♬You’re my latest, tell you you’re my greatest
My latest, my greatest inspiration
You inspire me, inspire me…♬
This column was written for the Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia’s magazine “The Verdict” immediately after ABA TECHSHOW in March. That edition of The Verdict has just hit the streets (print publication lags being what they are…) so here is the column on ABA TECHSHOW 2010:
Well the three days of the 2010 edition of the American Bar Association’s TECHSHOW wrapped up on March 27. This leading legal technology conference had three major themes this year.
Theme One: The Cloud
Ethics, security and privacy concerns aside, the cloud has arrived. Whether it is using SaaS applications (software as a service) or law firms building virtual deal rooms using SharePoint, working on the cloud is now a reality for virtually all law firms.
While this may sound esoteric, chances are that you are already using cloud-based applications and probably don’t realize it. For example if you use Google Mail or Google Docs or store photographs on Flickr or are on Facebook or LinkedIn, you are on the cloud. Legal regulators, insurers and ethics committees have only started to wrestle with the professional responsibility, privacy, security and potential liability issues that are part of practicing on the cloud. The world, however, is waiting for no one as a host of cloud-based applications for lawyers as well as cloud-based virtual law firms rise on the updrafts. The cloud offers the ability to market your practice (web 2.0), to collaborate with clients (secure deal-rooms), to run your practice (practice management, time and billing, document management, legal accounting are just a few of the legal cloud-based applications) as well as to practice virtually (by adding a web-presence to your existing firm). In terms of the future of the cloud, several speakers speculated about practicing law via an avatar in virtual worlds. We shall see where that idea goes and what the legal regulators do with the implications of that possibility.
Back in this world, one of the more interesting cloud-based applications to be shown at Techshow this year was PBworks (www.pbworks.com). PBworks Legal Edition is an online collaboration platform for law firms. It allows a law firm to open up one or many secure, encrypted collaborative work spaces, both inside and outside the firm. PBworks includes case management, client extranets, knowledgebases, deal rooms, document hosting and more.
Theme Two: The Mac Track and all things Apple
The move to Apple-developed devices by lawyers was another huge theme. Whether it was the Mac computer (desktops or MacBooks), the iPhone or speculation over the impact of the iPad, Apple has certainly made incredible inroads in the legal community. In recognition of this, Techshow had a full day Mac Track and MacBooks were seen being used by attendees everywhere. In terms of cool applications, there was a full session on cool applications for lawyers for the iPhone. On the Mac application side, Marketcircle Inc., (www.marketcircle.com) a Markham Ontario-based developer showed many award-winning applications for the Mac-based lawyer. What really caught my attention was how they took Daylite and tweaked it into business productivity software for a lawyer as well as Billings, a practical time-billing and invoicing application for the Mac.
Theme Three: The Paperless office
Techshow evaporated any doubt about the coming of the age of the paperless office – it is here. Perhaps the most telling statement that was made by a presenter from a large firm is that they now consider document management passé – everything is being run from their email application (principally Outlook). Attachments, emails, voicemails (which now come into their inbox as a transcribed text) – all of these and more are linked to client files within Outlook and the search function in Outlook has become a very important component of how they work and find information.
On this theme Gavel & Gown Software (via a wholly-owned subsidiary) showed “Credenza”, an add-in for Outlook that turns Outlook into a full-fledged practice management system. Intended for solo and small firms (it is presently limited to 3 users but will be expanded beyond that this summer). It is the practice management solution for those who would not otherwise consider a full stand-alone practice management system. Credenza extends Outlook by allowing you to organize information by client/matter (rather than by contact, which is how Outlook usually works). In Credenza you can track billable time and phone calls, manage documents, check conflicts and much more. The pricing model is also interesting – it is $9.95 per user per month. Furthermore, to collaborate, see everyone’s time, documents and other information on the client file within Credenza does not require you to purchase Microsoft Exchange – a huge advantage for reaching out to the solo and small firm lawyer.
The Keynote Department
The conference keynote speaker was Ari Kaplan, a lawyer and marketing & technology author who spoke on how new technologies are exploding in the world of marketing and communications. He had many innovative marketing tips during his energizing presentation – such as using the web to find the media contacts (and then contact by email or phone call them) where and when you are giving a presentation to see if they are interested in covering it (he has appeared on talk shows and been interviewed by newspapers as a result). He noted that there are web sites devoted to matching media with speakers and writers that can be used by lawyers seeking some publicity and exposure. Furthermore, Ari brought home another theme at TECHSHOW and that was the growing use of video on the web. Lawyer marketing-types need to host video on their blogs or web pages and set up their own channel on YouTube in order to capture the eyeballs of people looking for lawyers via the Internet. Ari made one other great point and that is to market yourself by looking for ways to help others. Rather than promoting yourself, you let your interest in the needs of others speak for you. Powerful stuff.
You can watch Ari in Video on his webpage here.
