Rumors are true: #ignitelaw returns to #abatechshow

February 28, 2011

I took the few tweets about #ignitelaw in the #abatechshow stream with a grain of salt. I was excited, to be sure, but information tends to travel faster on Twitter, and the Internet in general, before anyone takes a moment to verify. With such big news, I prefer validation from a couple trusted sources.

And validation has arrived. Ignite Law returns! Sunday, April 10, 2011. Tickets are available.

It was a new thing at TechShow last year, and was a nifty way to kick off TechShow. Decidedly not as straight laced as you might expect TechShow presentations to be, and they didn’t hold back the funny. In fact, it provided a good mix of humor, intelligence and wit. No one presentation was the same and there was something to be learned from them all. It was a nice change of pace, actually, so I’m pretty excited…ahem…totally stoked Ignite Law is back!

Quite fitting, actually. Ignite Law opens TechShow while an #opensource session closes.

If you missed Ignite Law last year, take a few minutes and check out the videos of the presentations.


Needles in the #ediscovery haystack at #ltny: @TextFlow, @TrialPad, @RealPractice and @MyCaseInc

February 9, 2011

There is probably a reason why LegalTech New York is called LegalTech and not the eDiscovery Showcase, and the logical explanation seems to be consistency. This year’s big vendor push may not be the same next year, though I’m inclined to think eDiscovery will be just as big next year but we’ll have to wait until next year.

There were some needles hidden in the eDiscovery haystack, though, which managed to make themselves known through the cluttered Twitter feed. I admit, it’s rather cool when they send you a tweet and ask you to stop by, but I couldn’t help being a bit skeptical, too. Everyone always has something to show off at a trade show, that’s the point.

Of the ones I browsed, four stick out:


As a freelancer, I spend an awful lot of time emailing or uploading documents with all kinds of edits. Articles, drafts of books and blog posts, comment letters, you name it. While Google Docs is helpful, not everyone uses it. Same with ZoHo, so I often have to resort to using OpenOffice or Microsoft Word, which creates the step of re-saving and attaching the document to an email. You see where this is going…

So I was downright excited when I was approached by the people at Nordic River while waiting for the Kroll On Track session, who proceeded to give me a demo of TextFlow. The premise is incredibly simple. Mind-bogglingly simple. You upload the original document, and an edited version or two, and TextFlow shows you each change, line-by-line. Line-by-line! In an incredibly user-friendly interface which, quite frankly, puts Track Changes to shame, not to mention the total lack of anything useful like that in Google Docs.

They do offer a free trial, and the cost posted on their website is $4.99/user/month. Not bad. Do some due diligence and number crunching though to see if it’ll work for you.


There was a fair amount of buzz before #ltny about TrialPad, with some lawyers already raving about its use in the field, also called the court room. Being a new iPad owner (though not a lawyer), I was intrigued. After TextFlow, it also struck me how mind-bogglingly simple TrialPad is by also focusing on one specific area or addressing one specific issue. That whole “do one thing and do it well” mantra at work again. And guess what? It works with Dropbox! *ca-ching*

The lawyers already using TrialPad were right on the money. It’s quite intuitive and easy to use. Nothing super fancy, nothing you don’t need. It makes good use of the iPad, from what I can tell, and rotating between documents and presentations, not to mention folders, is a fairly smooth process. Its annotation ability was pretty nifty. I can see law schools finding the app quite useful, too.

I imagine their inboxes are overflowing with feature suggestions, and it will be interesting to see if it gets adapted to other platforms, like Android.

RealPractice and MyCase, Inc.

In the interest of full disclosure, and so you don’t all yell at me, I do work for Clio as its Community Manager. That isn’t a secret. However, I attended #ltny as me, the Founder & Chief Consultant of Shadow Froggy Consulting. And if you follow me on Twitter, or read this blog, you know I’m an incredibly curious individual always looking to learn new things or engage in discussions. Both RealPractice and MyCase, Inc. did not fall short of engaging discussion. And neither did Nordic River or TrialPad, for that matter. There’s some downright awesome stuff happening in the legal field, and it’s fascinating to see it from so many different viewpoints and being able to share them on this blog.

