Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : April 2010

|

SOLO/SMALL FIRM PRACTITIONER

I had the opportunity to attend the 2010 ABA Tech Show last month. It has been five years since I was last at Tech Show, and while there were no wow technologies being presented, it was evident that there is a lot on the horizon that we need to consider.

When I first went to Tech Show about 15 years ago, there was so much new and exciting happening, it almost made your head explode while you were there.

THIS TECH SHOW
did not have a lot of new technology, but there was a lot of nitty-gritty and important information on security, efficiency and Macs.

One of the early Tech Shows compared DOS to Windows and Word to Word Perfect. At another show, Palm gave all attendees a Palm Pilot with little green screens to use during the conference in hopes of selling the product.  At the time, no one knew what to do with a PDA or even what PDA meant.

Fifteen years ago, no one had a laptop at Tech Show, or at least not one that you carry around without getting a backache. Our materials came in three bound books, which we all had to UPS back to our offices because they were too heavy to put into our luggage (and that was before there were weight limits on luggage.)

Now, everyone has a laptop or netbook or smartphone (or all three), and all materials are on a thumb drive. There was no Internet at the early Tech Shows; in 2010, everyone complained because the WiFi service was so poor. (In fact, it was so poor that I could not tweet except during the break from one location and on my iPhone.)

Despite the amazing changes I have seen, this year’s Tech Show was less about wow technology and more about building on what we already know. While it is not nearly as exciting and thrilling, it is much more important in terms of practice efficiencies. It is much more about building on what we already know to make certain we are more effective, efficient and secure.

As I sit at Midway Airport waiting for my flight and writing this article, I realize that “bling” is not as importance as substance. This Tech Show did not have a lot of new technology, but there was a lot of nitty-gritty and important information on security, efficiency and Macs. Again, not exciting, but really critical and important.

There were two-and-a-half days of sessions, running from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and from 8:00 a.m. to noon on Saturday. Obviously, I was not able to attend all of them and missed many I would have liked to have seen. I tried to get an overview of some of the important topics and ones that I felt would be of value to MSBA members, especially solo and small firm practitioners. The sessions I attended included: “MAC Software in the Law Office”; “VoIP for Small Firms”; “60 iPhone Apps in 60 Minutes”; “Scanning in the Law Firm”; “Document Management in the Cloud”; “Introduction to Cloud Computing”; “Case Management Software that Works the Way You Do”; “Going Virtual with Web Applications”; “60 Tech Tips in 60 Minutes”; “Securing Your Data on the Road”; “iPhone Tips for Practicing Lawyers”; “Using Word 2007 More Effectively”; and “Credenza – a Case Management Program Add-On with Outlook”.

It was my original intention to give a summary of each of these sessions for this article, but space and time did not permit. So, I will offer some observations about what I took away from the 2010 Tech Show and provide detailed notes about each of the sessions I attended; they will be available online at www.msba.org/departments/loma/docs/ (click on “2010 ABA Tech Show”) by the time you read this article.

Cloud Computing

Although it is not ready for prime time, cloud computing is on the horizon and will begin to be used extensively within the next five years. For those unfamiliar with the term, cloud computing, according to Wikipedia, is “Internet-based computing whereby shared resources, software and information are provided to computers and other devices on-demand, like a public utility.” Everything is on the web, as opposed to on your server in your office.

There are still many issues – technical, security and ethical – which must be addressed and resolved, but that will happen just as it has with e-mail, websites and other technologies. While the technology is always ahead of our ability to completely understand its ramifications, we will catch up as we continue to use these new tools. These technologies are really no different than those that came before them in terms of learning how to manage them. (NOTE:  There will be a session at the MSBA Annual Meeting on dealing with many of these issues on both Thursday, June 10, 2010, and at Solo Day on Friday, June 11, 2010.)

Remote Access and Mobility

There were few (if any) attendees at this year’s conference without some type of mobile device, whether it was a smartphone, netbook or laptop. Everyone is connected, and for more reasons than simply accessing their e-mail.

Many practitioners are remotely connected to their offices through a variety of products/systems, depending upon the size of the firm. Many small firms use GotoMyPC or LogMeIn to connect to their office computers.

Then there is the virtual office which exists in the “cloud”, meaning that your office is wherever you have Internet access. As previously mentioned, this is coming fast and there is some practice management software, such as Rocket Matters and Clio, designed to exist in this cloud. Also included with this mobility is VoIP. This is not a fad, and more and more firms – especially small firms – are going to use it.

Advantages of cloud computing include reduced telecom costs, including long-distance; reduced implementation costs; integration with other data sources; unification of communications into one hub and increased efficiency.

Disadvantages include less-than-excellent sound quality; security issues (but no more than current considerations); dependence upon electricity and difficulty using 911 services as they are not offered by VoIP providers. Some options to consider are OneCommunications (www.onecommunications.com), Vonage (www.vonage.com), Packet8x8 (www.8x8.com) and Skype (www.skype.com). Find reviews/comparisons at www.voipreview.org.

Security, Security, Security

With this desire to practice wherever and whenever we choose because we are no longer tied to our desks or computers, security becomes an even greater concern. In one session, “Protecting Your Data Remotely”, both speakers stressed that you should never take a laptop anywhere out of the country because spyware is being installed on many machines. In addition, there are serious security concerns with the iPhone, and many firms have banned them. Security and ethical issues for cloud computing have not all been addressed, and they will continue to cause problems as this technology becomes more prevalent.

Mac in the Law Office

I have never seen so many Macs as at this event. Mac is slowly becoming a very viable option for many attorneys, especially with the proliferation of the iPhone and the recent rollout of the iPad. More software is now available, and there is Windows compatibility. Examples include:

  • Daylite (www.marketcircle.com/daylite), case-management software from Marketcircle, Inc., received great reviews. It also features an app featuring a rules-based calendar.
  • Rocketmatter (www.rocketmatter.com) is a web-based case-management program.
  • Evernote (www.evernote.com) is a program that allows attorneys to organize and process a large amount of information.
  • Apple iWork Office Suite received great reviews. The cost for a single license is only $79, and it is Windows-compatible.
  • Scrivener, from www.literatureandlatte.com, has a research-based writing tool that was written by a lawyer.

I have run out of space, but I have multiple pages of more notes. To see additional notes and links, visit www.msba.org/departments/loma/docs/ and click on “2010 ABA Tech Show”. This site is for MSBA members only, so you will need your MSBA number to access the information. If you do not know it, contact MSBA and request your number. We cannot give it over the phone.

previous next
Publications : Bar Bulletin: April 2010

back to top