Editor’s Note: What follows is my opinion, not that of any other organization or group, including the DuPage County Bar Association, which kindly sponsored my attendance at ABA TechShow 2007. I drew these conclusions after seeing nearly every booth several times (just for good measure).
Everyone knows I’m a lifelong Acrobat fan, but will this be the year they finally do something we haven’t seen 100 times before? If I have to sit through one more “Tips and Tricks with Adobe Acrobat” seminar I swear I’m going to lose it … On the other hand, I am aware that one of the premiere collaboration systems mentioned by nearly every speaker at the Tech Show was AdobeConnect which comes bundled with Acrobat 8 Professional. So maybe there is hope after all.
This company represents an advertising agency directed at the legal market. Not a bad idea if the services are not overpriced — unfortunately, I know from experience that “marketing” and “advertising” is the worst kind of vaporware. Want to make $5,000 disappear in one afternoon with a 0% return to show for it? Try investing in marketing or better yet advertising.
Audience Response Systems, Inc.
I’ll just come right out and say it … what the hell were these guys doing at the tech show? Can anybody tell me?
This company shared the crowded field of digital dictation with contenders such as Winscribe, QuikSek, and others. QuikSek for example lets you dictate anywhere (such as into a microphone for e-mailing as a sound file, on the telephone, etc.) and have the output prepared as a document (e.g. a letter or contract) and sent by e-mail the next morning. Combined with Skype’s nearly free calling features, the result is to keep costs low while enhancing output and cutting completion time for documents. Thanks to our English-speaking friends in other timezones we can now realize the benefits of outsourcing once reserved for the manufacturing set. (See Lotus Legal, another vendor at the show, for another example of legal outsourcing).
Last year I was super-jazzed about these guys: they gave a pretty face to the problem of evidence gathering and evaluation. Using the familiar 3-pane Outlook interface this company’s product helps sort different kinds of files representing evidence (PDF’s, documents, sound files, pictures, etc.) as well as to sketch out parties in the case and tie all the loose ends into a more or less cohesive picture. That was last year. Then I went to the Kroll booth (see below). As Neo said in the Matrix: “whoa.”
This company represents yet another “best tool for EDD” hype machine (yawn). I mention them however, because they also win my Karma is a Bitch award. See, about 8 years ago I started a law portal site and a salesman from Autonomy, the parent company of DigIT, tried to sell me an exorbitantly expensive “smart” search tool. We didn’t buy it, but I couldn’t get over the fact that they were essentially trying to sell a Cadillac to a start-up that only needed a Hyundai. Long-story short, Autonomy didn’t give 2 bits about what was best for their would-be customer and instead just wanted to push, push, push their product. For shame.
I’ve included this company on the list primarily because the diagrams, flow-charts, Gantt charts, and circle-in-circle diagrams they used at their booth (and presumably in their analysis for Clients) made this former-MBA of a war horse smile. Yes, it felt just like 1988 again. Hair was big. Michael Jackson was cool. I would like to have talked to the people manning the booth, if there were any. Maybe they should send more people to the show next year?
I’ll save you a lot of snooping around on this company’s website — they help you use familiar paradigms (the word processor, the spread sheet, drag and drop pictures, etc.) to create your own website. But if you’re going to do that why not just pay someone? Why buy the software when you can rent the web-design talent? Can somebody help to explain this?
I visited this booth 3 times and asked for an explanation of what they did on each occasion. Nobody could tell me. But from what I understand the company provides a collaborative environment along the lines of Lotus (Notes, Calendar, etc.). That sounds great too, until you realize that collaborative environments with full capability to share documents, video, audio, etc. are literally available for little or nothing on the web and now come with a full complement of calendars, to-do lists, contact managers and more. Does the availability of such resources spell the end for companies like Interwoven? Not at all, but it does mean that the race to provide better products for less is on, and the companies who have been living off the fat of the land will ultimately have to get in line.
This company was at the show last year, and I was impressed even then. This year I was really impressed. Basically Qshift is document automation software but it is well stripped down and “smarter” than the simple menus and Q&A features of say Hot Docs or Ghost Fille. And as they roll out their self-titled “Web 2.0” product this year I plan to keep tabs on its launch. Now, I’m not sure that even they know why they’re calling it a “Web 2.0” product, but I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.
This company took me to their private suite to demo some really cool e-Discovery tools. They were intuitive (mostly following the Microsoft Outlook paradigms) with good interfaces (graphs, lines, charts, and other ways of getting information across quickly to the user). They also had the only software I saw anywhere that could search both audio and video for desired characteristics (ie search for particular words right in the audio rather than having to tanscribe anything). And the prices were not that outrageous (depending on which product you were looking at). And damned if I didn’t “happen” to run into Steve Jakobowski, of the Bankruptcy Litigation Blog, at the demo. Steve is a great guy and legal blogging star here in Chicago. We could always use more of those.
While arguably less evil than Thomson, LexisNexis does more than its share of monopolistic behavior. Lexis is truly an example of the adage that one can never be too big, too all encompassing, or too scary. Heck, at least they’re ahead of Thomson in terms of technology and software. That’s got to count for something right?
Lextranet is an ASP service providing a suite of web-based tools for litigation support and case management including document-review, transcript management, and the classic “deal room.”
Prepare for shock and awe — NewsGator is an RSS reader. Translation: it gathers information from the places you tell it to look, and brings it to you. Only the information you want; only from the places you’re interested in. Imagine using that kind of “pull” rather than just “pushing” information on people who have no interest in it. That is the genius of RSS. To put it another way: when I first began reading RSS feeds they were not only seen as illegitimate by lawyers, but were considered too juvenile for anyone over the age of 24 to be reading. Now NewsGator is being sold to corporate and big-law customers. I would say the legal market is now playing catch-up. Indeed, this is exactly what we are seeing with SocialText, the highest profile(though not the only) purveyor of big company wikis.
Thomson Elite/Thomson FindLaw/Thomson West
Who says socialism is dead? Just make your way to Egan, Minnessota to see it in full control of the world’s largest legal publisher. Thomson-West-Elite-Prolaw-Findlaw proves that it is just not enough to be bloated, bureaucratic, slow-moving, and monopolistic when you can also be grossly over-priced, inflexible, and indifferent to 70% of your market. And people think that lawyers are money-grubbing reptiles …
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