CAT | General

Apr 3, 2014

A Precarious Time for Legal Newspapers

Reuters broke the news two days ago that legal news giant ALM — publisher of, The American Lawyer, The National Law Journal and Law Technology News, among other publications — is up for sale. Just two weeks earlier, it was reported that another major legal news publisher, The Dolan Company, was entering a prepackaged [...]

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Apr 2, 2014

Nuance Takes on Acrobat Pro — At 1/3 the Price


Professional-strength PDF software is a must-have for lawyers, and the gold standard for PDF software has always been Adobe Acrobat Pro. But at Acrobat Pro’s current retail price of $449, many lawyers, especially in smaller firms, opt for more budget-friendly alternatives, such as CutePDF Professional, which I reviewed here several years ago.

Now there is another choice. Today, Nuance Communications — maker of the Dragon speech recognition software — is launching Nuance Power PDF Advanced, a full-featured professional PDF program, with all the features businesses — including lawyers — would expect in such a program. Notably, Nuance has set the price of Power PDF at $149.99 — a third the cost of Acrobat Pro — with volume discounts available.  (A 30-day free trial is available.)

Although Nuance also offers a version for individuals and home offices, Power PDF Standard, at $99.99, most lawyers would want Power PDF Advanced. It includes several features that are important in a law practice:

  • Redaction to black out sensitive information, including the ability to automatically search and redact.
  • Bates stamping and advanced header and footer functionality.
  • PDF/A and Section 508 compliance checking, including the ability to fix files that do not comply.
  • Secure delivery, encryption and digital rights management capabilities.
  • Integration with LexisNexis CaseMap.

Another feature of the advanced version is integration with file-sharing sites and document-management systems, enabling users to open files directly from and save them directly to these systems. A smaller law office could use this to integrate with Box, Dropbox, Evernote, Google Docs or Office 365. A larger firm could connect with an enterprise DMS such as Autonomy, Documentum, SharePoint and NetDocuments. (This integration must be selected during installation of the software. If you forget, re-run the installer and select “Install Cloud Connector.”)

I have been testing a pre-release version of Power PDF Advanced for a little over a week. I’m sure there is a power PDF user out there who could find shortcomings in this over Acrobat, but I could not. I was able to do any of the tasks I would want with a PDF program.

Also, once I adjusted to the different user interface, I found it easier to perform many tasks using the Nuance software than with Acrobat. The software uses a Microsoft-office style ribbon interface which is easy to navigate. Items can easily be added or removed from the ribbon or rearranged.

Some of the other notable features of Power PDF Advanced include:

  • Integrated Dragon Notes speech recognition, enabling users to add notes to PDF files by dictating text. Nuance actually sends the speech off to its servers in the cloud to process; within seconds, it appears in the sticky note.
  • Integrated OCR using the same technology as Nuance’s OmniPage.
  • Watched folder and batch sequence capabilities to automate common tasks and move files from one location to another. Using watched folders, you could simply drag a group of documents to a folder to automatically convert them to PDF. With a batch sequence, you can string together multiple commands to be performed as a single command on a group of documents, such as stamping and watermarking them.
  • Word-processor-like ability to edit PDF content, including graphics and charts.

Of course, it also includes the features you would expect to find in a professional PDF program:

  • One-click creation of PDF files from within Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook.
  • One-click creation of PDF files from within Internet Explorer (but not other browsers, where you would have to print to PDF).
  • Creation of PDF packages and portfolios.
  • Conversion of PDF files into Word, Excel, PowerPoint and WordPerfect (and to convert only a selected area of a page).
  • Conversion of image PDFs to searchable PDFs.
  • Drag-and-drop ability to add or remove pages from a PDF document, with automatic page renumbering.
  • Full commenting and annotations.
  • Support for network scanning.

Whereas Acrobat Pro is designed for use in graphics and printing, the Nuance product is not. It will not produce files in PDF/X, which is a graphics format for printing, or PDF/E, which is a format used in engineering. The product manager I spoke readily acknowledged this, saying that Nuance’s focus was on developing a product for the business setting, where customers care more about document assembly and functionality.

If you have been holding out from buying Acrobat Pro because of the price, then check out Power PDF.

