Yes, it’s that wonderful time of year, when legal technology fans await the drumroll of new products and updates, and legal technology companies primp and prepare to show off their best new stuff. Legal Tech New York opens next week and ABA TECHSHOW lands in Chicago this March. Whether in the exhibit hall or blawgosphere, you’ll see plenty of new releases these next few weeks. In anticipation, this week’s Friday Five serves up a bunch of product announcements designed to help you work smarter, faster, better … in the cloud, from your smartphone or tablet, and even on your desktop (if you must stay put).
1. It’s about time … practice management software updates. This week Rocket Matter launched version 2.0 of its cloud-based legal practice management and time and billing software (reviewed yesterday on Robert Ambrogi’s Law Sites). The major new features: With document assembly, you can merge client and matter data already stored in Rocket Matter with legal forms templates to create new documents. And unlimited custom fields for matters and client information allow you to stamp out templates—including invoices—tailored to your specific practice.
Also on the practice management front, Clio has announced that its DropBox and Box integrations are live, along with a smart search, which lets you instantly navigate Matters and Contacts. Clio’s calendaring tool has been updated with new features as well—including the ability to create stand-alone firm calendars, show statute of limitations, provide an overview of Tasks, create Task reminders and and apply custom colors. Clio, like Rocket Matter, is designed for smaller law firms.
Gavel & Gown Software is unveiling five new 2012 Amicus products—Amicus Attorney Premium, Amicus Premium Billing, Amicus Attorney Small Firm Edition, Amicus Small Firm Accounting and Amicus Mobile—including a Google Sync feature that allows users to sync with Android smartphones without having to go through Microsoft Outlook. Amicus Accounting 2012 is a billing and accounting application for use with the Small Firm Edition, aimed at fulfilling those front- and back-office needs.
Even if they’re not strictly cloud-based, most popular practice management programs offer ways to enter time from the road. But capturing time can be more of a personal than technological challenge. Some time-tracking tools aim to help lawyers overcome their timekeeping resistance by working in the background of your device or PC—and they’re getting more sophisticated. Chrometa has added a new plug-in for Outlook and Gmail that allows you to capture details for email-based time entries, along with the ability to export time entries into billing systems like QuickBooks, Basecamp, Timeslips, Clio and PCLaw. And, for those without a billing system, it’s added the ability to create and send simple invoices directly from the app, too.
2. A little something for the business lawyers. Earlier this month, LexisNexis launched Lexis Practice Advisor, an online document drafting resource with practice notes, model documents, checklists and forms for transactional attorneys. Offered via an annual subscription (stand-alone or in conjunction with Lexis.com), the online service aims to provide “relevant and useful templates, forms and practical guidance from leading attorneys—along with supporting primary law and legal analysis.” The first module to launch is Business Law, which covers commercial, contracts and corporate legal topics. A Financial Restructuring and Bankruptcy module is due out this spring.
Also for business lawyers, BlumbergExcelsior has introduced Blumberg Entity Tracker (BET) software for corporate and LLC records management. BET creates a central storehouse of information about each entity, then helps you prepare, manage and record corporate documents. There’s a forms library, plus an automated share ledger that tracks shared ownership and prints new certificates, and BET sets reminders for key corporate events, integrating with your Outlook calendar and email.
3. E-discovery on display. E-discovery in all its many facets is huge at Legal Tech and, as reported in Law Technology News yesterday, we can expect a good number of e-discovery product announcements this year. Just a few announcements to date include Access Data’s new Summation products; Avansic’s new Tracker, an app that tracks progress throughout e-discovery cases; Index Engines’ Octane 4.3; Daegis’ cross-matter management program; BIA’s TotalDiscovery.com online data collection tool; plus the new Equivio Zoom; and Hot Neuron’s Clustify 3.0. (Legal tech product names are just the best.)
4. Oh, yeah, there’s an app for that. The number of new apps and apps updates for lawyers is almost as dizzying as the number of sessions devoted to them at the upcoming conferences. Luckily there are good blawgs out there to help with the ins and outs of integrating apps with your practice, like Tablet Legal, iPhone JD and Rob Dean’s Walking Office. (Watch for more discussion of how firm IT departments are working with lawyers’ demands to integrate and support tablet computing—including security issues.) In the pretrial and trial presentation apps category (get our download of top iPhone and iPad apps here), Fastcase continues to add features, announcing last month that it partnered with Justia to provide free access to summaries of state and federal court opinions. Lit Software has announced that its popular TrialPad app now has Dropbox integration, and it just released TranscriptPad for reviewing deposition transcripts. Also, Ready Reference recently updated its Rulebook legal reference library app.
On the productivity side, note-taking and to-do list apps for personal use are plentiful, but we’re intrigued by a new app called Do that’s touted as a really simple social productivity app for your team, allowing you to easily create and share tasks, projects and notes. (Their tagline, “The app to get work done with anyone,” may be a tad optimistic, though.)
5. Make way for all those new programs. All this downloading and syncing of apps, plus books (and music) can fill up your hard drives faster than a teenager can empty a refrigerator. If you, like us, sometimes wonder how you managed to fill a 600-gigabyte hard drive, Daisy Disk will enlighten you beautifully, and show exactly what (and who) to blame. The $10 app quickly scans your Mac drives and displays what’s lurking there in a color-coded sunburst. Just click a ring of the interactive map to dig deeper into the files and delete those space hogs—and free up space for the new “Downton Abbey” … er … legal reference guide. If you prefer freeware, check DiskWave. For Windows users, Disk Space Fan offers a similarly graphically pleasing look at hard drive data, though it’s not as robust as other, dowdier Windows cleaning utilities.
Surely there are great new legal tech products we’ve missed, and many more to come, so comment below or send us a note via email if you discover something really cool out there in the exhibit halls.