Micro-Symposium on Legaltech 2017

The article below was originally published in SmallLaw, a free email newsletter for lawyers and others who work in small law firms. Get the complete SmallLaw experience — sign up for your free subscription now.

Scenes from Legaltech — Dave DiCicco demoes Lexis for Microsoft Office, Kroll offers booth visitors cold beer, Jesus Maria Boccio shows off Speechware’s new TravelMike.

The Legalweek/Legaltech 2017 trade show took place in New York City last week from Jan 31 to Feb 2. To bring the show to your inbox, this issue of SmallLaw features what we call a “micro-symposium” — a panel of Legaltech exhibitors and other legal technology experts who attended offering their quick takes. Specifically, we asked them to respond to the following question:

What notable trend, interesting products (other than yours), tip, insight, highlight, or lowlight did you learn about or observe at Legaltech this week that you’d like to share with small law firms?

Deborah Tesser, Innovative Products for the Few Small Firms in Attendance

This year, Legaltech — or Legalweek as they tried to rebrand it — attempted to bring small law firms into the fold with its LegalSmallFirm track. However, the pricing was too steep for most. For the first time, they also charged for entry to the exhibits hall. The result — fewer small firm lawyers showed up.

For the small firm lawyers in the house, there were some innovative companies on display. How to Manage a Small Law Firm was the clear standout. Come for the puppies, stay for the pitch. Those guys get that “law is a business” and have a compelling story and model for lawyers to follow. Other interesting entries — My Broadcast Studio (remote video production) and Scroll (content newsfeeds) for $50/month.

The Evolve Law “Future of Legal” Darwin Talks on Monday night was another highlight. Anyone interested in up and coming players in the legal tech space should definitely have Evolve Law on their radar.

Deborah Tesser is VP of Strategic Planning at Zola Media, the creators of Zola Suite, next generation cloud-based legal practice management software.

Robert Ambrogi, Office 365 Gains Legal-Specific Capabilities

One development of interest to smaller law firms is Microsoft’s new emphasis on tailoring Office 365 to better fit the legal market, including the small-firm sector. The Office 365 business plans are already good options for small firms and solos, with the top-tier plan offering a full desktop and cloud business suite for just $12.50 a month.

But now Microsoft is working with various legal vendors to create Office 365-compatible versions of their products. Announced at Legalweek was an Office 365 version of Lexis for Microsoft Office, providing access to a variety of LexisNexis research and drafting tools from directly within Word, on any device from any location.

Already available within Office 365 was LawToolBox, a legal calendaring application. More such integrations are in the works, with the promise of making Office 365 a strong option for any small firm.

Robert Ambrogi covers legal technology at Lawsitesblog.com and is a technology columnist for Above the Law, ABA Journal and Law Practice magazine.

Brett Burney, NetDocuments in iOS and Cullable for Cloud OCR

While I rarely recommend the Legaltech/Legalweek conference for small law firms, there are always some interesting offerings hidden in the cracks of the midtown Hilton.

It was fascinating listening to NetDocuments discuss their cutting-edge security improvements. But I was more excited to hear that NetDocuments is now listed as a native open location inside the Microsoft iOS Office Apps, alongside Box, Dropbox, OneDrive, etc. You can now access your NetDocuments library from directly inside the Microsoft Word app, make edits to a document, and save directly back to NetDocuments.

I also liked hearing about the high-powered, cloud-based OCR tools from Platinum IDS’ Cullable. They have a cute URL at ocrsucks.com. If you’ve ever had to devote a computer to OCR thousands of scanned documents this service will be a lifesaver.

Brett Burney at Burney Consultants LLC expertly coaches legal professionals on the intricacies of ediscovery as well as successfully implements Mac and iOS devices into their everyday workflow.

Benjamin Snipes, Worldox Encryption at Rest Debuts

I really like novel solutions to big problems that do not make law firms change their workflows too much. One solution I learned about this week that I thought was very good for small firms was the Worldox Encryption at Rest (WEAR) solution. It solves the big problem of network breaches when a computer system is unattended. For small firms, this is a big benefit without interrupting their normal workflows. If only all innovations for small firms were as easy.

Benjamin Snipes is Product Director, Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory U.S.

