Author Archives: Dean

Lean and Mean: Improving Efficiency in an Outdated Justice System

Lean and Mean: Improving Efficiency in an Outdated Justice System

With ever-shrinking corporate budgets and more eyes turned to where dollars are going, clients are demanding accountability from their legal representation.

Strategies that were once considered “business-only” are finding a home in the legal world. The push towards optimization practices like Lean Six Sigma is increasing as the high costs of legal discovery and litigation are creating unrest in the legal world.

Lean Six Sigma in the Legal World

Understanding Lean Six Sigma

Lean Six Sigma is an optimization concept with its roots in Henry Ford’s groundbreaking continuous assembly line. The idea involves reducing business workflows to the essential processes that increase customer value and streamline operations. Much like how Ford revolutionized the automobile manufacturing industry with his optimized workflows, big businesses like Toyota, General Electric, and Samsung have adopted similar strategies in search of reduced organizational waste.

Specifically, Lean Six Sigma is viewed as a method of defining, measuring, analyzing, and improving processes with the overall goal of increased efficiency. Moreover, while these processes have traditionally been business facing, they function well in legal settings too.

Applying Lean Six Sigma to Legal

The legal world has its own, if outdated, structures for process optimization. The federal rulemaking process promotes judiciary efficiency, but this 80-year-old system is very different from the Lean strategies being adopted by businesses today. In the past, the civil justice system prioritized comprehensive discovery over cost management. This lead to chronic overspending on discovery and forced settlements based on financial restrictions rather than case merits.

However, recent amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) may change the way discovery is handled. These amendments alter discovery limitations and place responsibility on attorneys and judges to justify how proportional discovery is to the needs of each case. The goal of these amendments, particularly Rule 26(b)(1), is to protect against redundant and wasteful discovery costs by encouraging attorneys to look at the big picture of each case. When discovery must be justified with specific and defensible assessments, optimization will be a matter of course.

This concept is the central tenant of applying Lean Six Sigma to legal cases. Much as the 2015 FRCP amendments reduce waste, Lean Six Sigma forces individuals to look at the entirety of a case and ask hard questions about which processes are essential. As legal teams adapt to more conservative discovery practices, the benefits of deploying Lean workflows will become more apparent. Just as Henry Ford changed the manufacturing world, business optimization practices make waves in our outdated legal infrastructure.

Dean Van Dyke iBridge LLC

Written by Dean Van Dyke, Vice President, Business Process Optimization

Dean Van Dyke is the Vice President of Business Process Optimization for iBridge. He brings more than 18 years of customer relations, business process outsourcing, lean six sigma, program/project management, records management, manufacturing, and vendor management experience to iBridge. Mr. Van Dyke was the former head of Microsoft’s corporate records and information management team and served honorably for over fourteen years in the U.S. Navy and Army National Guard. He received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of South Dakota and his Master’s in Business Administration from Colorado Technical University.

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Privacy Survey Highlights the Poor State of Data Security

Privacy Survey Highlights the Poor State of Data Security

Risk management remains a priority for legal firms across the world, but new research is showing just how unprepared many industries are to take on the challenge.

Privacy Survey Highlights the Poor State of Data Security

Guidance Software performed a data risk and privacy survey on a variety of industries, including government firms, IT industries, and financial services. The respondents, primarily security executives and security analysts, shed light on the current state of information security and how they felt security should be handled moving forward:

  • 48 percent reported feeling unprepared to identify and protect sensitive information from data breaches, mishandled devices, or human error.
  • Despite this lack of confidence, 46 percent believe that protecting sensitive data is a top priority.

How data security should be handled was addressed.

  • 69 percent feel that it’s important to systematically delete obsolete or outdated information.
  • 55 percent are most worried about private or sensitive data residing on servers or endpoints.
  • Over 37 percent feel that a risk management solution for regulatory and policy compliance is important for data security.

Security Solutions

With so many respondents reporting discontent with the current state of data security, it makes sense that legal firms are hungry for solutions.

