I heard a lot of grumbling from BigLaw attendees at Reinvent Law NY about the consumer legal app commercials sprinkled in and amongst the other presenters.  The easiest and most common target was Shake.

Shake is an app for creating legal contracts on the fly from your phone. You answer a few simple questions, the contract is compiled, you can review it and sign right on the phone, then hand your phone to the other party to sign, or email it to them. Simple consumer level document automation in your pocket, resulting in legally binding agreements.  Boy, I wish I had Shake back in my freelance theater days.

But the most frustrating comment I heard was, “Yeah, I guess it’s cool, it’s just not relevant to what we do.” And I heard this from respected, intelligent, forward thinking people in our industry. 

For the sake of argument, I will grant that in it’s current form this particular app is not relevant to BigLaw.  However, I beg you to look beyond the app’s current use. Look just beyond the shiny, colorful, consumer friendly UI, and imagine the possibilities. Imagine sitting in a contract negotiation with a similar app, tapping in negotiated points on a tablet as the app highlights potential concerns for further discussion. Then at the end of the meeting imagine emailing both sides preliminary agreements to be poured over by their armies of attorneys. What corporate counsel wouldn’t love that?  What firm is going to give it to them?  Why does it have to be a law firm?  Why not Shake?
 
I don’t know anybody at Shake, but they seem like pretty smart people.  Their stated mission is “to make the law accessible, understandable and affordable for consumers and small businesses.” In other words, “don’t worry BigLaw, we’re not coming after you.” But scroll down below their mission statement to their Principals and Beliefs and you will begin to get a whiff of much greater ambition.

  • We are not afraid to be bold, push the envelope, and challenge the status quo
  • We are driven by what legal transactions can and will be, not what they have been historically
  • We value innovative design and superior user experiences
  • We are a technology company solving a legal problem, not a legal company trying to understand technology
  • We believe that the legal market is 1) huge 2) inefficient and 3) underserved by technology and 4) begging for change
  • We believe that significant change in the legal industry will be driven by consumers and small businesses, not by lawyers and law firms

Every law firm should create their own list of Principals and Beliefs and immediately adopt the first, second, third, and fifth bullets directly from Shake’s list. But make no mistake, bullets four and six are shots across our bows. Shake may not seem relevant to you right now, and I bet they like it that way.

Next Thursday afternoon at 3:30 PM in the Maryland A conference room of the Gaylord National Resort in Washington D.C., Sean Brady and I will be giving our presentation: APP 13 – The Future of Data Delivery Or: How I Learned to Stop Browsing and Love the App.  

Ours is the last session on the last day of ILTA.  For those of you who have ever been to ILTA you know that by Thursday afternoon, most people have learned, networked, and partied (not necessarily in that order) all they possibly can for one week.  Many will have already checked out and be headed toward the airport by the time Sean and I take the stage.  Even those staying at the hotel Thursday night will have mostly “checked out” mentally for the week.   In fact, it is entirely possible that Sean and I will be having a private conversation on The Future of Data Delivery in the Maryland A conference room of the Gaylord National Resort in Washington D.C. at 3:30 PM next Thursday afternoon.  In order to limit the likelihood of that happening, we are asking for your help.

Our presentation is a follow-up to the presentation we gave last year called: The Future of the Browser: Moving Beyond IE, which ILTA members can listen to here.  In that presentation, I argued that the future of the browser was moot because the browser was dead, to be replaced by the App.  And Sean argued that the browser was the end-all and be-all of human endeavor, never to be surpassed by…

     I didn’t say that!!

Hey, Sean, I’m writing this blog post!

     Yeah, but…

Look, you can give your version of events at our session.

     But no one’s going to be at our session.

That’s not my problem.  Go write your own blog post.

Sorry folks, he’s a little touchy because as it turns out, I was pretty much right about the App thing last year.

     Oh Really!?  OK genius, what App are you writing this blog post in?

Uh… Chrome.

    A browser.  Ha!  I rest my case!

Anyway, as I was saying… we need your help.  Our presentation this year is a follow-up to last year’s talk.  We’re going to discuss the current trends in data delivery, the continued shift to mobile, the dominance of the app, the consumerization of everything, and what we as legal technologists can and should do about it.  I am sure we will present points of view on this topic that you will not hear anywhere else at ILTA this year.

I can be sure of that because in addition to our own points of view, we would like to present YOUR points of view.  We have a quick little Google form we would like you to fill out…

     In a browser!

Yes, in a browser!  Are you done?!

    Sorry.

