What should a modern law firm workspace look like? Jared Correia and Dan Hauck, chief product officer at NetDocuments, walk listeners through best practices for setting up your firm’s virtual workspace. Converting your legal practice to a digital space allows more secure access for colleagues, safer communications with clients, and the ability to aggregate all your firm’s data. Tune in to hear how you can transition your firm to today’s most effective digital practices.
Special thanks to our sponsors Scorpion, Nexa, TimeSolv, and Abby Connect.
The Legal Toolkit
Centralizing Your Digital Workspace
Intro: Welcome to Legal Toolkit, bringing you the latest legal trends and business initiatives to help you manage your law firm, with your host Jared Correia. You are listening to Legal Talk Network.
Jared Correia: Welcome to another episode of the award-winning Legal Toolkit Podcast here on the Legal Talk Network, that’s right, we have not been canceled yet.
If you are looking for Atlanta Braves super rookie Austin Riley, you won’t find him on my Fantasy Baseball Team sadly, but I do have Ronald Acuña, Dansby Swanson and I know I have a 1987 Rick Miller Topps Card hanging around here somewhere.
In any event, if you are a returning listener, welcome back. If you are a first-time listener, hopefully you will become a longtime listener. And if your second toe is longer than your big toe, you have what’s known as Morton’s foot, which was once viewed as a sign of royalty, so how about that?
As always, I am your show host Jared Correia, and in addition to casting this pod, I am the CEO of Red Cave Law Firm Consulting, which offers subscription-based law practice management consulting services for law firms, bar associations and legal vendors. Check us out at redcavelegal.com.
I am also the COO of Gideon Software, Inc., which offers chatbots, a first to market Chatbot Builder and predictive analytics created specifically for law firms. Find out more at www.gideon.legal.
You can also listen to my other, other podcast, The Lobby List, a family travel show I host with my dear wife Jessica on iTunes. Subscribe, rate and comment and see all the places we go.
But here on The Legal Toolkit, we provide you twice each month now with a new tool to add to your own legal toolkit so that your practices will become more and more like best practices.
In this episode we are going to talk about Centralizing Your Digital Workspaces, a topic near and dear to my own heart.
But before I introduce today’s guest, let’s take a moment to thank our sponsors without whom you would not be listening to a podcast right now.
Let’s welcome in our new sponsor Abby Connect, which has delivered premium live receptionists and answering services to lawyers since 2006. You can try them out for free at abbyconnect.com.
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My guest today is Dan Hauck, who is the Vice President of Product and User Experience for NetDocuments. He is the former Founder and CEO of ThreadKM. ThreadKM was acquired by NetDocuments in 2017.
Dan is a recovering attorney, serial entrepreneur and legal tech product innovator. All things I like. Dan was a former practicing attorney as well.
So Dan, welcome to the big show my friend.
Dan Hauck: Hey, thanks for having me. It’s great to be here.
Jared Correia: So you are a Political Science graduate from Emory University?
Dan Hauck: Yes.
Jared Correia: I have a quick quiz for you. Who is the best president from Georgia?
Dan Hauck: Well, we have had one President from Georgia, President Jimmy Carter, and he only served one term, so it’s an open field for the Democrats, so he could hop in again I think.
Jared Correia: That’s true, that’s true. He is only what, like 96, which should be good.
All right, good, you picked up on my trick question and I am very impressed.
Dan Hauck: Yes.
Jared Correia: You know your civics. All right, shall we talk about legal stuff?
Dan Hauck: Sure.
Jared Correia: I think we should. Our sponsors will want us to do that.
Dan Hauck: We can do that then.
Jared Correia: Lawyers fear change, right, you agree with me on that?
Dan Hauck: Oh, sure. Lot of lawyers do, not everybody, there is a risk aversion there, yeah.
Jared Correia: Thus, I know you are a former practicing attorney, you qualified your answer. Okay, some lawyers fear change, many.
So I think it makes it hard to be like a traditionalist lawyer in the modern world, right, everything is changing so fast, they don’t really necessarily have a good handle on technology. So let’s start here. Can you walk the people listening to the show what a modern law firm workspace looks like, is it entirely virtual, is it partially virtual and what does it mean to be digital versus just say virtual?