Risk management software lets organizations understand the flow of sensitive data, from the time of creation to its eventual endpoint throughout the workflows of each industry. These workflows include file creation, email sharing, transmission to multiple devices, and storage in databases. Without dedicated data management software, each of these points of contact creates multiple vulnerabilities that can be exploited.

Enterprise software protects data throughout every step of its use and ensures that information practices comply with external regulatory bodies, such as HIPAA.

Building a Culture of Security

Software data security through risk management platforms is the first step of total information governance. To ensure true data security, the most significant security variable present in any enterprise must be addressed—employees.

According to IBM’s 2014 Cyber Security Intelligence Index, 95 percent of all security incidents involve human error. Legal firms must mitigate employee mishandling of information by creating protocols governing data use. Across email, mobile device communications, and file transfers on external storage systems, employees must follow defined rules that dictate how they handle sensitive data.

The effort required to implement these protocols will be substantial at first, but security practices can be refined over time to better align with the workflows of each organization. This will ensure that efficiency isn’t lost while trying to secure data. When legal firms have a strong culture of security backed by risk management software solutions, data breaches and information loss will become concerns of the past.

Dean Van Dyke iBridge LLC

Written by Dean Van Dyke, Vice President, Business Process Optimization

Dean Van Dyke is the Vice President of Business Process Optimization for iBridge. He brings more than 18 years of customer relations, business process outsourcing, lean six sigma, program/project management, records management, manufacturing, and vendor management experience to iBridge. Mr. Van Dyke was the former head of Microsoft’s corporate records and information management team and served honorably for over fourteen years in the U.S. Navy and Army National Guard. He received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of South Dakota and his Master’s in Business Administration from Colorado Technical University.

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Mobile Messaging Apps: Is the Legal World Ready?

Mobile Messaging Apps: Is the Legal World Ready?

Messaging applications have entered the workflows of many legal firms due to the enhanced productivity and communication options they offer.Mobile Messaging Apps: Is the Legal World Ready?

However, a recent study by Infinite Convergence Solutions on mobile messaging for legal firms painted a grim picture of the current state of legal messaging. Results of the study showed that:

  • Only 22 percent of respondents used mobile messaging compared to 69 percent who used email.
  • Usage rates of mobile messaging are relatively low—when surveyed on the reasons why, 30 percent of respondents claimed to prefer sending emails or making calls, 23 percent didn’t enjoy the lack of paper trail present in current mobile messaging solutions, 30 percent weren’t authorized to use mobile messaging by their company, and three percent didn’t feel that mobile messaging was secure enough to use.

These findings highlight the biggest drawback of mobile messaging—messaging applications aren’t equipped with necessary user features and are ill-suited to handle secure business data. Though mobile messaging provides more extensive communication options among legal teams, firms have a long way to go before messaging applications enter the legal mainstream.

Education is Key

To address the growing need for mobile messaging security, managers must make staff education a priority. Legal firms send mixed messages on safe mobile messaging in the workplace; some firms disallow it altogether and some allow it while not understanding the regulatory obligations compromised by its use.

In response, some firms block all messaging applications outright, but this strategy reduces productivity and limits communication flexibility for staff members. Instead of taking draconian policies against mobile messaging, firms should establish protocols and frameworks to govern its use. Many issues surrounding messaging privacy relate to staff members unknowingly revealing sensitive information—establishing a culture of stronger privacy will lead to better data security across all communication channels.

Secure Messaging Options

Education is the first step, but it’s not the only measure legal firms must take. Secure enterprise messaging options are necessary for legal firms wanting to protect privileged data while providing communication options for its employees. Additional research from the above study found that 44 percent of companies don’t use an official mobile messaging platform.

Implementing secure, regulatory-compliant communication channels allow legal firms to release themselves from the burden of mobile messaging data security. Enterprise-specific messaging platforms provide guaranteed compliance without sacrificing productivity.

