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Product Beat

What’s New in Legal Technology? ABA TECHSHOW 2017

By Joan Feldman

ABA TECHSHOW has been the place to learn what’s new in legal technology for more than 30 years — particularly on the small firm side. Last week in Chicago, we scoped out the ABA TECHSHOW 2017 exposition hall. Here are a few highlights.

Legal Technology Startups Get Their Shot

Scouting the brand-new products in the expo hall is one of the best parts of TECHSHOW. This year, the startups were easier to find: 12 new companies were invited to compete in a pre-show “Startup Competition,” and provided with booth space in the expo hall’s “Startup Alley.” During the showdown, hosted by Bob Ambrogi of LawSites and Mary Juetten of Evolve Law, two startups at a time gave two-minute head-to-head presentations, and the audience chose winners from each match. Those final six presented videos and the audience selected the winner, passive timekeeping app Ping. Doxly and UniCort placed second and third. Take some time to learn more about these startups — they’re doing amazing things:

Which of these startups will have staying power? You never do know: During the keynote panel, Rocket Lawyer’s Charley Moore had an “If they could see me now” moment, recalling his first ABA TECHSHOWs just a few years ago, when he and practice management startups like Clio (which sponsored the keynote) were just getting started.

It’s Getting Crowed in Here: Practice Management Updates and More

While the startups are slugging it out in various legal niches, there’s been an explosion of practice management and case management systems over the past five years. (See “The Long Nine: Essential Software for the Modern Law Practice.“) The good news is these companies are competing hard for your business, so new features (intake; time tracking and billing), updates and integrations (Office 365) are coming on fast. Take advantage of the deals and free trials to investigate.

Zola Suite announced its integration with RPost’s registered email service. Email encryption, email open tracking, certified e-delivery proof and e-signatures are now built into the practice management platform’s email, matter and time management functions. With the click of a button, users can send encrypted emails without leaving Zola Suite and access court-admissible proof of email content delivered, time-stamped and recorded automatically with its associated client matter. 

Rocket Matter announced robust integration with Microsoft Office 365. Users can now automatically sync calendars and contacts, save Outlook email directly to Rocket Matter, and upload and save Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents to Rocket Matter with version control. Rocket Matter also announced a new partnership with virtual and live call center service Ruby Receptionists (more on that below).

In January, Rocket Matter released Atlas 2.0, a major software upgrade that added powerful new billing functionality to the Rocket Matter Payments platform — notably, automated payment plans and recurring billing features. This month, Rocket Matter added the ability to apply interest or discounts to client invoices as well as convenience fees.

MyCase showed off its enhanced mobile app for both iOS and Android. “Small firm and solo attorneys are on the go more than attorneys at larger firms,” says Tracy Stevens, VP of Product for MyCase. “Rather than assume our customers use their mobile phones the same way they use their laptops and desktop computers, we really studied how small firm and solo practitioners use (or would like to use) their mobile devices and the specific activities they need to be able to do when they’re away from their desks.”

The new app includes all of MyCase’s standard features — including a secure client portal, time tracking, secure email messaging and real-time notifications — but makes adding cases and documents and creating events, tasks, billing entries and contacts even easier and faster.

Clio announced five new integration partners as well as features aimed at meeting the reporting and task management needs of larger law firms. New integration partners are: Apptoto for automated scheduling; NextChapter intake and filing focused on bankruptcy clients; Legalist, a data-driven litigation financing provider; Clause, which uses IoT technology to produce “smart contracts” (see video below); and LawLytics for website design, content and marketing automation.

CosmoLex is rolling out its new accounts payable module, designed to help law firms tackle issues associated with recouping client costs — including proper allocation of vendor bills to the appropriate cases, and the ability to track third-party lien claims to ensure accurate settlement disbursements. This is in addition to the CosmoLex 4.6 February release, which added several updates to the platform’s robust financial management and accounting features, notably the ability to automatically retrieve bank transactions, including credit card accounts, from more than 2,000 financial institutions. 

Smokeball announced a new AutoTime app aimed at helping firms capture more time and make smarter, data-driven decisions. Unlike standalone time recorders that only track activity, AutoTime knows which matter an activity should be associated with and accurately creates time entries and daily timesheets. AutoTime’s Profitability Tracker analyzes activities, time and costs to provide profitability per matter type, per staff member and per client. “You’ll be able to know quickly if you’re making money or not,” said Smokeball president Jane Oxley.

PracticePanther now integrates with LawPay, allowing law firms to securely accept credit cards and e-checks within the practice management platform and better track payments. Using the  PantherPayments system, clients can pay invoices from their phone or computer, using a simple “Pay Now” button. Automatic payment receipts are generated for all clients, with an email outlining how much was paid and when. Invoices are also automatically updated by the software with the amount paid and the balance remaining. 

More Tech to Boost Your Productivity

Ruby Receptionists now integrates with Rocket Matter practice management software, adding to its integrations with Lexicata CRM software and Clio. Rocket Matter users can now manage calls and messages handled by the remote receptionist within the practice management system. Among other pluses, easily tracking the date and length of each call allows for more efficient and accurate billing. With Lexicata, Ruby call data is synced with the CRM, making it easier to gather intake information, reduce double-entry and track the source of each new lead.

Paper Software announced updates to Contract Tools and Turner, its applications for creating, reviewing and analyzing legal documents. Contract Tools, designed for Microsoft Windows, has been updated so that contract drafting issues can be spotted and handled within Word’s document view. Turner, designed for the Mac, has added support for Apple’s new MacBook Pro Touch Bar. When using Turner to work with contracts, a Touch Bar now shows controls for editing provisions, looking up defined terms and adding comments. Paper Software was founded in 2010 when brothers Benjamin Whetsell, a lawyer, and Nathan Whetsell, a computer engineer, saw a need to streamline contract creation and analysis.  

More Tastes of ABA TECHSHOW

If you missed the show, or couldn’t be everywhere at once (there was a lot to see), click through to these reports and interviews for a taste of TECHSHOW 2017.

Watch for ABA TECHSHOW tips and takeaways from the practice management pros next week on Attorney at Work.

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Joan 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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