One of the presenters at TechShow 2010 revealed that the archives of the ABA Law Practice Management magazine is now available online for free. The magazine is an excellent resource for small firm lawyers, and free archives make it available to everyone.
WestlawNext is the latest offering from Westlaw. The service is offered as a premium add-on for subscribers at certain levels, for a premium add-on fee (which was unclear to me how it was computed). The service goes way beyond the old Boolean search that I learned when in law school, and even the more recent natural language search, and instead applies a sophisticated algorithm to search terms, eliminating the need to specify databases, and instead ranking results from all databases by relevance, both from the search as well as the number of times the result has been cited and downloaded by others, so you are likely to get more relevant results than words alone would provide. I inquired about the cost of the service, and the price computation seemed a little cryptic to me, but essentially, my current $79/month plan that is limited to estate planning databases does not even qualify for the service, but if I added my state plan, then I could get the service for around $200 per month. The search results will indicate whether a particular document is within my plan or will cost extra to retrieve. This is neat technology, but it seems to me a little ironic, since the pricing seems to be geared toward larger firms, who almost always bill hourly, rather than small firm practitioners who are more likely to be using an alternative fee method. Accordingly, West is going to save time for lawyers who get paid by time, meaning that the lawyer will make less (and West will make more), while lawyers who are more inclined to want to save time will be less likely to use the service because pricing discourages it.
One of the new offerings from Lexis was an interface for Microsoft Office Outlook and Word. Essentially the Lexis plug-in will scan the document for any key words for any piece of litigation and highlight them, and will hyperlink any citations or other documents that can be retrieved from the Lexis service, allowing the recipient of such a document to quickly retrieve and Shepardize cases and materials from an opponent's, or his own, brief. Currently the program is available for Lexis subscribers at no additional fee, although the sales rep hinted that as the program matured additional charges would likely apply. The brief demo of the program was nice, and if I was a Lexis user I would certainly get it. Lexis hopes that users of the program will be more quick to click on a hyperlinked case and immediately download it from their service at around $5 a case, rather than take the time to search for the case on one of the free services like Casemaker. Currently the product does not work nativity with PDF's, although you can OCR the PDF, then paste the text into Word and then use the program. I do not know if the program is available or can be used with a Lexis account obtained through Jenkins Law Library, which allows 20 minutes of daily Lexis use for $150 per year (previously posed on here) but if it does then that would certainly be the most economical way to use the service. Either way, the product is a nice premium enhancement, which is what Lexis is going to have to continue to do if it wants to keep charging premium prices for information that is increasingly available from other sources for free.
One of my favorite seminars to attend each year is the ABA's TechShow and this year's event did not disappoint. Over the next few weeks I will publish some of the great tips that I learned but right now, as I sit in my hotel room and cull through some of the materials I picked up in the Expo, I thought I would comment on some of the vendors that I ran across. There were some great new vendors with some great products this year. Equally noteworthy were some of the vendors from previous years that were not present this year. Last year there was a vendor that was offering subscribers a simple web page and would bid on their name on google ad-words, for a monthly charge of something like $50 (something that anyone could do themselves with an ad-words account and Intuit's Homestead service for around $6 per month) that was absent this year. Likewise, I did not see the vendor that offered some complex self-destroying email for communications between expert witnesses and lawyers that would not leave a trail this year.
What I did see this year was many more vendors offering "Cloud" solutions. Cloud computing refers applications that operate online through a web browser, known as SaaS (Software as a Service). Over then next couple of days I will post about some of the more interesting service providers.