Ahem… We would like you to give us a little information about your thoughts on the subject.  We want to know how your firm is handling these issues and your general thoughts on The Future of Data Delivery.  We’re looking for everything from the mundane (the DMS will be social), to the ridiculous (after the singularity we will all communicate via techno-telepathy).

For those of you attending ILTA, stop us in the hall and let us know your thoughts, or we will be handing out our business cards all week with the web form URL on the back. http://goo.gl/FTC58

     Why didn’t you just make the web form into an App?

Because I didn’t think of it in time, smarty.

    So Apps take time, and web forms IN BROWSERS don’t.

Please folks, fill out the form and if you’re at ILTA, stick around Thursday afternoon and attend APP13 at 3:30 PM in Maryland A, to see what we and your peers have to say about The Future of Data Delivery.

    It’s the browser.

Ughhh.

Thomson Reuters announced last Friday that it is acquiring the London-based mobile platform developer Apsmart for an undisclosed amount. Apsmart founder Rahul Powar was the creator of the first Shazam iPhone app that is recognized by many as one of the top innovative mobile apps created for the mobile industry. So, what does this mean for Thomson Reuters? It means more innovation for WestlawNext and the ProView eReader platform for starters, and it would appear that the company is very serious about investing in the “small screen” world of mobile technology.

In the press release, Powar sounds as if he is being given some “artistic license” to bring in some new ideas to what Thomson Reuters can do in the mobile environment:

The team at Apsmart is excited about the opportunity to apply our diverse mix of skills to the large Thomson Reuters customer base. We look forward to helping drive the strategy and creation of significant new experiences in mobile across the organization.

Let’s hope that Thomson Reuters lets Powar and his team run with limited oversight and introduce products that are creative and allow for the freedom users expect with mobile devices. My concern whenever ingenuity meets established business models is that the culture of the business trumps the fresh ideas of the developers. We’ll have to see how this all works out. I’d be really interested to see if Powar stays on for any length of time, or if the culture of the giant Thomson Reuters world runs him back to the more flexible world of mobile app start ups.

Image [cc] estudioquimbya

Last weeks’s post from Toby on “The First Time I Saw a Computer Practice Law” jogged my mind of my recent trip to Georgetown Law School and talking to Roger Skalbeck about assigning his class called “Technology, Innovation and Law Practice.” The major assignment for the class was to create an application that could be used in the practice of law. At the end of the course, there was a competition called “The Iron Tech Lawyer” where the students displayed their creations to a panel of judges and explained how the technology worked to assist (or replace) the lawyer in making practical decisions in the practice of law.

I’ve embedded the video of the Nightly Business Report’s coverage of the competition, and as you watch it, you might notice a couple of the same things that I did:

  1. The technology is available now to replace some of the functions that we have thought only lawyers could do properly.
  2. Watch the excitement on the faces of the students. They are not thinking of technology of killing off the practice of law, but rather enhancing it and making it available to the masses.
  3. The law professor did notice that the technology may lead to a reduction in overall work for lawyers, but that the trade off is that lawyers can make up for this by servicing the legal needs of those that might not have been able to get access before.
Whenever someone talks about tech replacing lawyers, the initial reaction of the establishment, especially bar associations, is to circle the wagons and fight against it. Watching how a few law students could come up with practical applications for the practice of law for a classroom project should put everyone on notice that this is the wave of the future, and fight it though you might, it will eventually become a reality. Better to start facing it now and begin understanding ways of using it to supplement the practice of law, or one day the wave of new technology will simply drown those that think they can fight to keep it from changing the way they practice law.

A couple of months ago, I found myself in New York with no obligations for the night and I thought I’d go catch a band at a local club. Sounded like a simple thing to do… I assumed that I could just simply walk down the street and wander blindly into the first club I passed that had a “thump, thump, thump” sound reverberating off the walls. I walked, and I walked. I then turned to social media to help. “PLEASE tell me what bands are playing around here.” Although I did get some suggestions on where to look online or in local newspapers, I ended up going back to the hotel without any ringing in my ears from the loud music I was desiring. I swore then that this would never happen again! I would be better prepared next time, even if that meant scouring the Internets for each club’s website and carefully drafting an Excel spreadsheet of clubs, bands and music types. Luckily for me, I found something that does a much better job than I could ever hope to do. Enter the magic that is the BandsInTown app!!

