Chemical & Engineering News,
March 27, 1995

Copyright © 1995 by the American Chemical Society.

DuPont spins a legal information web

When DuPont's legal division looked at cost-cutting, there were no plants it could improve or close. As a service organization, the division has employees and outside contracts that are its main costs. "We knew we had to dramatically enhance productivity," says Daniel B. Mahoney, DuPont's manager for law firm partnering. "There's only one way to do it, and that's through technology."

DuPont had to reengineer its relationships with external law firms, impose internal work processes, and add information technology to improve productivity.

The first move, says Mahoney, was to cut the number of outside law firms DuPont uses to support litigation from 315 to a more manageable 31. Those 31 firms were chosen after in-depth study and interviews, and the selection criteria included an ability and desire to share knowledge and keep up with technology.

Now, DuPont is connecting the 31 firms and the internal legal group on a communications network. "Instead of having a series of relationships with bipolar communications, we've created a network," says Mahoney. He sees the network as a wheel. DuPont and partnering law firms are all on the outside of the wheel, with no hub-and-spoke communications through DuPont to slow the transfer of information.

The bulk of DuPont's legal costs are for litigation by outside counsel, says Mahoney. Much of that work is for cases in which the same product is in litigation in a number of jurisdictions, with a lot of duplicated efforts at the different firms. With the new system, Mahoney says, the information learned by one firm goes on the network and is made available to all 31.

DuPont has already set up electronic mail communications with the partners. Says Mahoney, "It's not rocket science, but it's saved us a lot of money and a lot of time." The wide area network - the full communications bridge - for sharing electronic files is under a pilot test.

Five litigation support companies are also providing support to the network. Two of them are Forensic Technologies International and Quorum Litigation Services. Forensic Technologies International provides visual communications, computer simulations, and exhibits in litigation; Quorum provides document management. The two companies are helping pilot a system that turns documents into images; the system is intended to reduce costs of delivering documents in litigation.

DuPont is also developing a case management system to computerize litigation planning and budgeting. It will also allow the law firms to invoice DuPont electronically. Mahoney is also looking into video conferencing services.

"Once we have the network of interactive partners," says Mahoney, "the opportunities to use technology are only limited by our creativity and imagination."

Mahoney declines to reveal the amount of money DuPont is spending on the technology effort. But, he says litigation costs dropped 20% in 1993 and probably a similar amount in 1994, mainly through fee reductions contracted with the 31 primary law firms. As old cases handled by other firms come to conclusion, more of the litigation will run through the network firms, bringing the costs down further.

But as the benefits of fee reductions level off, the productivity enhancement should kick in, says Mahoney. The network should be in full swing by the end of 1995 and into 1996, he says. He expects additional cost savings of up to 25%. "We won't be doing things that don't need to be done; we'll be doing things that need to be done quicker and better."

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