Dean Van Dyke iBridge LLC

Written by Dean Van Dyke, Vice President, Business Process Optimization

Dean Van Dyke is the Vice President of Business Process Optimization for iBridge. He brings more than 18 years of customer relations, business process outsourcing, lean six sigma, program/project management, records management, manufacturing, and vendor management experience to iBridge. Mr. Van Dyke was the former head of Microsoft’s corporate records and information management team and served honorably for over fourteen years in the U.S. Navy and Army National Guard. He received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of South Dakota and his Master’s in Business Administration from Colorado Technical University.

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6 Considerations for Your Email Security Solution

6 Considerations for Your Email Security Solution

With email still holding a prominent place in the world of communication, businesses can’t afford to take email security lightly. Basic encryption is essential, but the wealth of services available for email security offer a wide range of benefits beyond basic features.

6 Considerations for Your Email Security Solution

Keep these six considerations in mind before purchasing email security software:

1. Outlook Encryption

Microsoft Outlook includes a basic encryption feature, but most businesses find this security method to be onerous. Both parties must have the public key certificate to encrypt and decrypt messages, which is time-consuming when applied to large enterprises.

2. Recipient and File Parameters

For maximum efficiency, your email security software shouldn’t require the recipient to download their own version of your software. In addition, the chosen solution must accommodate the largest files your enterprise may send. Both will help reduce the chance that users will be forced to choose less secure transfer methods to work around software limitations.

3. Security Features

The goal of all encryption software is security, but not all email security solutions are created equal.

Although software that includes multiple verification methods, policy-based encryption, and SSA 16 Type II certifications are the standard, you must ensure the included features offer protection for both emails in motion and emails at rest. Email providers should encrypt emails to keep them secure if an interception occurs during transfer. On the storage side, solutions should offer storage in company-owned infrastructure that limits access to encryption keys.

4. The User Experience

While quality email solutions must first and foremost secure data, they must also prioritize the user experience.

On the sender side, the encryption process should be simple—one-click encryption, email tracking, and receipt notices are essential. Making this process easy increases adoption rates across your enterprise. For email recipients, attachment retrieval should be simple and without the need for additional downloads. Complexity and cumbersome processes reduce adoption and frustrate users while a straightforward user experience accelerates building a corporate culture of security.

5. Mobile Integration and Adaptability

The email solution should be flexible and ideally integrate with the programs users are already familiar with. Most security programs have mobile applications that have secure portal access via your Internet browser. With more business conducted on mobile devices these days, mobile email security is essential.

6. Administrative Customization

Once you’ve researched the must-have security features, your final choice may come down to how customizable you want your email security system to be. Competitive encryption solutions offer advanced options to tailor the email platform to each business or individual user. Digital signatures, automated messaging, or adding your brand logo are all bonus features that can give your security solution an edge. Identify and deploy an email solution, which allows for easy customization, one-click ability to secure communication and claw back and true traceability and intelligence.

Dean Van Dyke iBridge LLC

Written by Dean Van Dyke, Vice President, Business Process Optimization

Dean Van Dyke is the Vice President of Business Process Optimization for iBridge. He brings more than 18 years of customer relations, business process outsourcing, lean six sigma, program/project management, records management, manufacturing, and vendor management experience to iBridge. Mr. Van Dyke was the former head of Microsoft’s corporate records and information management team and served honorably for over fourteen years in the U.S. Navy and Army National Guard. He received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of South Dakota and his Master’s in Business Administration from Colorado Technical University.

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5 Reasons Why Legal Firms Must Prioritize Digital Documentation

5 Reasons Why Legal Firms Must Prioritize Digital Documentation

Paper documentation in the legal world is quickly going the way of the rotary phone.

ICO recently reported that legal data security breaches increased from three to four percent last year, with most arising from loss, or theft of paperwork. With the drawbacks of paper documentation increasing, legal firms that have no digital transformation strategy are missing several advantages that digital documents offer.

1. Better Productivity

Digitally searchable documentation can save tremendous amounts of time and worker productivity. Did you know that employees in information-based industries spend an average of 11.2 hours per week creating and managing documents? Worse yet, six are wasted by the inefficient burden of transferring and filing paper documents, hours that could be saved if digital documents were the norm. The inefficiencies of paper filing add up quick.5 Reasons Why Legal Firms Must Prioritize Digital Documentation

The productivity benefits of digital documentation are twofold: digital documents are searchable by variables, such as title or keyword, and can be instantly accessed. They also let multiple users review and amend them at once, saving the time and hassle of physical document transfer between parties.