I’ve fallen so in love with the app, that when I go to legal or library events and someone asks me what apps I suggest they get, BandsInTown is the first thing I mention. If they love live music, and want to know who is coming to town, or who is playing in the town they are visiting, then this is the app for them. If they don’t like live music, then I just walk away…

So what does BandsInTown do exactly? Let me walk through some of the things that I like:

  1. Scans your current music collection – once you install it on your iPhone, it takes a look at your current music list and compiles a list of all the bands you have. It then will follow these bands and let you know if any of them are coming to town in the next few months.
  2. Connects to Facebook – alright, this part I didn’t really like because I am not a big fan of being forced to connect one product to another (especially Facebook… and I’m talking to my cousins who keep inviting me to accept apps from them on Facebook!!). However, I limited BandsInTown’s access to Facebook, and opted out of any of those automatic update features. I did allow it to post if I RSVP to an event.
  3. RSVP – If you see a show that you are going to attend, you can “RSVP” that show in BandsInTown and  that information can remain private in your app, or you can allow it to update your Facebook account to let others know you are going to the show.
  4. Track Specific Bands – If you like a certain band, but don’t have them in your iPhone playlist, you can enter the band’s name and BandsInTown will start tracking them for you.
  5. Alerts when Bands Sign Up for Gigs – BandsInTown will alert you when one of the bands you are following has added a show in your town. You’ll be one of the first people to know when the band has added a date in your town.

  6. See All Concerts coming to town – BandsInTown defaults to the bands you have in your music collection, but one of the best features is that it will also just show you everything that is coming to town over the next few weeks/months. This is one of those fun serendipitous ways of finding new music that you would have never found before.
  7. Spotify, Pandora and last.fm – BandsInTown will lead you to specific band’s Spotify station, or you can link your Pandora or last.fm accounts as well. That way, when you see a band that looks like it might be of interest to you, you can go check them out right on the spot.
  8. Purchase Tickets Right From Your Phone –  If you need to buy tickets for their show, most of the venues will have a link to purchase them online and BandsInTown will direct you to the site.
  9. Roam Around, BandsInTown Will Roam With You – This gets me back to my New York experience. I took BandsInTown with me to Chicago a few weeks ago and had it find me the local shows. It does so either through entering the name of the band, or through GPS. We ended up going to see Peter and the Test Tube Babies… although, one drawback of BandsInTown is that there may be more than one good band playing and then you have to decide which you want to see more. So, I had to give up seeing The Pretty Reckless in favor of Peter… but, it’s a price I’m willing to pay over the option of not being able to find any shows at all.
Perhaps the feature I like best is that the app is free! That probably won’t surprise anyone that knows me.

If you’re a fan of live music (and you should be!!) then you’ll love the BandsInTown app. Go check it out, and perhaps I’ll see you at the Bowling for Soup concert tonight!! Or, maybe I’ll go to the Social Distortion concert… or maybe New Year’s Day… I have so many choices!!

My grandmother always taught me that beauty is only skin deep. She’d always say, “pretty is as pretty does.”

Sadly, LinkedIn’s grandmother isn’t nearly as wise.

Although LinkedIn has substantially improved the looks of its iPhone app–the previous iteration was clunky and uncooperative–it is no easier to connect to new people.


One day, I hope to be able to sync my LinkedIn app with a new friend’s app so we don’t have to go through the ordeal of swapping business cards and then, at a later date, uploading them into a contact management system. Like Linked In.
Blackberry has this functionality with its BBM feature. You can scan a new friend by scanning a Blackberry generated PIN barcode. Voila! The friend is added to the BBM system.

I can foresee LI developing this kind of feature.

For right now, LI’s iphone app looks great–the updates, inbox, my profile, groups and more all load up well and are easy to use.

But with this one additional feature–which is, isn’t it, the whole point of LI?–the new LI app would be perfect.

Image [cc] Dale Gillard

At the prompting of fellow geek, Scott Preston, I joined in on the #legalchat Twitter feed this morning and really enjoyed the conversation. As with most Twitter conversations, we all are smart, good looking, and can answer almost any difficult question in 140 characters or less. At least that was my interpretation (your mileage may vary.) By the time we got to Question 4: “Are you or your firm working on developing an app?”, I got pretty confident here and make a broad statement that most of the apps I’ve seen coming out of law firms don’t have a lot of substance to them, and are essentially marketing products that bring very little value to the clients they are aimed at attracting. Perhaps the biggest reason for this strategy is that the “idea” for developing an app comes from the firm’s Marketing Department.