So. RealPractice and MyCase, Inc. Both are entrants into the online practice management realm, but with a twist.

RealPractice integrates website and marketing efforts with its practice management system, simplifying the process of collecting leads and inputting them for future follow-up and/or reference. It was more seamless than I expected, and the websites are professional-looking, which is not always the case when trying to integrate separate systems. It does a fairly good job of merging the business-side of law with the actual practice/case management of law, which you don’t often see.

The website and marketing functions stick in my mind more so than its practice management system, though, as website and marketing are two areas ripe for growth, still, in the legal industry. Their demo made me think of something my dad often repeated when I first started my consulting company: build simple websites for small firms and doctors offices. They don’t have a clue, they need it and you’ll have repeat business. RealPractice is doing just that.

MyCase, Inc. had me intrigued with its “social practice management” tag line. What the heck does that mean? Turns out, it means integrating social media aspects into an online practice management application. A “social media layer,” as they say. Their website defines it as “the idea that a law firm should have a secure and accessible social network between themselves and their clients. It is the idea that clients should have this constant connection to their attorneys without having to be on the phone or in person with them.” It made me think of my open v. closed network part of an MHConnected presentation last year.

It uses a similar message/update function like Facebook, an Activity Stream, and a notice function like health care companies. You know, those emails you get about an update to an EOB or response to a message, but there’s nothing in the email notice except a link to log into the site to read the message. I personally find those annoying, that extra step just to get information, but I understand the reasoning behind it. We had a really interesting conversation about improved communication, the far too early demise of Google Wave and how document management is still annoying, not to mention there is still not such thing as “paperless.” Even Michael Rogers, the Practical Futurist, still uses paper. He was holding paper notes during his presentation!

Parting Thoughts

With the continued proliferation of mobile devices, there will be dramatic change to eDiscovery in the coming years. Vendors I talked to expressed optimism that mobile platforms, like now trusty desktops, would become more standardized so data dumps will become just as routine. There is just as much activity going on outside of eDiscovery, though, that it should not be ignored.

The thing that is clear, and was mentioned more than once at #ltny, is that technology is shifting the legal landscape. Not in small areas or minor ones, but in big tectonic shifts. Like the dealing with the recession, we’re reaching the point where action is required. It will be interesting to see what happens as the year progresses.

A different take on #ltny ignoring social media

February 7, 2011

In case you didn’t know, LegalTech New York (#ltny) was last week.

Let’s first dispense with the elephant in the room: social media. There was some grumbling about few sessions, one for sure and one from Kroll on Track that was billed as “Trends in Social Media and Cloud Computing” but turned out to be just a primer on cloud computing. How disappointing.

Tim Baran let it be known that the lack of social media adoption might be due to the fact that LegalTech New York is vendor driven. That is an understatement. Social media, at least Twitter, was in heavy use MAINLY BY VENDORS tweeting about their booth and give aways. It often seemed as if us attendees were incapable of reading signs or a map of the trade show. Needless to say, ALM has its work cut out for it in sifting through the #ltny Twitter feed. I have to wonder if they think it’s even worth the effort to find those useful nuggets from attendees that have since been swallowed by vendor tweets. Gone are the days when a conference got kudos merely for having a hash tag, it seems, or even simply allowing the use of social networks like Twitter.

All was not lost, however.

Though Kroll on Track incorrectly labeled its session on social media and cloud computing, it did offer one nugget that continues to be ignored by most, though not by eDiscovery vendors.

The nugget? Social media is a boon to eDiscovery. And it behooves lawyers to view it less through the continuous “marketing” pitch and more through the “underutilized utility” lens. Lawyers would be wise to start participating in social media, if they haven’t already, more to gain an understanding of how the various platforms work so when it comes time to present information at trial, they can better educate the courts and the public on the kinds of repercussions, and benefits, all this sharing can have.

There was a case brought up at the tail end of the Kroll session, Crispin I believe, that made a point of listing the judge as asking about the privacy settings of a Facebook page in order to ascertain exactly what expectation was set for the viewing of information. Yes. A judge. A judge wanted to know about Facebook privacy settings in order to better understand an expectation of privacy.