Dan Hauck: Yeah, so that’s interesting. So I kind of think about when I started practicing, which was in 2007, and that was kind of really starting to be a transitional period as firms were thinking about what their digital workplace strategy, digital document management strategy was going to look like. And I remember I would have those red-wells that were kind of in your different filing areas and that would be the file, and I never understood why there were like two — it was like the two hole punch on top and you kind of put files in through that, and people are probably listening and saying, there was a very good reason for it and they know, but I didn’t.
Jared Correia: They probably do.
Dan Hauck: Yes. Well, I didn’t get it. I ended up wanting to just scan my own stuff and really just get digital first copies of everything. And so I ended up building out kind of my own file system, and I think as firms started to see that and started thinking about how do they do information governance, how do they really manage records in an appropriate way, then they had to think about well, what does this digital workspace look like, where can we put all of the information together that our attorneys are working on, that our legal teams are working on, and then ultimately do not only kind of information governance and all the things around that, but then start to do more productivity facing things so that we are all working out of the same place, we are all accessing the same documents, but then we can start to apply some intelligence around that corpus of documents, right, so you can start to reason over it with predictions and analytics and artificial intelligence and all of those things.
So it’s been a long road, but I think many firms are there, if not all the way there, and so yeah, working in this kind of digital workspace is I think a much more natural thing. And now the paper is kind of like that ancillary copy that people will look at for a little bit of time and then kind of toss it in the trash, because it’s not the real record.
Jared Correia: Yeah. And so this is an interesting concept as well, because I think some of this stuff you are talking about goes like far afield for attorneys. So I think they understand the notion of like what a virtual workspace is, I think they have an idea that paper copies somehow become digital copies, like what kind of applications, like practical applications are you seeing right now or that are on the horizon in terms of analytics and machine learning and virtual workspaces?
Dan Hauck: Yeah, sure. So different things, different applications depending on who is coming at it, but ultimately, if you can start to understand, like if you are a big firm and you can understand well, who are kind of the most active users in our platform, who are the people who are generating the most documents in a particular matter or a practice area, then that can start to tell you things about who has expertise in certain areas, for example.
Or if you can use extraction technology through search to be able to pull out concepts, now when a user is looking for something, they don’t necessarily have to have a keyword hit, but they can really hit on a legal concept. So you start to see that in some of the research tools that people use, but being able to bring that down into the workspace and to be able to find things of like, oh, this is really the concept I was looking for, or these are the people who were extracted out and that now I can filter in on or the companies that I can filter in on, now that becomes very practical and tangible to end users who are just trying to get work done.
Jared Correia: Yeah, given that the data is now, generally speaking, in one place or integrated across places and we will talk about that concept as well. It seems to me that using data and analytics is probably like the next big step in terms of like what law firms can get out of these digital workspaces, would you agree?
Dan Hauck: Definitely. And it goes to understanding the kind of content within the document. So we are kind of taking that next step and saying, this isn’t just file storage, this isn’t just a place to access and do the savory type of scenarios, but we can understand the content. And for instance, we can understand that wow, there is a Social Security Number or other kind of personally identifiable information in this and maybe we are going to automatically treat this document differently than we would another document in this workspace that doesn’t have that kind of information.
And that’s really being driven a lot by the clients of the law firms who want to have that additional layer, they are giving all their documents. They are asking the firms to store and protect it and so they want those firms to apply the same level of protection that they are doing inside their own corporations and so forth.
Jared Correia: Yeah, and that’s a concept we will address as well. We are going to talk a little bit about data security as well.
So we are off to a good start here, we are off to the races, we are working on definitions of virtual workspaces, but my workspace is getting a little crowded here, so let’s take a break and hear some words from our sponsors.
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Jared Correia: Thanks for staying. Now that I have reloaded my Speed Buggy PEZ dispenser, let’s return to our conversation with Dan Hauck of NetDocuments. We are here talking about digital workspaces and we have just talked about what they mean. So let’s get back to it and drive down to like some of the benefits of virtual workspaces.
So Dan, I thought you gave a great definition of like what digital workspaces are, what they are going to become, now can you speak a little bit more generally about the benefits of digital workspaces for attorneys who might be skeptical at this point?