Now, before all my Legal Marketing Association friends start balking at that statement, I think that for firms to initially buy into the idea of developing an app, it logically flowed from the Marketing Team because it can be a great marketing tool. Where most of these apps fall short, however, is that they tend to only be a marketing tool, and not an actual productivity tool that clients can benefit from using. In fact, if you look at almost any law firm app that’s hit the market, they tend to have the following resources in them:

  • Law Firm PR materials (alerts, articles and firm news feeds)
  • Office Location Trackers (advanced ones use the device’s GPS to show the nearest office)
  • Employment Information (hey, we’re hiring!!)
  • Attorney Contact Information (just in case you can’t find my number… here it is!)
What we’ve done so far is made a sophisticated mobile website. Not that there isn’t any value in that… but, really, it’s not that great of an app if it simply repackages your website data.
Off the top of my head I thought, “has anyone created a mobile app that allows clients to track their open matter information?”  Now that would be useful. Imagine that I’m a GC at one of our major clients and I can pull up billing information, contact information, docket status, and documents related to all my matters that the firm is currently managing. That would be a useful app! 
Right now, we conduct our application development process within the silo of the firm’s internal structure. All the bright minds of IT, KM, Marketing, Lawyers, etc. going into a room together and deciding what would be a cool app to build. The missing piece, however, is that it doesn’t seem that anyone is asking the client what they would like to see in a law firm mobile app. Do you really think the clients want an app that will show the closest office location? Do they want a list of current jobs available at your firm? Well… maybe, but probably not. Yet, do we take the time to actually ask them a question like: “What kind of useful information or resources could we provide you on your mobile devices that you would find valuable?” I don’t think most of us are. Perhaps we’re afraid that they’ll actually ask us to produce something that we are afraid to provide them. 
I know that a lot of people at this point are probably writing this post off because they think that firms cannot provide such products due to ethical or potential security reasons. I’d argue that if that is stopping a firm from developing a valuable mobile app that their clients would actually use, then you probably should scrap any idea you may have of developing a mobile app. Playing it safe and relying upon Marketing to come up with a design for a mobile app that regurgitates what’s already on your website will result in an app that no one will use. If you really want it to be used, you have to make it useful. If major companies like HBO, Westlaw, The New York Times, and others can produce secure products that are useful to their clients, so can law firms. It’s just a matter of stepping out from beyond the idea of “mobile app as marketing” and stepping into the idea of “mobile app as beneficial to our clients.”

The other day, I was cruising around on the internet and I came across the EPA’s web site.

Lucky for me, I spotted the EPA’s app contest.
Yep, that’s right. The EPA is holding a contest to create an app. And, they are even willing to accept an IDEA for an app. So the contest isn’t just limited to programmers.
The winner will be honored by the EPA at a special ceremony in D.C. and the app will be publicized on the EPA web site.
The only requirement is that the app address one of the following seven principles:
  1. Take action on climate change
  2. Improving air quality
  3. Assuring the safety of chemicals
  4. Cleaning up our communities
  5. Protecting America’s waters
  6. Expanding the conversation on environmentalism
  7. Building strong State and Tribal partnership

The deadline for submission is September 16, 2011. More info is available at appsfortheenvironment.challenge.gov.

I’m entering. And why wouldn’t I? My favorite color is green!

Toby Brown and I presented at the joint Houston Association of Law Libraries (HALL) and the Southwestern Association of Law Libraries (SWALL) on mobile and tablet apps. This is an update of a presentation that Barbara Fullerton, Scott Riggins and I did last October at the Texas SLA program. I promised the group that I’d post the slides on the blog, so here they are.

We’ve all probably sat through those “60 Apps in 60 Minutes” programs at a conference and watched as a bevy of applications flew past us on the screen. Those are cool, but what how many of those do we actually use when we get back to our office? So, we’ve asked you to share with us any apps you use for work and why it helps you do your job, and you didn’t disappoint!

We have suggestions for Blackberry (which is probably still the “standard” mobile tech for lawyers these days, iPhone, iPad, and Androids. So, get your mobile devices ready for some new apps to try out and let us know if we missed a good one or two.

Next week’s Elephant Post question is at the bottom of this post, so make sure you take a look and share your perspective with us.

Lawyer Perspective
Dropbox for Blackberry plus Docs to Go

I use this so that I can sync documents that I may need to look at on the road.  Documents to go gives a more readable format to many of these documents.  While the BB screen is still small, as a solo, I can’t be totally out of touch when out of the office so the combination of Dropbox and Documents to Go is great.

Lawyer Perspective
Twitter’s App

Twitter lets me keep up with science websites.  Since I can no longer devote the time scouring journals, this is a great way to stay somewhat informed and access the articles I am specifically interested.

