This month, Attorney at Work’s Mark Feldman dropped into Legalweek 2020, ALM’s big annual conference, to visit with the legal technologists onsite. (Be sure to listen in on Mark’s interviews, here.) Though he did not have time (or so he says) to scope out swag, he did bring back plenty of product announcements to investigate. Today, tech writer Gwynne Monahan has news from the expo hall. — Ed.
Legalweek: A Great Place to Make an Entrance
Ah, Legal Tech New … ahem, Legalweek New York, and its wonder of wonders: the expo hall and product announcements. And what better place to make an entrance than the Big Apple? This year was no exception. In no particular order, here’s a rundown of noteworthy news from Legalweek 2020.
Yes, Zero, except it is spelled ZERØ. It automates “time-consuming tasks for lawyers,” like email management. The cool thing? It uses artificial intelligence to capture time spent interacting with client-related emails from mobile devices. Yes, I know. Go ahead, read that again! Plus, it automatically detects potential wrong recipients before an email goes out, and helps you organize your emails by folder. Cool, right?
At Legalweek, the company announced ZERØ Lite, which has all the benefits of ZERØ but without needing a document management system like NetDocuments or iManage. In other words, small and midsize law firms can be that much more efficient.
FileTrail — which bills itself as a modern approach to records management and information governance — cleverly unveiled its FileTrail GPS (Governance Policy Suite) 2.0 at Legalweek. FileTrail GPS gives a firm the ability to manage its information policies and then execute them against different data and multiple repositories. The cool thing? Governance happens “in place,” meaning you don’t have to move data.
Rather than follow the herd and make a product announcement, deposition and litigation support provider Veritext used Legalweek to raise awareness about the shortage of court reporters, and what impacts it might have on the legal industry. It took me a moment to comprehend the “shortage of court reporters,” as my brain first interpreted it as meaning not enough journalists covering the courts. No, no. Veritext is referring to the equally important people who sit silently during trial or depositions and diligently record every syllable spoken.
It may seem surprising that there is a shortage of court reporters. However, as Tony Donofrio, Veritext’s Chief Technology Officer, explained, “there is a greater interest in higher analytic work and information work” than in court reporting. Software engineering. Data science. Self-driving cars. OK, I get it. They sound cool; they’re careers that can change the world and solve problems.
So let’s take Donofrio’s other point, that “roughly two-thirds of the population of court reporters are over the age of 50” and retiring. At the same time, the number of people entering the field is only in single or double digits. Apply some data science, and we get a blunt fact: There aren’t enough people to fill current vacancies, and there aren’t going to enough people to fill future court reporting vacancies unless something changes.
Whenever I see the word “next” I hear a bank teller or store cashier, or someone responsible for directing people in line, yelling “Next!” to get the person at the front of the line to look up from their smartphone and move. I see the word “next” after a piece of software, and I wonder if the next iteration will be “later” or “afterward” or something similar.
For AbacusNext, the word makes sense because, well, there is a “next”: HotDocs. The integration of AbacusNext and HotDocs, previewed at Legalweek 2020, provides firms with “the ability to automatically assemble error-free documents using the client, calendar and case information already in the AbacusLaw system.” You can see this on the AbacusNext homepage under the “Exploring Our Technology Solutions” section, which shows each “next” and how they connect. As the company’s Tomas Suros explains it: “You can connect, in essence, the case management system with all of your client information and all of your case information, without needing to retype or recreate information that’s been captured and stored in either system.” Incorporating HotDocs into AbacusNext then makes it much easier to automate document assembly. Suros points out one key differentiator with AbacusNext, as it closes a loop and improves “collaboration between clients and attorneys while maintaining security with encryption.”
SimplyAgree is a signature and closing management tool for, you guessed it, transactional attorneys. Its founders, Will Norton and Sam Beutler, are former corporate attorneys who came up with the idea after going through hundreds of closing, from M&A deals to wills and trusts. Launched in 2017, SimplyAgree digitizes and automates much of the closing process for lawyers, complete with e-signing and closing binders, which adds weight to what otherwise sounds like a simple piece of software. The two founders tell us they will launch a ground-up redesign in 2020, based on enthusiastic user feedback. (Listen to the interview here.)
No Legalweek is complete without something from LexisNexis. One of the most exciting things is its CRM tool, InterAction. InterAction basically “collects and aggregates all your firm’s client and prospect data to form a more complete relationship picture.” Say what?
Scott Wallingford, VP & GM, Law Firm Software Solutions, explains it as helping “smaller firms be more knowledgeable about their clients because you’re able to connect the dots to be more effective in your engagement,” which means “delivering better service to clients …” As he points out: You can “cross-sell, and learn about who does know somebody at that firm so if they’re not currently a client but if you worked with them in the past,” that person could you introduce you, rather than you cold calling or emailing.
Last year, LexisNexis launched InterAction for Microsoft Office 365, which allows lawyers to extract data from the CRM system and feed it directly into applications like Excel and Word when needed.
How’s that for business development and networking in the 21st century? It’s like LinkedIn on steroids.
Welcome to the big leagues, Knowable, you winner of both Judges and Professional Choice Product Innovation Competition awards at Legalweek 2020. A little history: Knowable is a spinoff of Axiom, the leading alternative legal services provider.
The most intriguing thing about Knowable, at the moment, is this statement from its website: “Archaic legal language is converted into structured data, providing — for the first time — portfolio level views of risks, obligations, and entitlements.” Key phrases: structured data and portfolio level views. It made me think of dashboards and a breakdown of words into bar charts or line graphs that show me where my risk is greatest. According to a write-up on Lawsites, a contract analytics dashboard is on point.
Keep an eye on this one. I secretly hope Knowable can find a way to make a consumer version so us laypeople can also understand risks, obligations and entitlements in things like rental agreements, waivers and whatnot.
Fastcase Docket Alarm
It’s 2020, and we may lament the lack of flying cars and other technological advancements Hollywood thought we’d have by now, but honestly, sometimes we need to focus on simple things, like calendaring! Docket Alarm by Fastcase is a case in point.
“At Docket Alarm, we are continually working to innovate better solutions for legal professionals to eliminate rote litigation processes, so they can focus on what really matters – the substance,” said Docket Alarm founder and Managing Director Michael Sander.
Substance. Like providing automated calendar updates for deadlines at both the state and federal levels and providing case analytics that factor in judge, technology area, law firm or party. It sounds simple, but the difference can be substantial.
A LawPay Partnership
Legalweek isn’t just product news; its partnerships too! A new one that was announced: a partnership between LSG (Legal Solutions Group), a leading legal billing software provider and the maker of Bilr, and LawPay parent AffiniPay.
Bilr, it turns out, “helps law firms grow their revenues and profits with 100 percent billing compliance and AI-driven invoice improvements.” That is a good complement to LawPay, which helps law firms process payments online, ensuring “all credit card and debit card payments are processed in compliance with attorney trust accounting rules.” It’ll be that much easier for lawyers to get paid.
Speaking of getting paid, Rocket Matter announced its acquisition of LexCharge, a credit card and ACH processor.
Why would a practice management company acquire a payment processor? Fair question. I’ll let Rocket Matter answer: “With the two companies together, law firms will enjoy a seamless customer experience between their [payments] processor and their legal practice management software vendor. Setup and support will be headache-free, with one single company accountable for these operations.” It seems that Rocket Matter, similar to many companies in this space, is aiming to become a one-stop-shop for all things necessary to run a successful law practice.
That wraps up another influx of cool announcements from this year’s Legalweek. Now we are left to wonder: A year from now, what will be the significant changes at Legalweek?