Key takeaways from ABA TECHSHOW 2015

Attendees at the ABA TECHSHOW 2015, held April 16-18 in Chicago, Illinois, had the opportunity to learn from tech-savvy lawyers and professionals and see the latest products and services from exhibitors. Below is a recap of select sessions, along with tips gleaned from panelists.

Online reputation management

With the growing number of consumer review sites like Avvo, Martindale-Hubbell, and Yelp, lawyers need to be on their A-game regarding their online presence. “At some point, it’s becoming more likely that people are going to write something about you online,” said panelist Gyi Tsakalakis, co-founder and director of AttorneySync, during “Shaping Your Narrative—Online Reputation Management.” One of the most important steps in protecting an online reputation is being aware of what’s already out there. Sites like,, and Google Alerts are helpful services, he noted.

Have a bad review? Don’t panic—and certainly don’t be combative or defensive. “When you start arguing and getting defensive, you put a spotlight on that negative review,” said panelist Allison Shields, president of Legal Ease Consulting Inc. Instead, she said, be brief and show concern. “You’re really not responding to the person who is giving you the negative review. What you’re really doing is responding so that other people who see that review will see how you responded.” Shields also stressed the importance of staying mindful of local ethics rules and confidentiality expectations when replying to reviews.

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SXSW panel asks if tech is law's friend or foe?

“The world is becoming automated, and law is no exception.” This is an unavoidable reality, according to panelists of the South by Southwest Interactive session “Your Next Lawyer Could be a Machine,” who said that it is a “scary time” for lawyers who don’t embrace the possibilities of a technologically driven future but “an incredible time” for entrepreneurship-minded lawyers who do.

Nicole Bradick, owner and chief strategy officer of CuroLegal, began the session with a primer on the historical law firm model, which she described as being a pyramid that is based on recruiting the best law student graduates and having them “work their tails off” to make a profit. This is a problem, she said, because inefficiencies are tolerated, and even encouraged, due to their resulting increases of billable hours and because some clients are unwilling to pay for the “hyper-productive” pyramid base.

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Several 'keys' to saving time in Word

By Ivan Hemmans, ABA TECHSHOW Board 2015

For those select few who spend a significant portion of their days drafting, revising, or reviewing documents in Microsoft Word, even the smallest productivity improvement can have a huge impact on how much work gets done. Here are a few simple keyboard combos that can help raise the productivity bar.

Shift+F3 to cHANGE cASE

Shift+F3 is the Change Case command. When invoked, it changes the case of selected text. If all lowercase text is selected, it capitalizes the first letter of each selected word. If each of the selected words begins with a capital letter, it changes all the text to uppercase. And, if all the words are already uppercase, it then changes the selected text to all lowercase letters. It is worth noting that the Change Case command toggles between sentence case — the first letter of the selected range as capital followed by the rest in lowercase — and uppercase if the last character of the selected text is some form of punctuation.


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State Bar of Texas offers members discounted registration to ABA TECHSHOW

The State Bar of Texas is offering its members the opportunity to register for ABA TECHSHOW 2015 at a significant discount.

State Bar of Texas members can save up to $355 off the registration price for the conference, scheduled for April 16-18 at the Chicago Hilton. Early bird registration ends March 6.

Receive your discount by using the State Bar of Texas event promoter code TECHSHOWEP15. Register now at

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Web Links from Patrick Keating

Zite searches the web to find the most recent publications in subject areas that users select. It is a one-stop shop that allows me to avoid running multiple web searches each day.

Seth Godin publishes a new post each day on business, marketing, and shipping work that matters.

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Web links from Benson Varghese

Feedly: Feedly is my favorite news aggregator. It allows you to review the latest news from hundreds of sources within just a few minutes.

Google Alerts: Google Alerts notifies you when a term is used on the Internet. It is particularly useful if you are handling a case that has garnered media attention or if you want the most up-to-date information on a legal issue. 


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Casemaker and Fastcase: Reviews from the trenches

This summer, the State Bar of Texas became the first bar association in the nation to offer its members access to both Casemaker and Fastcase. While this is no doubt exciting for those attorneys who already know the benefits offered by these two legal research products—others might be wondering how it affects their daily practice and how the two products differ.