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Apr 1, 2014

Citing Legal Industry Disruption, West, Lexis Open their Data to Free Access

[Editor's note added 4/2/14: OK folks, lest the date reference be lost, this was an April Fool's joke. Sorry to disappoint.]

Last month, Harvard Law School hosted the conference, Disruptive Innovation in the Market for Legal Services, featuring Harvard Business School Prof. Clayton M. Christensen, author of the seminal 1997 book, The Innovator’s Dilemma. That came not long after ReInvent Law NYC, another conference that focused on innovation and disruption in the legal industry. Indeed, as I wrote then, we may be in the midst of a time of unprecedented innovation in legal technology.

Mike Walsh

Citing this very trend towards disruption in the legal industry, the heads of the legal business units within Thomson Reuters and LexisNexis issued an unprecedented joint statement this morning declaring to open their legal research databases to free access and to cooperate with each other in making legal information universally available to lawyers and non-lawyers alike.

“Our companies are jointly committed to eliminating barriers of cost and complexity that inhibit broad access to legal information and materials,” said the statement. “Beginning today, April 1, Westlaw, Westlaw Next, and Lexis Advance will be offered to the public at large, without cost of any kind.”

The statement was signed by Mike Walsh, chief executive officer of the global legal business of LexisNexis, and Susan Taylor Martin, president of Thomson Reuters Legal.

Susan Taylor Martin

The statement quoted Christensen, who said at the Harvard conference, “Disruptive innovations are innovations that transform products that are complicated and expensive into things that are affordable and accessible.” Rather than be disrupted by smaller start-ups, the statement went on to say, the two companies had decided to lead the disruption themselves.

The decision to open their legal databases was also inspired by the work of the Free Access to Law Movement and its Declaration on Free Access to Law, as well as by public domain advocate Carl Malamud and his work through Public.Resource.Org to make government information more accessible.

Taylor Martin, who became president of TR Legal Jan. 1, may have foreshadowed this move in a January interview with Law Technology News editor Monica Bay. She told Bay then that the legal industry seemed to be on the cusp of dramatic change, adding that she could not say whether that change was a decade or two away or whether “we are on the brink of really quite disruptive change?”

Unfortunately, the announcement came with one proviso: Free access will be available only to those who register before the close of this April 1 calendar day. After today, it will be back to business as usual.

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Mar 31, 2014

Top 10 Product Announcements at ABA Techshow


Clio founders Rian Gauvreau and Jack Newton.

I am just back from ABA Techshow in Chicago. It was well worth the trip, with great programming, a teeming exhibit hall, and abundant opportunities for networking and socializing. The one question I was most often asked there (and that I most often asked others) was, “What have you seen that is new and interesting?” Here are my top 10 picks.

1. Clio: A $20 million investment. Strictly speaking, this was old news, in that it was actually announced a few days before Techshow. Even so, it seemed to be the talk of the show. After all, it’s not every day you see a $20 million investment in a legal company – let alone a legal-industry start-up (if it can still be called that after six years) in the still nascent field of cloud-based practice management. What does this mean for Clio? What does this mean for other practice-management vendors? And what does this say about how hot or not the legal industry is in general? Clio’s new-found capital had people at Techshow asking those questions and many others. (more…)

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Mar 26, 2014

Casetext Adds Citator, Other Features

WeCite entries for the Supreme Court case Granholm v. Heald.

WeCite entries for the Supreme Court case Granholm v. Heald.

I’ve written both here and for the ABA Journal about Casetext, a free legal research platform that uses crowdsourcing to add annotations and descriptions to cases. As a matter of fact, I’ll be talking about Casetext at ABA Techshow tomorrow as part of a presentation on using crowdsourcing in legal research.

Today, Casetext is officially announcing its version of a citator (think Shepard’s or KeyCite) to help users understand a case’s subsequent history. It is called WeCite and it has been developed in conjunction with the Stanford Center of Legal Informatics, which will make the data gathered through the effort publicly available.

Now, when you view a case in Casetext, WeCite appears as an option in the left ribbon. Click it and you will then see a list of all judicial opinions that cite that case and brief descriptions of each opinion. Casetext automatically creates the list of opinions that cite to the case, but users can add their own citation references and analysis. And just as users can vote up or down on annotations in Casetext, they can vote up or down on WeCite entries, causing the entries to move up or down the list.

