“Beware the barrenness of a busy life” – Socrates
Most attorneys want to use the latest technology, but never do. The benefits of new technology may be unclear or new tools unintuitive. Most attorneys are also too busy working to carve-out time to learn about new technology. ABA Techshow is the antidote to these problems.
The annual show is a one-stop-shop for small to mid-sized law firm technology. [i] It offers CLEs on topics such as running a paperless practice, marketing via Yelp, using Macs in a law office and phone applications (“apps”) attorneys will appreciate. For example, a top tip from the social media in litigation CLE: If you seek discovery of social media evidence know where the data ultimately resides. Services like Facebook store most data on their servers, but others, like Kik (a chat application), store most data on the user’s device.
Uniquely, the show also offers multiple opportunities to network with presenters, and fellow attendees, via “meet the author” events, dinners with experts, dedicated networking and a robust social media conversation.
Vendors are a key aspect of Techshow. They demonstrate products, answer questions and let you test products while an experienced user guides you. In a few minutes, you get a sense of whether you like an offering or want to look at competitors. Most feature a free trial so you can try the product in your environment. Here are a few Techshow vendors that might help you work better, and less:
- Capture.it [ii] is a time-capture product that integrates with your billing system to automatically track and create time entries, particularly from time spent on emails, calls, traveling and certain work on your desktop. Similarly, Chrometa [iii] captures your time by monitoring your computer and smartphone activities, but it does not require billing system integration. It also captures time spent on websites.
- Autocaid [iv] turns bank and brokerage statements into spreadsheets. Users upload scans of paper statements to Autocaid and it produces a spreadsheet of transactions. The spreadsheet helps users see trends or recurring activities and avoid manual data entry. Autocaid’s process also identifies any statement periods that may be missing.
- Legaler [v] is an Australian company that allows attorneys to video chat with clients (similar to Skype) in lieu of face-to-face meetings. The service will also offer attorney-client messaging, document sharing, scheduling and will automatically archive communications by client, subject and matter. The service has not launched publically and is currently free. You can request an invite at www.legaler.com.
- Wordrake [vi] is an automated editor for Microsoft Word and Outlook. Once you’ve written a document or email you click the Wordrake button and it suggests edits to eliminate clutter, improve unclear phrasing and reduce re-reading. You accept or reject each edit similar to “Track Changes” in a Word document. I humbly suggest an upgrade to the next version of Wordrake. At the show, I gnashed my teeth when folks used the phrase “Buffalo Wings.” As a native Western New Yorker, I can affirm, they are just “wings.” Wordrake can eliminate verbosity, and protect my sensibilities, by deleting the modifier.
The best part of technology shows is seeing unorthodox – from a legal perspective – approaches that just might work. Although the following companies currently serve relatively narrow markets, the concepts below might someday be widely-copied models.
- CrowdLaw [vii] helps individuals who cannot afford representation solicit funds via the Internet (i.e. “crowdfunding”). Potential clients create a fundraising campaign. If donors contribute enough money the funds are sent directly to the attorney. CrowdLaw markets itself to attorneys as a monthly service they can use to help potential clients raise funds. The number of client campaigns and level of support from CrowdLaw determines the attorney subscription fee. Crowdlaw also takes a 3 percent charge against donations made.
This is an interesting concept. It could be a good way, especially for individuals and small advocacy groups, to raise funds. Yet, I want more information on ethical concerns and possible complications, such as what happens if a potential client decides mid-campaign to switch to a different attorney, or how are the social media aspects of the campaign monitored to ensure they do not undermine a case or violate ethics.
- FiscalNote [viii] uses artificial intelligence to accurately forecast legislative outcomes and provide regulatory analysis. Those attempting to influence legislators can improve their effectiveness by focusing on bills that have a high likelihood of passage. Given enough data, one could see this technology applied to judges, arbitrators and regulators to effectively forecast how they might decide issues in a case or proceeding.
You needn’t attend a technology show to incorporate new technology or practices into your routines. Bloggers aplenty will summarize such shows, review new offerings and contrast competing services. My fellow Daily Record columnist, Niki Black, helpfully highlights blogger coverage of Techshow in her recent blog post. [ix]
You can also take a simpler approach. At the next bar association event, instead of talking about how busy you are, ask other attorneys about their favorite program or phone app. Your goal is more tricks, less clicks.
i. Full disclosure: I received a complementary press pass to attend ABA Techshow.
Scott Malouf is an attorney who helps other attorneys use social media, text and Web-based evidence. You can learn more about him at his website (www.scottmalouf.com) and follow him on Twitter at @ScottMalouf.