult. The bad news is that eliminating motivation seems to be incredibly easy, and if we don’t think about it carefully, we might overdo it.” Lawyers are often in the “tough love” camp of mentorship. But, there is value to acknowledging hard work. It can be measured by the subsequent motivation of those employees you have rewarded.

3. Employees may derive more pride from projects that were difficult to compete

Set-up: In yet another experiment, Ariely gave participants (with no prior origami experience) origami paper and instructions about how to build a (pretty ugly) product. At the end, those who did the origami project, as well as bystanders, were asked how much they’d pay for the final origami piece. In a second round, Ariely hid the instructions from some participants, resulting in a more difficult process, as well as an uglier product.

Outcome: In the first experiment, the builders of origami paid five times as much as those who simply evaluated the origami product. In the second experiment, the lack of instructions amplified this difference: builders or origami valued the “ugly-but-difficult” products more highly than the easier, prettier ones, while observers valued them much less.

Take-away: Employees value their work based on the effort and work it required. In addition, employees (erroneously) think that others will attribute the same value to it. As a law firm manager, don’t forget to ask your employees about how much effort tasks took. It may help you understand what type of feedback to give them. For example, employees may be exceptionally proud of a project that required a lot of time and effort. As a result, they may expect a reward or acknowledgement by their superiors, who—for their part—may not have, previously, valued the work so highly.

4. Positive reinforcement about employee skills or ability may increase their real performance

Set-up: At Harvard University, undergraduate students gave speeches and participated in mock interviews with experimenters who either (1) nodded and smiled; or (2) shook their heads, furrowed their eyebrows, and crossed their arms.

Outcome: After their speech and mock interview, participants answered a series of numerical questions. Those who were positively encouraged with nods and smiles answered the questions more accurately than those in the second group, who were met with negative body language.

Take-away: Stressful situations are manageable—they depend on how employees are made to feel. As a law firm manager, if you provide positive reinforcement to associates, confidence in their abilities will lead to future success in performance. When you provide too much negative feedback, employees become discouraged and may fail at subsequent tasks.

Rats and mice may follow the cheese. But men and women respond to feelings of satisfaction, positive reinforcement for their efforts, and other non-monetary motivations.

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How “Perfect” Is Toyota’s New Hydrogen Fuel-cell Car? Why Law Firms Should Pay Attention

The perfect car. An Aston Martin Vanquish? Bentley Continental GTC? How about the Rolls-Royce Wraith?

Nope. Not even close—at least, that’s what theoretical physicist and best-selling author Dr. Michio Kaku thinks.

According to Kaku, Toyota has just developed the perfect car, but it’s not quite what you’d expect. It won’t break the bank or bring home any super models. However, it might just save the world.

At the Consumer Electronics Show on Monday, Toyota talked about its new hydrogen fuel cell vehicle that combines oxygen and hydrogen to create electricity, called the Toyota Mirai.

Priced at a mere $57,000 and available commercially later this year in California, the Mirai is unique in that it emits water, not exhaust or fumes, and still sports impressive power. The car runs for roughly 300 miles and has the ability to blow your mind and your hair back by going from 0-to-60 MPH in nine seconds.

Unlike hybrids or cars with electric batteries, hydrogen tanks can be refilled in three-to-five minutes. About the same time it takes to comb your wind-blown hair in the rear view mirror.

According to GeekWire, Kaku believes four requirements create the “perfect car.” Not only do all four characteristics describe the Mirai, but each of these attributes also describes perfect law firm management:

1. Mass Market

The perfect car uses a fuel source based on an element that’s the most plentiful in the universe: hydrogen.

“Contrast that to oil,” Kaku said, writes GeekWire. “Nations will kill to secure supplies of oil.”

Like transportation, law firms also provide life-altering services to society. Law firms today must be more mass market—that is to say, offer a variety of expertise with flexible service options.

In fact, the average client has 4 major practice needs and 5 minor, but measurable, needs. Yet, on average a primary provider delivers only 1.8 practices to a single client—meaning most law firms deliver one, and a handful service 2 practice areas.

So, what are law firms to do when so many cross-selling initiatives fail, or fall on deaf ears? Two words…origination credit.

Stop saying, “There are no opportunities with this client outside of my practice area,” or “We don’t handle that type of law.”

More than hydrogen, some might argue that lawyers are the most plentiful profession on earth. Which is why your firm must position themselves appropriately in this highly competitive marketplace. That means cross-selling services and adding practice areas.