Ian O’Flaherty, Legalweak

If you’re looking for a legal technology show that has cutting edge companies, with new technology to help you and your firm save time and money rather than spending your clients’ money, Legalweak is not the show for you. Like its parent company ALM, it’s about pay-to-play. If you’re a big company with a marketing budget to lose, you can pay and play. But the majority of lawyers don’t breathe that rarefied air, and their clients are happy they don’t. Keep reading TechnoLawyer, find a few great tech-forward legal blogs, and consider ABA TECHSHOW instead.

Ian O’Flaherty is the Founder & CEO of LIT SOFTWARE, developers of the award winning legal specific iPad apps: TrialPad, TranscriptPad, and DocReviewPad.

Mary Ellen Bellusci, Many Legal Technology Consultants Are Woefully Uneducated

I learned that it may not always pay to use a technology consultant, or, more specifically, that you should always conduct due diligence before hiring someone to guide you. I met with many independent consultants who work with law firms, and found them woefully uneducated about case management software, integrations between software packages, and knowledge or understanding of pricing structures.

I would recommend small law firms call and verify pricing directly with the vendors with whom they intend to engage. I’d also recommend taking a hard look at renting licenses versus buying licenses. Monthly costs certainly seem cheaper, but in the long run, make sure a vendor is educating you about what you get and how to get your data out of it.

Mary Ellen Bellusci is the Vice President at Needles, Inc., creators of Needles Case Management Software for Law Firms.

Jeff Pfeifer, The Cloud Offers Small Law Firms Unprecedented Power

Legal Week confirms that the move to the cloud in law is alive and well, especially for small law firms. More than ever before, small law firms are in a position to manage the practice, conduct research, and utilize advanced drafting solutions — all without the installation of local software. Analytics delivered via cloud applications promise new client and business insights for small firms.

Also on display: new small firm cloud-based document creation and workflow automation solutions. For the small law firm, this means improved opportunities to leverage model work product to speed document drafting and review. Access to unprecedented collections of automated forms, checklists and guidance commentary further level the competitive playing field with larger competitors.

Finally, accelerated adoption of Microsoft’s Office 365 promises new cloud-based improvements in document drafting and collaboration. A tipping point appears near for the shift from local to cloud-based storage and is likely to accelerate in 2017.

Jeff Pfeifer is the Vice President of Product Management at LexisNexis, an award-winning global provider of content and technology solutions.

Nehal Madhani, Data-Driven Law Firm Management

There is more data available than ever before as firms start or adopt more technologies in their practices. It was great to see speakers and exhibitors at Legaltech 2017 begin to showcase how data can be used to deliver valuable insights for smaller firms.

For example, moderator Mary Juetten’s workshop addressed Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for practices and how data is used to support the application of KPIs. As technology providers are able to collect user data, they will increasingly offer public and private insights that law firms will be able to use to inform key decisions for their practices and benchmark their firms.

Nehal Madhani is the CEO of Alt Legal, cloud-based software that automatically creates and dockets intellectual property filings.

Shawn Gaines, Machine Learning in Litigation Becomes Mainstream

Analytics and artificial intelligence is no longer a fringe topic, and one that a number of panelists and vendors are saying should be used on every case, particularly around ediscovery. The CEO of FRONTEO made a great point in a predictions panel that “80 percent of what we call ediscovery today will disappear in the next 5 years” due to AI. It’s time for firms of all sizes to consider how they can best take advantage of machine learning.

Shawn Gaines is the director of communications for kCura, the developers of the ediscovery software Relativity.

Michael Barrons, Artificial Intelligence Holds Great Promise

There are some very exciting new technologies driving innovation in the legal sector. In a world with growing regulations, artificial intelligence presents some exciting opportunities to more efficiently handle this complexity and deliver faster response and service to client needs. It will be interesting to watch how these technologies evolve, the impact they will have on traditional billing models, and how the industry embraces them going forward.

Michael Barrons is the Marketing Director at Infoware, a leading provider of template management and document automation solutions for the legal industry.

Jesus Maria Boccio, American Lawyers Need to Speak Up

As an European lawyer, I have been rather surprised by the following paradox: the amazing progress made by American AI Research & Development will bring perfect speech recognition within 2–3 years. However, very few of the American colleagues I met at Legaltech seem to dictate or are aware of the disruptive consequences of this technology for their practice. Something similar happened to taxi drivers 3 years ago …

Jesus Maria Boccio, European lawyer and CEO of SpeechWare, showcased PhraseWizard and the finest speech recognition microphones at Legaltech 2017.

The above article was originally published in SmallLaw, a free email newsletter for lawyers and others who work in small law firms. Get the complete SmallLaw experience — sign up for your free subscription now.