Big Ideas ALA Executive Director’s Letter

Help Provide Data to Better Understand Harassment and Information Management in Firms

Last month, Time magazine named “The Silence Breakers” as their 2017 Person(s) of the Year — people, mostly women — who came forward to report sexual misconduct and fueled an international, and long overdue, conversation about sexual harassment and assault. I have been amazed by the courage and strength shown by those who have come forward.

Oliver Yandle, JD, CAE

The #MeToo movement shed light on shocking stories of harassment, abuse and, in some cases, criminal behavior. While much of the attention has focused on the entertainment, media and political realms, it’s clear that the problem extends across every facet of business and industry, including ours.

In 1992, the American Bar Association implemented a policy to provide leadership and education in an effort to eradicate sexual harassment in the profession. While the policy has had some success, the problem persists.

This month, ALA is partnering with Elizabeth L. Mell of Mell Consulting, LLC and Ian Meklinskly, Chair of the Employment Practice at Fox Rothschild, on a survey of law firm practices, policies and perspectives on the issue of sexual harassment. No law firm or individual names will be collected. However, we hope the results will reveal firms’ awareness and willingness to address the issue, the kinds of policies and programs currently in place, and the risks and benefits of those policies and programs.

We hope you will consider participating in this important research. And be sure to read this month’s cover story, “Empowering Women in the Workplace,” that shares insight on how women can be heard better in the workplace, and what men can do to be their allies.

ALA is also working on another research project, one designed to better understand the barriers to and benefits of managing law firm information as a business asset. While effective management of financial and physical assets is important, the most critical assets law firms have are their people and the data, information, and knowledge they need to do their jobs.

We look forward to sharing the results of these studies with you, as we continue to advance our strategic goal of being a thought leader in the legal industry.

Every aspect of effective legal service delivery has an information management component: customer access, relationships and service; matter scoping and planning; proposal pricing; business and professional decision-making; firm competitiveness; risk management; service delivery; and business location and behavior. Successful firms understand the importance of effectively managing information to increase revenue, drive down costs, manage risk, improve competitiveness and, ultimately, increase profitability.

In partnership with the University of South Australia and Experience Matters, an information management consulting firm, ALA will be distributing a short survey to law firms about their current information management practices. Survey participants will receive insights into how well their firm is currently managing its information assets, the impact those assets are having on the business, high-level recommendations for improvements, and benchmarks against industry peers.

We hope you will also consider participating in this study, as the results could have tremendous impacts on your bottom line. One firm in Australia found that with improved information asset management, 70 percent of its fee earners could bill an extra 30 minutes per day. Another 20 percent could bill at least another hour per day. That adds up to as much as an additional $2 million in revenue per year. In today’s increasingly competitive legal landscape, those findings matter.

We look forward to sharing the results of these two important studies with you in the coming months, as we continue to advance our strategic goal of being a thought leader in the legal industry.

Best wishes for a happy, healthy and successful 2018!