Four Law Firms Honored For Innovative Achievement

The College of Law Practice Management Spearheads New "InnovAction"
Awards for Legal Practice Management

Four law firms have been honored by the College of Law Practice Management for excellence and ingenuity in the management of legal services.

Last January, in concert with many orgnaizations including the PM Forum North America as Publication Partners, the College began soliciting entries from law firms throughout the world, of all sizes and types. Dubbed the "2004 InnovAction Awards," their purpose was to identify a handful of stand-out firms that have significantly enhanced client service and the professional experience of their own lawyers.

In Glasgow, Scotland, the global firm Masons was named in the category of "Market Disruptors" for its 5,000-page web site, OUT-LAW, which targets the IT and e-commerce industries. OUT-LAW includes a print magazine with a readership of 27,000; an extranet-supported retainer arrangement for businesses too small to have in-house legal counsel; and OUT-LAW Compliance, a comprehensive legal review of web sites.

Two of the four firms were honored as "Leader Ships" for their innovative action in improving internal management or firm efficiency.

In Des Moines, IA, The Law Chambers of Nicholas Critelli, p.c., was recognized for work space that does away with individual lawyer offices. Each of seven "studios" is wired with an internal video cable network and each studio is designed to represent one of seven general tasks common to litigation practice. Critelli is a litigation boutique that includes both US lawyers and UK barristers.

In Birmingham, England, Wragge & Co. was honored for pioneering cost accountability. Wragge & Co. filed a patent application for its remarkable fee prediction and transaction management system that costs legal matters scientifically, calculates staffing needs, predicts the number of hours and the seniority of lawyers required, and helps manage the transaction process.

In Philadelphia, PA, the multi-office Blank Rome LLP was honored in the category of "Knowledge Stars" for a program that integrates training components, including Connections, a formal mentoring program; learning aids such as "Find It," which is a hand-held library research tool; a "Tip-Bit" Program that prints technology information on candy bars; and a board game called "Anatomy of a Matter."

"We looked at many fine submissions. These represented the very best of what we saw," said Merrilyn Astin Tarlton, a consultant in Golden, Co. and one of the judges. "As judges, we particularly needed to be convinced that clients and lawyers both were better off at the end of the day, as a result of these creative efforts."

Significantly, however, the award judges did not choose to recognize any of the entries in the "Client Service Virtuosos" category, even though 26 percent of the entries received were in that category.

"Innovation doesn't come easy to law firms," commented Patrick McKenna, a principal in Edge International, and also a judge. "Innovation requires forward thinking. Lawyers, and the folks who manage law firms, are trained on precedent. They're trained to look backward."

The InnovAction Awards underscore the College as itself a profession innovator. The College of Law Practice Management was formed in 1994 to honor and recognize distinguished law practice management professionals. To date, 191 practitioners from ten different countries have been inducted as Fellows of the College. The awards will be presented on September 11 at a special session to be held during the Annual Induction Meeting of the College of Law Practice Management in Chicago.

Sponsors of the four award categories were Edge International, Greenfield/Belser Ltd., Baker Robbins & Company, and Microsoft Corporation. The American Bar Association's Law Practice Management Section, the Association of Legal Administrators, the Canadian Bar Association, and the PM Forum North America were also vital contributors to this year's award program.

The communications professionals at Levick Strategic Communications, and the member firms of TAGLaw and the MSI Legal & Accounting Network, were instrumental in helping promote these awards world-wide.

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