CCO Perspective
Email

Scoop of chocolate, Scoop of vanilla. Email is still the most important mobile app.
The bulk of business communication runs through email. If you can’t get email on your mobile device, you’re not leaving the office. It’s why blackberries are still so prevalent. They have a great email app.

Online Marketing Perspective
AT&T Code Scanner

Well, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t use all the usual suspects but I thought I would mention my latest favoritest: AT&T Code Scanner.
Used to read QR and datamatrix codes and 1D bar codes found in print publications, it links me straight to the related web site.
Totally cool, I have to credit Mr. Robert Downey, Jr. and Esquire magazine for turning me on to this coolest of the cool features. See my post “Are You Ready to Augment Your Reality?

Doctoral Candidate in Legal Informatics Perspective
Omnifocus

The Omnifocus app allows me to keep track of my tasks and sort them according to teaching, researching, writing reports, supervising thesis, blogging, etc. By using different views or perspectives, I can present the task according to my whereabouts and deadlines, so I am not constantly overwhelmed by the amount of to-do’s.
In addition, I can sync all tasks between my iPhone, iPad, iMac and MacBook which allows me to access them anytime and anywhere.

KM Attorney Perspective
Mindo

Mindo is an iPad version of common mind-mapping tools.  A consultant on one of my projects started mind-mapping a conversation we were having one day and I was shocked at how useful it was to see our thoughts being displayed as inter-connected nodes on a screen and moreso how often I refered back to the map in the coming days. Since then we have instituted mind-mapping as part of standard project planning process.
Mindo is great because it mimics most of what the desktop applications do, but of course, is mobile. Ideas and concepts can be color-coded, shaped or linked across the map.  Whole sections can be relocated and bring their related concepts along with them. As ideas come to me on my commute, waiting for a flight, or late at night I can jot them down and then map out how certain things are related to each other, where dependencies lie or missing pieces need to be filled in. Mindo can then output your map as an image, a pdf or in the common mindmap file forms used by the much more expensive desktop solutions. It is Dropbox and email friendly from within the App. All this for $7.

Information Pro Perspective
Chromemarks Lite
David Whelan

Chromemarks is an Android app that synchronizes my Google Bookmarks to my phone.  Since I use Chrome on multiple computers, I can keep my bookmarks sync’d up between browsers on Google Bookmarks.  Chromemarks extends that so when I’m away from my PCs, I can still quickly get to bookmarked information.

Knowledge Management Perspective
TripCase

TripCase is a great (and free!) travel app – it keeps your travel itinerary in one place; automatically tracks your flights and sends you alerts; updates your gate and baggage carousel information automatically; when you input a hotel it automatically pulls in the contact information, check in & check out times, and other key info; provides weather, maps, and directions; allows you to enter information for flights, hotels, car rentals, activities, meetings, restaurants, and more; and allows you to send copies of your full itinerary to others. I’ve noticed a few limitations (can’t remember what those are right now), but I find the UI very simple and appealing, and most importantly — I’ve found it to be more up-to-date and accurate with flight delays and gate information than the airlines’ websites or even announcements at the airport!

IT Perspective
iThoughtsHD

The coolest app I use for work is called iThoughtsHD which is basically MindMap for iPad.   iThoughtsHD is a very powerful tool for getting ideas out of your head and onto “”virtual paper””.  MindMapping is great way to  brainstorm and we use all the time to flush out ideas.  The iPad version is simple to use and very effective.  You even have the ability to share your maps via DropBox, email, wifi, mobileme, etc.

Lawyer Perspective
Twitter for Blackberry

I use Twitter for Blackberry to keep up with my tweets while on the go.  It has helped me network for our firm, get media coverage and exposure for our cases and legal issues we are experts on, and has helped me start to promote my own business Stacey E. Burke, PC (site to come).

Next Week’s Elephant Post

What Legal News Resources do you read to keep up with industry news that affects your profession?

I have the wonderful job of researching dozens (maybe hundreds?) of different legal rags everyday. There are definitely some good legal news resources out there, and we thought we’d let you share a few of your favorites with us. For example, I enjoy the Osmosys Legal Industry Monitor for generic legal news (plus it is FREE!!) So, let us know what it is that you read when you sit down at your desk each morning. We try to make this easy by embedding the form to fill out, but of course, you can email me your answer, or DM it to me in a 140 characters of less. (really, just fill out the form below and make it easy on  me!!) If you need to see the form in another browser window, or see what others have answer, then you can click the links below, but really, just  fill out the stinkin’ form!!