Cloud Computing Rises at #abatechshow 2011

Whew! ABA TECHSHOW is always a whirlwind event, and we’re always amazed at the amount of information that gets crammed into two-and-a-half days. This year was no exception.

We were pleased to see Ignite Law return the night before the official start of TECHSHOW. It was held in a much larger room this year, and the talks featured a mix of Ignite Law “veterans” and rookies. While providing excellent client (we hesitate to say customer) service was a common theme, each presentation offered something unique. InsideLegal has an excellent summary post, with choice quotes from each of the presenters.

TECHSHOW itself was full of relevant, interesting sessions this year. Two things immediately struck us: there are more cloud computing vendors, and the cloud computing track returned.

Last year, three new cloud computing providers made there presence known: FastcaseDialawg and Contract Express. This year, there seemed to be an explosion of cloud computing providers across the board. Practice management, document management, document generation, eDiscovery, litigation, just to name a few. Cloud computing-related vendors, other than Clio, Fastcase and Dialawg, included:

The explosion in cloud computing vendors seems to indicate that cloud computing is here to stay, and that was further justified by the cloud computing track. We made note of the cloud computing track last year, and how it had grown from one or two sessions to its own track. While last year nibbled around the edges, this year just jumped right in and tackled sticky ethical issues and considerations in just about every presentation. Erik Mazzone and Catherine Sanders Reach gave a good primer, which was followed by a review of cloud apps by Stephanie Kimbro and Tom Mighell. Document storing. Document sharing. Practice management. Remote access. There is less and less cloud computing can’t do.

It became evident that “cloud computing” wasn’t a passing interest, but a tool many lawyers use to help make their practices more efficient and better serve their clients. As with many tools used by lawyers, from phones to fax machines to marketing avenues, there are ethical considerations that need to be addressed. This year, there was a session, Safe Flying in the Clouds, devoted to the topic. Brett Burney, Sharon Nelson and Dan Siegel walked attendees through recent state ethics opinions, comments on the ABA Ethics 20/20 Commission paper (PDF) as well as benefits to cloud computing and what to look for, and consider, when selecting a provider.  The NetDocuments blog does a good job of summing up important points, like Service Level Agreements and Terms of Service.

Aside from a cloud computing track, we also noticed that cloud computing came up in other sessions, in other tracks. Expanding Your Practice with an Online Office, for example, and How Do You Manage Your Practice on a Mac reviewed cloud-based applications, in addition to Mac-specific and custom-built applications. There was a cloud computing session, Taking Your Practice into the Cloud, the day before the cloud computing track. And there was also another Google Apps session called Google Tools and Apps for Lawyers, which explored various tools lawyers can use, for free.

Tools were a theme throughout TECHSHOW. Glancing at the bullet points from Oregon Law Practice Management’s post hammers the theme home. Microsoft OneNote, Google Tools and Apps for Lawyers, Developing Documents Using Collaboration Tools, 60 iPhone Apps in 60 Minutes. And let’s not forget the Google-Powered Law Office, the Open Source Powered Law Firm and a session on Effective Case Management Tools. All tools lawyers can use to make their practices more efficient, and better serve their clients.

Suffice to say, the 25th anniversary of TEHCSHOW demonstrated that cloud computing is here to stay, and that it is being viewed more as a useful, practical tool for legal professionals.

Congratulations to TECHSHOW 2011 chair Paul Unger and the planning board, the ABA Law Practice Management section, presenters, vendors and all who had a hand in making the 25th Anniversary a success!

Needless to say, we’re quite excited, and curious, about what TECHSHOW 2012 will bring.