I’ve been at the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) conference in Nashville this week. The only way I can think to describe it is at the high end of a spectrum. Phrases like “hive of activity,” “overload of awesomeness” and others come to mind, but don’t do ILTA justice. Take a quick peek at the session grid and you’ll see what I mean. Anything you want to know about law, technology, security (A Day in the Life of a Threat Actor was fascinating), social media, business (yes, running a business!), you name it, there was at least one session for you. If not for its cool mobile app, I would’ve missed, well, a lot.
I’m digging out from business cards, conversation notes and dot-connecting, so here are some of the things that stick out after talking to people.
Catalyst walked me through its Technology Assisted Review (TAR) 2.0 technology, which continuously updates as new documents are added and previous ones are sorted, making the process of TAR more efficient and effective. The thing that was most interesting to me was it’s work on Asian languages, which are unique and do not abide by punctuation like most other languages. As China continues to move towards a “super power,” and other Asian countries continue expanding into the United States, and vise versa, having a discovery tool like Catalyst that understands Chinese characters, and Asian characters, provides a competitive advantage.
The British Invasion: BigHand, Tikit and HighQ
BigHand, a company based in the United Kingdom, brings a useful approach to dictation. It’s more than just talking into your smartphone. It allows you to prioritize work sent to your assistant, so your assistant knows what to do first, and you can track the progress so you know when something has been started, where it is and when it is done. No need to make a phone call or send an email asking for a status update.
Speaking of phone calls, Tikit, also out of the UK and part of BT Group, banishes the issue of call quality, and people talking over each other, whether you’re on a conference call with three people or 10. The secret? Dolby. Yes, Dolby Digital, the company that makes you think of Dolby Digital surround sound at the movies. In a world of Google Hangouts, and various conference call dial-in services, we expect to have to talk over each other. Tikit and Dolby Voice demonstrate otherwise.
Another company from the UK, HighQ, offers secure collaboration. I had heard about them before ILTA, and am working on a case study with them featuring a US-based law firm that switched for better firm-wide and client communication. It was interesting to see a demo for a group of lawyers, and to talk to some of the representatives. Like Big Hand, they’ve had success in the UK, and as some of those firms also have US offices, and vise-versa, they are moving more into the US market.
The Beatles may have been the British Invasion for music. BigHand, Tikit and HighQ are shaping up to be the UK legal technology invasion.
Barriers are falling, and my biggest takeaway is that the changes being discussed and debated are taking place. They are often missed, though, because they are happening in pockets, with lawyers often leveraging existing technology. Case in point: HandShake Software.
HandShake is a company that specializes in integrating SharePoint and the other disparate systems in a law firm. Yes, you read that correctly. SharePoint. Most solo and small firm lawyers won’t consider SharePoint, but mid-sized and larger firms might, and many use it. To what gain, though?
The story I heard from HandShake about a law firm that works with homeowner associations answered that question.
The firm works with many homeowners associations, and kept getting calls for the same types of questions. While answering questions and being responsive is good customer service, fielding phone calls for the same questions each day was detracting from other billable work. What to do?
The group decided to leverage SharePoint to build extranets. Partnering with HandShake, they built extranets and populated them with FAQs, short videos and other content that answered the questions usually fielded by phone. They stopped getting calls to answer questions, and started getting calls for business. As more of the work became standardized, now that they weren’t spending so much time answering the same questions, they switched to flat fess. Switching to flat fees increased profit.
At ILTA, I kept hearing stories like this. Stories of firms taking a business approach to solving a problem, and leveraging existing technology to adapt and deliver in this “new economy.” And if it turns out they don’t have a technological solution, ILTA offered up numerous options. One way or another, regardless of firm size, lawyers were learning from each other and collectively moving the industry further into the 21st Century.
I want to thank the organizers of ILTA for granting me a press pass, and welcoming this first-timer into the fold.