Take C4CM’s audio course, “Law Firm Origination and Cross-Selling Credits: A Guide to Your Firm’s Future Success, looks at the key to successful cross-selling initiatives—how to turn selling into a team sport, and manage the origination that ensues,” to learn more about this innovative business practice.

2. Streamlined Operations

The perfect car has as few moving parts as possible.

“In a hydrogen fuel cell car, the engine has no moving parts, whatsoever,” Kaku said, according to GeekWire.

The same can be said for the perfect law firm. A stiff hierarchical system might be slowing you down. Assign casework to the most qualified team of lawyers, but don’t overstaff cases just to overbill clients.

The recent growth in in-house counsel means your firm must stand out and meet market demand—that demand calls for the end of traditional hierarchical billing models and more personalized attention at the partner-level—stop delegating work to inexperienced associates, knowing that top ranks will only give a brisk review.

The best way to ensure streamlined operations is implementing training programs for support staff and associates. You’ll have fewer moving parts and higher-quality delivery of services after strict and structured training schemes.

Because, in the end, sometimes the most effective teams are the smallest ones.

Need help? Take C4CM’s audio course, “Legal Support Staff: Revamp & Reassign Support Services for Max Profitability & Productivity.”

3. Idealist

The perfect car emits nothing but water.

“The word ‘smog’ is going to disappear from the dictionary because we are going to be entering a new age,” Kaku said, writes GeekWire.

Young associates are idealistic. This can be a positive quality. It’s important to mentor younger associates so they understand the practical implications of practicing law.

At the same time, embrace this idealism. Take some “unwinnable” cases because they take the “right” position. This will boost morale and serve as a reminder to the higher purpose of the legal profession.

Get some ideas for training programs with C4CM’s audio course, “Integrating Legal Mentoring With Law Practice Management.

4. Affordable

Finally, the perfect car is one that is friendly to the consumer, writes GeekWire.

“Usually hydrogen cars are priced at hundreds of thousands of dollars, way beyond the pocketbook of the average person,” Kaku said. “But this car, we’re talking about the neighborhood of $50,000. As mass production, competition, and economies of scale begin to kick in—and as governments begin to subsidize the creation of refueling stations — you’re going to see that cost drop even further.”

The perfect law firm also provides affordable prices. Affordable doesn’t mean redrawing the bottom line at your firm from black to red. It means flexibility.

The rise of alternative fee arrangements is not necessarily a “win” just for the consumer. It can be a “win” for your firm, as well. With proper structuring, you can increase your client base, client loyalty, and caseload while providing accessible prices.

Need help? Take C4CM’s audio course, “Structuring Sustainable and Profitable Alternative Fee Arrangements (AFAs).”

With these four requirements, Kaku is satisfied. But for firms, there’s one more bonus characteristic.

Toyota also announced, reports GeekWire, that it would make all of its 5,680 patents related to fuel cell technology royalty-free to anyone in an effort to drive more innovation. This means fuel cell technology can now be available to anybody who wants to build on it.

Every firm should practice a bit of probono work.

The combination of innovation and affordable services? Now that’s a model for cars (and firms) worth driving forward.

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Fight or Flight? One Small Bird’s Big Lesson On Being A Gracious Loser

In a rare moment of fight and flight, more than 30,000 spectators burst into applause when a lone seagull—knocked out by a stray Cricket ball—regained consciousness from a seemingly early demise.

On Wednesday at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the Melbourne Stars and Perth Scorchers didn’t realize there’d be a third player in the game. Nevertheless, there he was, unexpected competition: a seagull—sunning itself on the field—suddenly got caught in crossfires of batsman Adam Voges’ ball.

But, in an unlikely turn of events, as Melbourne fielder Rob Quiney lifted its lifeless-looking body off the pitch, the bird regained consciousness and ruffled its feathers with a determination to live and (what we can only assume to be) an overpowering love of the game.

Released in Yarra Park, the bird was permanently ejected, but not without first leaving a lasting impression. The seagull saved the home team two runs and cinched their three-wicket victory, reports CNN in “Down but not out: Relief as seagull recovers after being bowled over during TV cricket match.”

In the end, we’ll never know if the visiting Scorchers would have recovered had the bird not.

Crippled by a sports injury, bad day in the financial market, a losing court case, or just plain bad luck, it can be hard to recover after a loss. Law firm professionals, like any other, are victim to bad days.

Accidentally missed a deadline? Deliberately lost out after a poor strategic decision?

Managers are particularly on the hook for team mishaps. More important than the outcome, however, is how you handle the outlook afterward.

1. Analyze the events

Before anything, it’s important to gather information about the loss and investigate how it happened. Collect data. Generate an analysis.

