ABA TECHSHOW 2014: The Trends are Predictable

As you may have read, I spent my time at this year’s ABA TECHSHOW exclusively on the Expo floor, meeting and chatting with the myriad vendors vying for attendee attention (that almost makes it sound poetic, which it wasn’t, sadly).  While there were several standouts, like LawPal, the level of innovation was nonetheless entirely incremental, leading me to the conclusion that the major trend this year was basically more of the same.

More Cloud.

No doubt about it, lawyers are getting more comfortable in the cloud, particularly for practice management.  Indeed, at least one pundit is calling this year the tipping point toward the cloud, and the pre-show announcement that web-based practice management startup Clio raised an additional $18M in venture capital seems to support that point.  But we’ve been talking about SaaS and cloud-based legal technology at ABA TECHSHOW since at least 2009, when Clio first made a splash, and with each subsequent year.  I’m just happy we’re all moving in the right direction.

More Mobile. Mobile Discovery

Between the Sony Digital Paper device announced by Worldox, the MyCase Android app, and the much-heralded announcement of Office for iPad, law practice continues to take baby steps towards increased mobility.  But the progress here is sporadic, with the rhetoric seemingly still far ahead of real-life practice.  What will it take to convince the late majority to join the early adopters?  Better handwriting recognition?  Attractive wearables?

More Automation.

Technology continues to create opportunities to automate aspects of the attorney workflow.  This year, Amicus Cloud touted the new document automation functionality baked into their practice management platform, while TheFormTool claimed that the new version of their Doxsera document assembly product could essentially eliminate document errors.  And if you need more evidence that time=money, the Firm Manager team from LexisNexis unveiled Money Finder, a feature that automatically searches through all your activity records and flags any it finds that have not been associated with a client bill.  Again, nothing revolutionary, but good progress towards freeing attorneys from routine, low-value tasks.

The good news is that incremental innovation is awesome.  Products like the iPhone, Nest Thermostat, and Tesla Model S prove that incremental innovation has the power to upend entire industries.  So kudos to all of those innovators out there trying to make legal practice more cloud-friendly, mobile-optimized, and automated.  I can’t wait to see what they have in store for ABA TECHSHOW 2015!