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Commentary: LegalTech 2014: Lots of data and e-discovery

With a side of cloud and mobile

Nicole Black

Nicole Black

Regular readers of mine know  that every February, without fail, I head off to the Big Apple to attend the LegalTech conference. This year was no different.

For those unfamiliar with this conference, which was held in Manhattan last week, it’s a legal technology conference sponsored by American Lawyer Media. Each year, it’s attended by thousands of legal and IT professionals seeking to learn about the latest legal technologies and innovations. Attendees are primarily from large law firms, ranging from attorneys to IT staff, although firms of all sizes are represented.

LegalTech 2014 seemed even more focused on e-discovery, information governance and Big Data than ever before. So much so that many have begun to jokingly propose that the conference be re-named the “e-discovery conference.”

This year’s conference included multiple educational tracks, focusing on a variety of legal technology issues, with e-discovery dominating the schedule just as it did last year. Aside from e-discovery, other tracks included information management, information governance, big data, even more big data, corporate legal IT, law firm management, technology assisted review and legal operations. Like last year, there were no tracks devoted to mobile technology or cloud computing, although there were a few individual sessions which addressed these topics.

For my coverage of LegalTech this year, I bravely ventured forth into the e-discovery-laden Exhibit Hall in search of cloudier and more mobile pastures. My goal was to find innovative cloud and mobile products for lawyers by sifting through the vast sea of e-discovery and big data analytics vendors.

While it wasn’t an easy task, I was able to locate a number of interesting and innovative cloud and mobile technologies both on and off of the exhibit floors. In fact, just like last year, I discovered that oftentimes, the most innovative legal thinking could be found on the sidelines rather than on the exhibit floor.

But at the end of the day, whether on or off of the exhibit floor, I had the pleasure of meeting with representatives of a number of legal technology companies and had the opportunity to learn about their products and their visions for the future of the legal profession.

First, I met with Josh Becker and Owen Byrd, both attorneys, to learn more about Lex Machina. a cloud-based service providing legal analytics. Targeted primarily at the IP sector, but equally useful to other types of litigator, this platform offers data-as-a-service. Lex Machina captures data by crawling PACER, the ITCs EDIS, and the USPTO website every 24 hours and allows subscribers to mine and analyze litigation data about judges, lawyers, parties, and patents, culled from millions of pages of litigation information, oftentimes IP-related litigation.

The software can be used to find specific patterns in the data depending on the attorney’s needs. The insights gleaned from the data can then be used to pitch and land new clients, win IP lawsuits, close transactions and prosecute new patents. It’s an interesting, flexible service — especially for litigators — that holds a lot of potential.

Next I met with representatives from both Worldox and Workshare, two cloud-based platforms that announced an integration of their products at LegalTech. For those unfamiliar with these companies, Worldox has long provided premise-based document management for law firms and recent;y rolled out a cloud-based version of their product. Workshare is a cloud-based  document storage and collaboration platform that allows customers to manage and discuss documents stored in their online platform. The integration of the two products permits Worldox users to collaborate on documents using Workshare’s platform.

Worldox also announced an integration with Canon copiers which allows users to automatically scan documents directly into the Worldox system using a Canon-enabled copier. The goal of this integration is to streamline the paperless office by facilitating the filing of digital copies of documents directly into the Worldox document management system.

I also met with Ben Shapiro of AdaptiveSky, a company that provides privately hosted cloud networks for law firms using traditional premise-based legal software applications. A complete Office suite and PDF editing software are automatically installed on a law firm’s cloud network as part of the subscription cost. Any other premise-based legal software used by the firm can also be hosted, but the firm is responsible for purchasing the software and paying the annual licensing fees.

The monthly subscription for the use of Adaptive Sky’s service is over $100 per user per month, which is quite a bit higher than what is typically charged by law practice management vendors who provide software-as-a-service (SaaS), as opposed to hosting-as-a-service. But for lawyers seeking to have more flexibility and mobility while still using the premise-based software already in use by their firm, the higher price point may be well worth it.

Speaking of legal SaaS companies, not surprisingly, many of the traditional cloud-based law practice management providers were also at LegalTech. I attended with two of my colleagues from MyCase, Clio representatives were there in force, Lexis’ Firm Manager, of course, was on display, and Rocket Matter representatives attended as well.

Both Clio and Firm Manager announced major overhauls of their platforms, with the end goals being to improve the interfaces and make the platforms more user-friendly. Each provider’s approach was very different, so as is always the case, it’s important to test drive any platform before you commit to using it, since it often boils down to personal preference.

Clio also rolled out a new pricing plan, increasing monthly subscription costs by 47 percent. Before the price hike, the monthly price was $49 per attorney and $24 per non-attorney. Now the monthly cost is $72 per user, regardless of whether the user is an attorney or support staff. The monthly cost is reduced to $65 per user if the firm commits to an annual contract. The new prices do not affect current customers.

So, for those interested in learning more about available legal cloud tools, LegalTech offered an assortment of platforms and services to consider. Whether you were in the market for cloud-based document management, Web-based document collaboration, analysis of litigation data, mobile access to your firm’s premise-based legal software, or a full-fledged Web-based practice management system, LegalTech 2014 had you covered.

All in all, LegalTech once again proved to be well worth the time and energy spent to attend. As always, this year’s conference resulted in a wonderful convergence of like-minded people interested in innovative legal technology and the future of our profession. My time at the conference was jam packed with meetings, lunches, dinners and coffees with lawyers, legal technology entrepreneurs, journalists, bloggers and other members of the legal technology community.

I participated in many fascinating conversations about the impact of technology on the practice of law and left with a sense of hopefulness about days to come and the direction of the legal profession as a whole. If it sounds like your cup of tea, you just might want to attend next year!

Nicole Black is a director at MyCase.com, a cloud-based law practice management platform. She is also of counsel to Fiandach & Fiandach in Rochester and is a GigaOM Pro analyst. She is the author of the ABA book “Cloud Computing for Lawyers,” coauthors the ABA book “Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier,” and co-authors “Criminal Law in New York,” a West-Thomson treatise. She speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes three legal blogs and can be reached at niki@mycase.com.

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