While WeCite is not comparable to Shepard’s or KeyCite in its thoroughness, capabilities or analysis, it is a useful addition to this free legal research site.

The heatmap runs down the right side of the case.

The heatmap runs down the right side of the case.

Another new feature in Casetext is the “heatmap” that runs alongside each case as you view it on your screen. The heatmap shows how frequently each page in a case has been cited — the darker the color red on the map, the more it has been cited.

Jake Heller, Casetext CEO, says there are more developments in the works for his company, which was launched just last summer. So stay tuned here for updates.

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Mar 25, 2014

Clio Gets $20 Million Financing Deal

Big news this morning from Clio, the cloud-based practice management platform: It announced this morning that it has raised $20 million in Series C financing led by Bessemer Venture Partners. Clio says it will use the new funding to accelerate product development and sales and fuel international expansion.

Clio says it plans on doubling its workforce over the next year, to more than 200. The expansion will come in the U.S. and Canada, as well as in Europe, where Clio recently opened an office in Dublin. Clio says it will also continue to invest aggressively in mobile. (more…)

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Mar 24, 2014

BigHand Mobile-izes Dictation Workflow

Last week brought news that BigHand Inc., a provider of voice productivity and workflow software, had acquired Esquire Innovations Inc., a maker of legal document automation and productivity tools used to create, format and compare documents and remove and manage document metadata. For me, that news served as a nudge, since I’ve been meaning to write about BigHand for some time now.

So what is BigHand and what the heck is “voice productivity”? Basically, BigHand is a digital dictation system, with an enterprise version for larger firms and a cloud-based version for smaller firms of up to 25 lawyers. But as the “productivity” part suggests, it is more than a dictation system – it is also a system for managing dictation and transcription workflow and for making that workflow more efficient.

A firm would purchase BigHand as a replacement for its legacy tape-based dictation system or standalone digital system. With BigHand, the firm gets:

  • A smartphone app on which lawyers can record, submit and track dictation. (Versions are available for Android, iPhone and BlackBerry, with a Windows version in the works.) This can also be done from the desktop.
  • The ability to integration existing analog or digital dictation devices.
  • A dictation workflow system that delivers, prioritizes and assigns dictation to support staff.
  • Speech recognition (using Dragon NaturallySpeaking) for first-pass transcription.

Typical Workflow

How would this work in practice? Here is a typical scenario: 

The attorney opens the BigHand app on her smartphone. She can immediately see the status of all the jobs she has submitted. To dictate, she simply presses the record button. She can listen back to the recording, edit it, and insert additional audio at any point. The app also allows her to insert a photo to accompany the dictation – perhaps of a business card or a receipt.

BigHandRecordOnce she is ready to submit the dictation, BigHand asks her where she wants to send it. Firms can customize up to 10 options here, but a typical set-up might allow the attorney to send it to her own secretary, to a typing pool, or through speech recognition, with or without proofing. The attorney can also designate the job’s priority or set a calendar date by which it must be completed.

When the job is done, its status on the app changes from “pending” to “complete” and BigHand sends the attorney an email with the document attached. An attorney could be at a meeting, dictate something, and have the finished document returned before ever leaving the meeting.

On the support-staff side, when the attorney sends a file, a pop-up notifies the staff that a new job has been submitted. The staff can see a list of all dictation in the queue. BigHand integrates with several document-management systems, so a dictation can easily be dropped into a letterhead or other template.

As items are completed, BigHand automatically moves them into a completed items folder. Firms can customize the folders and also set up shared folders, such as for litigation matters. The attorney is notified and can approve or reject the work at that point.

Other Features

If the file is sent through speech recognition, then the support staff can review the speech-recognized text as they listen to the recording. BigHand can play the recording Karaoke style, meaning it shows all the text and highlights each word as it is played, or streaming style, in which it adds words to the screen as they are played.

As the staff person corrects mistakes, the system learns from those corrections and thereby becomes better at recognizing the attorney’s voice. Each attorney has his or her own voice profile on the system, as well as separate profiles for mobile or desktop. The system will also learn from corrections made by the attorney.

While both attorneys and support staff have slightly different interfaces into the BigHand system, there is also another interface for the office managers. They can see every pending job and follow its workflow. They can also manage workflows to accommodate vacations, workloads and the like. Office managers can generate various reports.