At $2,000, the State Bar has estimated that access to Fastcase and Casemaker is the most valuable benefit it provides for its members. Deciding which of the two to use largely depends on personal preferences as the platforms have distinctive designs and user experiences (for example, some liken Fastcase to using a Mac and Casemaker to using a PC).

Here’s what two lawyers—one a fan of Fastcase and the other preferring Casemaker—have to say about their experiences. To get more information on all the differences between Fastcase and Casemaker, read the September Texas Bar Journal’s Technology column.

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Decreasing the paper shuffle in Montgomery County

Although many of Texas’s 254 counties have technologically savvy infrastructures, others have not yet implemented modern, digital operations. Some of these communities are small or remote and less “plugged-in,” while others are more populated but satisfied with or accustomed to their current system. But the permanence of the digital age and the Texas Supreme Court’s e-filing mandate are encouraging many counties to start the switch. The next e-filing deadline—for courts in counties with a population of 100,000 to 199,999—is Jan. 1, 2015.

Montgomery County is one such local government in transition. Encompassing the city of Conroe, about 45 miles north of Houston, and a majority of the Woodlands, Montgomery County has a population of approximately 485,000. In 2012, the county started its still-ongoing move away from paper, “homegrown” computer systems, and outdated software. Like many Texas counties, Montgomery had already been scanning and digitally storing all incoming documents, but until recently it had no way to electronically “move” those files to one location accessible by all departments.

“For the courts, the clerks, and the attorneys, we were using 20-year-old software that was non-Windows based, non-work flow oriented—not really designed to take advantage of efficiencies and productivities that you can attain with current methods,” said Marshall Shirley, IT director for Montgomery County. “We knew we needed to do a refresh on these systems.”

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New law practice management website offers helpful resources and CLE

The Law Practice Management Committee of the State Bar of Texas has launched a website, available at, that features the popular how-to brochures used by solo and small firm practitioners. While much of this content previously was available through the TexasBarCLE website, the LPM website serves as its new home and gathers other relevant material from additional departments within the State Bar.

Attorneys looking to learn about practice management will appreciate the website’s streamlined organization and focus on material relevant to just this topic. Users can navigate the site based on which of the three categories they fall under: starting a practice, maintaining a practice, or looking to grow a practice. The site provides easy access to downloadable and printable resources produced by the committee, including the how-to brochures and the Closing a Practice collection of recently written and peer-reviewed articles. There are also links to LPM-related CLE, State Bar publications, and the Texas Young Lawyers Association’s 10-Minute Mentor video series.

The LPM Committee and TexasBarBooks have designed the new website with Texas attorneys in mind. “We field calls and emails from State Bar members facing issues about law practice management,” said Conor Jensen, web content specialist for TexasBarBooks, which serves as the State Bar’s liaison to the committee. “Usually, more than one attorney is facing a similar set of questions, so we have the advantage of knowing what issues are coming up specifically for Texas attorneys.”

For more information, go to (The LPM website also can be accessed through the TexasBarCLE website,, by clicking “Law Practice Mgmt” in the left-hand menu.)

Firm introduces patent procedure app

Searching for the latest on patent law post-grant proceedings? Look no further than your smartphone. Fish Richardson, a global firm with offices in Austin, Dallas, and Houston, has launched the “Fish Post-Grant” app for iOS and Android.

The free application features details of post-grant proceedings, with timelines and related articles; archives of webinars; news alerts; and listings of district court stays. Users can also enable push notifications, which automatically appear when an important ruling is added. 

Joshua A. Griswold, principal in Fish Richardson in Dallas, said the app was developed to help users stay abreast of the quickly developing patent landscape.

“While our dedicated website——provides a vast amount of content and analysis, it is easier to have it available on the go, on your smartphone or tablet,” he said.

Griswold noted that the program’s content is helpful both for users who need just a little bit of information on procedures and those who want to be more conversant and educated on the topic.

“I use it, and it has become a part of my morning routine,” said Griswold.

For more information, go to



Twibel, Tumblr, and the First Amendment: Ongoing themes at SXSW Interactive

With the option to hide behind avatars, handles, and screen names, people can be downright mean, even libelous, while communicating online. When defamatory statements are published online and a victim chooses to take action, who is to blame?

For websites like Tumblr and Twitter, which provide outlets for anyone with a username to publish content, the answer is somewhat complicated. But one thing is certain—it’s not them.

