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Green Light, Yellow Light: Experts Signal Legal Technology Trends

By The Editors

With LegalTech New York this week and ABA TECHSHOW on the horizon, legal technology conference season is in full force—a little slice of heaven for technology lovers and PowerPoint geeks. But since the rest of us could probably use a little help navigating what’s ahead, for this special Friday Five we posed the following question to colleagues who make it their business to keep up with the latest technology news:

“Which new technology development is getting a great big enthusiastic green light from you? And which is prompting you to pause and advise caution?”

Here’s what they told us.

Monica Bay

As we head to LegalTech New York, two key technologies are front-and-center: First, BYOD—bring your own device—is exploding in legal shops. CIOs have been spinning to adjust as lawyers demand that their organizations support tablets and smartphones (and cloud computing). As an iPhone addict, I’m drinking that Kool-Aid, but I recognize the challenges IT faces to keep these devices secure and to support at least four operating systems. The second hot technology is predictive analytics, which will affect everything from e-discovery to Big Data and raise issues ranging from privacy to security to risk management issues.

Monica Bay is Editor-in-Chief of ALM’s Law Technology News. She blogs at EDDUpdate and The Common Follow her on Twitter @LTNMonicaBay, @commonscold and @eddupdate.

Sharon Nelson

There is an enormous security risk in the BYOD movement, even with mobile device managers. A much safer path: Only allow devices that your law firm owns to connect to the network—buy any needed laptops and smartphones. The potential liabilities and costs associated with data breaches are too great. I am heartened by the acknowledgement of many experts that 2012 was the year “the password system was broken.” They are now working on new mechanisms to authenticate. One thought: Authenticate one device—like your smartphone—and use it to authenticate everything else. Read Wired‘s January posting to learn what Google’s up to in this area. Prediction: Password authentication will be dead in a few years.

Sharon D. Nelson is President of Sensei Enterprises, Inc., specializing in digital forensics and legal IT. Sharon is President-Elect of the Virginia State Bar and blogs on electronic evidence topics at Ride the Lightning. Follow her on Twitter @sharonnelsonesq.

Andy Adkins

With the increased number of BYODs appearing in our firm, we have been looking for a secure technology to help transfer files from the users’ computers to their mobile devices. Most have figured out they can email a document to themselves; others have “discovered” syncing services like Dropbox, SugarSync and While we try to educate the users on the security issues of some of these services, they don’t always listen—it’s the “security versus convenience” issue. We’ve been watching the market develop with products like Citrix ShareFile, OpenText Tempo and Biscom. This increased development usually means that there will be several services and applications that law firms can choose from, given their different technology environments.

I’m not holding my breath for RIM. They’ve missed the market, and from preliminary reviews, the new BlackBerry 10 doesn’t excite me enough to go backwards.

Andrew Z. Adkins III is Chief Information Officer at Steptoe & Johnson PLLC, and former President of the Legal Technology Institute at the University of Florida Levin College of Law.

Jim Calloway

Take a new look at document assembly and make document creation more efficient. Create a digital form bank, where updates and alternative clauses are available to everyone. Some firms will focus on getting more out of Microsoft Word, with emphasis on templates, Quick Parts and other included tools. There is a new generation of easy-to-learn Word plug-in assembly tools like Pathagoras and TheFormTool that lawyers should try. Other firms may embrace HotDocs. Many will use databases, document management systems or practice management tools to “form fill” data into documents automatically.

Red Light: Say no to Windows 8! Some day this “Metro” interface may rule. But for now, Windows 8 requires too much retraining, along with touch-screen monitors, for too little benefit.

Jim Calloway is Director of the Oklahoma Bar Association Management Assistance Program. He blogs on technology and practice management topics at Jim Calloway’s Law Practice Tips. You can follow him on Twitter @jimcalloway.

Neil Squillante

The iPad mini is versatile but currently underrated as a productivity tool. I have two 32 GB LTE iPad minis (one at home, one at work), which I use for editing and writing (its size makes it ideal for thumb typing), taking handwritten notes, referencing documents and crunching numbers, to name just a few tasks. I used ByWord and iA Writer on the iPad mini to write a 4,000 word report about why the iPad mini is a serious productivity tool. I’m not the only believer. Macworld recently published an article titled, “The iPad mini: 2013’s Next Big Business Tool?

Regarding your second question, law firms should evaluate all new technologies with caution. For software, take advantage of demos and free trials. For hardware, buy just one before you buy one for everyone—including the iPad mini.

Neil J. Squillante is the publisher of TechnoLawyer, a network of free online publications for lawyers and law office administrators.

Eric Hunter

Big Data has fascinating ramifications when applied to social media and analyzing business-driven behavior and client relationships. Take search giants (i.e., Google) and social shares (i.e., Facebook) and how they customize and analyze our consumer behavior. The benefits for businesses of all sizes is astounding, from a solo practitioner to a firm with thousands of attorneys, and I certainly give this an enthusiastic green light. While facing this exciting frontier, however, we will need evolutions in privacy to move in tandem with this emerging landscape to ensure Big Data doesn’t become Big Brother.

Eric Hunter is Director of Knowledge, Innovation and Technology Strategies at Bradford & Barthel. He speaks and writes on competitive strategy, evolving business models, big data and collaborative cloud solutions, and is the recipient of ILTA’s Knowledge Management Champion Distinguished Peer and Innovative Member awards. Follow him on Twitter @thelihunter

Nicole Black

2013 is the year that cloud computing comes of age for the legal profession. Concerns about the financial stability of leading legal cloud computing providers have largely been alleviated now that some companies are well funded. Similarly, security is now less of an issue because legal cloud computing companies have worked diligently to ensure the security of their products in response to earlier concerns raised by members of the legal profession. As more lawyers use mobile devices, however, they must ensure that they take steps to secure their tablets and smartphones and follow their IT department’s procedures.

Nicole Black, a lawyer and author of Cloud Computing for Lawyers and Social Media for Lawyers, is Director at MyCase, a cloud-based law practice management system. Niki has been listed as one of the Fastcase 50 and profiled as an ABA Legal Rebel. Follow her on Twitter @nikiblack.

Richard Granat

Cloud-based legal applications will continue to proliferate. The transition to the cloud for all legal applications continues to accelerate. The virtual law firm movement that started with solos and small law firms will expand to larger law firms, as even the largest law firms virtualize and begin to hollow out.

Web-enabled document automation is reaching a tipping point. It still hasn’t mainstreamed, but it will.

Outsourcing by smaller law firms to offshore firms needs to be carefully monitored and approached with caution.

Richard S. Granat is a lawyer and CEO/Founder of DirectLaw, Inc. His elawyering blog covers the cutting-edge topics focused on practicing law online. He is Co-Chair of the ABA eLawyering Task Force and has been profiled as an ABA Legal Rebel. Follow him on Twitter @rgranat.

See for Yourself

Get details about ABA TECHSHOW, April 4-6, 2013, in Chicago here and information on the next LegalTech conference, coming to Los Angeles, May 20-21, 2013, here.

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