Premier 100 IT Leaders 2008

They're simplifying IT and showing the business how to innovate.

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That's when Kesner and his team stepped in. Using a variety of off-the-shelf tools, the forensics unit developed a custom process called FIND to cull through reams of data and provide only the most relevant documents to the attorneys for review. Over the course of the case, the team handled the largest known collection of electronic discovery in any civil matter — the equivalent of 180 million pieces of paper, Kesner notes. Five weeks into the trial, the opposing party conceded, paying Fenwick & West's client $400 million to settle the case.

Since then, Kesner's team has trained attorneys to work with computer forensics and consult with the firm's clients on a wide variety of legal and IT issues, including statutory compliance, privacy, records retention and prelitigation positioning.

"The new practice is already generating revenue and is one of the firm's primary differentiators in the market," he says.

Kesner and his IT team are now focused on using technology to expand the firm's international client base. "We offer voice and video anywhere in the world at a really low cost by using voice over IP and video over IP and peer-to-peer networks," he explains. "We extend to Skype and have lots of videoconferences with iChat.

"If we have to move a lot of attorneys to areas where clients reside, we have 'away team' boxes that contain VoIP phones, video-over-IP technology and a full storage network, so we can put lawyers down anyplace in the world, and they pick up extensions with four-digit dialing," says Kesner. "Every day, we have lawyers in China, India and South America doing work with a laptop and a software-based telephone."

His willingness to test and deploy technology that is often shunned by larger organizations as too consumer-oriented for business use is precisely what is winning the firm new clients.

"Matt was far ahead of the curve with regard to developing the firm's capability to handle large-scale data mining and forensic investigations," says Lois Boyd, Fenwick & West's chief operating officer. "Instead of outsourcing this work at a significantly higher price to our clients, our capabilities have let us compete with firms much larger than ours as to quality, efficiency and price."

"A lot of the clients we work with are start-ups, so you have to find ways to do things creatively and quickly and at a very low expense, or else they can't afford it," says Kesner. "When there are great IT enhancements, it's IT's job to make them safe and productive" for the business to use.

With that done, what comes next is what Kesner and other IT leaders have been shooting for all along: true business transformation.

See more about this year's Premier 100 winners in the Class of 2008 Yearbook.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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