CAT | General

Jul 22, 2014

Firm Central Gets Court Rules Calendaring

Firm Central, the cloud-based practice-management platform from Thomson Reuters, now offers rules-based court calendaring through a new add-on module called Deadline Assistant. The feature calculates litigation dates and events based on the court rules specific to the jurisdiction. Deadline Assistant is sold as an additional subscription to Firm Central. The cost is $40 per month [...]

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Jul 18, 2014

WellSettled.com Mines Cases for Established Principles

WellSettled

(Click for larger view.)

How many times have you come across the phrase “It is well settled that …” or “It is well established that …” in a judicial opinion? What if someone collected all these instances and made them searchable? When you are writing a brief or memorandum, wouldn’t it be useful to quickly locate these judicial statements of established principles?

A new website, still in its early stages of development, is doing just that. Called WellSettled.com, it mines judicial opinions for specific types of statements and phrases that either summarize a case or state a legal principle. The idea is that these judge-generated statements carry significant weight when discussing a case or legal principle. If you can easily find them, then you can incorporate them into your own research and writing. (more…)

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Jul 16, 2014

Fastcase, Lexis Advance and Wolters Kluwer Are All Readying Major Platform Overhauls

The new Lexis Advance has a simplified search bar and quick-access pods.

The new Lexis Advance has a simplified search bar and quick-access pods.

The official theme of the American Association of Law Libraries annual meeting in San Antonio this week was “Beyond Boundaries.” But for three of the leading legal-research vendors in attendance there, the theme was “A Change is Gonna Come.” Both Lexis Advance and Wolters Kluwer officially previewed major overhauls of their user interfaces. Fastcase is not yet ready to go public with its changes, but CEO Ed Walters did give me a private preview of what is to come.

The Fastcase redesign will be released this fall in private beta for select users. The full production version is slated for release early next year. In San Antonio, Walters gave me a preview of the new design on the condition that I keep the details private for now, so I cannot tell you much about it. I previously published some details in a piece I wrote for the ABA Journal about visual law:

Fastcase is preparing to release a new version of its platform that will give visual search even greater prominence. In the new version, the Interactive Timeline will appear on the same page as the search results rather than on a separate page. The results page will also display a tag cloud, showing the words and concepts that are most prominent in the cases within the search results.

That much remains true and I can say that I was impressed with what Fastcase is planning to roll out. For now, I’ll have to leave it at that.

Lexis Advance Advances

Meanwhile, LexisNexis is making no secret of its forthcoming redesign of Lexis Advance. It was touting the redesign all over its booth in the AALL exhibit hall and it even threw a Lexis Advance release party. That said, the redesigned platform will not actually be available to customers until late this summer.

During AALL, I had a chance to meet with Marty Kilmer, vice president of product platforms at LexisNexis, who showed me some of the forthcoming changes to Lexis Advance. The goal of the redesign, he said, was to make the platform quicker and easier to use, while not abandoning any features or functionality.

To achieve that, Lexis Advance has eliminated tabs and reorganized content in order to cut down the number of clicks required to find content and perform common tasks. The main search bar is simplified, with no source selection required to search. Searching for a specific type of content — a case name, a citation, a source such as Collier — requires only typing the name.

The main search page has been changed to add “pods” that provide quick access to the user’s history, folders, favorites and alerts, as well as to help topics. Also from the main page, searches can be refined and filtered in advance, to limit them by jurisdiction category, practice area and other facets. As you add filters, they are displayed on your screen, and any filter you’ve added can be removed with a click.

You can also browse sources from the main search page. You can find sources by typing their name or by typing the concepts or jurisdictions you are researching.

Search results show results across all types of categories, but you can easily narrow results to cases, statutes or other content types by clicking on the left of the screen. A new Snapshot view shows the most relevant results on a single screen. When you select a case from the search results and view it, a Shepard’s summary is shown on the same page; click it to go to the full Shepard’s report.

Lexis has posted a page with videos and guides that provide more information about the changes to Lexis Advance.

Wolters Kluwer Cheetah

Also at AALL, Wolters Kluwer was touting its forthcoming redesign, dubbed Cheetah. It will have a limited release to select users in August and a commercial release in November. To begin, the new platform will be available only for securities law, with coverage of three overarching areas: governance and compliance, litigation and enforcement, and transactions and activities. Other topic areas will be rolled out subsequently.

The new platform has been engineered to maximize speed and ease of use, product manager Scott Murray told me during a demonstration at AALL. The design is responsive, so that it will work equally well across platforms, whether on a computer, a table or a mobile phone.

Cheetah uses a three-panel display. All the primary content is shown in the center panel. A left-side panel shows the user’s saved searches, favorites and alerts. As you search, the panel shows facets that the user can select to narrow and refine the search. The far-right panel will provide direct links to practice tools.