Emotionally, you might have to “let it go,” but as a manager, it’s important to learn from mistakes. This requires an objective analysis of the facts.

2. Objectively separate the good from the bad (Don’t place blame)

Next, distill from the analysis the good outcomes. There are always positives to every negative. Perhaps you lost a court case or motion argued in court. But, at the same time, did you learn something about opposing counsel to be used in your legal arsenal the next time? Write it down, file it away.

What parts of the strategy worked, and why? Recognize what works and what doesn’t so that your firm doesn’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

At the same time, don’t place blame. No win or loss is generated by a single player or event. It’s important in your role as manager to identify the collective good (and bad) as a learning exercise. The blame game is never productive in the long-term and only creates dissent among your ranks and resentment among your employees.

3. Create a recovery plan

So you missed a deadline. Would it have helped to log the event on an online calendar or smartphone? Implement a strategy for incorporating online legal tools in the workplace.

A recovery plan can be anything from providing additional training for employees on a particular skill or software that was previously lacking, to boosting morale.

A key loss can be as devastating on the future motivation of your employees as the bottom line of your firm.

So, as a manager, meet with each of your team members individually to discuss their contribution. Include positives and negatives. Especially in the case of unexpected loss, be sure to show appreciation for everybody’s efforts.

So the Scorchers lost the game and two runs to an ill-fated fowl. At least there was no loss of life: something animal activists—if not sports fans—can be relieved to know.

Lesson learned? Sometimes the only lesson learned is that your team did the best they could given a situation. The fight by Perth’s Scorchers was just no match for the flight of one small seagull.

Need to boost morale? Take C4CM’s audio course, “Toxic Behavior at Work: Strategies to Reduce Dysfunction, Defuse Venom, and Improve Workplace Morale.

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Birth Of A Salesman: Why Building Good Client Relationships Will Boost Your Law Firm’s Bottom Line

Try telling a lawyer that—at the core of their work—they’re simply a salesman. Like the shoe shop down the corner or the bookstore around the bed, law firms are in the services industry whether its professionals like it or not.

So when it comes to working with clients, attorneys should take the lead from some of the world’s best salesmen.

Take, for example, John H. Patterson, originator of modern sales training and Founder-CEO of the National Cash Register Company. He fathered the four-step sales process involving (1) initial approach; (2) the proposition; (3) the product demonstration; and (4) closing the deal. Today, lawyers could take a page from his training manual.

Then there is David Ogilvy, advertising executive and sales guru. He once said:

“The worst fault a salesman can commit is to be a bore. Foster any attempt to talk about other things; the longer you stay the better you get to know the prospect, and the more you will be trusted.”

This is why he is responsible for some of the most successful and iconic ad campaigns for major businesses, like Dove, Schweppes, and Ross-Royce. Attorneys should realize bedside manner and trust are as important as building a case when it comes to attracting and retaining clients.

America’s quintessential car salesman, Joe Girard, has one or two things to prove about hard work and persistence in the post-war era. Detroit native and dedicated dealership salesman, Girard once sold 18 cars in a single workday and sold over 13,000 Chevrolets in a 15-year period since 1963.

Finally, look at Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. The latest data from the American Customer Satisfaction Index reveals Amazon.com remains the reigning and undisputed champion of both Internet retailing and across the entire department in overall customer satisfaction, reports Kevin Baldacci in “7 Customer Service Lessons from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos” for the Salesforce Blog.

“Focusing on the customer makes a company more resilient,” according to Bezos.

To bolster this philosophy at Amazon, Bezos used to bring an empty chair into meetings and tell his top executives that the chair represented the customer, “the most important person in the room.”

Even in law, it’s the client who matters most, which is an easy thing to forget in our digital world replete with e-discovery e-filings.

“If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell six friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000.”

Bezos’ success in sales has a lot to do with a very generic business principle that recognizes bad dealings in a virtual marketplace has real-world consequences. In the same vein, at a law office, every e-mail, phone call, or correspondence with a client can have disastrous costs if not handled appropriately.

Like Amazon’s customers, law firm clients can be needy, unrealistic, emotional, verbally abusive, and just as confrontational as the standard call center complainer.

So, before you send out a rash response or react negatively, remember that empty chair in the room. In the end, the client matters most. As upsetting as it may be to hear “I want it tomorrow!” “your bill is too high!” or “what do you mean, I can’t do that?” your client creates and destroys your business.

Take care of them and they’ll take care of you, as evinced by the stories in Inc.’s list of the 10 Greatest Salespeople of All Time (here).