Versions and Pricing

BigHand is available in both an installed enterprise version for larger firms and a cloud-based “Professional Edition” for smaller firms. The major difference between the two is that the cloud version does not include speech recognition. BigHand expects to add speech recognition to the cloud version sometime this year. Another difference is that the cloud version limits the number of workflow-routing options.

Both versions can be customized in many ways, both on a firm-wide basis and also by attorney.

BigHand, which was founded in 1996 in London, focuses primarily on the legal market. Of 185,000 users worldwide, 150,000 are in the legal market. In the United States, its customers are almost exclusively within the legal market.

The cost of BigHand’s cloud-based Professional Version is $240 per year/per license, with both attorneys and support staff requiring their own licenses. The cost of the Enterprise Version depends on the number of user licenses, modules and features required. (Speech recognition is an added module.) Volume discounts are generally available.

Bottom Line

BigHand offers obvious advantages over tape-based dictation systems. There is no need to worry about delivering or losing tapes. There is no need to regularly replace dictation systems. Work is transferred in real time and managed in real time.

For lawyers, BigHand’s mobile integration should be a boost to productivity. For firms, it should enhance enhance their efficiency and cut administrative overhead. For support staff, it should make their workflow more balanced and orderly.

Even for attorneys (like me) who do not use dictation, having the app on a mobile device makes it convenient to use it to manage tasks, give themselves reminders, keep notes or send instructions to a secretary.

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Mar 19, 2014

Two New Sources of Free Images for Your Blog

In the past, when I wanted to find photos or images to illustrate a blog post, my go-to default was Wikimedia Commons,  a database of more than 20 million user-contributed images that are free to copy and use according to the author’s specified license terms (often just requiring credit to the source). But now there are two new ways to get free images for your blog that can help you find a much wider selection and, in some cases, much higher quality images.

Somewhat surprisingly, the first of these new sources is Getty Images, a company that is in the business of selling creative and news stock photography. Earlier this month, it announced that it was making its collection of roughly 35 million images free for editorial, non-commercial use. Images are available through an embed feature — meaning you don’t copy and paste them, you embed their source code. Images on the Getty site now have an embed icon (</>) that you click to get the code. The embed code includes copyright information and a link back to licensing information on the Getty site.

Why would Getty give away what it is in business to sell? For Getty, it is an attempt to wrestle back control over the widespread pirating of its images. Craig Peters, Getty’s senior vice president of business development, explained in an interview with the British Journal of Photography:

First, there will be attribution around that image, and since we’re serving the image, we’re actually going to make sure there’s proper attribution. Second, all of the images will link back to our site and directly to the image’s details page. So anybody who has a valid commercial need for that image will be able to license it from our website. Third, since all the images are served by Getty Images, we’ll have access to the information on who is using and viewing that image and how, and we’ll reserve the right to utilise that data to the benefit of our business.

Given that the images are available only for non-commercial use, this raises the question of whether they may be used by lawyers who blog in order to promote their legal practices. In his interview with the British Journal of Photography, Peters said that Getty would not consider blogs that draw revenue from Google Ads to be commercial use. “What would limit that use,” he went on to say, “is if they used our imagery to promote a service, a product or their business.”

You should be aware that the Electronic Frontier Foundation has raised a red flag over Getty’s program. On one hand, the EFF praises Getty for making it easier for users to give proper attribution and a link. On the other, it notes that this is yet another intrusion on Web privacy, insofar as all these embedded images will allow Getty to collect information about users’ browsing history.

Google Images License Search

If that discourages you from using Getty’s images, there is another new way to find images that are available for reuse. In January, Google Images added a filter to its search results that allows users to find images based on their usage rights.

After entering your search quiery in Google Images, click on the “Search Tools” button at the top of the page and a selection appears for usage rights. Here you can select to filter results by any of the following:

  • Not filtered by license.
  • Labeled for reuse with modification.
  • Labeled for reuse.
  • Labeled for noncommercial reuse with modification.
  • Labeled for noncommercial reuse.

In actuality, Google has offered license filtering for several years, but it was a hard-to-find feature. With this change, Google has made it easy for users to find images with open licenses.

