From Big Law to Tech Boutique: 5 Questions for Xerdict’s Kenneth Jones

Topics: Client Relations, Justice Ecosystem: Technology, Law Firms, Legal Innovation, Midsize Law Firms Blog Posts

technological competence

In late January, 65 lawyers left Sedgwick, a firm with a long-time reputation for innovation. Among the departures were partners Michael Tanenbaum (a former chair), James Keale and Thomas Robertson— who decided to launch a boutique trial firm in order “to partner more closely with our clients.”

They named it Tanenbaum Keale (nicknamed TKTrial). Tanenbaum is Chair, Keale is a name partner and Robertson is Managing Partner.

Tanenbaum Keale now has three offices — in New York, Newark, N.J. and Malvern, Pa. — and 17 lawyers. But the new firm didn’t just bring lawyers aboard, it also brought along Xerdict Group, previously a subsidiary of Sedgwick. Xerdict provides technology and services for clients to help manage cases, support practices, develop new businesses and reduce expenses. Kenneth Jones, who ran Xerdict at Sedgwick, now has two titles: Chief Operating Officer for Xerdict, and Chief Technologist for Tanenbaum Keale.

Justice Ecosystem caught up with Jones and asked him five questions about the new venture:

1. There has been a lot of change for you in the last six months! Tell us about the new shop.

Kenneth Jones: Well, perhaps the best way to answer is that many things have changed and some are still the same. We are in the same office, but we’ve moved virtually all our applications and data to the cloud. Our self-governing nature allows us to be more flexible, although at times, the need to redevelop certain processes such as conflicts-checking or document-retention programs keep us pretty busy. All in all, it is a very exciting time as we collaborate at all levels of the organization to build the best client-focused law firm we possibly can.

2. What are the advantages of going boutique?

Kenneth Jones: Our chair has spoken to the concept about how decoupling from a larger firm offers some unique benefits. At Tanenbaum Keale, we can develop multi-dimensional options specifically tailored to our client base, with a bit less review and overhead. We have considerable autonomy to brainstorm and try different approaches to meet the needs of our clients, which we do in a collegial environment. By virtue of our starting from the ground-up, we have state-of-the-art equipment and applications available to us to serve our clients. Finally, it must be noted, we also seem to have a lot more free food! That’s always a plus!

3. How will TKTrial be using technology for their clients?

Kenneth Jones: About everything we have in place is new, both equipment and applications, and virtually everything is operated in the cloud. New versions of applications, such as iManage, Office Outlook 365, OneDrive, Mimecast, Workshare and MaaS360 allow us to offer best features and capabilities to our employees and clients.

To cite a few examples: We can share materials more securely with clients using iManage Share. We strive to automate work processes using comparison technology, such as that available in WorkShare. We can push useful mobile applications out to employees using MaaS360, and we can help employees collaborate with each other and clients using tools like OneDrive and iManage Share.

We still offer CaseEnsemble, our internally branded hosted case management systems, to our clients. Collectively, we see these technologies as foundational elements to our firm’stransition to paperless environment. It allows us to more freely share current file information with our clients as we enhance the collaborative nature of our relationships.

These innovative technologies are not only used to offer new services to our clients, they also protect our clients. We use top tier firewalls, services like Mimecast and MaaS360, Cisco Umbrella, and real-time virus scanning and intrusion detection to be vigilant in safeguarding our client’s data.

4. What is the biggest challenge for you, and how to you approach it?

Kenneth Jones: Constantly remembering to be malleable and redefine my job. For example, as my son and I saw the soccer game between Chelsea and Stoke City on New Year’s Eve, my LinkedIn profile stated that I led an SaaS company offering applications in the legal market (Xerdict Group). A month later, I was working on an implementation project.

Now, in May, I have a great number of varied tasks. I must be sure to carve out enough time in my day to be an educator to all of our firm’s team — so they improve their skill set to take advantage of the new technologies. New projects will need my attention, and I must continue to support Xerdict and work with new clients. I will also need to learn to trust in the many capable companies we partner with, such as Micro Strategies,and the excellent technologists we have in-house. 

5. Where do you want to be in five years?

Kenneth Jones: I often tell my friends and family that I just try to make it through each day in this new adventure. But it’s a great question, as an instructive reminder that I should be looking a bit further out to be sure I am appropriately anticipating the needs of the firm and our clients.

It should be an exciting lustrum, to say the least.

Disclosure: Jones was a columnist at ALM’s Law Technology News when Monica Bay was Editor-in-Chief.