Providing Matter-Centric Collaboration at Holland & Knight

Expediting the Delivery of Legal Services by Unifying the Management of Business Information

April 1, 2004

Holland & Knight, a large American law firm with offices in many cities, seeks to function as an integrated organization. Using WorkSite from Interwoven, staff members are now able to manage documents and other types of content around client matters and practice areas, regardless of their actual office locations. Behind the scenes and transparent to end users, WorkSite centralizes metadata management—including content indexing and access controls—and distributes content storage.


Holland & Knight is one of the ten largest law firms in the United States. The firm’s 1,200 lawyers practice more than 100 areas of law in twenty-six U.S. offices and seven international locations.

Using WorkSite from Interwoven, Holland & Knight staff members are now able to manage their work around client matters and practice areas, regardless of their actual office locations. They can store and retrieve not only documents, but also email messages, images, and other content types through an enterprise content management system. In addition, clients and other people outside the firm can access and view documents over the Web.

Behind the scenes and transparent to end users, WorkSite provides a distinctive approach to content management within a geographically distributed firm. To overcome the problems of managing content across many locations, WorkSite centralizes metadata management--including content indexing and access controls--and distributes content storage. Holland & Knight can thus function effectively as a national firm and use the power of network connections to better serve its clients.


A New Business Strategy

Holland & Knight LLP today is one of the top ten law firms in the United States with more than 1,200 lawyers practicing in over 100 areas of law. Beginning in 1997, the firm began to implement a new business strategy. This new strategy had the following three key elements:

* Growth and Expansion. Holland & Knight transformed itself from a regional firm, with most offices in Florida, into a national firm with twenty-six offices across the United States as well as representation in seven international locations. Between 1997 and 2002, the firm acquired law practices in a number of different cities across the country and opened new offices in additional locations.

* Location-Independent Legal Expertise. Holland & Knight seeks to function as a multi-office, one-firm organization in which lawyers match their areas of expertise to clients’ matters, regardless of the location.

* Firm-Wide Collaboration. Expertise from across the firm can be brought to bear on any client matter. As a result, Holland & Knight lawyers and support staff need to collaborate with one another by sharing documents, faxes, and other types of information.

Supporting the Business Strategy with Information Technology

Holland & Knight undertook two major technology initiatives to support its new business strategy. The first was a firm-wide intranet. The second was an electronic document management system. Both initiatives were begun in 1997.

ELECTRONIC DOCUMENT MANAGEMENT. At the same time that it began its transformation into an international firm, Holland & Knight implemented an electronic document management system, deploying a separate instance of the system at the location of each law practice that it acquired and each of its newly opened offices. The firm steadily expanded the deployment to 28 locations. Each location had its own independent document repository and set of users.

FIRM-WIDE INTRANET. Also in 1997, Holland & Knight launched a firm-wide intranet that was accessible from each of its offices. The intranet enabled lawyers and support staff to exchange electronic information with one another and with clients online.

Challenges in Document Management, Email, and Business Continuity

Local document management and location-independent assignment of lawyers caused document and information access and sharing issues. For example, when staff members in multiple offices worked on the same client matter, they had to connect to different document management system instances and each system’s repositories to find the documents they needed. In addition, Holland & Knight’s email systems were also location dependent. Lawyers and support staff maintained their own email message collections of their correspondences with one another, with their clients, and with third parties. These messages were neither physically nor logically associated with the documents and client matters to which they were related or that they referenced.

The events of September 11, 2001 highlighted a document access and sharing issue, as well as the importance of disaster planning and recovery. Holland & Knight’s New York office was a block away from the World Trade Center. The staff temporarily relocated to offices in several mid-town locations until mid-November. Reestablishing office systems was an unexpected technology challenge. The day after the attack, the file server for the New York office was restored from off-site backup tapes and began operating from a system in the firm’s data center. Very little electronic information was lost, but the event caused a business interruption. Lawyers and support staff not in the New York office could continue to do their work with minimum disruption by connecting to the server for the New York office over the Internet. The New York City office staff members, in turn, were able to connect as soon as they had desktop systems installed in their temporary offices.


Unifying Business Operations

By early 2002, Ralph Barber, the CIO at Holland & Knight, and members of the firm’s technology advisory committee concluded that the firm’s then-current approach to managing the information about client matters and practice areas on a location-by-location basis was not working as well as it could. The firm had reached the point at which it needed to function not as a collection of offices, but as an integrated organization.

“We needed to be sensitive to support issues, total cost of ownership, and disaster recovery,” Barber explained. “We wanted to centralize our operations and become more efficient.” Barber and the technology advisory committee decided that the firm needed an enterprise content management solution organized around its key business activities.

Key Requirements

Barber and the technology advisory committee focused on the following three key functional requirements for the enterprise content management solution...

Sign in to download the full article


Be the first one to comment.

You must be a member to comment. Sign in or create a free account.