Management Assistance Program
Highlights From the ABA TECHSHOW 2020
By Jim Calloway
ABA TECHSHOW 2020 was held in Chicago during the final few chilly days of February. Interesting things are happening in the legal technology field, and we wanted to share a few of the highlights.
One can often get a good sense of what’s hot in legal technology by roaming the large expo hall and visiting with the vendors. There were new practice management solutions announced, and ABA TECHSHOW is also a traditional time for the established software vendors to announce new product features.
So, an artificial intelligence-powered tool to create first drafts of briefs has arrived. That is interesting and scary to some.
OBA member benefit CaseText, which previously garnered much attention with its artificial intelligence-powered brief analysis tool CARA, debuted Compose, a tool to assist in quickly preparing the first draft of a litigation brief. (It is not intended for appellate briefs.) Neither of us made the demonstration, but those who did indicated it was impressive. According to coverage in LawSites blog, “[f]or solo and small-firm attorneys, they will be able to purchase Compose on an a-la-carte, per-brief basis. The first use will cost $99. After that, each brief will cost $1,499.” Larger firms can purchase various types of subscription packages.
Text messaging for lawyers has been covered in these pages before and this year at ABA TECHSHOW there were several new services related to text messages, from ones that help lawyers archive the messages to ones that prepare billing entries based on text messaging for the lawyer to then review. Clearly a lot of people have an interest in developing texting tools for the legal profession. There were also several new virtual receptionist and chatbot tools.
“By the Numbers: Build a Data-Informed Marketing Plan and Budget” was an early Thursday morning educational session from Chelsea Lambert, who will be speaking at our OBA Solo & Small Firm Conference this summer, and Stephanie Everett. Their discussion focused on planning, budgeting, marketing technology and data analyzing. They suggest if you have a website you should utilize Google Analytics. There are plugins available that make this easier. Google Analytics is free, and it can help you understand the traffic to your website. Google provides support and tutorials.
Speaking of Google, did you know that many, if not most lawyers or law firms, should “claim” their business using Google My Business? Gyi Tsakalakis and Joy Hawkins explained that this free tool can help lawyers manage their online presence in Google Search and Maps. While it is a free resource from Google, registration is required. They also taught another entire session on free tools to be used for marketing that was covered by the ABA Journal.
OU College of Law’s Kenton Brice and TECHSHOW Co-Vice Chair Allan Mackensie demonstrated the amazing automation that Office 365 for Business offers with “Automation for Law Firms Using Office 365.” If you haven’t checked out all the apps available just go to your online version of Office 365 to review all the options. Click on the square box with dots. Click on the “All Apps” button to see what is there. The Microsoft Power Automate App will let you streamline repetitive tasks, and the app offers templates you can use. Did you know, for example, that Office 365 Teams now has a videoconferencing feature built right in?
One interesting tip that seemed to surprise many in the audience was the addition of a button for email templates in Outlook. Microsoft keeps adding features via Office 365. The “View Templates” button is visible when you have a new email message open and you use it to save commonly used phrases into your emails with a single click (see the graphic below).
Jim Calloway spent some time in the law office automation track. One speaker who has incorporated many automation tools called zaps from the Zapier company says at this stage these tools are far from “set it and forget it.” He schedules once a month to test all of his zaps just to make sure nothing has broken.
iPhone users may not have even noticed the Shortcuts app on their phones. These shortcuts allow users to build automated processes involving their phones. You don’t have to learn advanced coding to do this. In fact, there is a gallery that allows you to see and add shortcuts others have designed for your phone. One simple shortcut lawyers noted as an example was a shortcut to automatically mute your phone when you were at the courthouse.
One speaker at a panel on delivering limited scope legal services indicated that having e-signature capability was critical. So, we will be looking at that over the next several weeks.
Another idea we heard is useful after the law firm has created several promotional videos. These could be displayed in the waiting room at the law firm so that your firm’s other services are profiled. One would obviously need to have several of these and perhaps alternate them with a public interest video or two, so the waiting room experience did not become tedious because of them.
ABA TECHSHOW is a great event. Several Oklahoma lawyers attended. Next year’s event will be held March 10-13, 2021, in Chicago. Look for the OBA event promoter code to save money when registering next year.
Mr. Calloway is OBA Management Assistance Program director. Need a quick answer to a tech problem or help solving a management dilemma? Contact him at 405-416-7008, 800-522-8060, firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s a free member benefit.
Ms. Bays is a practice management advisor in the OBA Management Assistance Program, aiding attorneys in using technology and other tools to efficiently manage their offices.
A WORD ON PANDEMIC PLANNING FOR LAW FIRMS
Whether it is the COVID-19 coronavirus or the next big threat, it is no longer the subject of speculative fiction to make a few plans in case of quarantines or pandemic threats. So, here are a few things to consider:
- Examine how you deal with deadlines, particularly on “nonforgiveable” deadline dates, like statutes of limitations expiring. Maybe completing these on the day before they are due is no longer responsible. Consider implementing a goal of completing those items two weeks before the deadline instead of a day or so. If things go negative, events could be fast moving, and it is best to get the “absolutely have to” list as short as possible. You might not be facing a quarantine – just when everyone in the office who knows how to format that brief properly is out sick at the same time and infection-spurred demand has made it briefly impossible to hire a temporary paralegal.
- What are your policies in the event of a significant office closure? Who can work from home? Who cannot? Does one person come to the office to scan the mail and forward it? Is that even possible without an IT staff person coming to work?
- Examine your remote access tools and whether everyone can use them. Would it be good to own a couple more laptops? If staff are forced to telecommute, is their home security good enough? (I’m assuming most lawyers are already doing some remote work.)
Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal — April, 2020 — Vol. 91, No. 4