Other Tidbits Department
Nancy Duhon, one of the speakers at Techshow, demonstrated how voice recognition is now transforming how lawyers work by going well beyond just transcribing voice to text. She – and many other lawyers – now have largely replaced the keyboard with a microphone – and tell their computer what to do rather than going hands-on.
The benefits of switching to Windows 7 for a law office was emphasized several times along with moving to Microsoft Office 2009 (and shortly, 2010).
The use of twittering at the conf was incredible and allowed people to catch the major points of the other sessions that were running concurrently with the session that they were attending by running Twitter on the wireless network on their laptops. Furthermore, ‘meet-ups’ (such as the “Beer for Bloggers” event hosted by Kevin O’Keefe) were largely organized via Twitter.
The degree of face-to-face social networking that occurred was also a huge benefit to attending the Conference. Attendees mingled and interacted with the faculty and themselves courtesy of the many social networking activities that were organized as part of Techshow. Examples were the opening reception and the ‘Taste of Techshow Dinners’ on Thursday and Friday nights (which were small group dutch treat dinners hosted by Techshow speakers in restaurants all over the city). Since a large number of attendees travel to Techshow there is a great deal of networking that occurs over these events during the conference and afterwards.
In terms of networking there were a large contingent of Canadians at the Conference including the second Vice President of the CBA President Trinda Ernst QC and David Paul QC from Kamloops, to name just two.
There was a big focus on Solo and Small Firm lawyers at the conference with many applications being shown. Two that struck me were OneNote and Evernote. OneNote is an application from Microsoft that you install on your computer and Evernote is a cloud-based application. Both of them allow you to create digital notebooks for projects, for organizing your practice and the like. If you like working from a paper-notebook, then these digital versions offer all that but the benefits of being able to clip, store and organize digital information quickly and easily.
60 Tips in 60 Mins Department
Of course one of the most popular sessions at Techshow is 60 Tips in 60 Minutes. This year was no disappointment. Some of the great tips were as follows
• www.vdownloader.com or www.zamzar.com -These sites allow you to download YouTube videos and convert the video to the format that you want. This way you don’t need to find web access to view videos once they are downloaded onto your computer.
• Google’s advanced search allows you to use the power of Google to search a specific domain (web site) on the web. To use it, go to “Advanced Search” and then type in the domain…type in search terms…will search the entire site that you point it to…
• www.tripit.com – use this site to not only manage trip info but share it with travel companions.
• Use Constant Contact (www.constantcontact.com) to email marketing newsletters that make it through the spam filters.
• Microsoft’s forgotten attachment detector (www.officelabs.com/projects/forgottenattachmentdetector/pages/default.aspx). Download and install this Outlook add-on that detects when you have forgotten to add an attachment to an email.
• Get the new Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500 with its software add-on bundles (for Mac or for PC).
• Get a digital camera for your practice – and add client photos to your practice management system or Outlook.
• Download www.xobni.com – which searches contact names within Outlook and gathers information about the sender by connecting to social media and your network and displays that information in Outlook.
• Show your non-billable time on your invoices. By displaying the effort and freebies that you are doing for your clients they are less likely to focus on what you are charging.
• Drag and drop PDF’s directly from ‘thumbnail views’ in Adobe
• Scheduling meeting times with www.agreedate.com
• Use www.goodsearch.com and the charity of your choice gets $ every time you search the web.
• Visit www.thinkgeek.com for loads of cool stuff.
• Got to www.netlingo.com for all the terms of the day – as well as acronyms…
• Drag and drop emails from your inbox to “Tasks” in Outlook…and Outlook will create a task from the notes in the email.
• Download ‘Edocrab’ onto your blackberry or iPhone and while shopping, take a picture of the barcode of an item ….then upload it to their web site –and it will send you reviews and other prices from competitors nearby.
• Relational database software can be corrupted by wireless networks.
• ‘Maestro’ add-on for Worldox will look at every PDF on your system and determine if it is text-searchable or not – and convert it if not.
• Be careful when using the Cloud: AOL’s Xdrive was withdrawn by AOL (with warning) while Omnidrive and Mediamax failed with no warning whatsoever.
• Use Simplyfile (a filing assistant for Outlook) which was described as a work of genius (I use it and agree!).
• Payne Consulting has released their “Outlook Send Assistant’ which flashes up an idiot box reminding people that they were BCC’d on a email so they don’t hit “reply to all”…
• Add a digital photo frame with pictures of you and your lawyers at work in your reception area.
• Use Google adwords as apparently 30% of the population follow the links on the “Sponsored Sites” in a Google search according to a Google study.
Mark your calendars now to attend the 25th anniversary edition of Techshow in Chicago in April 2011 and come home with your latest and greatest inspiration for your practice!This entry was posted on Friday, May 28th, 2010 at 10:10 am and is filed under Change Management, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Make it Work!, Technology, Tips, Trends. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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