Elephant Post: What Are the Innovative Technologies in the Legal Industry

Image [cc]  JaseMan
The comment I hear a lot when the words "technology" and "legal industry" are mentioned in the same sentence (besides a quick chuckle) is that we tend to be five years behind the rest of the world. I obviously can't see you, but go ahead and raise your hand if you are still running Windows XP at work... how about Office 2003... Internet Explorer 7 or 8... If you've had to confiscate a Partner's computer because he illegally put a copy of WordPerfect 4.1 on his firm laptop... Okay, everyone put down your hands.

Just because the legal industry is slow to change when it comes to new technologies, doesn't mean that there aren't a few that sneak through. We asked for your perspective on what technologies you think are innovative and have made it into the law firm environment. Although we didn't get a lot of responses, we did get some thoughtful ones. Perhaps there are some additional products out there that you don't see listed below... if so, put it in the comments and I may even place it back into to main post in order to make it more visible for readers that find this post later.

Next week's Elephant Post (see below) is a question that Toby and I came up with while attending the ARK conference on Knowledge Management. It deals with a scenario where you could re-brand your Industry/Profession, what would you call it, and how would it be positioned to be ready for the future. So, read through this week's, comment on any additional tech you like, and then go ahead and fill out the convenient form for next week's question.

Steven B. Levy
Author, speaker, trainer, consultant....

I'm sure others will cover the more obvious answers, from Legal Project Management to easier timekeeping to advances in e-discovery.   OneNote is included in every copy of Office 2007 and 2010 (and if you're still on an older version of Office, stop reading and fix that *now*). It's an off-center but highly effective place to keep all of your notes -- client meetings, discussions, strategy sessions (even those where you're the only attendee), etc. You can even record meetings (or depositions) and annotate as you go, so that when you click the annotation the recording plays in synch with it.  It does take a bit of experimenting to figure it out -- not how to use it, which is super-easy, but *why* to use it.  It can also be set to automatically back itself up online, and even to synchronize notebooks automatically between multiple computers.  And you can with one click share a page with someone else in your firm so you can collaborate on the fly, in effect giving you a shared whiteboard.  There is a free alternative called EverNote which isn't quite as powerful or elegant but works well for those who aren't Office users.

John Gillies
KM lawyer

This is the tool that finally enables us to analyze a representative set of a particular document type to discover the most commonly encountered structure to the document, the clauses that should be included as the core clauses, the deal-type or matter-specific clauses, and the unnecessary ones. This provides invaluable assistance in not just creating but maintaining precedents. Further, it has a built-in document assembly tool. And finally, it enables a benchmarking comparison of a first draft received from opposing counsel against the template, which is not feasible when comparing their draft to your firm's precedent.

Stephanie Kimbro
Lawyer, Author, Tech Evangelist
Web Advisors/Calculators

The addition of web calculators and advisors to the law firm website serves a number of different purposes that benefits the firm and the prospective client. These online tools are forms of unbundled legal services and can be provided for free or for a charge. There are child support calculators, term sheet generators, fee calculators that firms will create and embed on their websites. This increases the SEO for their site and also invites leads to the site to engage with the tool. Some of these tools will have document assembly or automation systems integrated into them so that the prospective client is able to input their data on their own and then has the option of taking that information, whether it's a calculated number or a legal form, and proceeding on their own or turning to the firm for either full service representation or for additional unbundled legal assistance. A large number of these folks use the tools and realize the value of the attorney and that they need that additional assistance and a prospective lead is converted into a paying client. These tools can be used by private practitioners and law firm and by the legal services industry to assist pro se litigants through the justice system.   A2J Author is a great example of the application of a web advisory in the legal services industry.  In private practice, Lee Rosen of Rosen Divorce Law Firm's, child support calculator or Wilson Sonsini's term sheet generator are good examples. Also, take a look at FairOutcomes.com which is a fair buy-sell online tool that uses game theory and could have many interesting applications for unbundling use within the legal industry. I think we will also see more ODR tools developing for use by practitioners. These are all forms of unbundling and as the profession becomes more commoditized, we will see innovative tools being developed that facilitate delivery of limited scope services online.

Katie Sunstrom
web based collaboration tools

We have clients that are constantly on the go.  Web based apps such as google docs, dropbox, Basecampdropbox.  I have not used it with clients because I'm concerned about security but I've used it extensively in event planning and sponsorship tracking, etc.

Next Elephant Post Question:
If you could re-brand your profession/industry, what would you call it? How would you position it for the future?
Think about when someone asks you what you do, and how you define your profession. I'm a "Law Librarian." I'm a "Knowledge Manager." "I'm a Lawyer." "I'm a technologist." So on and so forth.

Once you say this, do you think that the person asking the question has suddenly place you in a box and has made many assumptions on what you do? Do you think that what they are thinking is actually what you do, or is it a narrow (or perhaps wrong) definition of what you actually do to bring value to your profession, your industry, and to your specific work environment?

I sat in at the ARK conference on Knowledge Management and listened to many of the same stories that I've heard for years in Law Library conferences. "Should we re-brand ourselves?" "Should we call ourselves something else in order to better define the value we bring?" "Are clients refusing to pay for our services because they have a false perception of what we actually do?"

I'm guessing that Librarians and Knowledge Management leaders aren't the only ones that feel limited by the stereotypes that surround our professions. Therefore, we want to hear from you on what you would do if you could re-brand your profession or industry. What would you call it? Would you keep it the same? How would you advertise your skills and the value that you and your peers bring to the table?

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