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ABA TechShow 2010:  The Bling is Gone but the Hard Work Is Ahead
Originally published in the MSBA Bar Bulletin, April 2010
BY: Pat Yevics (pyevics@msba.org) , Director, Law Office Management Assistance

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, 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. 
        
One of the early Tech Shows was comparing DOS to Windows and Word to Word Perfect.  At one 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 bound three 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 was complaining because the WiFi service was so poor.  It was so poor, I could not tweet except during the break from one location and on my i-phone. 
      
      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 TechShow did not have a lot of WOW or new technology but there was a lot of nitty-gritty and important information on security, efficiency and MAC’s.  Again, not exciting but really critical
and important.
       
     It was my intention – and you know what they say about intentions – to write a detailed summary about the sessions that I attended for this article.  That would be impossible.  Instead, I am going to give a very brief summary of the sessions I attended with more detailed information and links to additional information on the website at http://www.msba.org/departments/loma/docs/ and click on 2010 ABA Tech Show.
        
    There were 2 ½ days of sessions from 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM on Thursday and Friday and from 8:00 – 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 were: MAC Software in the Law Office, VoIP for Small Firms, 60 i-Phone 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, I-Phone tips for Practicing Lawyers, Using Word 2007 More Effectively, 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 give some of my observations about what I took away from the 2010 Tech Show for this article and provide detailed notes about each of the sessions I attended and they will be available online at http://www.msba.org/departments/loma/docs/ and click on 2010 ABA Tech Show by the time you read this article.

1. 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.  Cloud computing for those unfamiliar with the term is (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 happened with email, 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 no different really than those that came before them in terms of learning how to manage them.

(NOTE:  There will be a session at the Annual Meeting on dealing with many of these issues on both Thursday and at Solo Day on Friday, June 11, 2010)

2. 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 smart phone, net book or laptop.  Everyone is connected and more than just for their email. 
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” which means that your office is where ever you have internet access.  As mentioned above, this is coming fast and there are some practice management software, such as Rocket Matters and Clio that are 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 include reducing telecom costs including long distance; reduces implementation costs; integration with other data sources; unify communications into one hub and will increase 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 are:  OneCommunications (www.onecommunications.com), Vonage (www.vonage.com) , Packet8x8 ( www.8x8.com) , Skype (www.skype.com)
Some reviews/comparisons can be found at www.voipreview.org.

3.  SECURITY, SECURITY, SECURITY
With this desire to practice where ever and whenever we choose because we are no longer tied to our desks or computers, security becomes an even greater concern.  There was one session Protecting Your Data Remotely, where the speakers both said 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 i-Phone and many firms have banned them. 

The security and ethical issues for cloud computing have not all been addressed and will continue to cause problems as this technology becomes more prevalent.

4.   MAC IN THE LAW OFFICE
I have never seen so many MACs at this event.  MAC is slowly becoming a very viable option for many attorneys especially with the proliferation of the i-Phone and the roll out of the i-Pad.  There is more software available and there is Windows Compatability.

Case Management software called Daylite from Marketcircle, Inc got great reviews.  www.marketcircle.com/daylife.  It also has an app that has a rules based calendar.  Rocketmatter  (www.rocketmatter.com) is a case management program that is web-based.
Evernote (www.evernote.com) is a program that allows attorneys, organize and process a large amount of information. 

Apple’s iWork, Apple’s Office suite got great reviews and the cost for a single license is only $79.00 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 pages and pages and page of more notes. 

To see additional notes and links, go to http://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, you can contact MSBA and ask the reception for your number.  We cannot give it over the phone.


 

 

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