CIO Profile

Jack Hupper, CIO, New York City Law Department

by / January 29, 2003
In 1986, Jack Hupper began his career with the New York City Law Department litigating environmental, anti-corruption and commercial cases. In 1998, he became senior counsel for information technology, a position he describes as a combination of ?pure law and pure IT.? The department?s first CIO as of September 2002, he intends to work hard on teaching the department?s legal and IT staff about what the other group does.

Describe a point at which technology and law meet.
You?re a lawyer working for the city of New York, and you?re looking at whom you want to examine in court tomorrow. Say your client has sued Jane Doe. You?ve gotten all kinds of documents from her, or actually, from her lawyer, which perhaps have been imaged and OCRd [scanned by optical character recognition software], and perhaps they have been indexed.
You need to have a system that will retrieve ? based on the text and the database ? all references to the [defendant]. So [this is the] way those documents are presented and the way you can redact them ? meaning to obscure certain parts of the document based on attorney/client privilege ? and mark them up. That?s a rather specialized system that is crucially important to lawyers working with hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of pieces of paper. Collaboration among lawyers working on the same matter is terribly important. Being able to search the work product that your legal colleagues have done, so you don?t have to reinvent the wheel all the time, is a savings to taxpayers.

What is your technology goal?
I?m trying to give my legal colleagues and everybody else here a longer lever to do their work more effectively and more happily. Technology gives us the chance to save time to work smarter, in ways that large private firms have been doing for a long time.

How do you achieve this?
The first is to orient the IT staff here more toward what large law firms do. There is an association of IT professionals of large law firms called LawNet. They have a large number of listservs where law firm IT professionals ask questions [and] give each other help; it?s very useful for people at large law firms to see what their counterparts are doing. I?m trying to foster understanding and appreciation among the IT staff and the legal staff for what one another does.

How do you manage your staff?
I am beginning to review my staff?s projects as any CIO would ? in the same way that a legal division chief would review their attorneys? cases. I?m trying to foster much better communication among IT staff so what people do is less stovepiped. I?m having IT staff with expertise in a particular subject make presentations to the [rest of the staff] generally about what they?re doing for two reasons: One is to teach them, [which] results in audience members? understanding that something that the expert is doing might impact the audience members? project; and it also allows people in the audience to get interested in all the fascinating stuff we?re working on.
So if somebody gets interested in a new subject area, maybe they can get cross-trained. There?s no law [against] being interested in your work. It?s a great thing. I have that. My avocation is my vocation. I basically fell into this with pleasure.