Dan Hauck: Absolutely. So it’s really about pulling all those different activities and information together into one place, and I have talked a bit about documents, but as you start to build new workflows around the generation of those documents, I think the workspace really starts to encompass more than that. It starts to encompass how we communicate around the matter. So you are wanting to store your different pieces of email, messaging, also how you are organizing your tasks so that you can start to have visualization into what are the things that I am doing that are associated with it and all of these things, that really helps compile what this digital workspace is.
And what it means from a benefit standpoint is that you can easily go to one place and actually have everything available to you. So you can have your conversations, you can have your documents, your tasks, you can take a deep look at things, but you can also, and this really is important from an integration standpoint, you can point other systems to that specific location, to that workspace, and be able to perform the things that you want to do there.
It may be as easy as connecting it to an e-signature solution or to one of these AI tools that’s doing some of this intelligence over that set of documents. You have to build that central repository in order to be able to point these powerful tools and get the benefits that you want out of it.
Jared Correia: Yeah, right, you need a source of truth.
Dan Hauck: Source of truth.
Jared Correia: You need a place to play, where you are not opening and closing a million different windows, and I think attorneys at this point kind of know that like the way a lot of systems are going is it’s a platform and then you integrate other products on top of that.
So let’s talk a little bit about that, because I think that’s really important. So one specific benefit of digital workspaces which you referenced is this ability to like push information into them, aggregate data, but also to allow people to come in and access that data, like verified people within the organization or colleagues or clients. So how do digital workspaces then specifically support collaboration within the law firm environment?
Dan Hauck: Sure. I think it’s always scary to kind of take an email and attach a document to it and then it kind of gets sent off into the ether, right?
Jared Correia: Right, yes.
Dan Hauck: You lose control at that moment and we all have stories about the forward that went in the wrong direction or the reply all that shouldn’t have happened, and that’s just a function of email, when you start adding the attachments to it, now you are really introducing some serious risk.
And one of the benefits of having a digital workspace is that you can control the opening and closing of that door and who gets in and out. So you can determine a set of documents, a subset that maybe you want to share with external users and those external users are credentialed users that you have authorized and you can also set permissions around the types of things that they are allowed to do. Maybe they are just allowed to look at a document, or maybe you say, I want their feedback, so I want them to be able to leave comments or maybe they can actually edit the document and upload a new version. So you are giving much deeper control while reducing the risk to the firms at the same time about sending out those attachments.
Jared Correia: I have to say, like a lot of people are afraid of snakes, but reply all is like my biggest fear. I am talking smack about somebody and inadvertently add them to this email. So I always check like eight times before I send an email, just to make sure it’s going to the right recipients.
Dan Hauck: So it’s interesting, as we have started to move into new kind of messaging scenarios, so people are starting to text or use different messaging applications, that’s a critical way that you can actually — if the application is done right, it can help you avoid those types of scenarios, because you are much more aware of who is involved in that conversation. You can control it a little bit better. And again, if you tie that in to your digital workspace, now it’s part of the record of the matter basically.
Jared Correia: Right. And in a law firm there is actual real stakes, not like just me being a dink to somebody. I am glad you were able to segue off of that.
So let’s get to like the nitty-gritty question that most lawyers have, and you touched on this a little bit, like the ability to segregate conversations just to people who should have access to those conversations. But one of the biggest triggers for lawyers in terms of like accessing new technology is like this question of whether or not it’s secure and operating in a space that they are not as comfortable with.
So I think lawyers have some semblance of knowledge about what is secure technology and what isn’t, but then vetting it becomes difficult, there is a lack of control in some ways there, because lawyers like doing things that lawyers do, which is not necessarily vetting technology.
So how can lawyers access all the benefits we talked about, but still feel like the digital workspace is a safe space for them and their firms?
Dan Hauck: Yeah, I think it’s a lot of vetting, of making sure that the tools that you bring into your firm are ones that understand the industry, ones that are aligned with the goals of your firm, and that ultimately bring you, not only efficiencies, but that security piece, because a lot of times it goes to what you are saying, it’s this piece of mind aspect that clients come to you, they have expectations that you know what you are doing in this space and so if you can find a trusted vendor and ultimately implement a solution that aligns with your firm’s workflow strategies, you are going to be in a much better place, not only today, but later down the road when you are having to pull together a file for litigation or export it out or a partner is leaving and you are sending some files with them, now you are in a much better place to do that, you are not kind of scrambling to collect all this information.