Under Section 230 of Title 47 of the United States Code, passed as part of the Communication Decency Act of 1996, web hosts have protection against legal claims arising from hosting information written by third parties. This includes content such as hate speech and sex trafficking.

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SXSW Interactive Wrap-up: With Lightning Speed

South by Southwest has a tradition of encouraging innovators to push the tech envelope. But with new developments come new legal questions, and technology often moves faster than the legislative process.

During the opening days of SXSW Interactive, tech and law experts converged to discuss some of the legal issues currently at play regarding tech development. From patent control to protecting personal information, the topics were hot—and the opinions surrounding them were just as heated.

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Attorneys must include email addresses on e-filed documents

With the continued implementation of the Texas Supreme Court’s e-filing mandate, attorneys are reminded to include their email addresses on all e-filed documents, including petitions, pleadings, and motions. Documents uploaded to third-party Electronic Filing Service Providers should already have the email address(es) noted. 

According to Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 21 (f)(2), “The email address of an attorney or unrepresented party who electronically files a document must be included on the document.” Additionally, TRCP 57 states, “Every pleading of a party represented by an attorney shall be signed by at least one attorney of record in his individual name, with his State Bar of Texas identification number, address, telephone number, email address, and if available, fax number.”

When this information is omitted from e-filed documents, clerks can have a difficult time serving attorneys electronically and communicating other important messages. 

394th Judicial District Court becomes digitized

A courthouse in a West Texas county known for wide-open spaces and dry desert landscapes has just become fully digitized.

On Jan. 17, the 394th Judicial District Court in Brewster County unveiled new technological additions, which included several digital inputs and computer monitors at the bench, lawyers’ tables, and jury box. This technology will be used to display evidence from one computer, the Internet, and even cell phones on screens throughout the courtroom. “Eliminating the voluminous paper exhibits increases courtroom efficiency, reduces overhead and man-hours in the district clerk’s office (which is tasked with storing trial exhibits), and decreases legal fees and expenses paid by litigants,” Judge Roy Ferguson told the Alpine Daily Planet. “Legal research can be performed and presented live in the courtroom.”

While some courts in the state have implemented similar technology, it is less common in rural areas such as Brewster County, which is the largest county in Texas land-wise but home to just one city—Alpine. Still, a digital transition is taking place in many locations throughout the state, partly made more useful by the recent Texas Supreme Court e-filing mandate. In fact, Ferguson told the Daily Planet that the e-filing mandate saved the district enough money to completely pay for the courthouse’s digital update.

According to Ferguson, the next steps in digitizing all five courtrooms in the district likely will include video-conferencing for remote witness appearances and remote live Spanish/English interpretation. For more on the 394th District Court’s digitalization, as well as photos of the courtroom’s new electronic equipment, go to the Alpine Daily Planet at

Texas Lawyers: Get $200 Off Registration for ABA Techshow 2012

State Bar of Texas members can get $200 off the early bird registration price for ABA TECHSHOW 2012, March 29-31 at the Chicago Hilton. Early bird registration ends February 17.

ABA TECHSHOW presents a great opportunity to learn from and network with peers and legal technologists from around the country.

Receive your discount by using EVENT PROMOTER CODE: EP1215. Gather a group of 10 for even bigger “SuperPass” savings. Register now at

Local bar association to treat Federal Circuit judge to East Texas hospitality

Today's issue of The Recorder, an ALM publication in California, includes an article about the Eastern District of Texas ("Big Tech Shouts 'Yipee!,' Patent Bar Chattering as Rader Heads to Texas"). 

To help prepare for his imminent elevation to chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, Judge Randall Rader will preside over five cases in Texas' Eastern District in April. While the article devotes much of its space to describing the tension between the Eastern District and the Federal Circuit and the stir Rader's early rulings have provoked, it concludes with as fine a representation of East Texas hospitality as you're likely to find. Members of the Eastern District of Texas Bar Association are continuing a tradition from before the days when the Court had a resident judge by preparing a dinner in honor of Rader at a small, lakeside lodge. According to Michael C. Smith, a partner in the Marshall office of Siebman, Burg, Phillips & Smith, L.L.P. who maintains a blog about the Eastern District, the menu will include "fried chicken, catfish, slaw, vegetables, pancakes, and cobbler."

