Volume 18, Number 4
a ringside seat
By Bruce L. Dorner
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Big Show! In this ring we have the best technology education programs in the world! In the ring to my right, we offer the best legal vendors on the face of the earth! Now, please direct your attention to the center ring, where we have the most fun—direct interaction with the faculty, vendors, and fellow attendees who are eager to assist you and enhance your trip to Chicago. Now, on with the show!
TECHSHOW 2001 was an amazing presentation of cutting-edge law office technology, with a strong focus on practical tools for the solo and small firm lawyer. Over the course of three days, the show covered six separate technology tracks: general, solo and small firm; large firms and corporate counsel; advanced track for IT professionals; litigation and trial technology; decision makers and strategies; and marketing. Selecting which sessions to attend and allowing time to study the packed vendor area takes careful planning—I decided to spend my time closely focused on the solo and small firm track.
Some refer to TECHSHOW as "geek fest," but the planning committee did an amazing job of keeping the focus on understanding the technology and implementing new tools to better serve our clients. Simple English was spoken, except in the very advanced sessions. I was truly impressed by the accessibility of the faculty and how willing they were to offer private consultations with members of the audience. The presenters are authorities in their fields, and most have published significant articles or books on the lecture topics.
Those who have never attended TECHSHOW should be aware that it is a potentially life-changing—or at least practice-changing—opportunity. In each of the CLE sessions, we learned about tools and techniques already in place that will soon confront us, and about the long-term effects of technology on how we serve our clients.
I have been a member of the faculty for several years, so I have a little inside knowledge of the show. The first session of the solo and small firm track found me on stage with Wells Anderson presenting the inside look at mobile lawyering. The session offered a detailed look at what it takes to bring the office on the road and how to avoid the technology terrors when something doesn’t work as planned. A later session outlined how to build a law office technology solution for less than $5,000. From there, the show launched into sessions about organizing your office and getting the work out the door.
Clearly, no show would be complete without the amazing 50 Gadgets in 60 Minutes session. This is truly the "geek fest" component of TECHSHOW! On the stage are four of the top players in the legal technology field, each trying to outdo the other with the best gadget—and an occasional tool—for the law office. Part of the session actually contains serious information about new and innovative technologies, but other presentations are just for amusement. Dan Coolidge almost electrocuted himself on stage testing his Jacob’s Ladder—which, you may recall from high school science, is the device from The Bride of Frankenstein in which an electric current passes between two vertical wires, creating a spark that spans the gap and climbs upward. Evidently, Dan forgot it was plugged in when he repositioned the device, and a scene from Batman ensued—Zap! Pow! Bam!
Not to be outdone, Ross Kodner and Sheryn Bruehl had a box—well actually it was a hotel luggage trolley—full of show-and-tell goodies that would make an entire second grade envious. In short, we’re going to see more portable and wireless devices being carried by lawyers.
After I quenched my thirst for classroom time, I jumped on the elevator to the exhibit area, which was packed with legal vendors showing every imaginable solution to law office techno-problems. I hate to say it, but I didn’t see anything earth shattering, although I did detect a trend toward consolidation of legal support services, with more and more products interacting. The links or conduits among software—such as WorldDox, Amicus, Timeslips, WordPerfect, Time Matters, Palm devices, and kindred applications—are becoming stronger. Data is flowing smoothly among a number of applications, and there’s more cooperation among vendors.
On the hardware side, the Visioneer 8650 scanner with automatic document feeder caught my eye. It has a footprint of a small briefcase and the power of a workhorse. The ease of setup and single button control to automatically scan, print, copy, fax, or e-mail makes the learning curve a breeze. Slap those interrogatories from opposing counsel into the tray, push the button, and up to 50 pages are rapidly sucked into the device, with the image of each page appearing on your computer screen in a few seconds. Another mouse click or two, and you convert the image into editable text using the included OCR software. Using your word processor, search for the word "plaintiff," replace it with "defendant," then send the package back to opposing counsel to share in the joys of discovery! Retailing at about $300, this is one device to be watched! Details about these devices may be found at www.visioneer.com.
Iomega has new tools suitable for both office and family use. As I mentioned to one of the Iomega representatives, the difference between tools and toys is a fine line—tools are tax deductible, toys aren’t! Their new FotoShow is a digital imaging center that accepts input from zip disks (both 100 and 250 sizes), PocketZips (formerly known as Clik! drives), and smart media. Just plug the FotoShow into a TV or other display device and view the images. For a lawyer who does presentations or slide shows, it avoids the need to have a computer with you on the road or at the courthouse. Because it plugs directly into a TV, it also avoids all those umbilical cords and connections needed to operate a computer projection system. Users who are into MP3 tunes (á la Napster) will find the HipZip device rather nice. It’s an MP3 player for digital audio files that is fed by PocketZip disks, each holding about 40MB of data. Put your office files on one disk, bring them home, and use the HipZip to transfer the files to your home computer. En route to or from the office, just use another disk for your favorite music. Because the disks are rewritable, you can change the data or music as desired. Information at www.iomega.com.
As always, both Lexis and West had a substantial presence at the show. Each deserves careful attention as they compete for the legal research and office tools market. Take a look on the Web at www. lexisone.com and www.westworks.com. Both are interesting services.
No show would be complete without gadgets and trinkets for lawyers to take home for their children. However, more of these items are not making it to the children. Juris has their legendary GooGoo clusters, which have served me well as emergency rations for many years. Lexmark gets my vote for the coolest trinket—a beach lounge chair for your cell phone. Bowne gets a second place award for the pop-up post-it note dispenser—gotta be seen to be believed!
The new "big kid on the block" this year was NextPage; take a look at its website at www.nextpage.com. NextPage made a big splash with a dinner for many of the faculty members and planning committee and offered razor-type scooters as a giveaway to several attendees. Watch them carefully. I see this company as a potential law office Napster!
Best of all, though, TECHSHOW gave me the chance to meet with many old friends, make many new friends, and get the reaffirmation about technology that I need: Technology is moving faster than we can absorb it, but at least my colleagues are suffering the same as me! If you didn’t make the show, you can get a taste of what transpired online at www.techshow.com.
See you next year in Chicago, March 14-16, for TECHSHOW 2002!
Bruce L. Dorner is a solo practitioner with his primary office in Londonderry, New Hampshire, and remote offices wherever he finds a place to plug in his computer modem. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.