Embracing Legal Technology

By: Kevin L. Nichols

            The pendulum has shifted dramatically for how lawyers develop business, litigate cases, and obtain/demonstrate the necessary evidence to win their cases.  When I started my legal career 13 years ago, I used “redwells”, binders, Word Prefect, Excel spreadsheets, hundreds of boxes, redaction tape, actual labels for Bates numbering, and warrooms where people literally lived at the office.  Now, law firms are much more technologically savvy, utilizing complex document management systems, eDiscovery/ remote online document review platforms, and social media to brand, market, and drum up business.  My, how times have changed.  Although most of the large (250+ attorneys) law firms have embraced technology and have developed litigation support departments, IT help desks, etc. to meet the growing challenges and needs of their clients, many of the small (<25 attorneys) to mid-sized (25>249 attorneys) firms have been left behind.  It is time for small and mid-sized firms to embrace legal technology and allow it help them win their cases too.

 

Here are 5 reasons why small and mid-sized law firms should embrace technology:

 

  1. It Equalizes the Playing Field – Gone are the days where the “little guys” get bombarded with a sea of documents that used to hide the “needle in the haystack” from opposing counsel.  Using affordable methods of forensic collection technology and reliable eDiscovery services, data can be extracted effortlessly from harddrives of computers and electronic devices.  Keyword searches and other “culling” methods can reduce the review subset to manageable levels where a thorough document review can be performed.  eDiscovery can level the playing by finding key documents that can prove your case.

 

  1. Reduces Waste – Producing 5-10 copies of dozens of boxes of documents is one of the biggest wastes of paper and destruction of the environment of all time.  I have visited warehouses of boxes of documents that need to be retained and preserved for years.  Why not scan documents and send massive document productions via a secured FTP, CD, or DVD.  5 boxes of documents can be kept on a thumb drive or disk, reducing space and allow you to take massive quantities of documents with you “on the go!”

 

  1. Saves Time – Lawyers and legal professionals can review documents and/or access their office computers from all around the world, just as long as there is an internet connection.  Presently, lawyers can conduct interviews with clients and potential witnesses via WebEx/GoToMeetings, video conferencing, and Skype.  Online hosted document review solutions allow users to access their data from anywhere, review, issue code, and redact all from the comforts of their home.  Lawyers are even appearing via video conference to participate in depositions.  Small and mid-sized firms can maximize their resources by being smart about needing to travel and how they can become more efficient.  Smart phones and tablets are making it even easier to get more accomplished in half the amount of time and with the right software, you can even use your devices during trial.

 

  1. Saves Money – Technology can make law offices much more efficient.  Scanning and routing incoming mail via email cuts down the need to maintain paper files, creating and maintaining chron files, and over using expensive copiers that breakdown and require lots of maintenance.  Moreover, the reduction of review time and the ability to collaborate with others via electronic methods, allow attorneys to focus on what is important, practicing law.  Maintaining large libraries, magazine subscriptions, etc. can be costly and time consuming.  Having a Lexis or Westlaw account and subscribing to the same publications online can make a significant cost saving impact (not to mention, save the environment).  Using software for calendaring, conflicts, eFiling, etc. can also save money in the long run by not having to hire staff to do the tasks these methods can do for you.

 

  1. Is More Effective – Counting on a jury comprised of a 10th Grade education to determine the outcome and damages for a complex pharmaceutical patent litigation case, is an expensive gamble in of itself.  Let alone, relying on an expert with the brain of Einstein but with a distinctly strong Russian accent to communicate his intimate knowledge of this product to this jury is a difficult task.  What if you incorporated 3D animation to illustrate this expert’s knowledge, which whittled down the dispute and clearly showed the infringement in 30-45 seconds?  Technology has a funny way of doing things like that.

 

Technology’s purpose is to make life easier.  Although, I have problems with replacing human beings completely because we all need to earn a decent living to feed our families and survive, technology can save time and money, and allow smaller adversaries the ability to battle and defeat the Goliath’s of the world.  Often times, small and mid-sized firms feel as though they do not have the time nor the resources to invest in these types of solutions to common problems.  Many of them will avoid asking for ESI (electronically stored information) in document requests or will use foam “story boards” in trial because they are too comfortable, do not want to deal with the expense, or are unwilling to venture out to new, unchartered territory.  My recommendation…take the leap…take the plunge…embrace technology.

 

Kevin L. Nichols is the Principal of KLN Consulting Group located in San Francisco, which specializes in
Litigation, Diversity and Business Development/Social Media consulting.

For more information, please visit http://www.klnconsultinggroup.com.

Hidden Gems in Legal Technology

Copyright 2011. ALM Media Properties, LLC. All rights reserved. The Recorder.

Hidden Gems in Legal Technology

http://www.law.com/jsp/ca/PubArticleFriendlyCA.jsp?id=1202488383636 3/29/2011

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.

SECURITY

Biscom has a product called Biscom Delivery Server (BDS), which is a secure transfer application that allows users to send and receive large files easily and securely. It exists behind the law firm’s firewall and uses a separate JavaScript applet to the user’s web browser to upload enormously large files. Through the system, the user can send encrypted documents via email with a hyperlink to download the compressed zipped files within an expiring time frame. Law firms can track when the documents where accessed and downloaded. While this seems basic, this service is incredibly useful to law firms.

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.

TRIAL TECHNOLOGY

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.

In Practice articles inform readers on developments in substantive law, practice issues or law firm management. Contact Vitaly Gashpar with submissions or questions at vgashpar@alm.com.