2. Streamlined Communication

Digital documentation allows faster communication among workers. Any user with an Internet connection can access documents stored digitally in the Cloud, or sent through email. This creates streamlined messaging among parties working on the same project and allows businesses to display real-time updates to clients who have access to the project.

3. A More Mobile Approach

With the legal world becoming increasingly mobile, digital document systems leverage the rise of mobile use by letting lawyers work wherever their phones are. With Cloud-based project management, folders and documents can be shared regardless of geographic location. There’s no worrying about the transportation of physical documents, or concerns about letting papers fall into the wrong hands.

4. Cost Savings

Digital documentation can be an effective way to optimize a physical workspace. Many offices have storage rooms full of old paperwork and files. Digital systems free up space, and can be a lifesaver for small offices with little real estate to spare. 

5. Going Green

Despite the digital push, legal firms are still printing up to 10,000 pages per month. This creates a significant environmental impact on the community. Digital strategies negate the need for large-scale printing and provide a necessary boost to corporate sustainability and the local environment.

Data Security Concerns

Despite the well-documented benefits of digital strategies, many legal firms are reluctant to take the plunge due to their fear of poor digital document security. How can you protect your online information?

Fortunately, digital information governance is affordable and easy to deploy these days. Data security firms can work with legal departments to ensure ironclad digital security for their privileged information, helping firms correctly recycle and destroy their outdated paper files. Taking these security steps will ensure that legal departments are kept safe during their transition to digital documentation.

Dean Van Dyke iBridge LLC

Written by Dean Van Dyke, Vice President, Business Process Optimization

Dean Van Dyke is the Vice President of Business Process Optimization for iBridge. He brings more than 18 years of customer relations, business process outsourcing, lean six sigma, program/project management, records management, manufacturing, and vendor management experience to iBridge. Mr. Van Dyke was the former head of Microsoft’s corporate records and information management team and served honorably for over fourteen years in the U.S. Navy and Army National Guard. He received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of South Dakota and his Master’s in Business Administration from Colorado Technical University.

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5 Questions to Ask Before Buying a New eDiscovery Platform

5 Questions to Ask Before Buying a New eDiscovery Platform

With the wealth of advancements being made to the eDiscovery world, it’s natural for legal firms to want software that promises the most efficient discovery at the lowest cost.5 Questions to Ask Before Buying a New eDiscovery Platform

Unfortunately, choosing a new discovery platform isn’t simple. Legal firms must be aware of the costs and considerations that go into implementing new software. Ask yourself these five questions before breaking the bank on new discovery tools:

1. What software is preferred by your attorneys?

Involve your attorneys in the research process when selecting a new platform. Given that your legal team will be the ones using the software, their likes, dislikes, and preferences should be considered. This will help guarantee a smooth transition when implementing the new program, and ensures that your team will be prepared for its use.

2. How will the technology be used?

The way the software will be used by your attorneys will dictate which platform will best suit your needs. Why strain your budget purchasing advancing analytic and reporting capabilities if your legal team will never use them?

3. Can the new technology be adapted to your IT system?

The eDiscovery platform of choice must be adapted to fit in your IT infrastructure.

Involving your firm’s IT department in software selection is a necessary part of the process. Your IT administrators can help determine whether the specs of eDiscovery software can integrate with your hardware and other programs. Involving IT experts in the selection will also prepare them to implement the software after purchasing.

4. Do you understand all technology costs?

The costs of a new eDiscovery platform aren’t limited to those proposed by the vendor. Before purchase, firms must understand their software’s cost. This includes cost of purchase, external costs to operate said software, and the time of the contract.

Internal costs and project management expenses eat up more of your budget than many attorneys’ realize. Variable vendor fees can also create situations where attorneys must choose where to allocate their resources. These hidden expenses make the true cost of new eDiscovery software tricky to assess.

