TECHSHOW Week is always great fun. This was my 16th year in attendance and my 10th as part of the faculty. Despite being diligent to answer emails and voicemails during TECHSHOW, it takes a few days to clear the Inbox and my desktop of messages and tasks. With much of that now behind me, I’ve had time to organize my top takeaways from the conference:
1. Lawyers-turned-software developers showcasing new cloud-based practice management systems were prominent throughout the Exhibit Hall. Many were confident their personal workflow processes memorialized in professional software would find an audience with TECHSHOW attendees—most of whom are solo and small firm practitioners. I was impressed with what I saw on the computer screens, but scratched my head at their ability to support their software if more than a few firms subscribed. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad they were there, and wish them the best was they grow. I think the rise of such vendors shows the value proposition of cloud-based software, and that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive in SmallFirm law.
2. Application host providers also populated the Exhibit Hall, and I think this bodes well for traditional software providers such as Amicus and TABS. A big cost of installing software in a law office has been the need for consultants to spend days and weeks on-site to install and configure the applications. With application hosts, the software can be installed, customized, virtualized, and maintained remotely, thereby substantially reducing the cost of this software option. While cloud-based software has the momentum and buzz at the moment, I expect this to be muted as law firms rediscover that “old” may be new again!
3. Workflow was front and center in the educational sessions and in the Exhibit Hall. Actually, I believe the correct term is “Business Process Improvement”. Remember that term, as it is finally becoming mainstream in 2014. Business process improvement (BPI) refers to the desire of lawyers to change the way they do their work, seeking improved efficiency, greater productivity, and increased mobility. Yes, some of this is being forced on lawyers, but the lawyers attending TECHSHOW are choosing their
solutions to a changing marketplace. The top tools that impressed me included Doxsera from The Form Tool. Their first product was (and is) impressive, but their latest, Doxsera is a game-changer. Jim Figel of Wordrake was also there showcasing this amazing editing software that can save lawyers time rewriting and editing their documents. I was also impressed with newcomer Bellefield with their iTimeKeep mobile app—a simple yet powerful tool to capture more billable time—that integrates with most legal time & billing software.
4. Speaking of new, a group of us had a good first look at Lexis-Nexis’ totally-rebuilt practice management application, FirmManager. I hope to test-drive this cloud-based management and billing product more soon, but I was very impressed with what I saw in this new version. Kudos to Mike Lipps, Chris Anderson, Loretta Ruppert, and the whole the Lexis team overseeing this product, who had the guts to toss out the old version and start from scratch. The old FirmManager was limited by it’s own design, but the new one has started well and will get better throughout 2014 as additional features come on-line.
5. It was good to see an expanded presence from Clio, giving me and many other attendees a chance to ask detailed questions about the product. On the other hand, I was wondering why RocketMatter didn’t have an exhibit floor presence, although I did see my friend, Larry Port at the conference. Hats off to Matt Spiegel for tapping a keg in the MyCase booth on Thursday afternoon. I don’t always drink beer, but when I do . . .
6. I co-presented two seminars at TECHSHOW on mobile workflow (Less Paper, More Mobility and 60 iOS Apps in 60 Minutes). These sessions and others on working from outside the traditional four-walled law office shows the continuing desire of today’s lawyer to work wherever they want and need to work. Improving business processes to work effectively at home or on the road is a key part meeting the needs of today’s legal consumer as well as meeting the needs of lawyers who can’t (or won’t) be tied to just an office to complete their work.
7. I noted there was only one seminar offered on the topic of law firm websites—how to build one yourself—yet none on website best practices, search engine marketing, etc. I think lawyers need to take more interest to understand how consumers use websites and how websites can be used in their business processes with clients. I hope ABA TECHSHOW 2015 will address this need.
8. As always, I enjoy the latest gadgets, apps, and tools I see and play with at TECHSHOW, and this year was no exception—in fact, it was exceptional. Kudos to Worldox President Ray Zwiefelhofer for partnering with Sony to unveil the new Sony Digital Paper tablet--released nationally during ABA TECHSHOW. It really caught my eye, and I can see where this tool could have a home in large discovery projects and with lawyers who want to take digital notes and annotate PDFs but don’t like the feel of iPads or other tablets. I also liked the new jury app entry from Second Chair Mobile. It is well-positioned in the market to be easy-to-use at trial with robust features yet priced at $24.95. Fujitsu exhibited a new "contactless" scanner that scans both pages of an open book or magazine, and then flattens the curved image, meaning you don’t have to hold down the book to do so.
9. There was definitely a larger crowd this year—among the largest ever. It’s not just the improved economy boosting attendance, but the growing interest of more lawyers to go beyond the traditional technology in their office. More lawyers are getting the message—improve, enhance, and change now—or let other market forces drive you out of business.
10. Congrats to Natalie Kelly, who is the first law student to chair this 28-year-old conference! You read that right—law student. Natalie is the long-time Director of the Law Practice Management Program at the Georgia Bar, and well-known legal technology guru. However, she returned to law school in 2012 to achieve her goal of becoming a lawyer. Keep up the good work, Natalie!
I never cease to be amazed at the genuinely nice people I meet, including Eli Udell of Ottawa, Canada who joined us for a Taste of TECHSHOW dinner. Eli and a colleague in his firm were at their first TECHSHOW, having been tasked with developing a plan to improve the firm’s technology. We had a great dinner at Harry Carey’s and a great discussion throughout.
Can't wait for ABA TECHSHOW 2015--April 16-18 at the Chicago Hilton!