I had only a brief preview of Cheetah at AALL but I hope to have a more in-depth look sometime soon. Last December, Jean O’Grady published a fairly detailed preview of Cheetah at Dewey B Strategic, and from what I saw at AALL, her description of forthcoming features remains accurate.

 

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Jul 15, 2014

NetDocuments Gets $25M Investment

Utah-based NetDocuments, a cloud-based document-management system for law firms, today announced that it has secured a $25 million equity investment from Frontier Capital, a Charlotte, N.C., growth equity firm that invests exclusively in B2B software and technology companies.

The investment will be used to drive NetDocuments’ further growth in the legal market, where the company sees itself as the only “pure play” software-as-a-service provider of document management, according to today’s announcement. Frontier sees the investment as a way to capitalize on law firms’ increasing reliance on cloud computing, the announcement said.

“It’s exciting to see the rate of adoption increase in recent years as law firms begin to move from traditional, server-based document management to what most now view as the modern document management platform,” Ken Duncan, NetDocuments’ CEO said in the announcement. “The partnership and investment with Frontier will allow us to not only continue our growth with a high degree of customer service, but also provides us with the resources to capture a considerable portion of the market, as firms increasingly decide to switch to the cloud.”

Founded in 1999, NetDocuments currently operates in more than 140 countries and is used in 10 percent of the Am Law 100 firms.

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Jul 14, 2014

Pangea3 Cofounder Named President of Bloomberg BNA Legal

Bloomberg BNA David PerlaBloomberg BNA announced this morning that David Perla, cofounder of the global legal process outsourcing provider Pangea3, is joining the company as president of Bloomberg BNA Legal, effective July 21. Perla will report directly to Bloomberg BNA CEO Greg McCaffery and play a key leadership role in overseeing the company’s legal business, which includes legal, legislative, and regulatory news and analysis, and the Bloomberg Law legal and business intelligence research system.

Perla was cofounder and co-CEO of Pangea3, which is now owned by Thomson Reuters. According to a Bloomberg BNA press release, Perla has been recognized as a trailblazer by the National Law Journal, a top 50 innovator by The American Lawyer, and a Legal Rebel by the ABA Journal.

He most recently served as chairman and CEO of Matterhorn Transactions, the Web-based legal and financial information services provider, and as co-founder and managing director of 1991 Ventures. Prior to forming Pangea3, Perla was vice president – business & legal affairs for Monster.com.  He began his legal career as a corporate lawyer at the law firm Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP.

Perla received a BA from the University of Pennsylvania, and a JD from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. He is a frequent speaker regarding the legal profession and legal innovation, and is a member of the New York and Massachusetts Bars.

 

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Jul 7, 2014

A Review of CosmoLex Time and Billing (Plus Exclusive News about New Features)

Earlier this year, I included the cloud-based billing and trust accounting platform CosmoLex on my list of the Top 10 Product Announcements at ABA Techshow. “This is a comprehensive time and billing system with everything you expect in such a system,” I wrote then. Well, CosmoLex is about to get even more comprehensive, adding in practice-management features such as contact management, matter management and calendaring.

Cosmolexlogo2Those additions will be coming within the next three to four months, CosmoLex CEO Rick Kabra told me during a recent interview. “Our goal is to become the leading cloud provider for solo and small firms,” he said, adding that even more product enhancements are in development.

As it is now, CosmoLex is a full-featured, cloud-based time and billing program for solo and small law firms. It claims to be the only cloud-based legal time and billing software with fully integrated trust accounting. As far as I can determine, that claim is true. Other cloud practice management programs say they offer some form of trust accounting, but that is often nothing more than tracking trust balances. None that I am aware of offer full accounting without also requiring use of a third-party accounting program such as QuickBooks. (more…)

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Jul 1, 2014

Want to Speak at ABA Techshow? Submit A Proposal By July 13

One of the best annual legal technology conferences is ABA Techshow, which this year will be April 16-18 in Chicago. If you want to throw your hat in the ring to speak there, now is the time.

Until July 13, the Techshow planning board is accepting speaker and topic proposals. There is no guarantee that you’ll be selected, but it is safe to say you won’t be selected if you don’t submit something.

If you are interested, read the official announcement and then proceed to the proposal form.

 

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Jun 30, 2014

At User Conference, Thomson Reuters Elite Shows Off New Products

Vantage2014

At its international Vantage 2014 user conference last week in New York City, Thomson Reuters Elite showed off several new products. I attended a June 23 media day there, where members of the media met with Thomson Reuters executives and attended presentations on the new products.

(Full disclosure: Thomson Reuters paid my travel to New York and fed me better than I usually eat.)