5. Where will you store the data?

Data storage is a pressing concern for the eDiscovery landscape, particularly as data security becomes more important for legal teams and their clientele.

Some vendors offer cloud-based storage for legal client data, while other firms may prefer to store their data in-house. Each of these options presents its own set of challenges and expenses. Firms must assess their own security capabilities and determine whether third-party data storage is more secure and affordable than the measures they already have in place.

Dean Van Dyke iBridge LLC

Written by Dean Van Dyke, Vice President, Business Process Optimization

Dean Van Dyke is the Vice President of Business Process Optimization for iBridge. He brings more than 18 years of customer relations, business process outsourcing, lean six sigma, program/project management, records management, manufacturing, and vendor management experience to iBridge. Mr. Van Dyke was the former head of Microsoft’s corporate records and information management team and served honorably for over fourteen years in the U.S. Navy and Army National Guard. He received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of South Dakota and his Master’s in Business Administration from Colorado Technical University.

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5 Ways Managed Services Can Optimize Your Legal Spend ROI

5 Ways Managed Services Can Optimize Your Legal Spend ROI

Budget reduction is an endless effort for legal firms.

This is true as technology use continues to grow, creating new positions and pitfalls that many legal firms are ill-equipped to handle.

Enter Managed Service Providers (MSPs). These professionals use their skills to help legal firms better manage their IT infrastructure and give them the spending flexibility to improve processes elsewhere:

1. Optimizing Talent

MSPs allow for optimal use of your staff’s talent.

Technology use is prevalent in nearly every industry these days, requiring those with the skill sets to manage it. Often, this task falls to a legal professional or expert whose skills could be best leveraged elsewhere. MSPs take the IT burden off of legal firms and ensure that the software is configured without the need to sacrifice valuable expertise.

2. Centralized Management

MSPs have experience with software use and understand how each piece of the system works together. This lets them apply patches, updates, or software overhauls without disrupting day to day processes. Letting MSPs act as a single point of contact for technology management ensures that software adjustments will be handled efficiently and without compromising system security.

3. Better Consistency and Risk Management

The service agreement by MSPs guaranteed consistency for document drafting and template creation.5 Ways Managed Services can Optimize Your Legal Spend ROI This integration is essential in the legal and healthcare fields, as IT spend is notorious for being mismanaged by those unfamiliar with privileged data infrastructure. Qualified MSPs can improve the ROI of IT spend by integrating security and workflow processes. Some MSPs even create cybersecurity plans built from the ground up to integrate with overall IT efforts.

4. Fewer Providers

When multiple providers are involved, firms can lose sight of which services offer the best return. Multiple providers usually mean multiple service contracts too, creating varying sets of parameters and arrangements that require extensive manpower to manage.

Reducing the number of providers optimizes buying power, ensures greater consistency of procedure, and reduces the need for extensive data management. These benefits all contribute to reduced legal spend and more available attention for high priority matters.

5. Enterprise Support

Industry MSPs can integrate legal software into a firm’s overall IT infrastructure. This expertise helps bridge the gap between legal and technology, two areas that have had difficulty integrating in the past. All legal processes must be configured to meet the organizational needs of the firm. Doing so reduces wasted spend on hardware and software integration that fails to deliver results, and also contributes to an integrated business model where IT and legal processes work together seamlessly.

Dean Van Dyke iBridge LLC

Written by Dean Van Dyke, Vice President, Business Process Optimization

Dean Van Dyke is the Vice President of Business Process Optimization for iBridge. He brings more than 18 years of customer relations, business process outsourcing, lean six sigma, program/project management, records management, manufacturing, and vendor management experience to iBridge. Mr. Van Dyke was the former head of Microsoft’s corporate records and information management team and served honorably for over fourteen years in the U.S. Navy and Army National Guard. He received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of South Dakota and his Master’s in Business Administration from Colorado Technical University.

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3 Truths of Improving Healthcare Processes and What You can do About it

3 Truths of Improving Healthcare Processes and What You can do About it

Healthcare providers are in constant search of efficiency.

