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Overcoming Fear and Loathing of New Technology at ABA TECHSHOW 2018

By Sean Doherty

ABA TECHSHOW 2018 is bringing lawyers and technology together starting today, March 7-10, at the Hyatt Regency Chicago (a new location for the 32-year-old event). The conference is showcasing advances in law practice management and offering educational sessions and continuing legal education programming on practical technologies to help provide legal services to clients.

The exposition hall, which opens Wednesday evening and closes Friday at 3 p.m., includes more than 100 vendors. (Tickets for the expo are free.)

So Much to Do, So Little Time

With only three days to cover the expo, programs and social events, attendees must prioritize their time. Attorney at Work asked industry experts Courtney Troutman, Director of the Practice Management Assistance Program at the South Carolina Bar, and John Simek, Vice president of Sensei Enterprises, for help focusing in on what to see. Simek is also a member of the event’s planning board.

Client Portals and Law Practice Management Tools

Troutman and Simek agree that lawyers should explore and adopt secure client portal technologies in 2018 and have a solid plan for upgrading or adopting law practice management (LPM) tools, including time and billing software.

Cloud-based case management software with client portals “allows clients to see what actions are being taken in their case, helping them to feel informed and reassured,” said Troutman. “Without a doubt, secure client portals for client communications are a preferable way to provide legal services than using unsecured email and texts.”

“Clients expect to conduct business online with secure communications, access to documents [and] visibility into invoicing,” Simek said.

Portals combine with web-based LPM tools and make it easy to securely deliver messages and invoices to clients and receive notifications when clients engage in online activities, such as viewing notes, calendar items or invoices. At the expo, attendees can investigate portal offerings from providers like AbacusNext, Clio and MyCase. Last year, MyCase upgraded its client portal offering with mobile support and a new mobile-friendly interface, making it easier to navigate.

Besides portals, LPM providers will be demonstrating features such as calendar and document management, collaboration, time and billing, and payment processing.

  • Clio’s new Outlook 365 add-in for Boutique or Elite plans allows users to, among other things, save Outlook emails, threads and attachments — individually or in bulk — to client matters. The add-in works with Outlook desktop 2013 or higher (with an Office 365 subscription) and (Note that the Clio add-in only works with Microsoft-based email accounts. Although you can view email accounts from other providers like Google in Outlook, you cannot use the add-in with these emails.)
  • If you’re an Office 365 subscriber, you can now use your business email address and password to access the Abacus Private Cloud environment in a single sign-on (SSO) with support for multi-factor authentication (MFA). When you configure an Abacus Private Cloud account for SSO, an Office 365 user portal becomes a one-stop shop for identity management to change or reset a password and manage an MFA device.

Time and Billing

Troutman further zeroed in on recouping costs for services. Lawyers “fail to account for all the time they spend on a case by not tracking phone call and email (or text) time,” she said. “Finding the right law office-specific software to seamlessly handle time, billing and accounting should be a top priority,” Troutman said.

You will find numerous time and billing tools — both standalone and integrated into LPM products — in the expo hall.

  • Smokeball features released in 2017 include time tracking software for every document, email, meeting, memo and task created in the practice management software. Integration with Boost Billing allows subscribers to send clients invoices and maintain ethical, legal accounting practices for operating and trust accounts.
  • Clio’s Outlook 365 add-in allows users to log billable time to matters in Clio. The Vancouver-based company has also added a new accounts receivable aging report to help improve law firm collection rates. The A/R aging report shows unpaid customer invoices by the number of days the invoice is outstanding.
  • Web-based legal billing and timekeeping software provider TimeSolv will showcase a new feature giving law firms the ability to split invoices to send to multiple parties. The feature allows users to break a matter down as many times as necessary to allocate invoice percentages to work product and performance. The Eagan, Minnesota-based company will also demonstrate its latest product to convert Timeslips historical data to TimeSolv.

