August 01, 2016

Tech Tools Most Lawyers Aren’t Using Today—But Will Be in Five Years (or Less)

By Marc Lamber

You think technology has transformed the way we practice today? Buckle up. There’s more change to come.

After more than 25 years in the law, I’m always looking forward to what’s next.When it comes to technology, our team has defined its practice through its early adoption of cutting-edge technologies. Here are some ways we’re using the latest tech innovations.

Demand letters on steroids

In some cases, we use iPads to create unique settlement packages in an almost exclusively video format. We provide these iPad packages before any lawsuit is filed. The video package includes computer-generated reenactments and animation, a discussion by the attorneys, footage and testimony from our clients, and interviews with and demonstrations from our experts.

We send them to opposing firms and other decision makers in metal briefcases with Bose noise-canceling headphones. The goal is to present the claim in the most complete and unfiltered manner. We often do this before a lawsuit is filed to help defray excessive litigation costs and eliminate any gamesmanship.

Our video demand packages on the iPad are really a method of supercharging demand letters. For ages, we attorneys have sent demand letters in which we ask for damages for our client. But as eloquent as you can be with the written word, the opposing attorney normally just turns to the last page looking for the dollar amount rather than actually reading the whole story.

In addition, opposing lawyers will often claim it’s too early to discuss resolving a case because they haven’t evaluated in person the parties and experts. The iPad video package, however, often overcomes these hurdles by providing a direct window into the case and often a window into the soul of the victim.

Wearables can tell a powerful story

In appropriate cases, we’ve employed wearable technology such as Fitbit, Apple watches, and Google Glass to communicate with our clients remotely and get a first-hand perspective of our clients’ everyday hardships after being involved in an accident. We also use wearables internally to monitor our own stress levels and stress inducers.

When Google Glass was introduced, we thought it could prove to be an excellent opportunity to tell our injured clients’ stories in a very powerful way. One of our clients was a double amputee. We’ve used Google Glass to tell his poignant story from a first-person perspective, presenting the vivid hardships our client encountered every day.

Using Google Glass also opened the line of communication with the client because, despite his inability to use hands and fingers to operate a Smartphone or iPad, he could still communicate with us remotely using voice activation and engage other functions such as video and Internet connectivity. The beauty of Google Glass, unlike a smartphone or an iPad, is that it’s hands-free while still providing real-time feedback.

Google Glass is still in its beta-testing phase. But its reinvention as Glass 2 promises possibilities for video conferencing, hands-free connections, on-person heads-up display, and perhaps even more far-reaching and real-time dialogue with our clients in the future.

We’ve also offered such wearable technology as Fitbit to our clients to monitor their activity levels over the course of a day. If that information proves consistent with their healthcare provider’s recommendations—for instance, in a personal injury case—it could become valuable in supporting their claims.

3D printing without funny glasses

We also have the ability to deploy 3D-printing technology, for which we’ve found a lot of practical applications. Thankfully, we don’t have to wear the glasses like when you’re at a 3D movie.

In product liability cases, one of the main questions is whether a product was properly designed. We’ve used 3D printing in the pre-litigation phase of products liability and premises liability cases to show how a product functions or how it should have been designed. For example, we used the MakerBot 3D printer with our experts on a product liability case to “deconstruct” product components and demonstrate alternative product designs that would be more effective, cheaper, and safer.

In premises liability cases with quasi-product liability issues, say perhaps an issue related to the failure of a safety harness and how it could have been better designed, 3D printing can be very compelling. It’s one thing to tell a decision maker or opposing lawyer how the product should have been designed. Now imagine letting them actually see and hold a 3D-printed prototype. It makes it so much easier to sell your idea.

Put your head in the clouds

If you’ve been considering transitioning out of the traditional office environment, here are some mostly cloud-based practice-management tools you should consider:

  • Clio®—Products such as Clio® offer cloud-based law practice management software where you can perform the tasks you’ve always done—structure workflows, docket and calendar meetings, and share documents with your clients. But now you have the ability to establish that virtual office you’ve been thinking about.

Just choose desktop, tablet, or mobile, and you can practice from anywhere. Personally, I like the idea of developing my most creative arguments while sitting poolside or under an umbrella while lying on beach sand—or even on a hike through the cool timber.

  • Case Pacer—This cloud-based program is a 100-percent mobile-friendly case management software with features like a case diary and log and all your client and case-related contact information. Like Clio®, it’s a cloud-based subscription service, so there’s no need for the costs and disadvantages of maintaining your own servers or database.
  • Microsoft® Office 365™—It takes the same approach so that the programs you use daily, such as PowerPoint, Word, Outlook, and Excel, are cloud-based for a monthly subscription. That means there’s no expensive enterprise licensing, you’re up and running with your own domain name, and your email address easily becomes “you@ yourownfirm.com.”
  • Answerconnect—This is a virtual receptionist. Its agents take calls as if they’re in your office. These folks can really function like they’re part of your team, triaging cases, taking messages, and setting appointments without the need for a personal assistant or human resources department. They send you an email or text documenting the caller and content of the conversation, which you can receive in any setting, such as on your computer, tablet, or mobile.

The bottom line is that this technology will render lawyers, and I suspect many other professionals, office free. The walls of our traditional office settings will evaporate, further blurring the traditional lines between work and life (of course, there are drawbacks, not the least of which that you’ll have nowhere to hide when you want to play hooky).

What does the future hold?

Nothing is certain, except for constant change. If I were a soothsayer, I’d predict that technology will continue to play a more and more significant and widespread role in our practice. Technology’s rapidly-changing tentacles will continue to permeate all aspects of the law.

I can envision a day when law firms will employ holographic workstations allowing attorneys to view, process, and analyze vast amounts of data in 3D environments. Artificial intelligence has the amazing potential to allow interactivity; suddenly, the computer becomes your legal partner, allowing for real-time strategization, debate, and negotiation. Deep machine learning and AI already have the ability to analyze photos and statistical information to predict outcomes.

Virtual reality is already making inroads, and it has the potential to be a game-changer. The Oculus Rift is a virtual reality headset developed and manufactured by Oculus VR. Just released March 28, it’s the first product to kick-start consumer-targeted reality headsets.

This means more brands and products will follow—and next thing you know, it’ll be in the courtroom. Imagine a juror or factfinder actually “standing” at an accident scene with the opportunity to better understand the facts and liability in a case. Suddenly, jurors are able to relive the incident. The implications are incredible, and the future is indeed here.

We’ve already employed tools like Google Glass, iPads, and wearables, increasing our interactions with our clients, juries, and decision makers. In the future, perhaps technology plays a greater role in civil resolutions. And in mediums like alternative dispute resolution, technology has the potential to make the process more efficient and fulfilling for everyone involved. Who knows?

Stay tuned. It’s a very exciting time to be practicing law.

Marc Lamber

Marc Lamber  is a partner at the Lamber Goodnow Injury Law Team based in Phoenix, with offices in Denver; Las Vegas; Reno, Nev.; Tucson, Ariz.; along with its newest office in Chicago. The team’s parent firm is Fennemore Craig.