And not just healthcare providers, either. Every organization out there could stand to benefit from process optimization in one form or another. It’s this basic idea that led Dr. William Edwards Deming to create his legendary 14 point plan for process evaluation efficiency over 75 years ago. These principles still hold true today, with several having special significance for improving the healthcare industry.

1. Improvement Relies on Process Management

Healthcare is complex, with many considerations. Improving processes usually means creating a better system to deal with challenges. However, it’s difficult to know exactly which processes generate the most impact. The Pareto principle applies to healthcare processes, with 20 percent of processes likely doing 80 percent of the heavy lifting. Healthcare organizations must identify these lynchpin processes and prioritize their efficiency to see the maximum return for their effort.3 Truths of Improving Healthcare Processes and What You can do About it

2. Improvements are Data-Driven

It’s as true for healthcare as it is for any industry: quality improvements rely on data. Data powers our decision making, provides context for processes, and helps ensure improvements do as they were intended. No process improvement can exist without data.

3. Managing Care and Managing Physicians are not the Same

The Deming principle of managed care was once misunderstood. Managing processes of care doesn’t mean removing agency from clinicians. Physicians are an essential part of improving health processes—they must be engaged and included in the discussion. Deming referred to clinicians as the “smart cogs” of healthcare processes. Involving physicians in the improvement process gives them a voice and helps ensure their interests are represented during times of change.

With Deming’s principles at work, we can look at how clinics can prioritize quality improvements in their organizations.

  • Implement an Enterprise Data Warehouse: A system wide hub for data and information helps provide a framework for your processes. We’ve established the necessity of data—and a centralized network of information is the best way to track whether your improvements yield results.
  • Use Pareto’s Principle: With 20 percent of processes creating 80 percent of the results, healthcare providers must know which processes are most important. Resources are limited, and quality improvements won’t come from supporting care processes that have little actual impact. Analytic tools can help providers identify these variable and resource-intensive processes.
  • Involve Everyone: Clinical teams, nurses, and physicians must all be involved in the improvement process. More perspectives offer new insights into what can be improved, and the talents of various clinical teams can inform your improvements with understanding and expertise that can’t be found elsewhere.

Dean Van Dyke iBridge LLC
Written by Dean Van Dyke, Vice President, Business Process Optimization

Dean Van Dyke is the Vice President of Business Process Optimization for iBridge. He brings more than 18 years of customer relations, business process outsourcing, lean six sigma, program/project management, records management, manufacturing, and vendor management experience to iBridge. Mr. Van Dyke was the former head of Microsoft’s corporate records and information management team and served honorably for over fourteen years in the U.S. Navy and Army National Guard. He received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of South Dakota and his Master’s in Business Administration from Colorado Technical University.

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Healthcare under Attack: The Need for Device Security

Healthcare under Attack: The Need for Device Security

Although we typically imagine the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as protectors of dietary and medicinal products, their outreach is expanding to the realm of cybersecurity.

Two of the biggest cybersecurity threats existing today involve malware and unintentional employee infections of confidential systems. These threats can compromise delicate medical devices and threaten the health of the users relying on them.

Healthcare under Attack: The Need for Device Security

In response to this emerging threat, the FDA is making medical device security a top priority. A collaboration by the FDA and the medical security focused MITRE Corporation is working to address existing vulnerabilities in medical devices to cyberattack. This approach involves better stakeholder engagement on critical issues and conducting in-depth interviews across the country to help develop a “roadmap” of medical device vulnerability. The end goal of this project, says FDA director of emergency preparedness, Suzanne Schwartz, is to establish a trusted ecosystem where security and vulnerability information can be collected, analyzed, and shared. According to Schwartz, the FDA has faced several challenges in this process:

  • Defining basic responsibility for device cybersecurity
  • Understanding device vulnerabilities for basic users
  • Knowing the challenges manufacturers face trying to address security issues
  • Reviewing expectations and accountability for manufacturers that must demonstrate their security protocols across each product’s lifespan

Addressing each of these concerns has been a primary goal of the FDA’s security strategy over the past few years.

