Recent Developments in Legal Technology: ABA TECHSHOW 2016 (Part 2)

by Tali Thomason on April 21, 2016

By Guest Blogger, Joel Jacobson


Did you miss part one of this two part series? Click here to get up to speed!


The TECHSHOW schedules built-in time between sessions to visit legal vendors. This is super valuable for any attorney starting a new practice or wishing to modernize a practice. There is everything under one roof needed to run a modern, tech forward firm. The list below is a small fraction of the over one hundred vendors and reflects the areas I’m most interested in. Again, I thought it’d be most useful to simply provide a bit of context about the area, and then links and a quick summary so that you can look directly at the products to judge whether they are a fit for your practice.

As a Mac and Gmail user, I did find it disappointing that many products are designed for PC and Outlook. I learned to quickly ask an exhibitor whether their product is compatible with my tools. Be sure to ask about this issue!

Online Marketing and Business Development

A common pain point is generating new business. Rainmaking involves much non-billable time and there is never certainty which efforts will result in new business. I’m interested in using the internet as a source and filter for leads. Several platforms exist in addition to those mentioned below, but so far I have not found one the reliably supplements strong relationships, word-of-mouth, and in-person business development.

  • Rocket Lawyer (Legal made simple): This platform connects prospects with a specific legal question to attorneys for a free 30-minute consultation. If the issue can’t be solved in half an hour, the attorney can choose to keep working with the member at the pre-negotiated price: 40% off their hourly rate, or 10% off their flat free. A quick search of Colorado attorneys available to answer questions on transactional, business law shows ~50 lawyers.
  • Avvo (Legal. Easier.): This network is a lawyer directory, Q&A for legal topics, source for form documents, and connector for individuals seeking legal services. A quick search of Denver business lawyers shows ~1,000 lawyers.

Document Assembly

Lawyers advise clients and then turn that advice into legal documents. Document assembly technology makes the process of preparing legal documents quicker and more accurate. Rather than starting from a previously used form and proceeding to change party names, choice of law, vesting start date, updating signature blocks, etc., imagine using a secure form to quickly and without error populate a new document. Personally, I’d rather spend more time advising clients and less time drafting standard documents. I see the goal as delivering higher quality documents in less time and creating stronger client relationships.

  • Hotdocs: Allows you to transform frequently used documents and forms into intelligent templates that enable fast production of custom documentation. HotDocs is the global market leader for document assembly technology.
  • Contract Express: Used by the world’s leading law firms and corporations and part of Thomson Reuters Legal Solutions. This document and contract automation software is trusted by the world’s leading law firms and corporations to generate standard legal documents from automated templates. I’ve had some experience with this tool and have been impressed.
  • Leaflet: Collaborative document automation designed to work how lawyers do. It automates your forms. Then it lets you mobilize those forms so you can work collaboratively with customers and co-workers.
  • Webmerge: Simplify your paperwork. WebMerge is an online platform that allows you to easily collect data, populate a document and send it to any contact automatically. The platform provides flexible document types, dynamic content, and delivery options that fit your business needs.
  • Exari: Exari was founded by lawyers with a goal of making lawyers’ jobs better so they can focus more on legal work and less on paperwork. More effective knowledge sharing will increase productivity and prevent you from reinventing the wheel, saving time and cost on training and repetitive work.

Practice Management

Effective and easy to use systems are key to leveraging technology. I’m on the hunt for a SaaS product that will make the entire practice easier by consolidating workflow from several, disparate tools into one platform.

Other than Manage Small Firm, these are software solutions that charge a monthly fee per user. The demos I was given showed the potential for tracking and organizing everything related to a legal matter including document automation, emails and records of phone calls and meetings, and storing and organizing files. I was most interested by Clio and Smokeball because both have appealing design and have had great success in other countries.

  • Clio: Bills itself as the most comprehensive, yet easy-to-use cloud-based law practice management software. Clio covers intake to invoice, with powerful features to manage cases, clients, documents, bills, appointments, time-tracking, reporting, and accounting. I spent some time at this booth and it seemed like the platform provides a very robust practice management solution.
  • Smokeball: This is case management software to make solo attorneys and small law firms more efficient and profitable. The tool attempts to make everyday tasks simpler to increase a firm’s productivity. Similar to Clio, it covers the key areas of practice. I was very interested by Smokeball, but it isn’t compatible with my Mac setup.
  • LEAP: This software is a completely integrated legal case management and accounting solution. Productivity tools include automated document production, time recording, billing and legal and trust accounting. Again, not the optimal solution for Macs.
  • Manage Small firm: Several small Colorado firms have used this service to their benefit. I spoke with a representative from Boulder. This company is the leading provider of outside CEO, COO and CFO services exclusively for the solo and small law firm (single-shareholder) market.

Software Replacing Lawyers?

Software is completely changing other industries and there is no reason to think that law will be different. On one hand I am nervous about losing legal jobs, but on the other I am excited at the prospect of spending more time problem solving and counseling clients on how to implement legal solutions rather than with legal research and drafting routine documents. Here are some of the developments bringing AI to law. I’ll be trying to ride the wave!

  • WordRake (Edit for clarity in Microsoft Word and Outlook): This was a really impressive product for review and edit of agreements and emails. The tool quickly scans and then redlines a document or email to make suggestions on clearer language to increase readability. I was told they recently signed a deal with a major Denver law firm so they are in the Colorado market. My problem is that it is not Mac friendly right now.
  • Lawgeex (Legal to the People). LawGeex automatically reads your contract and compares it to 1000s of similar ones in their database. The service analyzes how ‘standard’ the contract really is. I demoed this product on a commercial lease and had a follow-up call with the founder (a former lawyer) and plan to keep an eye on this company.
  • (Your AI powered personal assistant for scheduling meetings): Founded in 2014, builds and maintains an artificial intelligence powered personal assistant that schedules meetings. I’m planning to try it for scheduling coffee and lunch meetings.
  • ROSS (Your brand new super intelligent attorney):  This tool helps power legal research. It uses AI to understand questions in natural sentences like – “Can a bankrupt company still conduct business?”. It provides an instant answer with citations and suggests readings from a variety of content sources.


Joel is a corporate attorney with Rubicon Law Group, Ltd., and enjoys solving problems for growing, innovative companies. Joel currently serves as a Supervising Attorney at the Entrepreneurial Law Clinic in the University of Colorado Law School and the Executive Council of the Colorado Bar Association Business Law Section. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and his law degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School. He can be reached at


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