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 getfivestars.com, en.mention.com, 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.

For the most part, the panelists noted, positive reviews can outweigh a single negative post, and it’s fine to ask for a happy client for an online review—so long as the request is reasonable and the evaluation is not false or misleading.

Using data for persuasion

“We have years to master our cases. Jurors have hours to understand what we’re talking about,” said panelist Randy Juip during “Data, Logic, and Persuasion—The Analysis and Presentation of Complex Data to a Lay Audience.” Juip, a member in Foley, Baron, Metzger & Juip, walked through a series of entertaining and effective charts as a way of explaining how to break down content when presenting complicated evidence to juries. “It is impossible to communicate a complex set of facts in an hour without using visuals,” Juip said. “If we fail them, we fail our clients.”

He stressed the importance of keeping slides short and concise without bullet points and an overabundance of words. Helpful tools from his data visualization arsenal include Visual.ly, Data Is Beautiful, FiveThirtyEight, and DadaViz. Juip also showed examples of misleading and unethical uses of data, which could jeopardize the outcome of a case. “You want to be really careful, not just because it’s wrong, but because if you get caught manipulating data, it will destroy your client’s case. One lie is all the jury needs to discount everything they hear.”

Security on mobile devices

If a cellphone, laptop, or tablet is used to do legal work, it carries sensitive client data and is at risk for data breaches. According to panelists of “Pocket Confidential—Securing and Protecting Information on Lawyers’ Mobile Devices,” many instances of data loss are the result of user error. During the session, John Simek, vice president of Sensei Enterprises, and Debbie Foster, partner in the Affinity Consulting Group, explained some common risks associated with mobile devices as well as some quick fixes.

Lost, misplaced, or stolen digital items are common, they noted, and when protections are not in place, data becomes susceptible. One solution is to be diligent about strong passwords and user authentication. “Encryption is your friend,” said Simek. “If you encrypt the data, it’s safe. As long as you control that encryption key, no one’s getting after it.” Simek also cautioned against clicking unknown shortened links or scanning random QR codes, which could redirect a user to a malicious website. Additionally, he recommended that lawyers take precautions when using Wi-Fi, such as turning off the function when not in use and avoiding unsecured connections. “The problem with Wi-Fi is you don’t know who’s on the other side of that wall,” said Simek. “You want to make sure you pick the right network.”

Foster stressed the importance of understanding permissions before installing or updating apps, some of which ask for large amounts of access on a device. “I have to decide, do I want the app or not? And sometimes the answer is going to be no,” she said, adding that lawyers should take the same precautions that they would take in any situation where you were giving just blanket access to things that could potentially be subject to attorney-client privilege.

Ultimately, it’s a balance of being aware and knowing what’s worth a potential risk. “Understanding what the threats are out there is half the battle,” Foster said.

 

Website Wizardry—The Right S-E-O for Y-O-U

Haley Odom Ackerman and Jennifer Ellis

When building a website, lawyers should include strong keywords in the headers but avoid “keyword stuffing,” which can read as spam when Google crawls the site for indexing. Additionally, a site’s message should be shaped with the intended audience in mind. “You’re not attracting lawyers; you’re attracting regular people,” said panelist Jennifer Ellis, an online marketing manager and attorney with Lowenthal & Abrams. One helpful tool to try is Google AdWords.

Bingoogleduckyahoo! How to Search for Anything and Find It
Carole Levitt and Craig Bayer
With each space entered into a search engine, an “and” is automatically generated. Something so small can really alter search results, but there are ways to get around it. Carole Levitt, president and founder of Internet for Lawyers, offered some shortcuts for Google: adding a minus sign (-) before a word will eliminate it from your search results, and the company’s “secret” proximity connector is “AROUND (#).” For an engine that doesn’t save history or filter results by previous searches or location, try DuckDuckGo.

LinkedIn’s Next Level—Getting More Return on Your Networking
Dennis Kennedy and Allison Shields
How can attorneys up their LinkedIn game? According to Allison Shields, president of Legal Ease Consulting Inc., and Dennis Kennedy, a lawyer with MasterCard Worldwide, they need to be actively connecting with others by starting and participating in groups, endorsing others, and tapping into alumni networks. Adding some personality to a profile is also important, said the panelists. Users should personalize invitations to connect and write a first-person bio with action-oriented words.

 

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.