Cybersecurity and the Cloud

In 2017, two events served as a wake-up call for lawyers to review how they use technology in the business and practice of law. Simek noted the issuance of ABA ethics opinion 477R, which states that “if client information is of sufficient sensitivity, a lawyer should encrypt the transmission and determine how to do so to sufficiently protect it.” Last year Zola Media, makers of Zola Suite LPM software, in partnership with RPost, the Rmail service provider, offered customers encrypted email, e-signatures and proof of delivery. This year, Zola is poised to launch a new user interface.

Simek also cited the ransomware attack on DLA Piper, which shut down the law firm’s operations for several days.

Troutman said the most significant wake-up calls are “cybersecurity, or in the case of most small firms, insecurity,” and migrating to Office 365. Most solo practitioners and small law firms are “overwhelmed by the mere prospect of learning what they need to know to protect their firms and clients from cyber attacks,” said Troutman. And many lawyers hold off upgrading old Office products, “fearing the cloud and not recognizing the benefits Office 365 offers them and the client,” she said.

TECHSHOW 2018 Sessions That Can Help With Your Fears

TECHSHOW experts can help lawyers deal with their fear and loathing of the cloud and Office 365 and teach how to secure client communications and files. There are more than 85 educational events at this week’s conference clustered in tracks, which include Advanced IT, Cybersecurity, Practice in the Cloud and Trending Tech, as well as the Vendor track.

Here are a few sessions, presented in chronological order, selected with Troutman and Simek’s guidance in mind.

  • Cloud Technology for Law Firms – Ready or Not Here It Comes (Vendor Track), presented by Josiah Chaves at 9:45-10:45 Thursday in the Expo Hall.
  • Guarding Your Digital Castle: Using Managed Security (Advanced IT Track), presented by Judy Selby and Jody R. Westby at 10:45-11:45 Thursday in Grand Ballroom F. (If this is too advanced, drop back to How Do I Choose? Selecting and Implementing Law Practice Technology (Academic Track), presented by Michael Robak, Natalie Robinson Kelly, Kristina L. Niedringhaus, Darla Jackson, Jim Calloway and Jesse Bowman at 10:45-11:45 Thursday in Grand Ballroom E.)
  • Affordable Technology for Small Law Firm Productivity (Solo and Small Law Firm Lawyer Track), presented by Heidi Alexander and Mary E. Vandenack at 8:30-9:30 Friday in Columbus CD.
  • Using Client Portals for Effective Collaboration (Solo and Small Firm Lawyer Track), presented by Brooke Moore and Jim Calloway at 10:30-11:30 Friday in Columbus CD.
  • Protecting Your Firm From Ransomware Attacks (Cybersecurity Track), presented by Simek and Jason McNew at 4:15-5:15 Friday in Columbus AB.

Finally, on Saturday, 60 in 60 will combine longtime favorites 60 Sites, 60 Tips, and Gadgets and Gizmos into one hourlong mash-up to close the conference. The session will be presented by TECHSHOW 2018 Co-Chairs Debbie Foster and Tom Mighell, with the Utah Bar’s Lincoln Meade, and Simek.

If you’re a first-time attendee, review the ABA’s “First Time Experience Guide” and sign up for the “Taste of TECHSHOW” dinners. Also, don’t forget to check the expo’s Start-Up Alley, where you will see new and innovative products from companies like Digitory Legal. Digitory Legal’s new data analytics and visualization software allows users to leverage historical billing data to predict matter costs and manage timekeepers and budgets.

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Categories: Daily Dispatch, Legal Technology
Originally published March 7, 2018
Last updated April 13, 2019
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Sean Doherty

Sean Doherty is a sole practitioner advising organizations on technology controls that comply with industry standards, laws and regulations governing information technology, safeguarding privacy and preserving evidence in litigation. Sean previously worked as an analyst for 451 Research, where he directed the company’s business and technology coverage of information governance, compliance, and electronic discovery. He also worked as a technology editor at ALM Media. Follow him on LinkedIn and on Twitter @SeanD0herty.

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