Elite is a suite of “enterprise business management” products for law firms and other professional services firms that handle financial management, client and matter management, business development and risk management. Within the legal field, Elite’s customers are mid- to large-sized law firms and corporate legal departments. Numbers provided by the company indicate that 4,200 firms in 42 countries use Elite products.  (more…)

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Jun 26, 2014

My ABA Journal Column Looks at a Lower Cost Alternative to Acrobat

The July issue of the ABA Journal includes my ‘Ambrogi on Tech’ column, “An Acrobat alternative, at a third of the price.” I review Nuance Power PDF Advanced, a full-featured professional PDF program that does virtually everything Adobe Acrobat Pro can do, but at one-third the price.

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Jun 23, 2014

Another Look at ClearView Social, the Social Media Sharing App for Lawyers

You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. And you can teach a lawyer all about social media, but you can’t make the lawyer do anything with it.

For many law firm marketing executives, that is a frustrating fact of life. All the social media training in the world doesn’t guarantee a lawyer will ever post an update.

That, at least in part, is why social marketing consultant Adrian Dayton developed ClearView Social, an app that partially automates the process of posting to social media. His goal, Dayton told me in a recent conversation, is to bring down the technical barriers a little bit so lawyers will find it easier to post and therefore do it more regularly.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a critical post about ClearView Social. I expressed concern at the premise of having marketing departments feed lawyers with pre-programmed content to post to their social media feeds. I was concerned that this would turn lawyers’ feeds into streams of spam.

Dayton contacted me after I wrote that to offer a demonstration. The app is still somewhat of a work in progress and will not be released commercially until October. Having seen what Dayton has so far, I’ll admit I’ve softened my position. I can see that it could be a useful adjunct to a lawyer’s social media engagement. I can still see, however, how easily it could be overused or wrongly used and prove my fears about spam.

clearviewemail

Lawyers receive an email from the marketing department encouraging them to share an item to their social netwoks.

Clearview is targeted at mid- and large-sized firms. Its purpose is to help attorneys “more easily share content with their professional networks through LinkedIn, Twitter and other platforms.” It does this by allowing a single person in the firm – in most cases, someone in the marketing department – to create a queue of content for the firm’s lawyers to share through their social networks. The marketer can add items to the queue manually – maybe when the firm is mentioned in a news article – or use the firm’s RSS feeds to populate it automatically.

These queued items get sent in an email to all the attorneys in the firm. The email shows a headline and brief summary of each item, and next to each item are two buttons, one for sharing the item on LinkedIn and one for emailing the item to someone.

The lawyer then reads through the list and picks the item or items to share. If the lawyer clicks the LinkedIn button next to the item, the item will be posted to the lawyer’s LinkedIn page. If the lawyer clicks the email button, an email will open in Outlook preformatted with a subject line and the link to the item. In either case, the lawyer can personalize the message as he or she sees fit.

That’s it. The lawyer can share as few or as many items as he or she chooses. The app allows sharing only to LinkedIn at this point. Sharing to Twitter and Facebook may be added later.

Each lawyer’s shares are uniquely coded for tracking. The firm can track which items are being read, which items are most popular, and which lawyers are sharing the most items. This can all be displayed on a “leaderboard” showing the top sharers and top items.

“This let’s law firms become smarter about social media,” Dayton says. “They can see what everyone else is sharing, what’s doing well and what’s not doing well.”

As noted above, the app remains in beta. So far, five law firms are using the app as beta testers and Dayton hopes eventually to have 30 firms in the beta. Five AmLaw 100 firms have committed to join the beta, he said.

Dayton expects to release the commercial version of the app in October at the Legal Marketing Association technology conference. By then, he expects to have added other features, as well, while still aiming to keep the app simple in its purpose and functionality.

In my prior post, I expressed concern that the app does not actually help attorneys share content they find worthwhile. Rather, I said, “it makes the attorneys the conduits or redistributors of content someone else chooses to share.”

This remains a concern. The app does allow for more choice and personalization than I’d originally understood. That’s a good thing. In fact, as I understand it, an attorney can use it to share any item, not just the items suggested by the marketing department.

Still, I tremble at the thought of what could happen with this app. I imagine someone in the marketing department sending out a queue of, say, 10 articles. Suddenly, 500 or 800 or 1,000 lawyers all start sharing those same 10 articles. The lawyers think they’re doing their marketing duty, when in fact their collective action only undermines the cause.

I am sympathetic to the plight of the law firm marketer. It is not easy to motivate lawyers to participate in social media. If a tool can make it easier, I can see why it would be tempting. If law firms buy Dayton’s app – and I have no doubt they will – the challenge will be to use it moderately, selectively and with due deference to all the readers out there who don’t need anymore automated junk flowing through their social media streams.

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