Last week I attended the annual ILTA (International Legal Technology Association) conference in Las Vegas. If you’re not familiar with it, ILTACON is described on the conference website as “a four-day educational conference that draws on the personal and collective strengths of professionals working in technology within law firms and legal departments. ILTACON will empower us to share what works, what doesn’t and the tools to face challenges now and in the future.”
ILTACON attendees are typically from large and mid-sized firms, although that is slowly changing and solos and small firm representatives are increasingly finding value in this conference. It’s a huge conference with thousands in attendance and this year, nearly 200 vendors exhibited. I attended on a press pass and while there, engaged in many different meetings and conversations about the future of legal technology. One theme that emerged no matter whom I spoke with was that at its core, legal technology — in all its forms — was a driver of efficiency in law firms.
My first night there I had dinner with Rob Ameerun, a legal technology consultant and the publisher of LegalITPros (legalitprofessionals.com), and Jeffrey Brandt, a legal technology consultant and the editor of Pinhawk Blog (pinhawk.com). There was much discussion about the big announcements at the conference — such as Microsoft announcing the release of Matter Center for Office 365 into the legal space — and their predicted effects on the legal technology space. The conclusion reached was that in theory many of the new products announced at ILTA would increase efficiency in practice, but few had withstood the tests of time. In other words, tune in tomorrow and see.
The next day I had a sit down with Andy Wilson, CEO and Founder of Logikcull (logikcull.com), a cloud-based discovery automation platform. According to Andy, e-discovery software has become unnecessarily complex and costly. Legal software should be intuitive, accessible, and effective, allowing lawyers to provide more efficient service to their clients. Once again, that word “efficient” cropped up.
Not surprisingly, I encountered that concept again later that day when I met with two different legal vendors with software products designed to streamline the creation of legal documents. When I spoke with Linda Sackett, founder of the Sackett Group (thesackettgroup.com), she told me how she’d developed MacPac in 1990 to increase efficiency by allowing lawyers and their staff to easily create macros for Microsoft Word documents regularly used in their office. The most recent updates fine-tuned the software to work with the latest version of Office.
Then I spoke with Ian Levit, VP of Levit & James (levitjames.com), who shared the latest updates to Best Authority, software that automatically formats Tables of Authorities for legal documents. This software makes law firms more efficient by drastically reducing the amount of time spent on creating Tables of Authorities, which can often be a time consuming and tedious process.
During my next meeting, efficiency emerged as a theme once again. I learned about some of Intapp’s (intapp.com) latest releases and spoke with Lea Schweitzer, marketing manager, and Mark Bilson, vice president of Intapp’s Integration Practice. My favorite part of this discussion was learning about their beta app for the Apple Watch. The app works with their billing software, Intapp Time, and allows lawyers to track and enter time using their Watch. The interface was simple, clean, and intuitive, exhibiting a good understanding by the app developers of the functionality and ways that users interact with Watch. They discussed plans to build geolocation prompts into the app, with the end goal being to drive efficiencies by allowing lawyers to easily capture time, rather than attempting to recreate it from memory at the end of the day.
Finally, last, but certainly not least, I met with Ron Friedmann, a law practice management and technology consultant and blogger at the Strategic Legal Technology Blog (http://prismlegal.com/blog/). Ron and I had a really interesting and lively discussion about the conference itself and the direction of legal technology advancements. While Ron’s focus is on large law firms and mine tends to be more on solo and small law firms, we discovered several areas of overlap, including the idea that at the end of the day, leaders at law firms both large and small need to understand and embrace the rapidly changing legal landscape. Doing so will allow them to choose the right tools for their law firms and increase efficiencies. The end result will be happier lawyers and better client service.
Once again — efficiency. While a simple concept, it’s also a powerful one. I’m looking forward to attending ILTACON next year to see how this year’s legal technology releases have panned out. It will be interesting to see whether all the talk about efficiency was simply lip service — or if it’s a concept that will truly be embraced by law firms big and small.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org