The big themes I took away from ILTA 2014, which was held in Nashville last week, were an emphasis on mobile, collaboration, and control. But more on that momentarily.
First and foremost, what I enjoyed the most about this conference was the people. No matter where I went, I soon found myself engaged in fascinating conversations with like-minded legal technology types, although our conversations sometimes veered off course into politics or current events.
But no matter what we talked about, the discussions were insightful and memorable. So thanks to the following people for the good times and great conversations that were had when I wasn’t wearing my official “press” hat: Gretchen DeSutter, Susan Martin and Alex Cook of Thomson Reuters, legal technologist and Microsoft whiz Ben Schorr, Josh Lenon of Clio, Ted Theodoropoulos and Eric Byrd of Acrowire, Gwynne Monahan of the ABA’s Legal Technology Resource Center, and Amanda Ramsin Curtin and her husband, Mike Kirton, who are Directors of Information Technology for two different South Carolina law firms. ILTA wouldn’t have been the same without you!
Now, on to the fascinating people and conversations that I had while wearing my “press” hat. First, I met with Kris Vann, IG Counsel and Product Marketing Manager at Actiance. This discussion is where the control theme began to emerge. Actiance provides enterprise level businesses, including large law firms, with software platforms that enable control over the flow of information created by employee communications and social media engagement. In other words, Actiance provides tools to allow law firms to meet regulatory and eDiscovery obligations to capture, archive and access employee communications, whether internal or external. Of course, doing so requires a careful balance between privacy and compliance, so our conversation about the implications of controlling the information flow and the necessity of doing so as businesses scale was an interesting one. There was no clear cut answer on the privacy issue, but the need for software of this type indicates the increasing complexities encountered as business and personal communications become increasingly digital.
Next was Ali Moinuddin, Workshare’s CMO. The collaboration theme was central to our discussion since Workshare provides document sharing and collaboration software. Ali explained that Workshare allows users to work with documents in the cloud and facilities real-time collaboration along with document comparison and metadata stripping of documents. Along with collaboration, we also discussed another theme: mobile. Ali confirmed my experience, emphasizing that there has been an increasing demand for mobile services, which is why Workshare now offers iOS and Android apps.
I also had the opportunity to attend the CTRL (Coalition of Legal Technology Resources for Lawyers) launch event while at ILTA. This coalition served as a reminder of the importance of collaboration at ILTA, but this time it was between legal practitioners involved in eDiscovery rather than collaborative features built in to software. The goal of CTRL is to create a forum where an open source philosophy is used to incorporate the best ideas in the practice of law through a range of technological innovations. According to the website, CTRL was founded to facilitate “the open exchange of ideas for solving not just eDiscovery problems, but other practical legal technology challenges, as well as vetting prospective solutions and new ideas.” So, once again, the overarching theme of collaboration was present at ILTA this year.
The collaboration and mobile themes were continued when I met with Intapp representatives Dan Bressler, VP of Marketing, and Kathryn Hume, Senior Marketing Specialist. Intapp is an interesting, forward-thinking company that provides unique and much-needed software to Biglaw via clean, intuitive interfaces. For example, Intapp offers Integration Builder, a platform that integrates and automates many of the legacy systems used by many law firms. Integration Builder connects existing applications, allows the sharing of information between the programs, automates processes, and facilitates collaboration amongst users. Intapp also offers Time, a mobile time capturing solution for law firms that integrates with many traditional time entry solutions used by large law firms. Using Time, lawyers can enter billable time from any location using their smartphones or tablets. As further evidence of its forward-thinking vision, Intapp is experimenting with a smartwatch interface for time capturing and had a demo of the voice activated smartwatch in action at ILTA..
And last but not least, I had a fascinating discussion about the future of legal technology with Donna Payne, CEO of PayneGroup. Given PayneGroup’s offerings, our conversation focused on the collaboration and information control themes. PayneGroup specializes in assisting firms when migrating to new software platforms—but they also offer some great software platforms of their own. For example, their MetaData Assistant helps control the information that leaves the firm by stripping documents of metadata. Similarly, Redact Assistant controls the flow of information by facilitating the quick and easy removal of sensitive data from documents while still keeping the document in its native format. Of course, it’s not all about control and other PayneGroup software products, such as Outlook Send Assistant, are designed to increase efficiency by automating workflow processes and facilitating better collaboration. This program ensures efficient communication by integrating with Outlook and including tools that, among other things, verify email recipients and notify you if you were a BCC recipient.
Because it was ILTA, our discussion necessarily turned to the next stage of legal technology and legal software. According to Donna, the demands of the 21st century end user are paramount and thus the future of legal technology revolves around ease of use and the needs of practice groups, not IT staff. In past years, before the advent of the cloud and mobile computing and the changing demands and expectations of software users, the needs of IT reigned supreme when choosing applications for law firms. However, Donna explained that clunky legal software, once a mainstay in the legal industry, is a thing of the past and “if it takes more than 15 minutes for the user to figure out how to use it, then it’s not good software.” In other words, usability and ease of use is key.
So whether it’s mobile apps, collaboration platforms or software designed to control the flow of information, what I learned at ILTA is that IT staff at law firms now need to ensure that their firm’s new software provides the features the firm needs, while also meeting the end users’ expectations. The interface had better be both accessible and intuitive—and the more mobile it is, the better. Because that’s the future of legal technology: powerful, user-friendly software with built-in mobile and collaborative capabilities. And, one of the keys to standing out in a competitive marketplace is recognizing—and acting on—these trends.
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