Copyright 2011. ALM Media Properties, LLC. All rights reserved. The Recorder.
Hidden Gems in Legal Technology
By: Kevin L. Nichols
2011-03-28 04:14:32 PM
LegalTech New York is arguably the marquee legal technology conference of the year. It is heavily vendor driven, with more than 100 vendors exhibiting their products and services to both law firm and corporate IT, litigation/practice support and procurement managers from all over the world. The “show,” as it is affectionately referenced, typically features the latest in e-discovery technology based on the EDRM reference model. However, there were other vendors demonstrating how their software can elevate the efficiency and security of the practice of law, and these are the “hidden gems” that I found at this year’s show.
CALENDARING AND E-FILING
American Legal Net offers the “No. 1 Desktop to Courthouse Workflow Solution” in its suite of products called Forms WorkFlow, eDockets Critical Dates and eFiling Portal. The cycle begins with eDockets, which is a critical date management tool that ensures all deadlines are met. It captures client/matter billing numbers, calculates dates based on eFiling receipts and preloaded rule sets, and synchronizes with Microsoft Outlook. It can be deployed using an intranet or over an existing Sharepoint environment.
Forms WorkFlow is a nationwide solution of more than 60,000 fillable Word or PDF court forms that allows the user to autofill the case caption, attorneys contact information, etc., to save time, energy and money. Then, the eFiling Portal can file and track the documents, and start the cycle all over again.
There were some intriguing features: 1) eDockets has an attorney change utility that seamlessly transfers matters previously assigned to an attorney, who may no longer be with the firm, to another attorney; 2) eFiling has a “smart conversion” feature that automatically shrinks the file size of a PDF to ensure that it can be e-filed (which I am certain legal secretaries will be very happy about); and 3) When a new matter is added, the software automatically downloads the first few filings in the matter for
free. Having worked in law firms for more than a decade, I can see that these software products and services are a complete solution that could be useful in any busy litigation firm.
BDS can alleviate the need for law firms to purchase CDs, DVDs or hard drives, or send out projects to vendors that they can do in house. For example, if a firm has internally “brief-cased” or scanned a large document set to produce to opposing counsel, it no longer has to burn the production onto a disk, draft a cover letter, affix the appropriate postage to a mailing envelop, etc., to get the production out the door. With BDS, an attorney can send the documents as a link enclosed with a cover email, track when it has been received and retain a copy of what was sent. Additionally, BDS integrates with iManage and works with Sharepoint. One concern with BDS is that it may not meet the “service” standards outlined in federal and state rules. Thus, I would recommend that any party reach an agreement with counsel before relying on such methods to exchange sensitive documents.
TrialPad for iPad is an easy-to-use trial presentation software that is slick and robust. The user can connect a projector or whatever is already set up in the courtroom to an iPad and access documents and exhibits. Not only can you edit or annotate the documents “on the fly,” but you can minimize and maximize the text of a document, highlight text, pull up web pages and even play video. Organizing documents and files is simple and the results are powerful. If you are a Mac user, you will fall in love with this app and save money by eliminating costly trial consultants for your cases that make it to trial.
MARKETING AND BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT
RealPractice offers affordable marketing solutions for lawyers and law firms. RealPractice builds an attractive and effective website with all of the search engine optimization needed to increase your rankings to the top of search engine results, which ultimately leads to generating more new business. For firms that do not already utilize their own customer relationship management software, it allows them to keep track of contacts, clients and potential clients. Moreover, it manages the conversion from visitors of one’s website to actual clients. The software can create and maintain new matters and can even generate invoices. Furthermore, RealPractice is all “cloud-based,” so there are no issues with maintaining the site on the firm’s servers, nor any IT security risks.
RealPractice allows “low tech” lawyers to rely on an affordable service provider to make them look good online. In an ever-changing world, where traditional marketing is nearly a thing of the past and social media/networking is changing the landscape of how companies attract new customers, there is nothing wrong with allowing an experienced company that has specialized in the legal industry for more than 10 years to handle an aspect of the business that an attorney knows (or cares to know) little about.
From the numerous service providers at the LegalTech Show, these were the “gems” that stood out as really helping law firms do what they were created for, which is to practice law. American Legal Net, Biscom, Trial Pad for iPad and RealPractice are four companies that saw a void in the industry and are trying to fill it in their own unique way.
Kevin L. Nichols is the Principal of KLN Consulting Group located in San Francisco. For more information, please visit www.klnconsultinggroup.com.
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