Jared Correia: I think that’s a great point you make as well. I think like vetting this stuff is really hard and then clients have this expectation that lawyers know what they are doing in the realm of security and I think that’s a very uncomfortable position for lawyers to be and also you have got studies coming out now that are saying that lawyers and clients have like a wide gulf in terms of expectations of what they want out of technology systems.
Dan Hauck: Definitely.
Jared Correia: All ready. I think it’s a good stopping point, we have come to our final break, we are here already. So while you listen to words from our sponsors, I am going to try to think about what Disney Animated Classics do not now have live action counterparts, although my wife said that the new Aladdin movie was great. Let’s take a quick break and hear some words from our sponsors.
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Jared Correia: Thanks for coming back once more. We are set to crush this final segment. So we are talking with Dan Hauck of NetDocuments, we are back to speaking about digital workspaces, so let’s find out more.
We talked about this a little bit, but law firms suffer from siloed data traditionally, like almost every law firm I talk to, I am like, where are your documents, they are like oh, they are in these 17 places, maybe eight of which I can’t get to. So can you sort of underscore this point a little bit, where a digital workspace is going to allow you to more effectively aggregate and share data and potentially even collaborate on data than what most law firms are using now?
Dan Hauck: Definitely. So I mean there is really two pieces to that, as I look at it. One is the cloud, which is this very powerful and enabling technology that allows users from all over the world to access securely and consistently their digital workspace.
And then the second is around APIs, which is really the language of integration. The applications that you bring into your firm should have strong and well supported APIs, because that is ultimately what allows you to connect to all those other systems in a very easy and secure way.
And so that means that even if there are limitations or things that you want to do that maybe fall outside the scope of the platform that you select, with the digital workspace that you have generated you can actually extend that workspace to these other solutions typically through API integrations. And so it’s a critical and powerful technology that we see in a lot of different areas and law firms are beginning to take advantage now that many of them are in fact moving to the cloud.
Jared Correia: A perfect segue. All right, so let’s talk about some of these products and services that are out there that are supporting digital workspaces in law firms. Why don’t you start with your own, let’s be fair about this.
Dan Hauck: Sure. I mean NetDocuments is a fantastic cloud-based platform; we have been doing it for over 20 years. We really understand cloud. Our customers trust us to deliver a solution. But what’s really interesting is over the past several years we have built these real digital workspaces. We have integrated, not only document management, but a lot of these type of collaboration tools that we are talking about; messaging with ndThread, which is how I got to NetDocuments through the ThreadKM acquisition; Collaboration Spaces, which is where we can share documents and also tasks and other things that are coming into the platform.
But I think the important thing is that we also are a platform where we are reaching out to other vendors in this space so that they can then take advantage of the huge billions of documents that we store on our service and we can again start to do some of that intelligence inside of our own platform.
But there is a lot of different solutions that are out there and I think being able to understand what that matter looks like, how the law firm structures the data so that they can secure it and process it appropriately, that’s a key part of this.
Jared Correia: As in terms of other products that are out there, do you have like a list of five or ten you could tell folks about, just so they can get a sense of what they can utilize?
Dan Hauck: Well sure, I think that there is a lot of different products that are in this space from the practice management solution, the ones that really focus on kind of the time and billing aspects of it. I think there is a number of solutions in that space from Clio to PracticePanther and CosmoLex and some others.
And then there are some cool workflow solutions as well, so ones like 00:22:35 and DocMinder, ones that really take a look at what that lifecycle of creating a document looks like and can make sure that you are tracking everything along the way, you are getting all of the different pieces to come together to get to the result that you are looking for.
And then from the AI space, I think there is a couple of great solutions that we have looked at; Kira obviously, I am sure you have probably talked about that on the show before; Diligen, eBrevia, those are all solutions, and I think again what makes it powerful is when you can start to bring them together through the power of APIs.
Jared Correia: And traditionally law firms have been separated between small and large law firm camps, like oftentimes they don’t use the same software. Have you seen with the rise of all this new technology, cloud-based, digital workflows, integrations that small and large law firms are starting to use some of the same technology or do you think we are in the same space as we were playing in before, or it’s very much a dividing line?
