April 06, 2005

TECHSHOW Thoughts

After an exhausting 5 days, I'm back from TECHSHOW with a head full of ideas. Here's my list of things that are hot, hot, hot, without appearing to be the latest tech fads:

  1. E-Discovery: As we continue to create more electronic data than paper, it's only going to heat up more, not less. I wasn't at LegalTech NY this year, but have heard that of the full three floors of vendors, half of them were litigation-related. The TECHSHOW exhibit hall certainly had its fair share. With the reform of the federal rules underway, many are glued to new developments and cases. Use caution and look carefully when selecting between the host of EDD service providers. Some are not expected to survive on their own for relatively long. The shakeout continues.

    My advice: Do your homework, give one or two of them a test case, and if they do well, give them a few more and a few more until you're comfortable with their services and results. Then add them to your PPL (Preferred Provider List -- you do have one, right?). Do that for each type of provider, and you will have created a "Best of the Best" list for your organization -- a valued added "go to" list of vetted providers.

  2. Blogs: The number of blawgers has already grown incredibly from last year. I met many more at the blogger dinner, BlawgConnect 2005, than last year. Blawgers tend to be forward-thinking and progressive, and there is a great deal of affinity between us on this trait alone. Blawgers are early adopters, not just of technology, but of new ideas. At LexThink! Chicago, many of us discussed various topics that effectively began, "There has to be a better way to..."
  3. RSS Feeds: Many have compared RSS news feeds to the "push" technology of yesteryear, PointCast. PointCast ultimately proved to be a tech fad, but many bloggers do not believe that RSS is going away any time soon. I'm already seeing how RSS is knitting the fabric of the Internet together. Blogs, news, and web sites are being intertwined, seamlessly. Boundaries are heavily blurred. Like many technologies, there is potential for abuse, and some blog owners have become rightfully concerned that their content is being "lifted" or "scraped" for other commercial endeavors, with no compensation back to the source.

    Regardless, all of the power, hype, and controversy is feeding the fire. It's like cable and satellite TV for "informational omnivores*" -- millions of channels, but with something on. There are many more consumers of news feeds than content creators, and that's okay. I personally do not think RSS-like technologies (RSS, RDF, XML, Atom, etc.) are a fad. They will probably morph or be subsumed into something else, but the building blocks are there. Right now, we've built the foundation -- the basement -- and it's too soon to tell just what the finished construct will look like. I believe it will continue to evolve, with many varied applications barely a glimmer in our eyes. Just like the dot.com boom in the late 90's, many are searching for new business models upon which commercial ventures can become sustainable using various forms and applications of this technology and content. Blawgers are beginning to join together and aggregate their own content -- some as a preemptive defense mechanism from the perceived threat from other content-raiding systems and services.

    [*Sabrina Pacifici used this term during her blog presentation, and of all the blawgers I know, she's one of the hungriest processors of information I know. Incidentally, it was her and Tom Mighell's joint TECHSHOW 2003 presentation on blogging that got me started. During that presentation, a 100,000 watt light bulb lit up in my head, and you've been reading the result ever since.]

  4. Attorney Learning Curves Remain Diverse: Perhaps I shouldn't have been as surprised as I was to see this, but there is still a great divide between tech savvy attorneys that "get it" and use it, and those who have apparently gotten by with the minimum tech expertise. At least those further down the learning curve are taking the right steps to get up the hill. They're hungrier for the knowledge than ever before. They're attending TECHSHOW, soaking it up, and getting outside help on occasion. Even if they don't understand the underlying technology, they understand what it can do for them -- and that's a great start.

    As one person put it, it's good to see what many of us already take for granted in our daily professional and personal lives. More and more are using wireless laptops, home broadband, BlackBerries, and various Internet services and sites. Some are even finding and reading blogs. Overall, I'm encouraged by the progress, but as a whole the profession still has a long, long way to go. I'm also encouraged by the ever-growing number of tech savvy professionals I encounter. Best practices are mentioned more often than ever before. Many professionals are striving to improve their efficiency and level of client service and communication through the savvy application of technology, process redesign, and training. Communication and awareness of these issues has risen dramatically, both in traditional publications and disruptive forums such as blogs.

  5. Strategic Outsourcing is Gaining Traction: ASPs (Application Service Providers) boomed during the late 90's until the dot.com bubble burst. During the recession, many firms and companies stayed the course or cut budgets. Now that we're in a period of growth, legal and other organizations are hungry for improvements in their tech resources, but the hunger is outpacing their budgets and IT staff resources. Enter the hosted solution. As long as it meets the security and confidentiality requirements, IT departments like ASPs because it's a quicker way to gain the benefits on a pay-as-you-go basis, with little or no up front investment. The real trick is to determine what falls within your organization's core competence, to keep in-house, and those that are better served by outsourced providers.

    The other real trick, as I see it, is whether you need that data integrated with your other systems. If you do, then you'll need a plan to knit it all together -- otherwise, you've just stranded some mission critical data in yet another silo. While I don't believe ASP solutions are a fad, I believe they will continue to be somewhat cyclical. There are many other forms of outsourcing besides ASPs, and I believe the legal profession will continue to warm up to them as long as the services solve major pain points with the overall value exceeding their cost.

All in all, it was a great week, and as you can tell, my head is exploding with ideas. I look at these conferences as my professional retreat -- and each time I come back refreshed and re-energized, ready to take on the world (or at least complacency of the status quo).

Topic(s):   Legal Technology
Posted by Jeff Beard
Comments

Great stuff - as usual.

Your analysis of ASPs has, I think, some connection to your previous post on taking EDD in house. Even though it makes sense for the client (who pays the bill) and for the firm (which loathes the fragmented quality of services), there is clearly a steep hill to climb before even considering such an endeavor. However, the whole paradigm could change - and quickly - if an ASP came along that provided wizard-driven EDD. In other words, all the technology that compromises the various electronic discovery functions, but quarterbacked via a user-friendly wizard. The technology platform would be outsourced, but the "services" would be completed controlled and executed in-house. I could be wrong, but I think it is only a matter of time. Throughout the history of technological advancements one thing remains constant...complexity makes its way downward into the platform and simplicity makes its way towards the surface.

Keep up the phenomenal work!

Posted by: Matthew McCarrick at April 13, 2005 09:24 PM

Excellent summary.

The funniest thing about eDiscovery was how many of the vendors at the TechShow were either all about eDiscovery or made sure they had eDiscovery plastered all over their display.

eDiscovery...the new "low-carb"

Posted by: Nipper at April 6, 2005 06:50 PM