International Law Firm Managing
All their Knowledge With ISYS
On May 1, 1912, Federal Judge George Donworth and US Attorney Elmer
Todd left public service to form their own law partnership, Donworth
& Todd. What started with a handshake on a Seattle sidewalk has
evolved through the years to become Perkins Coie LLP, an American law
firm of more than 525 lawyers serving Fortune 500 clients from offices
in the United States and Asia.
Perkins Coie litigators handle hundreds of cases across the United
States in such diverse areas as antitrust and trade regulation, class
actions, contract and commercial, e-commerce, environmental, intellectual
property, labor, product liability and securities.
Technology plays a central role in the firm's ability to serve its
clients effectively. "To keep the firm's offices, attorneys, and
clients linked, we maintain a state-of-the-art computer network and
are developing web-assisted service delivery methods, with the help
of ISYS," says John Driggers, Work Product Retrieval System Manager.
From anywhere in the world, Perkins Coie lawyers can access and research
existing documents through their Work Product Retrieval System, saving
attorneys time and reducing client costs.
In keeping its commitment of providing excellent legal services, the
firm ensures that clients only pay for the legal services provided,
and not for inefficient, time-consuming searches. Hence the investment
in ISYS:web and the concept of a work product retrieval system. "We
wanted an equitable, flexible, and robust search tool to offer easy
search solutions," says Driggers. "We wanted to take technology-leveraged
knowledge, and make that information easy to find for our attorneys
and paralegals, ultimately fulfilling our mission to provide the best
in legal services."
Prior to investing in ISYS:web, Perkins Coie provided offline access
to documents by distributing information via CD-ROM. Driggers wanted
to improve upon this system by bringing it into a browser based, online
environment. This had a couple of benefits - it allowed for attorneys
to access the knowledge base from home or court; and an intranet would
be easier to update and maintain than CD publications. Perkins Coie
wanted their intranet to serve as a working desktop. Driggers and his
team looked at the various kinds of programs existing on employees'
PCs and developed ways to implement those programs inside a browser
environment. "Our new intranet has created simple efficiency and
produced dramatic time savings," says Driggers.
The firm also needed to simplify the method in which information was
published to the knowledge base. The old system had required significant
editing and manual indexing before the firm could use it. Perkins Coie
wanted to automatically publish information to the knowledge base and
minimize maintenance. "We looked at a number of products on the
market, and all had their strengths, however ISYS:web was able to provide
us with a robust search tool that could be managed without a lot
of technical overhead. It allowed us to have 100% control over how the
output looked," says Driggers. With ISYS, Driggers can also continue
to reproduce the knowledge base on CD-ROM, should the firm need or want
to distribute information offline.
The system Perkins Coie used prior to ISYS:web required at least one
day of individual training. Attorneys at Perkins Coie bill between $100
and $400 an hour for services rendered. "Reducing the complexity
of the software meant less training, creating a big cost saving for
the firm and reducing the time required to get a new employee up and
running," says Driggers. The customization flexibility of ISYS:web
gives the firm complete control over the presentation of results. "With
ISYS, the training burden is nonexistent. If you've ever searched the
web, you basically know how to use ISYS as a search engine," says
Perkins Coie needed a search tool that dealt with information in a
variety of legacy formats. "With ISYS, when clients of Perkins
Coie have a CD-ROM or floppy of older style word processing formats,
we don't have to do a document conversion. ISYS allows us to work directly
with what they have," says Driggers. ISYS:web allows firms to search
over 100 file formats, including Excel spreadsheets. "As a law
firm, a substantial amount of our business is done in this form, therefore
searching Excel spreadsheets was a major plus." ISYS is also very
useful with SQL databases. The advantage of using ISYS to search databases
is that it is a textual search, rather than a fielded search, generating
a far more comprehensive result. The ISYS:web Rich SQL feature allows
administrators to create templates for displaying SQL data within the
Based upon the features and benefits ISYS offered, Perkins Coie decided
ISYS was the best search tool to fit its needs. "Learning how to
use ISYS was much easier than expected," says Driggers. "Indexing
and customizing the search page was very easy with ISYS:web. We found
ISYS so flexible and customizable we ended up thinking of ways to use
it that were never really conceived of when we originally purchased
it," says Driggers. Generally, ISYS is used for indexing and searching
a large library of legal information and publishing it to the intranet.