Dan Hauck: Yeah, sure. I think actually — again, the cloud is a great enabling tool to make this all happen, so you think about my company ThreadKM, we started off using Amazon Web Services and some of the largest companies in the world also run on Amazon Web Services, because it’s so easy to get up and running and you take advantage of the exact same technology that those major corporations get to use. So it’s a huge benefit to smaller firms.
We have seen a lot of that with NetDocuments, you kind of run the gamut from the smallest to the largest in terms of firm size and I think it is, it’s an important factor because particularly with legal work, it’s very similar, right, you work on matters, you develop documents and you deliver them to clients or to the court and it’s really just about the scale that you are operating on and cloud can scale and I think that’s the key message there.
Jared Correia: So I ask this question of most of my podcast guests, like a variation of this question, because it’s hard for people to jump into this world and start swimming, right? So if a law firm is interested in better leveraging digital workspaces and they haven’t done it effectively to this point, like what’s the first step that they should take before they do anything else?
Dan Hauck: Sure. I think that they need to take an overall look at how work flows through their firm, right? They need to understand how do we begin at the beginning, when a client comes in the door, how do we move through conflicts check, how do we get to the point where we start working on it and then what do we start doing with those documents, how do we typically organize them.
Because once you start to see those patterns, then you can kind of build or buy solutions that align with those patterns. And so you can start to build out templates inside of workspaces when you know this is the way that we always organize this type of file, for example, and ultimately get to a place where you are reducing risk and you are creating efficiencies and ultimately that means more time being able to be spent on actual client service, which is revenue generating.
Jared Correia: So you are doing something like an informal workflow audit, it sounds like, would be a good first step to take, right?
Dan Hauck: Absolutely. Definitely.
Jared Correia: So I have got one more question for you, and it’s more of a statement. I have to say that congratulations to you sir, I was looking for embarrassing information about you online, but I was not able to find anything.
Dan Hauck: Thanks, yeah, I don’t have any embarrassing things I guess.
Jared Correia: At least not online. Somewhere Mark Zuckerberg is shaking his fist at me right now, or in anger at a cloud. I did however find some photos of you rocking a very nice plaid shirt.
Dan Hauck: Oh, great.
Jared Correia: So I don’t know if you know this about me, I don’t think I have ever declared this on the podcast before, but I love plaid shirts, like I basically — my wardrobe is basically three plaid shirts that I really like. People tell me I am like the Lamar Alexander of my local community. Lumberjacks ask me for fashion tips and bagpipers are jealous of me.
So Dan, I want to give you a moment, because I couldn’t find anything embarrassing about you to talk about your love of plaid and do you love plaid more than me is a real question?
Dan Hauck: Well, plaid goes with everything, it’s never out of fashion, so it’s a great pattern and I recommend it to everyone.
Jared Correia: All right everybody, you heard it here first. What’s your favorite plaid shirt currently? Like what’s the color scheme?
Dan Hauck: Probably green and black right now.
Jared Correia: Nice.
Dan Hauck: Yeah.
Jared Correia: I like that.
Dan Hauck: Yeah.
Jared Correia: Good call, good call. All right, so everybody, you want to hang out with me and Dan, green and black plaid shirt is the uniform.
So on that note, I really don’t know how to segue out of that, we have reached another episode conclusion here at The Legal Toolkit Podcast, my personal favorite legal podcast. This was the podcast about digital workspaces for law firms and we have been talking with Dan Hauck of NetDocuments.
Now, I will be back on future shows with further insights to my soul, the soul of America and the legal market, all while wearing a plaid shirt, which I am actually doing right now. If you are feeling nostalgic for my dulcet tones however, you can check out our entire show archive anytime you want at legaltalknetwork.com.
So thanks again to Dan Hauck of NetDocuments for making an appearance as my guest today. All right Dan, can you tell everybody how they can find out more about you and about NetDocuments?
Dan Hauck: Sure. You can check me out, as you said, I don’t have a huge social profile, but you can check me out on LinkedIn, say hello there, and of course you can go to netdocuments.com to find out more about our solution and how we are trying to help lawyers and other professionals in this space with digital workspaces.
Jared Correia: That’s right, do not even bother googling this man, go directly to netdocuments.com, I promise you will find some good stuff.
So thanks again to Dan Hauck of NetDocuments and finally, thanks to all of you out there for listening.
This has been The Legal Toolkit Podcast, where we don’t want to do your dirty work no more.
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