In 2006, Smith wrote an article for the Texas Bar Journal about the Marshall Court's patent docket ("Rocket Docket: Marshall Court Leads Nation in Hearing Patent Cases"). The article is worth linking to if only for the photo that manages to capture in a single frame a successful patent application, the courthouse, the U.S. flag, and a pick-up truck. East Texas hospitality, indeed.


A new take on the case digest

Casemaker, which provides free caselaw for Texas lawyers, has launched a unique case digest service for Texas legal pros. 

The site kicks the traditional digest up a notch by allowing keyword searches and sorting case summaries by practice area, court, and even judge. Take a look now for free, and starting on September 1st sign up for a free 30-day trial of the service, which will cost $39.95 per year.

For a tour of the new case digest service, sign up for a free webinar, offered every Monday.

Remember that Casemaker 2.1 is free to all Texas lawyers and includes the full text of cases from all 50 states and an expanded federal library. Casemaker offers free live and recorded webinars on its research tools.

Email yourself a case with Casemaker 2.1

File this one under "the small things that count." Casemaker 2.1, our free legal research tool, has quietly added some new printing options you'll find useful.

Looking at the full text of a case, you'll see a print dialogue in the upper right (see below) which now allows you to print the case, save it as a PDF or Word doc, or email it to yourself. You can also create a PDF of or email Casemaker search results.


Using the email feature, for example, you might have a Gmail account dedicated to legal research where you email cases for access anywhere.

Texas attorneys can access Casemaker 2.1 anytime from My Bar Page on or on Casemaker now includes free case law from all 50 states and an expanded federal library.


A Milestone for the State Bar's Social Network

In May, Bill Medaille of Austin became the 10,000th Texas lawyer to register for Texas Bar Circle, our social and professional network for State Bar of Texas members. Since then, 800 more lawyers have joined the ranks.

We’re recognizing user 10,000 because he met a goal of the 2008-2009 State Bar Web Services Committee, which helped launch the community in 2007 as the first-ever social network by a bar association. Recently, the California, Oklahoma, Missouri, Minnesota, and Tennessee state bars, and others, launched or announced their own communities.

So how is Texas Bar Circle doing? The trend line of registrations for the first half of 2009 matches lawyer adoption of LinkedIn, which Kevin O’Keefe of LexBlog called an “avalanche” and Stem Legal’s Steve Matthews estimated at 840,000 in June 2009, up from 406,000 in December 2008. Of course our numbers won’t approach those, but it seems the legal industry is catching on to the value of social networking.

Texas Bar Circle users have created more than 250 groups on topics ranging from business development (Solo and Small Firm Practice, Rainmaking) to regions (Houston Attorneys, Austin Attorneys) to hobbies (Biker Barristers,  Musical Lawyers) to eclectic (God Forsaken Places to Practice; Killers, Thieves, and Lawyers). They’re also making direct connections and finding opportunities on a platform which we hope, as an exclusive community of lawyers, has a unique value among tools like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, which lawyers should also embrace.

If you’re a Texas lawyer and not yet a Circle member, check it out at You won’t find the bells and whistles of a Facebook or LinkedIn, but you will find a usable tool for building relationships – which is what social networking is all about.



The end of lawyers? Susskind shakes up ABA Techshow

Legal technologist Richard Susskind created a huge buzz among attendees of last week's ABA Techshow with his keynote speech about the future of the legal profession. Susskind's latest book, "The End of Lawyers? Rethinking the Nature of Legal Services," foretells radical changes to business of law, including a commoditization of nearly every aspect of legal services aside from a lawyer's own expert judgment.

According to Susskind, in order to meet client demands of "more for less," lawyers will have to become much more efficient, which they'll do through commoditization of legal work and "multi-sourcing" (breaking up a legal matter into many pieces which are handled by different providers). They must also, says Susskind, learn to collaborate through community-based sharing of legal knowledge. Online social networking, he predicts, will dominate legal services.

Lawyers of the future will be project managers and risk managers, not "expert trusted advisors" as they're thought of today. Rather than frame his predictions with gloom and doom, Susskind emphasized that we're not near "the end of lawyers" but in a time of tremendous opportunity for those willing to innovate and approach work differently.

A free video of Susskind's keynote will be posted soon on the ABA Techshow website.