Talk from TechSHOW — Day One and before

I arrived in Chicago’s Midway airport on Tuesday an amazingly 25 minutes early, thanks to Southwest airline. It was my first experience with both. Normally it’s U.S. Air and O’Hare, which has been a brutal combination each year. Last year, as usual my flight and the one immediately after were cancelled, and upon arrival in Philly my luggage took over an hour to come down the conveyer belt. I swore this year it would be different. As so far, it is!

I spent all day Wednesday from 8 a.m to 5 p.m. in the company of my colleagues from the other state bars in the nation and Canadian provinces which have practice management advisors. We are fortunate to have the support of the Law Practice Management Section of the American Bar Association, which graciously provides us with meeting space, and hosts our private listserv and web site. Most of us hold active memberships in other associations as well including the Association of Legal Administrators, the National Association of Bar Executives, and a few others. The bottom line of our networking is knowledge management: the accumulation of a vast resevoir of readily available knowledge and expertise on virtually any law firm management topic you can imagine, and the ability to quickly find it. The better we are at harnessing our collective wisdom, the better able we are to serve you; our association members and private clients.

During yesterday’s lunch break we were privileged to see a demonstration of Amicus’ beta financial management software, along with the next release of their practice management software. I have to admit I was pretty impressed. I was impressed two-fold. First, because of the intuitive feel of the software and the depth of the integration. And second, because they were not flustered by my peppering the speaker with questions. I can’t help myself, folks. I am compelled to question where software is concerned.

I will be further test driving the software in person. If I remain as impressed as I am right now, I will do something I have not done in quite some time . . I will become one of their Certified Independent Consultants. I don’t ever intend to sell the software, because I want to maintain my independence from any particular vendor. But it will give me an advantage of knowing their product inside-out, and being able to help law firms get it up and running, customized, and in providing training to staff and attorneys. There are several time & billing packages I have learned to significant depth along the way of installing so many at different firms. This will be the first time I will do so with case management software.

At the conclusion of our day-long retreat, we literally ran for a cab to rush to the 10-Pin bowling alley for an event called LexThink, at which a panel of some of the sharpest minds from different corners of our industry offered their best prognostications about the future of technology in specific legal applications.

As is often the case, some of the best conversations occur at or near the bar with people you’ve never before met or heard of, or with old friends. Creativity abounds, war stories apply practical context, and great information is garnered. Here is where innovation is often borne, or caught, like a contagion, and brought back to the home town.

Today’s educational sessions did not disappoint. ABA TechSHOW offers 14 educational tracks:
Advanced IT
Applications
Back to the Future (new)
Digital Dollars (new)
E-Discovery
E-Lawyering (new)
Extreme Makeover (new)
Hot Topics
Internet
Law Practice Management Tips (new)
Litigation
Malpractice Prevention
Solo/Small Firm
Support Staff (new)

Tomorrow morning I present one of the sessions in the Law Practice Management Tips track, and on Saturday morning I present one of the sessions in the Support Staff track. The sessions I am attending this year are almost exclusively E-Lawyering and Applications.

Today’s best session was presented by attorney David Masters, entitled From Paper to PDF: Acrobat for Lawyers; it did not disappoint. Those of you who know me and have ever heard one of my technology seminars know that I am a big advocate of the paper-independent office. David has put his money where his mouth is. His practice is paperless. Everything is done electronically, and even his old closed files have been converted to image. He discussed the process he took to get there, and even more specifically the financial benefits of doing so. When I get a copy of the PowerPoint slides I will share some of the simple calculations with you in another post. They’re extremely compelling. I will also be updating my own seminar on The Paperless Office to incorporate some of his excellent thinking on the topic.

Adobe as a tool is about a lot more than just scanning, though. I got a taste of some of its better potential during David’s session. Oh, did I mention he’s the author of the book Adobe Acrobat for Lawyers? He definitely knows all it can do, and explains it in plain simple English. At the top of my to-do list is to master Adobe from top to bottom. Then I want to help my clients put themselves “out there” on the web a little better as E-Lawyers. The session I attended today by Marc Lauritsen and Greg Siskind entitled E-Lawyering 101 — Serving Clients Better and More Profitably on the Web raised my antenna quite a bit in this regard.

My favorite experiences thus far in the exhibit hall include a personal play session with the Smart Board. I have referred several PA attorneys to it for use in their practices over the past few years, but never had the pleasure of playing with it up close and personal. It is indeed a great toy and powerful tool. From Deloitte I received a free mini optical mouse to go with my Sony Vaio 3 lb notebook. Plugged it into the USB port, and it worked without loading any software. Sweet!

I will not mention yet the name of another vendor who offers IP teleconferencing and the ability to capture live video for creation of Podcasts and so forth. They will be demonstrating their product with me shortly by providing me with a courtesy video camera, so that I can report on it in my blog, and possibly provide them with opportunities to be of service to some of my private clients. Stay tuned for a report on that in the future.

Well, folks, it’s only day one, and that day is not yet done. But I am already on tech overload as my to-do and must-have list grows exponentially. I came up to the room to unload my heavy bag of all the goodies accumulated thus far from the exhibit hall. I now head back to the exhibit hall to continue my crawl up and down the aisles seeking to ferret out the next hardware, software or service “GEM” among the many jewels being offered, so I can bring that information back to PA attorneys.

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