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LegalTech NY Reports: first day summary

Here's a round-up of the first day at LegalTech New York courtesy of our associates at InsideLegal –

Day 1 of LegalTech New York is a wrap and the dust is settling on what turned out to be a very eventful beginning for one of the biggest legal technology shows. While last year was indicative of the down economy with low attendance and lackluster enthusiasm both from vendors and attendees, LegalTech New York 2010 is hopefully a preview of what economic recovery in legal looks like. As to be expected, the “big boys” arrived with guns blazing, led by Thomson Reuters Legal's launch of WestlawNext, the self-proclaimed next generation in legal research. Everywhere you looked in New York, you found advertisements for WestlawNext – the baggage claim at LaGuardia; guys on the street in front of the hotel giving away coffee; and the gyro street vendor at the corner complete with Westlaw jackets and WestlawNext umbrellas on their carts. An impressive press conference, complete with a mini-string section and a slick multimedia show, touted the most comprehensive and expensive R&D project in the company's legal history – to a VERY captive audience (there was over 50+ of us jammed into a room best suited for 20-30). 

LexisNexis, on the other hand, shot back with a more familiar tone – Microsoft. Their new offering, LexisNexis for Microsoft Office, aims to empower lawyers to search and find relevant research in the Office applications they already use. While these two easily made the biggest opening splash, we'll have to see what sort of wake they leave behind. Westlaw, which is already considered an expensive research solution, indicated WestlawNext will cost “a modest premium” according to company executives. A few industry consultants mentioned that compared to free/low-cost rising stars such as Google Scholar and Fastcase (which just launched its free iPhone app), the value proposition for solos and small firms becomes tougher. (Editor's comment: is it my imagination or hasn't Lexis made similar announcements every year since about Windows 95?)

While attendance and enthusiasm were definitely up from 2009, we did notice the aftermath of a down year with a noticeably lower booth count, especially on the 3rd show floor which is completely void of exhibitors this year. Less vendors but more attendees than last year could turn into a great thing for vendors – we'll report back post-show to see.

Other big news from the floor was somewhat predictable and focused on all things SaaS and “heavenly” – with cloud launches by Nextpoint and Exterro. FTI Consulting, which has really picked up steam on R&D, especially since its 2008 acquisition of Attenex, announced the general market availability of Acuity, the company’s new integrated e-discovery and document review offering. Above all, the theme of predictable, up-front, and simple to understand pricing is popping up on more e-iscovery vendor ads, booth demos and in press materials. We counted 96 e-discovery/litigation support vendors.

Also noteworthy, on a non-software or product launch note, is the availability of the Perfect Practice – Legal Technology Institute Case, Matter, and Practice Management System Software Study. Conducted by the University of Florida Levin College of Law's Legal Technology Institute (lead by its Director, Andy Adkins) in the fall of 2009, the 320 page final report provides information to assist law firms and corporate legal departments in making better management software decisions. Here's a summary of some of the findings…

• The most common reason provided for purchasing a case management system (70%) is “to become more efficient”.
• Only 12% of respondents indicated they were “not satisfied with their current CMS”.
• Respondents indicated the biggest problem with CMS is “integration into the firm or law department” (36%) and “total cost of a CMS” (30%).
• More than half (55%) of respondents indicated that having document management system (DMS) functionality in a CMS was important; less than half of the respondents indicated that having full front office/back office functionality in a single system was important.
• Less than one-third (28%) of respondents indicated that staff using the technology had significant input into the decision-making process.
• Less than 20% of respondents indicated that CMSs are “too complex”.
• The use of software as a service (SaaS) platforms has increased slightly over 10 years from 9% (reported in LTI’s 2000 ASP Study) to 14%.
• There is not a higher SaaS adoption rate for small law firms and legal departments. However, almost half (45%) of large firms or legal department respondents indicated they had used a hosted solution for document review.
• Recommendations and referrals are still the main source of information and decision for selecting software, as reported by more than half of respondents.
• Software trials and references are more important than case studies and white papers when researching software.
• “Ease of use”, “cost of software and services” and “integration into existing technology” were the most important decision drivers for selecting new technology.