And this is where ALM and LegalTech New York can really shine since it is more like an eDiscovery Showcase. Social media can be viewed as yet another treasure trove of information, information lawyers want to protect their clients. They get that information from eDiscovery vendors, and from their clients, but if they don’t have an understanding of how Facebook operates v. Twitter v. LinkedIN or any of the other sites, they are not going to be able to protect their clients. Or they aren’t going to be able to find the information necessary to win their case.

LegalTech New York could do wonders of getting lawyers and other legal professionals off the “social media as marketing tool” bandwagon and onto the next level: eDiscovery, understanding and preparation to win cases.

#opensource session in good hands with @RodneyDowell & @DennisKennedy #techshow (#ABATECHSHOW)

January 13, 2011

First, I’m honored, surprised and a bit touched (yes, I admit it) that people thought I’d be presenting on #opensource at  ABATechshow 2011.

To be perfectly honest, I had zero expectations of even being within the vicinity for consideration. I don’t think I spring readily to mind when most think of open source and its place in law firms, though clearly there is evidence to the contrary. I had a good guess as to who would present, and turned out to be partly correct.

If you haven’t seen the schedule, give it a look and scroll all the way to bottom. You’ll see the open source session is on Wednesday, April 13, 2011 at 9:45am. Saving the best for last. 😉 And you’ll see that Rodney Dowell and Dennis Kennedy are the presenters.

I know Rodney from Twitter, and Dennis from Twitter as well as a few in-person meetings. Dennis and I have also collaborated on two open source articles for the legal profession. I have no doubt that the open source session is in good hands, and that they will probably offer more useful information that you can take back to your practice and put to use.

Yes. I know. The “more useful information you can take back to your practice and put to use” phrase sounds odd coming from me, in this particular context. It shouldn’t, though, for the simple reason that I am not a lawyer. Though I use open source applications, I have no used them within the context of a law office so what I know I’ve learned from those who have shared. And one of those who has shared is Dennis Kennedy.

So thanks again for the support, and know that you’ll want to hear what Rodney and Dennis have to say about The Open Source Powered Law Firm.

#Opensource Comes to ABA #techshow 2011

November 18, 2010

Yes. Yes. The big news for ABA TechShow 2011 is its keynote: Larry Lessig. While that is certainly exciting, and will no doubt be a big draw for its 25th Anniversary, it’s not what caught my attention. It’s not what has gotten me really excited and counting the days until April 11, 2011. I know. Weird, huh? What could possibly be more exciting than Larry Lessig speaking? His book, “Code 2.0” was quite good. His speeches I’ve seen online are good. Who wouldn’t be excited?

OK. I’m excited, but Lessig’s keynote takes second fiddle to what caught my attention and caused my Twitter eruption of glee.

Under “Emerging Technology,” there is this title: The Open Source Powered Law Firm.

Yes. Really. Go ahead and read it again. I’ve re-read almost every day! Ben Schorr had to confirm it for me, that I really had read The Open Source Law Firm correctly and wasn’t seeing things, or that it wasn’t a fluke that has since been removed. At the time of this post, it’s still there!

I’d like to think that my somewhat incessant “#opensource ABA #techshow 2011” tweets played a part. And yes, they were somewhat incessant. Once a week, few times a month. Not every other tweet or every day. Nothing extravagant or ridiculous. The point isn’t to alienate people. The point is to keep something in front of people. And I’d like to think it worked, but I’m betting the still sullen economy played a bigger role.

Whatever the reason, The Open Source Law Firm session is bringing open source to TechShow 2011. Ben mentioned they noticed the tweets, but said it had been on the short list last year and just didn’t make it.

There was a whole bunch of good stuff last year, and since time is tight, I get that not everything can make it on the schedule. The fact that an open source session was even on the table, though, is encouraging. The fact that it’s a session this year is downright exciting!

I admit that I consider the ABA to be a bit stuffy as an organization, but I have met some cool, forward-thinking people at the ABA, and somewhat loosely follow leadership changes. It seems to be a little less stuffy, a little less tech-adverse, each year. The ABA Journal keeps a finger on the legal-tech pulse, and I get the impression that some members of the ABA leadership pay attention. That’s a good thing.

