What technology that you or your firm adopted in 2021 reflects some of the new legal technology trends?
DK: My move to a Mac Mini with a large monitor reflects both the work from home approach and my reluctance to travel. I also greatly upped my video studio game.
RD: For my organization, 2021 was less about new technology and more about enhancing how we used remote work tools such as Office 365 and Adobe Cloud to continually improve our efficiency and security.
AK: I did not “adopt” any new technology in 2021, but I became more adept with Zoom and using external microphones, cameras, and lighting to make my conferences and presentations more professional.
LJ: Zoom was last year. Form-fillable PDFs were at the end of the year. This year, I started to use Practical Law to leverage the forms and memos for my practice.
WG: In 2021, I started using voice control on my iPhone. It is very much a work in progress. Its biggest drawback is that it does not learn because Apple was concerned that having it learn, i.e. being connected to the Internet, would decrease the ability of people with disabilities to use the feature. The problem with it not learning is that for people with disabilities that have nonstandard accents, it can be very difficult to work with. If you don’t turn the voice control off, it will write down everything that it hears, unlike Siri which just focuses on your voice. That said, I do find it helpful when reviewing emails that I only read and then delete. I also continue to use Clio and voice dictation (Dragon NaturallySpeaking, KnowBrainer, PCByVoice SpeechStart+).
RT: We’ve recently dropped our Cisco phones and added Zoom Phone to our video conferencing subscription. We believe this will work better for our remote workers and be easier to administer.
JP: One of my goals in 2021 was to bring some order to the myriad projects and responsibilities I’ve been juggling since the beginning of the pandemic. I dove into Airtable as a customizable tool to effectively build my own system for project and task management. The learning curve was steep, but it was the best way to create a truly personal solution—something I think many of us look for whether we’re in practice or not.
What legal technology in 2021 do you think improved the quality of life for attorneys?
DK: I might be a bit of an outlier, but I think Zoom meetings provide lawyers with flexibility in their scheduling, a sense of personal presence through video, and an ability to schedule meetings with less rush, travel, and need to be physically in a room. An honorable mention definitely goes to online credit card payments.
RD: The continuing enhancements to remote work technology such as Office 365 and Google Workplace allowed for a better quality of life if the users could control the time demands while working from home.
AK: I don’t think there were any technological advances in 2021 that were not available in 2020, but I would say that case management platforms continue to implement new features in their programs, allowing attorneys to decide which platform works best in their practice.
LJ: I continue to be a strong believer in cloud-based document storage, docketing, billing, and accounting systems.
WG: Voice control.
RT: I continue to expand my use of voice-enabled technology at home (using Amazon Alexa) with great success, so exploring ways to add that capability in the office. Not much success yet, but I am enjoying the challenge.
JP: Anything that enables active, clear collaboration. This was an important need pre-pandemic, but as we settled into a new reality for our working lives, it’s become absolutely essential that we have the right tools to easily bridge the physical distance between remote workers who still need to collaborate to get day-to-day work done for ourselves, our organizations, and our clients. I’ve seen a number of attorneys and non-attorneys who’d previously resisted collaboration via Google Docs or Office 365 adopt it—and adopt it well—in 2021. And I think they’re happier for it.
What types of legal technology do you believe is on its way out in 2022?
DK: Ha! It’s the legal profession. No technology ever goes out or fully disappears. I’d like to see Windows 7 and all other unsupported software that pose serious security problems hit the road, but I’ve been wanting to see that for more years than I’d like to count.
RD: Applications that only work on the desktop.
AK: I continue to believe that the standalone “copier/printer/scanner” is on its way out, especially for small firms and solo practitioners. Like the old “TV/DVD” combo unit (I am dating myself), if one aspect malfunctioned, the whole unit was out of commission. The cost of the unit, along with the cost of having the unit malfunction, greatly outweighs the costs of desktop printers and scanners. The fax machine should also be deemed obsolete due to the low cost and efficiency of e-fax services.
LJ: The fax is long dead. I think scans of wet signatures are next.
WG: Ensuring that their products are accessible to people with disabilities (deaf and hard of hearing, blind or visually impaired, and voice dictation users).
JP: It seems about 20 years overdue, but I’m hopeful 2022 will see more fax machines relegated to e-recycling piles and museums.
What are some of the legal technology trends you believe will be popular with developers of legal software such as practice management applications in 2022?
DK: Most of these already are present in the current versions of tools, but I’d expect to see more emphasis, marketing and otherwise, on payments, client portals, and client collaboration elements of all kinds. A development to watch is how the practice management companies incorporate the document automation tools they purchased in 2021.
RD: There is a continued need to integrate and secure client communications and document transfer.
AK: I continue to see evolving partnerships between case management platforms and third-party vendors. I believe that, by 2023, one can purchase a case management platform that an attorney or firm can closely tailor to their exact style of practice, from marketing to client retention management to document automation to trial to the closing of a file.
LJ: Software as a service (SaaS) will expand. The elimination of IT costs will be a strong incentive for adoption.
RT: Creating more automated and streamlined client intake procedures for firms that include a built-in payment processing system so that the case management developers get a little piece of that action in addition to the subscription revenue.
JP: Integration—with an emphasis on security. Consumers expect the tools they’re using to play well with one another both inside and outside of the workplace. Remote work accelerated the adoption of a number of tools that are new to many workers (e.g. video conferencing, collaboration, Slack, etc.) and as they’ve settled into our daily workflows, it’s increasingly important that they connect to the key software that powers practices.
Are there any legal technology trends that you would like to see more solo or small firms adopt in 2022?
DK: Cybersecurity, cybersecurity, and cybersecurity. Update your software or move to the cloud. My best advice would be to look into the collaboration features built into tools you already own, especially client-facing features, and make better use of them.
RD: Practice management suites and legal-specific IOLTA accounting programs.
AK: Based on my experience as a consultant, I would like to see more attorneys, whether it be a firm or a solo practice, use case management software. Many programs offer an “entry-level” price category that, at a minimum, would provide benefits far beyond maintaining your files in Explorer or a random drive on your computer.
LJ: Document access for clients. Streamlined client screening and intake systems.
RT: I continue to be a big fan of chatbots to automate some of the tasks of paralegals, but I recognize the time it takes solos and small firms to build each chatbot. Hopefully, lawyers and developers can collaborate together on chatbots where 90% of the task is the same in any small firm and the rest is easily customizable.
JP: There’s a variety of software out there designed to improve webcam experiences. Whether it’s using something simple like a webcam settings app to control exposure/white balance or something more sophisticated like Mmmhmm to marry video with slides, I’d love to see solo and small firm attorneys (and everyone, for that matter) put a little more thought and energy into ensuring that their virtual presence is as professional and as polished as they would’ve made their in-person presence.