How a former litigator combined a passion for law with technology to inspire the ultimate KM tool.

As a shareholder at Ogletree Deakins, Evan Shenkman decided that, although there were elements of legal practice he loved, he didn’t want to do it anymore. He found himself frustrated by much of the minutiae and busywork that came along with legal practice. However, he also didn’t want to leave the firm. Fortunately for Evan, there was a perfect opportunity opening up within the firm: a new Knowledge Management department. With his knowledge, experience, and credibility within the firm, Evan was the perfect person to help start it.

Evan’s new role in KM was partially about making the firm’s attorneys’ lives easier: helping them find the answers they needed faster and more efficiently (and helping leave a little earlier to spend more time at home with their families). But it was also a critical part of a key business objective for the firm: responding to clients’ interest in efficiency.

“The RFPs that come to me, which is an increasing share of them now, are ones that are asking KM-related questions,” Evan explains. “The clients are directly saying, ‘Please tell us how your attorneys are more efficient. Please give us information about how your attorneys will share information across various offices. Please tell us how you will make sure that the quality of the work is high.’”

“Law firms that don’t have good answers to those questions are really going to be at a loss, and law firms that have answers to those questions that are just answers with no substance behind them are also going to lose out, because clients will quickly realize that they just gave answers to try to win that business but they didn’t really have it behind the scenes.”

Part of Evan’s role is evaluating the legal technology that could potentially help Ogletree provide strong answers to those questions. When choosing which tools to test out, Evan says, “The ones that get greenlit are the ones that do something in a way that we haven’t done it yet that lets us provide services to our clients in a faster, better, more efficient way.”

Ogletree now has tools that can help prepare an answer to a complaint; that can help find cases the attorneys might want to cite; that can alert attorneys when cases are filed against their clients or prospects; that can help draft certain documents; that can help attorneys find who the right person might be to handle a case, or find a relevant internal document. But as Evan says, “While we could have an attorney or some professionals at the firm handle all of these 10–12 discrete steps, wouldn’t it be great if we had something that brought all that together?”

That tool, if it existed, would be Evan’s “holy grail” of legal technology: a single system that could automatically kick off a chain of events involving both external vendors and internal systems whenever a motion is filed. “The elements are already out there, just not put together in one nice package,” Evan says.

As one single system, this technology could better position attorneys to be successful in their cases, while at the same time saving their clients’ time and money. On top of that, it could make legal practice much more enjoyable and fulfilling, solving many of the frustrations Evan experienced when he was practicing.

“While we could have an attorney or some professionals at the firm handle all of these 10–12 discrete steps, wouldn’t it be great if we had something that brought all that together?” @EJShenkman on his #legaltech Holy Grail: an integrated, automated system Click to Tweet

“I think that the reason I went to law school, and I think the reason most of my colleagues went to law school, is that it’s exciting and it’s fun to craft legal arguments; to look at a fact pattern and figure out how the law applies to those facts,” Evan says. “That’s where attorneys should be, and that’s where attorneys want to be, because it’s a lot more enjoyable to get to use your attorney brain rather than just spend time with what amounts to essentially busywork.”