Change isn’t easy, and the legal profession has gone through some rough ones due to the recession. As I said before, losing a job causes a kind of grieving process. It takes time to work through that. It takes time to process, come to terms and ready yourself for whatever comes next. It took me about a year and a half. I wasn’t really comfortable until June of this year.

The ABA, and the legal profession, has had time to process changes since TechShow 2010, and they recognize a need for the legal profession: low cost-to-no-cost alternatives to every day software. So The Open Source Law Firm is on the schedule.

And I’m just downright excited!

Now I want to know who is presenting The Open Source Law Firm…and I’m not entirely sure I can guess, but I do have a couple ideas…

Reputation Observations from #MILOfest

November 15, 2010

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending MILOfest (Macs in Law Offices), which happened to be held at the Coronado Springs Resort in Disney World. We’ll ignore the fact that it was just as nice in Chicago as it was in Disney. That was offset by the fact that everything was green and lush in Disney while vegetation in Chicago has turned brown and dull.

The conference was pretty neat. Even a Mac user like myself learned a few things. I highly encourage you to go next year, regardless of whether or not you use a Mac. You probably use an iPhone or an iPad, and there was plenty of good information about using those in legal practices, too. And proof was presented that using Macs can save your firm, and tax payers if you work for government, money.

A couple things struck me this trip. The first is that my Twitter reputation precedes me. Three people immediately identified me by my Twitter handle, and two other people sat down by me at dinner Thursday just to check that it was me, and then ask questions about Twitter and how to use it. To be perfectly honest, I haven’t paid much attention to my Twitter use, other than noting, from time to time, the sheer volume of tweets I produce. People seem to think I have some kind of magic formula or some trick. I don’t. I just tweet stuff I find interesting, and make random observations I use to just think and never record. I got complimented on that, which was a new thing for me. I often wonder if I come across as well in person as well as I come across via Twitter, too.

The second thing that struck me was being associated with Clio. Now, granted, I registered for MILOfest before I came on board with Clio, and had completely different reasons for attending. It was a little bizarre as people who, at the time, only knew me via Twitter, seemed quite pleased to learn I am now with Clio. This is a new thing for me, too. Only one other time I have been associated with a company that has any sort of name recognition, and that was my very first job out of college with Evergreen. If you spent any time in the car, especially in Chicago, you’ve seen their containers being hauled around. They are green, and say EVERGREEN in white letters. I still feel a sense of pride when I see one of those containers go by. There’s a similar sense when people react positively when I say I work for Clio.

Two reputations. Both of them positive. Little weird for me, but also a bit surprising how well both seem to fit. And hey, #MILOfest has now been exposed to a wider audience than last year! I broke 40,000 tweets during the conference, and of course I surpassed my API limit and was locked out from tweeting about it. How’s that for irony?

Where are the Open Source Sessions at Legal Conferences?

June 8, 2010

I was looking at the schedule for ABA TechShow 2009, and at the top it says “What won’t you learn?”

The answer now seems obvious: you won’t learn anything about open source applications.

And not just at TechShow, but at most legal conferences, and I’d wager at most legal gatherings: MILOFest, State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting, Inside Counsel Superconference…the list goes on. Granted, open source applications may not apply, but if the conferences/gatherings can discuss social media, alternative billing and topics that signal a shift in legal practice, why do they ignore open source? Especially as the legal profession continues to struggle on the labor front. Lawyers are still being laid off, and there are solo and small firm practices popping up with smaller budgets that can benefit from open source. They can benefit, if they know about it.

Open source is gaining traction in the legal professional, sure, which is another reason it strikes me as odd that open source is being ignored by legal conferences and gatherings. Not all, to be sure. Some local bar associations have had speakers come in and talk about open source, and when I’ve written about open source for lawyers, I get emails happy to see someone else talking about it. There are signs of life, but it remains a minority, more so than Macs in Law Offices, I’d wager.

So what is it about open source that prevents legal conferences from having any session related to it? Lack of presenters? Or perhaps no one has suggested the topic? No one has submitted a presentation on open source? Fear of lack of interest? Perceived lack of value?

I’m interested in your thoughts on this, especially people who run these conferences. I think open source sessions are needed. What do you think?