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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.)
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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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