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Friday Tech Tips

Tech Tips and Takeaways from ABA TECHSHOW 2019

By Joan Feldman

Last week, more than 1,000 lawyers, educators, students and legal technologists converged yet again on Chicago for ABA TECHSHOW, the American Bar Association Law Practice Division’s annual legal technology conference and expo. Couldn’t make it? Not to worry. Here are top takeaways from legal technology pros Sheila Blackford, Jim Calloway, Anne Haag and Sharon Nelson.

Sheila Blackford: Smartphone Detoxing

It was another great ABA TECHSHOW program this year. Of course, the session that stuck with me was Friday’s final session, “Time for a Digital Detox,” presented by Sharon Nelson, President of Sensei Enterprises, and Roberta Tepper, Lawyer Assistance Programs Director for the State Bar of Arizona.

Having my left hand spasm from clutching my iPhone for too long too often, I committed myself to nabbing one of the last empty seats available. Glad I did. Sharon and Roberta served up serious stats on how we all are overly dependent on our smartphones. Worse than we may have thought.

For many lawyers who feel pressured to be plugged in and available close to 24/7, the digital world has become a crushing weight. This has crossed the line and should be recognized for what it is: digital addiction, an increasing problem for 20 to 40 percent of lawyers.

Studies have revealed that the typical lawyer is checking his or her phone for messages 47 times a day and touches the screen on the digital device 2,500 times a day. Most will confess to checking their phone within 15 minutes of waking, which isn’t surprising considering how many of us take our cellphones into our bedrooms. Half of us sleep with our phone on the nightstand or in our bed lest we miss an important beep or buzz.

Look around. People walk their dogs with smartphone in hand, scout their Facebook feed instead of watching their sons and daughters achieve their special victory on the sports field, or check their email instead of engaging with their spouse while waiting for their meal to arrive at their favorite restaurant. No one is engaging with people they encounter in a typical day. It’s no wonder anxiety, depression and isolation is becoming a frequent complaint.

I’d like to share with you Sharon’s zinger that I have been thinking about: “To be a good lawyer, one has to be a healthy lawyer.”

Declare periodic times that are no cellphone-use-allowed times. You just might find yourself becoming healthier and happier. If this is too much for you, then you should contact your lawyer assistance program or mental health provider. Otherwise, you are missing out on the life that is happening moment by moment.

Sheila M. Blackford (@SheilaBlackford) is an attorney and Practice Management Advisor for the Oregon State Bar Professional Liability Fund. She is the author of the ABA book “Trust Accounting in One Hour for Lawyers,” co-author of “Paperless in One Hour for Lawyers,” and a past Editor-in-Chief of the ABA’s Law Practice magazine. She writes the Just Oregon Lawyers Blog. 

Jim Calloway: “I Have One Word for You …”

My tip from ABA TECHSHOW is actually more of a theme. In the classic movie “The Graduate,” Benjamin Braddock, played by Dustin Hoffman, is cornered by one of his father’s friends who wants to give him career advice: “I have one word for you — plastics,” he says.

After TECHSHOW, I have one word for lawyers, no matter what your practice setting: automate.

Invest the time in your practice and career automating tasks and business processes that take up a sizeable amount of your time each day.

Two people can easily schedule a future meeting via email. But if more are involved, use a scheduling app like Doodle or NeedToMeet. Even scheduling an appointment between two busy people can be streamlined with tools like the artificial intelligence-powered digital assistants, Amy and Andrew, from x.ai. Calendly allows clients and prospective clients to select and schedule a meeting time from a designated list of available times you have selected. Calendly or a similar tool should be a part of the standard appointment scheduling process, particularly for smaller firms serving the consumer market.

Zapier is an automation tool that merits your attention, along with Microsoft Flow, which focuses on Office 365 automation. Many automation Zaps have been designed by others and then shared for you to try. ABA TECHSHOW often provides a window into the future and I definitely saw the future listening to one small firm lawyer describe a series of Zaps that lets new clients provide some basic information, review and e-sign an attorney-client agreement, pay the retainer or consultation fee and schedule their appointment — all while the lawyer is driving to the courthouse.

Jim Calloway (@JimCalloway) is Director of the Management Assistance Program for the Oklahoma Bar Association and author of several ABA books. He blogs at Jim Calloway’s Law Practice Tips and co-produces the podcast The Digital Edge: Lawyers and Technology.

Anne Haag: Be Wary of Virtual Assistant Devices

My biggest TECHSHOW takeaway this year? Get rid of your Alexa (or other comparable devices)! I wasn’t a fan of the smart speaker/virtual assistant hardware wave to begin with, but after attending Ian Hu and Catherine Sanders Reach’s presentation, “What the Internet Knows About You and Your Clients,” I can count myself out for good. I was previously unaware that Amazon records every single interaction you have with your Alexa. This is not just a transcript of the interaction, it’s an actual recording of your voice. That’s right — Amazon has a large data cache of your voice, inflections and all, just sitting on their servers. Will they use this information? I can’t predict that, but I’m not quick to trust Amazon (or any other massive tech corporation) to act on good faith. And this doesn’t even begin to address the potential for errors or the fact that your Alexa is always listening.