So, listen to The Center for Competitive Management (C4CM)’s audio course, “Dealing with Difficult Clients: Proven Strategies to Limit Problems, Avert Disagreements, and Ethically Handle Problem Clients” on Thursday, December 18, 2014, from 2:00 PM to 3:15 PM Eastern time, and learn how to handle these situations.

When Bezos caught wind that Amazon customers were stealing digital copies of the books 1984 and Animal Farm, he rashly removed the copies remotely. The backlash from this “Big Brother” act by users was enormous.

Although legally and ethically in the right, Bezos confessed to being in the wrong. He published the statement: “We will use the scar tissue from this painful mistake to help make better decisions going forward, ones that match our mission.”

Because sometimes apologizing, when sincere, is better for building relationships and business empires than stubbornly defending your practice, legal or otherwise.

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Supervisor Success: Keys to Transitioning from All-Star Player to Hall of Fame Coach

Nebraska football coach Bo Pelini won a lot of games at Nebraska. His record? An honorable 67-27. But, even a win this Friday against Iowa wasn’t enough to save his job.

It’s not easy being supervisor. There’s a big difference between knowing how to play the game and knowing how to coach it.

Bo Pelini knew how to play football. He was free safety for the Buckeyes at Ohio State under College Football Hall of Fame head coaches Earle Bruce and John Cooper from 1987 to 1990. Not only did Pelini start in his last two years, he also served as a team co-captain in his senior year, along with some of football’s finest, Vinnie Clark, Jeff Graham and Greg Frey.

Although hardwork, hustle, and know-how do not necessarily translate to expert coaching, Pelini did have an equally successful career as a National Football League (NFL) scout and coach.

In 1994, Pelini earned his first position in the NFL as a scouting assistant for the San Francisco 49ers head coach George Seifert. Once there, he was quickly promoted to assistant secondary coach, and by the spring of 1994 he was promoted to defensive backs coach (source). In 1995, he helped coach in his first Super Bowl where the 49ers defeated the San Diego Chargers 49–26 in Super Bowl XXIX.

But just as sun and snow are polar opposites, the success of Pelini’s program in warm San Diego looked nothing like his experience in wintry Nebraska.

So, now Nebraska is on the market for a new defensive coordinator. Luckily, they are at no loss for choices.

Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldmanpredicts a few candidates: One, Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost, a former Nebraska QB. According to Feldman:

“Frost would fire up a fan base, as he is one of their own (he was even born in Lincoln), while also representing a return to not only the Tom Osborne era of a dominant rushing attack, but it’d be one souped-up thanks to all his time working with Chip Kelly, who is right now the hottest coaching brand in all of football—not just for his offense but for his entire innovative approach to all facets of the game.”

In fact, a few of Feldman’s choices, like Minnesota’s Jerry Kill and Wyoming’s Craig Bohl, come from a climate and style similar to that of Nebraska.

Because when it comes to tricky supervisory transitions, culture and climate play a large role.

Law firm management is just as touchy as coaching football. There are high stakes, you have to manage the players’ egos, and clients can be fair-weather fans.

Bo Pelini serves as a great example for law firm managers of what challenges lay in the wake of a promotion. A newly hired or promoted supervisor must:

  • Make the transition from team player to take-charge leader
  • Improve performance in people who aren’t used to you being the boss
  • Avoid common mistakes and problems that sabotage new supervisors (like being too strict or too lax)
  • Handle even the most difficult employee conversations and situations, even firings

One thing is for sure. Whoever takes Pelini’s place will have a plan preparing for this transition. Whether it’s a meet-and-greet session, strict diet and training regimen, or tough-love approach starting from the first huddle.

Law firm managers should do the same. Decide what kind of attitude is most effective. Be prepared for tough conversations, including talking notes for how to approach them. Set goals for employees and decide how to communicate them.

Finally, it’s important to know how to motivate your team—and it won’t be a one-size-fits-all approach.

Seen from the outside, Pelini’s record is respectable. But, when the going got tough, Pelini’s program didn’t get going. His record is only 9-16 against Top-25 opponents, and—worse still—only 2-8 in his last 10 games against ranked teams.

It’s when pressure was building and the stakes were at their highest that Nebraska folded. And, yes, the boss gets the blame.

It’s tough to be supervisor. So, make a game plan.

Need help? Here’s a start. The Center For Competitive Management’s audio course “New Supervisor Success: Keys to Transitioning from All-Star Player to Hall of Fame Coach.”