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Mar 18, 2014

Podcast: Government Snooping and the Attorney-Client Privilege

The recent disclosure that an N.S.A. counterpart had eavesdropped on a U.S. law firm raises troubling questions about attorney-client privilege in an age of seemingly ubiquitous government snooping. In the criminal context, such monitoring implicates the Bill of Rights. In the latest episode of the legal-affairs podcast Lawyer2Lawyer, we discuss the implications of all this with two esteemed legal academics:

Erwin Chemerinsky is the founding dean and distinguished professor of law, and Raymond Pryke professor of First Amendment law, at the University of California, Irvine School of Law. His areas of expertise include, but are not limited to, constitutional law, federal practice, and civil rights. Erwin is a renowned author of seven books and nearly 200 articles in top law reviews. He has argued before the nation’s highest courts and has been counsel to detainees in Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp in the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba. He is also a regular commentator on legal issues before the national and local media.

Dr. John Eastman is the Henry Salvatori professor of law and community service at Chapman University Fowler School of Law. He was the school’s dean from June 2007 to January 2010, when he stepped down to pursue a bid for California attorney general. John is the founding director of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, former law clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas, and has served as the director of congressional and public affairs at the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights during the Reagan administration. He is also a regular commentator on legal issues before the national and local media.

You can read more about the show as well as find all our back episodes at the Legal Talk Network. Be sure you never miss an episode by subscribing to Lawyer2Lawyer in the iTunes library or via our RSS feed.

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Mar 17, 2014

Update on iOrion’s Mobile Practice Management for Midsized Firms

A year ago, I wrote here about Orion, the practice-management system designed for mid-sized law firms, and its app for iPad and iPhone, iOrion. At LegalTech New York in February, Orion announcing the forthcoming release of version 2.0 of its app, with new features and functionality. I’ve been testing a pre-release version of the upgraded app on an iPad Mini (thumbnails above) and an iPhone 5s (image below) and here is what I’ve found.

For those of you who are not familiar with Orion, it is a full-featured financial management, firm management and practice management system designed for mid-sized law firms. Whereas many practice management systems for smaller firms operate via the cloud, Orion is a locally installed system that is able to integrate with a firm’s back-office infrastructure and front-office tools. (See this comparison chart by Sean Doherty at Law Technology News.)

Time Manager on iPhone.

Time Manager on iPhone.

As I noted last year, it is unusual for a locally installed system such as this to have a full-featured mobile app on a par with apps for cloud-based systems. Yet I concluded then that the iOrion app was not only on a par with other practice management apps, but that it actually surpassed others in the range of features and access to data it offered. (You might want to refer back to my prior post for a full description of the app’s features.)

With version 2.0, the company is aiming to make its app a true replica of the functionality of the desktop version, according to Kevin Harris, the iOrion project manager. “We’re not trying to replace the desktop with the app,” he said, “but we want them to complement each other.”

The primary change over the app’s prior version is in added functionality. With several new features added to the Orion platform over the last year, the app has been upgraded to incorporate those features.

The most significant of these is the new Expense Reimbursement Manager, which is new to both the Orion platform and the iOrion app. As its name suggests, this is a system for submitting and managing reimbursement requests, eliminating manual, paper-based expense-tracking systems.

Now, reimbursement requests can be submitted through the app and all communications regarding the request can be tracked through the app. Adding a request is done through a pop-up, from which the user can designate the amount and nature of the expense and the client/matter to which it relates. Paper receipts can be scanned with the device’s camera and attached and electronic receipts can be directly attached. Alerts notify the attorney if a request is denied or if more information is required. The advantage to attorneys is that they can add expenses and receipts as they incur them, using their iPhone or iPad.

As with the prior version, the app continues to allow access to all contacts, key case information, and key client and matter financial information. Customizable “Smart Timers” allow users to track time for multiple matters.

In addition to announcing the updated app and the Expense Reimbursement Manager at LegalTech, Orion also announced its new Productivity Pack for Microsoft Office. The Productivity Pack provides greater integration between Orion’s desktop version and Office applications such as Word and Outlook. This includes the ability to capture and record time from within Office and the ability to link Outlook appointments and tasks with clients and matters in Orion.

iOrion version 2.0 is awaiting final approval from Apple. Once it gets that approval, it will be available for download in the iTunes Store. The current version of the app (1.3.0) is available here.

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