Not convinced? Consider the anecdote about a couple whose private conversation Alexa recorded, then sent out to a contact after mistaking words in the background conversation for commands. That’s embarrassing enough for anyone, but imagine the risk where client information is concerned! Consider that a warning that should be heeded.

Anne Haag (@CBA_LPMT) is a Practice Management Advisor at the Chicago Bar Association. Anne worked as a patent paralegal at a Chicago IP firm before arriving at the CBA in 2017 as the Law Practice Management and Technology department’s trainer/coordinator. She is also a certified crisis counselor and volunteers as a patient advocate in the ER.

Sharon Nelson: Heard and Seen at ABA TECHSHOW

Here’s a smattering of tidbits from the 2019 conference.

Speaking of lawyers who are resistant to learning new technology, presenter Allan Mackenzie said, “Everything is difficult before it becomes EASY.”

And from keynoter Betsy Ziegler, the CEO of 1871, who spoke on “The Future is Now”: “Humans now have a shorter attention span than a goldfish.”

Yes, we all need a digital detox. The human attention span has shrunk to eight seconds from 12 during the mobile revolution. Goldfish have an attention span of nine seconds. Some other stats from Ziegler that stood out:

  • There are now 58,000 Alexa skills.
  • On average, we touch our smartphones 2,500 times a day.
  • And still more: “Opportunity is without boundaries. The world needs leaders to focus on problems that matter. The most successful companies worry about the future.”
  • Followed by “The seven words of a dying organization: ‘We’ve never done it that way before.’”

Quoting Mark Zuckerberg, Zeigler said, “If we don’t create the thing that kills Facebook, someone else will.” Think about that for a moment. Her basic point is that change is moving so fast that we have to be prepared to kill what we have created to keep pace with change that will come. It does make us long for simpler times!

Plus, I’ll share this cybersecurity tip from Judge Herbert Dixon (ret): “Passwords are like underwear: Don’t share them with anyone.”

As well as a cybersecurity tip from Dave Ries and Jennifer Woods: “Delete unneeded data — a no-cost way to enhance your security!”

And lastly, here are tips from the expo floor:

  • Fastcase just launched version 7.4 of its legal research platform, the Venus release. The new version includes “turbocharged” results ranking, features an expert witness directory powered by Courtroom Insight and JurisPro, and includes full ADA compliance so it’s screen-reader friendly. You can access the new release (for now) by logging into Fastcase and clicking the FC7 toggle in the top right-hand corner — but this is the last beta release of Fastcase 7. Starting with version 7.5 (Tellus) this summer, the new Fastcase platform will be the default when you log in. Probably good to start learning to use the new Fastcase 7 now!
  • Tabs3 and CosmoLex have joined forces. Two venerable companies are now one of the largest players in the case management space. The combined group has over 110,000 legal customers and offers a complete billing, accounting and practice management solution for firms ranging from 1-50 timekeepers.
  • MyCase showcased their focus on customer listening and rapid innovation with MyCase DevLab, a cool on-site demonstration featuring MyCase software engineers developing a new feature that had been requested by their customers: Text Message Reminders for Invoices. Conference attendees were able to watch the team at work — and see the working feature in action by the end of the show. Slick.
  • And in a private demo, a Microsoft guru (our longtime friend Ben Schorr) showed us a really cool PowerPoint feature coming in Office 365. Soon you will be able to do automatic subtitles and live translation. As you give your presentation PowerPoint can transcribe your spoken words into subtitles on the screen, or translate your words into one of more than 50 languages. That’s a pretty amazing feature. (Thanks for the head’s up, Ben.)

Sharon Nelson (@SharonNelsonEsq) is President of Sensei Enterprises, Inc., a digital forensics, cybersecurity and information technology firm. Sharon writes the electronic evidence blog Ride the Lightning and is a co-host of the podcast The Digital Edge: Lawyers and Technology as well as “Digital Detectives.” She is a frequent author (with 17 books published by the ABA) and speaker on legal technology, cybersecurity and electronic evidence topics. 

Related Product News:Practice Management Tech News From ABA TECHSHOW

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Joan Hamby Feldman Joan Feldman

Joan Feldman is Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of Attorney at Work, publishing “one really good idea every day” since 2011. She has created and steered myriad leading practice management and trade publications, including the ABA’s Law Practice magazine where she served as managing editor for a dozen years. Joan is a Fellow and Trustee of the College of Law Practice Management. Follow her @JoanHFeldman.

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