Cost Management

Online legal research servicesWhen it comes to legal research services and databases for Big Law, the two leading providers are Westlaw and Lexis-Nexis. Not too long ago, they were essentially the only players in the legal research game — but that was before the internet and the lure of Fast, Easy and often Free access to information online. Having recently touched on the differences between Westlaw and Lexis-Nexis, I thought it might be helpful to touch on the subject of low-cost and free legal research services and websites. We often get asked about less expensive options for gaining access to legal information, especially as it gets more difficult for law firms to recover the costs of these services. I have compiled a short list of six legal information resources on the internet today. This is by no means an exhaustive list; nor is it a recommendation to replace Westlaw, Lexis-Nexis, Bloomberg or any other provider! In fact, those services continue to be a must-have legal information resource for many firms. Nonetheless, it is helpful to stay on top of other information options that are available to lawyers, firms and clients themselves.

As a niche application, evaluating software for Digital Asset Management (DAM) would seem to be a relatively easy undertaking. Yet a search of Capterra, a website that provides information on software applications across a number of market sectors, came up with nearly 180 results for “top digital asset management software”! So where do you start and how can you begin to reduce the range of choices to a manageable and best-suited few? The right selection will depend on a number of factors above and beyond the merits of any particular application.  Frankly, we would be reluctant to make off-the-cuff software or system recommendations without a clear understanding of the business needs and goals, project scope, technical considerations, user qualifications, distribution and other requirements.

Law firms find no easy answer in a comparison between Westlaw and LexisNexis. (We won’t even include Bloomberg, the third leading legal database provider, in the mix.) When it comes to making a choice between them, the ultimate decision depends on variables like a firm’s legal specialties and practice areas, client needs, user preferences and budget requirements. As such, there is no easy answer and certainly no one-size-fits all approach.

In order to fully realize the monetary value of your digitized assets, and essentially find and maximize your opportunities in the online marketplace, the customer viewpoint holds the key. With countless large scale digitization projects underway, we no longer want open access to everything, we expect it. Therefore, the customer’s viewpoint is critical to the monetization process, and to the assignment of value to your data.  To use an everyday example, if I want to try a new restaurant for dinner, I simply type “seafood” and my zip code into any search engine on my laptop or phone, peruse pages of restaurant listings, and those with websites for menu items, pricing, and location, and then use the GPS in my car (or on my iPhone) to quickly and almost effortlessly navigate to the restaurant. Within minutes, any restaurant in my zip code, with an online presence had the opportunity to win my business, and generate new unexpected revenues.

The real value of having data is in its use. Through the digitization process, businesses of all industries are increasing their assets by transforming their data into monetized data, or “data with value”. The value of that data is assigned by the tangible extension of their existing products and services into the vast Digital Marketplace. Data value is increased by the following: 1. Usage by staff, resulting in new or supporting existing revenue streams. 2. Enhanced service to existing customers, resulting in retention, therefore increased revenues. 3. Exposure to new prospects, resulting in new revenues. 4. Improved operational efficiencies, resulting in decreased costs.

Monetization, by definition, is the process of converting properties into a commodity; something useful with monetary value. In the world of digitization, monetizing assets means monetizing data; turning properties, both physical and digital into valuable commodities, not only reducing existing expenses, but creating new revenue potential. Data monetization occurs through the digitization process, through the capture, storage, and application of that data into a valuable resource that can be used to generate new revenue streams, create operational efficiencies, and increase customer satisfaction and loyalty. Data monetization (and digitization) occurs through four phases: 1. Identification of all existing properties, physical and digital born data. 2. Storage and access of that data. 3. Analysis, organization and application of business intelligence to data. 4. Introduction of digitized data to existing customers and new prospects, often in the form of new vehicles of delivery (i.e. – website access, web and mobile applications, interactive smart response systems, etc.)

Digital Asset Managers (DAMs), also known as: Digital Archivists and Digital Preservation Officers are essentially the new hybrid Librarians of the 21st Century. Digital Asset Managers or I'll call them DAMs for the purposes of this entry, like their traditional predecessors, still possess exceptional organizational dexterity, and an unrivaled commitment to the preservation of our history, now coupled with technical expertise and proficiency, necessary to properly organize, and manage our virtual resources. According to The New York Times, there were over 20,000 people working as Digital Asset Managers in 2009, in a rapidly evolving digital market, where the demand for these new skills is expected to triple over the next decade. In addition to the time and effort required for organizing and protecting material in digital form, virtual librarians or DAMs also: handle copyright issues; license technology; serve as database administrators for our virtual-reality-networks (VRNs); and, they evaluate, purchase and manage digital and on-line content from vendors, including web content and on-line marketing tools.

My “cons” list for the digitization of your assets is a bit shorter, especially considering the last 20-years of my life happened simultaneously with the digitization explosion, also known as “The Digital Age”, not only of the World Wide Web, but of document imaging, digital photography, on-line videos, Facebook, Tweeting and Blogging, on-line books and magazines, and Google’s digitization frenzy of every person, place and thing. The truth is digitization requires an upfront investment in technology, staff and time (money), with a measurable Return-On-Investment (ROI) dependent on successful implementation, and usage. We are all digitized, in almost every aspect of our lives today, so the benefits of increased operational and end-user efficiencies and are still realized. However, the appearance of those savings in our P&Ls may not be as significant as we would like, or even need.

I am surprised more often than not, that so few in our industry recognize, and/or promote the obvious and significant “Green” aspect of digitization. By eliminating the necessity for producing excessive hard copies of our intellectual properties, digitization is changing our very relationship with the Earth, by dramatically reducing the amount of natural resources we consume on a daily basis. The business “pros” of digitizing assets, also include: more effective (and free-flowing) communications - internal and external - accelerating customer and client service levels;  asset preservation; assets are more accessible and attainable to your entire staff, and all clients, partners and prospects; images and data are available faster, for a multitude of users, from multiple locations, at the same time; assets are stored in the form of a functional back-up copy; and, the digitization of your assets streamlines processes, and increases operational efficiency by saving you time, and money.