During this power-packed event, you will explore the most important aspects of your multi-faceted supervisor role, and learn key techniques and practices to help you better delegate, motivate, plan, and coach employees for success.

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Shedding Light On “Dark Data”: Answers For Academics & Attorneys

It was a happy day (for coffee drinkers) when a 1981 New England Journal of Medicine article, which published a Harvard study linking drinking coffee with pancreatic cancer, was finally double-checked and deemed bunk.

Bunk science is the term generally used when studies—even those meticulously conducted by prestigious academics—go array. When they show positive, but anomalous results.

Sometimes, as with the Harvard study, correlations are considered causation, which—we all know–confuses fiction for fact.

The existence of bunk science, however, is perhaps a positive thing. Medical studies don’t always have publishable or even particularly interesting results. But, the fact remains, they’re being conducted.

The same applies to the social sciences, where large datasets of findings often have no immediate, practical use. The key word here being “immediate.” It’s possible that one day, a new idea or new research direction could make use of such big data. So, why not hang on to it?

Well, unfortunately, big data is both costly to collect and costly to store. In 2007, the world watched Google create an unprecedented step in storage with its Palimpsest project, which offered to store and–better yet–share gigantesque data sets.

For the first time, academics had a way to preserve and perhaps reuse old data. And Google was participating in the name of science.

Sadly, the very next year, Google abandoned the project, citing financial cut-backs.

“As you know, Google is a company that promotes experimentation with innovative new products and services. At the same time, we have to carefully balance that with ensuring that our resources are used in the most effective possible way to bring maximum value to our users,” wrote Robert Tansley of Google on behalf of the Google Research Datasets team to its internal testers, reports Open Access News.

“It has been a difficult decision, but we have decided not to continue work on Google Research Datasets, but to instead focus our efforts on other activities such as Google Scholar, our Research Programs, and publishing papers about research here at Google.”

Scientific research without corporate agenda is rare. And if the financial crisis of 2008 had another victim, it was the trend of setting dark data free.

Dark data is the term applied to all those unused datasets: the ones that are collecting digital dust on somebody’s virtual shelf.

According to Thoams Goetz for Wired Magazine, however, “Technology is actually the simple part.”

“The tougher problem,” Goetz writes, “lies in the culture of science. More and more, research is funded by commercial entities, which deem any results proprietary. And even among fair-minded academics, the pressures of time, tender, and tenure can make openness an afterthought. If their research is successful, many academics guard their data like Gollum, wringing all the publication opportunities they can out of it over years. If the research doesn’t pan out, there’s a strong incentive to move on, ASAP, and a disincentive to linger in eddies that may not advance one’s job prospects.”

Law firm professionals are especially sensitive to this culture—where all information is precious and proprietary.

Luckily, in science, there’s renewed hope.

“There are some islands of innovation. Since 2002, the Journal of Negative Results in Biomedicinehas offered a peer-reviewed home to results that go negative or against the grain. Earlier this year, the journal Nature started Nature Precedings, a Web-based forum for prepublication research and unpublished manuscripts in biomedicine, chemistry, and the earth sciences,” reports Goetz for Wired.

“At Drexel University, chemist Jean-Claude Bradley practices ‘open notebook’ science—chronicling his lab’s work and sharing data via blog and wiki.”

Researchers and scientists are trying to keep data from disappearing into the dark. But, for law firm professionals, the need for dark data is dubious.

When should dark data be deleted? When should it be kept? What makes this material a potential liability, and when does that liability outweigh the potential benefits of keeping this material?

These are all questions that law firm managers should be asking, alongside legal IT departments.

Unmanaged, uncategorized content is lurking in your enterprise. This legacy data sits unmanaged and unknown in email repositories and file shares, and presents an added challenge for eDiscovery or investigations. A lack of control when it comes to ‘dark data’ can result in data spoliation, and increased collection, processing, and eDiscovery review costs.

By shrinking the dark data abyss, counsel can dramatically reduce costs and risks during litigation and government investigation. So why isn’t every GC doing it? Because dark data management is confusing, and knowing what to delete and what to keep is no easy task.

You’re not alone. The Center for Competitive Management offers a course on Wednesday, September 24, 2014, from 2pm to 3:15pm EST on “Dark Data: GC’s Guide to Identifying, Managing and Defensibly Disposing of Unmanaged Data.

During this interactive session, you will learn:

  • What ‘dark data’ is, and how it raises eDiscovery costs
  • How to create a compelling business case for data handling that is consistent with the business environment
  • What makes an information governance strategy legally defensible
  • And much more!

Sign up here.

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