We all heard it as kids: "Share your toys." But what about in our professional lives? Law firms have sophisticated "toys" – hardware, software and resources – that experts often lack. Share these with your experts and you will see the return in lower costs and more certain results.
You hire experts for one reason – their expertise. But before they ever get to the point of applying that expertise, experts may spend valuable time on peripheral tasks that law firms are better equipped to handle.
Consider, for example, Ken Thompson, a mechanical engineer and principal of OKEN Consulting, based in San Jose, Calif. An expert in RFID technology and the owner of several patents in the field, Thompson often provides consulting services to law firms in patent cases.
Particularly at the outset, these cases can be labor-intensive, requiring Thompson to acquire and scrutinize dozens of patents. Beyond the time he spends merely searching for and downloading patents, he might require up to 30 minutes per patent to scour it for occurrences of key words and phrases.
Sharing resources readily at their disposal, law firms could help ensure that they get the full value of Thompson's expertise without wasting any of his time. For example, they could:
- Supply high-quality materials. If the law firm has access to high-quality PDF versions of the patents, provide them to the expert at the outset. You would make the expert's work easier, more accurate and more efficient. This holds true for any field in which the firm has access to higher-quality resources and materials.
In providing these electronic files, Thompson adds, the law firm should take the simple step of putting them on an FTP server for the expert to download or of burning them to a CD. Otherwise, the expert may have to spend as much as an hour just downloading files.
- Share tools. When patent cases turn on claims construction, experts focus their attention on the meanings of particular words, scouring claims to see how those words were used. An expert can spend substantial time going through each patent, highlighting occurrences of key words.
- Make best use of technology. Don't send large electronic files to an expert by e-mail. Load them to an FTP server or burn them onto a CD. Let the expert focus on analysis, not bandwidth.
- Share software tools. As one example, law firms may have high-end software that allows them to search and index PDF files. Make this available for your expert to use – ideally through a Web interface – and you dramatically cut the expert's time and enhance the expert's accuracy.
- Provide a blueprint. With the benefit of both technology and experience, lawyers are able to anticipate key dates and events in a case. Experts, on the other hand, sometimes find themselves left in the dark. Early on, give the expert a blueprint laying out the overall course of a case and key events and deadlines involving the expert.
These examples draw from patent cases, but the point holds true for any field. Share the tools and resources already at your disposal, and you will enable the expert to focus on sharing expertise -- delivering greater value at less cost.