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In Search of the (Legal Technology) Holy Grail at ABA TECHSHOW

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Last week I attended the ABA TECHSHOW in Chicago, where I made two presentations. TECHSHOW celebrated it’s 25th anniversary this year, and Paul Unger and his planning board put on a great show, with some very interesting CLE sessions as well as a lively reception including a fun look back at past conferences. There was even a TECHSHOW Museum featuring everything from a Commodore 64 to users’ manuals from WordPerfect 4.2, not to mention a panoply of Palm Pilots sufficient to provision a small army of lawyers.

While the hardware, software and peripheral devices discussed from year to year have changed, after many years of attending TECHSHOW, I’m seeing a definite pattern: convergence (one of the buzz-words of the conference in the late 90s) remains the holy grail of legal technology. All firms seem to be in search of that magic technological something that can help them easily bring all their case and firm management information together in one place, organize it, and make it easily accessible to their lawyers and staff – no matter where they are or what type of device they are using to access and manipulate it. And there were lots of insightful sessions that provided help for lawyers seeking to reach this goal.

Scanning and document management continue to be the gateway to convergence, and there were a couple of sessions on the Paperless track that I thought were especially useful to lawyers or firms considering going paperless or well into it and thinking that they could be better organized. “Logistics of Going Paperless” covered the processes and procedures necessary to do it right, including document management systems, and “SaaS DMS vs. Traditional DMS” covered the players in both the software and cloud computing document management space and provided an interesting cost comparison over a five year period between installed software and a cloud service for document management.

Speaking of cloud computing, this year’s show featured an entire track dedicated to this topic, with one session providing an introduction, a second featuring the major providers of cloud-based services designed for lawyers, a third discussing the security issues raised by having your information stored on someone else’s servers, and a final session on what is probably the most ubiquitous cloud-based service right now, Google Apps, and how to use Google to power your law office.

As a testament to how many lawyers are now performing minor, if not major, legal work using iPads and smartphones, TECHSHOW 2011 also had four sessions on smartphones and mobility. These sessions included “Android Basics”, “BlackBerry Love”, “60 iPhone and iPad Apps in 60 Minutes” by Josh Barrett, Jeff Richardson of iPhone JD fame, and Reid Trautz, and a smartphone shootout that compared the good, bad, and ugly features of the various devices currently available for lawyers. There was also an Emerging Technology track which covered the Android- and Windows-powered tablet computers which will soon seek to challenge the iPad, and a demonstration of the BlackBerry PlayBook.

Probably the slickest things I saw on the ABA TECHSHOW Expo floor were two different trial demonstration apps for the iPad. TrialPad and TrialTouch each allow you to organize documents, depositions and exhibits, and to redact, annotate and display them in court. You can also run video presentations, as well as search and print exhibits wirelessly, all from your iPad.  I also got a sneak peak at a new book, iPad In One Hour for Lawyers, by Tom Mighell, which we’ll be adding to the PMAP Library as soon as our copy arrives.

It’s difficult to cover everything new that TECHSHOW 2011 had to offer in a short blog post. If you’re interested in more information on any of these legal technology topics our would like to check out a book, please give me or Kristi a call.