For attorneys, 2009 was the year of advanced smartphones, an introduction to practice management in the clouds and a new social network that allowed attorneys to market themselves and their firms 140 characters at a time.
So what’s in store for 2010? Lawyers USA spoke with practice management consultants and legal tech gurus to find out:
• The rise of e-readers.
With the launch of Amazon’s highly popular Kindle DX, attorneys are able to read depositions in PDF form, self-publish their own books and take sensitive documents home with them without the hassle of a briefcase stuffed with papers.
E-readers are expected to be even more prominent next year, as the Kindle DX becomes more ubiquitous and the Plastic Logic e-reader is released.
The Plastic Logic “has a touchscreen where the Kindle does not. It handles PDFs on one page. You can zoom in, make notes. It hits it right out of the park,” said Bryan Sims, author of the Connected Lawyer blog and a partner at Thompson, Rosenthal & Watts, LLP in Naperville, Ill..
Brett Burney, founder of the legal technology consulting firm Burney Consultants in Cleveland, Ohio, believes that e-readers will become a high-tech replacement for the legal pad.
“It’s set up similarly, but it’s electronic [and] allows you to record voices, take notes on it,” he said.
“You can record an entire meeting and even have access to rules and regulations [of civil procedure] in PDF form.”
• Smarter smartphones.
According to Jeff Beard, author of the LawTech Guru blog and a veteran industry consultant based in Illinois, smartphones will become outfitted with faster 4G networks, and will expand wifi service to more markets in 2010.
Beard also expects a rally from Blackberry, as the company attempts to keep pace with the furiously popular Apple iPhone, He anticipates that Blackberry will incorporate wifi and additional connectivity options, a stronger web browser to compete with the iPhone’s Safari and mobile social networking apps for Twitter and Facebook.
• Netbooks replacing laptops?
The smaller, lighter and cheaper netbook computers are a popular choice when traveling, but currently have limited capabilities (mostly word processing and e-mail).
Beard said that he expects netbooks will start incorporating faster dual-core processors, longer-lasting batteries and stronger graphics chips for high-definition video to compete with laptops.
The challenge, he said, is “inreasing the functionality while keeping the price below the $400-$500 range. Otherwise you bunch into laptop pricing.”
• Trial software in the clouds.
In 2009, attorneys became enamored with cloud computing (web-based software).
In 2010, the cloud could be entering the courtroom. Companies such as NextPoint are producing courtroom aids that will allow attorneys to highlight documents and organize evidence on a web browser.
“It does everything that software like Trial Manager does, but in a web browser, and it looks pretty slick,” said Burney.
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