The Need for Security

Device security relies on cooperation from multiple organizations. Both healthcare delivery organizations and device manufacturers must prioritize device security throughout each step of development and use. Healthcare organizations face constant threats from hackers trying to gain access to their privileged data. While electronic health records and hospital security infrastructure has improved, medical devices themselves have traditionally lagged behind.

MITRE’s contribution to the FDA’s initiative involves adapting the existing Common Vulnerability Scoring System to apply to medical devices in clinical settings. This assessment protocol accounts for considerations unique to each device and provides stakeholders with actionable data to be used in shaping the future of device security. The FDA and MITRE are addressing these loopholes to prevent future medical devices from being compromised and to establish protocols for better device security in the coming years.

Dean Van Dyke iBridge LLC

Written by Dean Van Dyke, Vice President, Business Process Optimization

Dean Van Dyke is the Vice President of Business Process Optimization for iBridge. He brings more than 18 years of customer relations, business process outsourcing, lean six sigma, program/project management, records management, manufacturing, and vendor management experience to iBridge. Mr. Van Dyke was the former head of Microsoft’s corporate records and information management team and served honorably for over fourteen years in the U.S. Navy and Army National Guard. He received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of South Dakota and his Master’s in Business Administration from Colorado Technical University.

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Law Department Operations: What Comes Next in the Evolution of ‘For Services Rendered’?

Law Department Operations: What Comes Next in the Evolution of ‘For Services Rendered’?

Most attorneys who have been around the block are well acquainted with the now outdated billing concept of “for services rendered.” This idea took hold in the 1980s, allowing general counsel to arbitrarily bill clients without itemization for what was being charged. This lack of transparency was challenged as boards of directors prioritized spend visibility, ensuring that their budgets were handled efficiently.

This demand for accountability sparked the explosion of the legal technology we see today, with the creation of dedicated Law Department Operations (LDO) teams. These departments help regulate technology spend in each firm, and work to increase visibility of legal matters that have traditionally gone unchecked. This trend reflects a shift in how legal services are accounted for, with greater spending accountability required by general counsel.

Alternate Strategies

Rather than continuing to operate independently, legal departments are now being held to the same standards as other sectors in its organization’s infrastructure. Businesses are applying the same strategies to their legal structures as they have to their marketing and sales departments; using metrics, data, and technology to ensure that the right people handle the right jobs.

Law Department Operations: What Comes Next in the Evolution of ‘For Services Rendered’?

Image courtesy of Jeroen van Oostrom at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A separate pricing strategy was developed: the Alternative Fee Arrangement (AFA). Instead of working off an hourly pricing model, AFAs function as agreements between law firms and legal departments to charge a flat fee based on pricing estimates. The AFA payment model flips the script on general counsel accountability. Instead of the carte-blanche spending that used to fall under “for services rendered,” AFAs require law firms to accurately calculate project costs before the work is started. This puts the burden of efficiency on general counsel—if the project runs too long, money will be lost, and if the project is finished faster than anticipated, the firm profits.

While this strategy tries to help balance the cost/benefit disconnect of traditional legal review, its success relies on the growth of data and technology. Accurate forecasting of project milestones can’t be done without supporting information to guide decision-making. This is just as true for traditional pricing structures as it is for AFAs. Data provides insight on services needed, risk analysis, and where potential cost overruns may occur. Power structures in the legal industry are changing. Counsel is being held to a higher standard of accountability than ever before, and the acceleration of technology is creating new standards of practice that will undoubtedly help shape the legal world in the years to come.

Dean Van Dyke iBridge LLC

Written by Dean Van Dyke, Vice President, Business Process Optimization

Dean Van Dyke is the Vice President of Business Process Optimization for iBridge. He brings more than 18 years of customer relations, business process outsourcing, lean six sigma, program/project management, records management, manufacturing, and vendor management experience to iBridge. Mr. Van Dyke was the former head of Microsoft’s corporate records and information management team, and served honorably for over fourteen years in the U.S. Navy and Army National Guard. He received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of South Dakota and his Master’s in Business Administration from Colorado Technical University.

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