The firm found that once they had the ISYS Search Software in place,
it allowed them to produce precision search tools tailored to the needs
of specific groups. "It is very easy to build searches for specific
groups quickly," says Driggers.
When an incident recently occurred in the national news that potentially
involved two clients of Perkins Coie, the firm needed to move quickly
to ascertain what help they could be to these clients. "We wanted
to make sure we knew right away the areas that we could assist them
in, and those areas which we couldn't, and which attorney could talk
to which client." To prepare for this, staff had to manually go
through and screen documents that pertained to these two clients. This
process took the better part of a weekend, just so they could be prepared
to answer questions on Monday. "You don't always have an intervening
weekend in which you can rummage through the papers," says Driggers.
The head of the Conflicts Department asked Driggers if there was anything
he could do with the new ISYS search engine. Driggers then went on to
build a search tool specifically for the Conflicts Department. Now,
what took two people the better part of a weekend is accomplished in
3-4 seconds. "This demonstrates the kind of payoff ISYS brings
to a firm. What a great return on investment."
In addition to the Conflicts Checking System, Perkins Coie has also
utilized the ISYS engine in building a number of other very specific
search resources. The Portland office needed to build an index of documents
related strictly to particular clients. The firm was able to use ISYS
in building this index. ISYS allowed the users to simply choose a client
name from an HTML page to retrieve a list of documents that pertained
to that client. "The real value-add came when we found that ISYS
allowed our end users to access and search the documents from one single
interface, rather than linking the documents from the document management
system," says Driggers.
ISYS has also been used to help the Corporate Finance Group in searching
their information. The group wanted to search a discreet universal document.
This included pieces of correspondence between the exchange commissions
and the firm. Most importantly, the group wanted to be efficient in
providing answers to the questions their clients had while they were
on phone, as opposed to phoning them back with the answers. "With
the help of ISYS, the corporate finance group doesn't have to say, 'Let
me phone you back with an answer to that question'," says Driggers.
ISYS also allowed the firm to search through documents to find language
that the SCC responded to favorably or unfavorably. Attorneys incorporate
this knowledge into drafting new correspondence for new or existing
Perkins Coie have invested in the Chinese version of ISYS:web for their
three Asian offices: Taipei, Hong Kong & Beijing. China doesn't
have a traditional legal publisher to distribute legal information.
Instead, agencies publish laws & regulations in a variety of forms,
such as newspapers, magazines, brochures, etc. Attorneys must assemble
laws and put them in three-ring binders and store in their offices.
This makes it very difficult for attorneys to find things, and to have
any real knowledge of what the attorney down the hall has in his/her
office. Perkins Coie created an automatic index to all the print material.
The firm flushed out a template of appropriate information for documents
and classification system indicating who's office certain information
could be found in. The material was catalogued in a one-page word document
and dropped in a directory. A page was created to allow them to search.
"This was beyond what we thought we could do with ISYS," says
Driggers. "With ISYS:web we give the Chinese offices the opportunity
to search words in both English and Chinese (traditional and simplified
characters). To combine both of those in a single search allows us to
have a bilingual catalog that is accessible to those who can speak both
English and Chinese in addition to those who can only speak one or the
other language," says Driggers. Perkins Coie will be building a
separate ISYS server for Asia and running a separate set of Knowledge
Management tools so that they can cater to their specific needs.
"My favorite feature is that if it's not there, ISYS provides
me with the tools to build it - it's completely customizable. I can
use ISYS for just about any KM task that would come across my desk,"