Since 2009 I’ve attended and covered LegalTech New York in the dead of winter. This year was no exception. Last week I braved the snow and cold to hop on a plane and fly to New York City only to be faced with even more snow and cold.
Fortunately, I spent much of my time inside the warm, welcoming Midtown Hilton, meeting with vendors, bloggers and journalists in the legal technology space. Our conversations inevitably focused on the intersection of law and technology, a topic near and dear to my heart.
For those unfamiliar with LegalTech, 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 tend to be from large law firms, ranging from attorneys to IT staff, although firms of all sizes are represented.
Every year, LegalTech’s focus seems to be narrowing with the topics covered this year trending toward e-discovery and big data, although there was lots of knowledge management, information governance, and cloud and mobile computing thrown in for good measure as well. This year’s conference included multiple educational tracks, focusing on a variety of legal technology issues, with information governance dominating the schedule. Other topics included discovery, data analytics, predictive coding, law firm management, mobile data management, cybersecurity, risk management, law office productivity and more.
One of my favorite parts of this conference is that I get to engage with like-minded souls who share a passion for law and technology. That’s why I set up so many meetings with different legal technology entrepreneurs: to discuss the legal technology space and understand their perspectives on the future of legal technology and how their product fits into it. I also get to learn about their latest releases or partnerships and why they think their new announcements will help to shape their vision for their products and the industry as a whole.
This year, I noticed a pattern amongst the vendors I chose to meet with: documents, documents and more documents. I must have had paper on my mind when I set up the appointments!
For starters, I met with representatives from three different legal technology companies that offered document management for the litigation preparation process. Not surprisingly, each product had a slightly different focus and different features, although there was an overlap of features in some cases. Another difference between the products was their respective target markets. And, as you might expect, the target market and core functions necessarily affected the feature offering of each product. All three products were cloud-based rather than premise-based software.
First, I learned about Opus2 Magnum, which offers “evidence analysis and case collaboration” software. Although they suggested they targeted firms of all sizes, it seemed more like an offering for larger firms based on the feature offering and other factors. Essentially, this software allows lawyers within a firm to collaborate on evidence and share comments and analysis as they prepare a case for trial. Some of the more interesting features include the ability to simultaneously view a deposition transcript while the corresponding video is playing. Interestingly, in contrast to most cloud-based products, instead of uploading your documents and data into the system yourself, the firm relies on representatives at the software company to do that for them.
Next, I met with Lecia Kaslofsky, the CEO and co-founder of Factbox. This intuitive software, which seems more appropriate for small- to medium-sized firms, allows litigation teams to gather the relevant facts of a case into a dynamic document and then provides links to the original source of the fact or quote, such as a deposition transcript, along with information regarding the person who placed the fact into the document. It also allows you to filter and sort the data placed into the document by date or other types of filters that you create.
Finally, I met with Alma Asay, the founder of Allegory, intuitive software designed to connect all of the relevant information that a litigation team needs to prepare a case for trial. It’s designed for complex, document-intensive litigation, so firms of all sizes that handle these types of matters could arguably benefit from this software, although mid-sized to larger firms seem to be the most likely target users. This software is very robust and has lots of useful features that simply and streamline the collaboration process. For example, once you add a document to the case file, the system automatically determines if it’s a duplicate of a document already in the system and if it is, it cross references and links the duplicates. This software is designed to simplify complex litigation and allow the litigation team to easily share their thoughts and analysis as they review the evidence and prepare the case for trial.
But the document-related software I learned about didn’t end there. I also met with Donna Payne, CEO of Payne Group, a company that offers a number of software products designed to streamline and secure documents as they flow through — and out of — a law firm. Donna is one of my favorite legal technology entrepreneurs to talk to and I had a great conversation with her about the legal space and about their latest release, Redact Assistant. This software is compatible with the latest Microsoft versions of Word, Excel and Windows and allows you to remove sensitive content from a single file or multiple files. Among other things, you can redact multiple terms in one single process, search and replace multiple terms in one single process, and create lists of terms for specific redaction and search/replace criteria.
I also met with representatives from Box: Justin Somaini, chief trust officer, and Nitin Gupta, director of Professional Services, to learn about their latest offerings and to discuss how they fit into the legal technology space. We discussed security quite a bit and during that discussion, they alluded to an announcement that would soon be made that related to document security. Sure enough, a press release was issued on Feb. 10 detailing the release of Box Enterprise Key Management, which offers controls and customer-held encryption codes for cloud collaboration and file sharing. These features will no doubt make Box more appealing to the legal sector.
Another product that I learned about was BrainLoop, which provides virtual data rooms for collaboration. Data rooms of this type are often appealing to firms that need to share large numbers of documents, such as during mergers and acquisition matters. There are certainly a number of companies in the legal technology space that already provide this service but one thing that sets BrainLoop apart is that it is ITAR compliant. This compliance appeals to firms and their clients that are involved in transactions that involve the sale or distribution of goods or services covered under the United States Munitions List. Only time will tell if this higher level of compliance will allow them to create a niche in the legal space that will allow them to thrive in an already competitive market.
Finally, I met with Nehal Madhani, CEO of Plainlegal. The software product provides document automation for IP filings that also auto-fills deadlines and integrates with most calendar systems. Specifically, it automatically generates U.S. Patent and Trademark Office filings, and tracks USPTO deadlines. Right now the software is only designed for IP law but will soon expand to immigration filings and the creation and filing of other business documents as well.
So, when all was said and done, my LegalTech 2015 experience ended up revolving around documents, document management and document collaboration. But, given how document-intensive the practice of law is, the fact that there are now many new and innovative legal software solutions aimed at controlling and streamlining the flow of documents should come as no surprise. There’s a need and cloud computing is making it easier than ever for software developers to create affordable-and powerful-software for document management and collaboration. And the good news is that there are plenty of innovative companies stepping up to meet the demand.
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 email@example.com.