From the Oregon Coast to London
By Monica Bay
WELL, let's put it this way. I don't exactly recommend flying across country the day after hand surgery. Actually, the flying really wasn't the bad part -- it was my rather foolish bravado to think that I would be able to easily drive the three hours needed to get from the Portland airport to the Oregon coast.
(We won't even talk about how United managed to lose my checked luggage again, other than to acknowledge that this time that they were absolutely superb and got it to me within three hours.)
Christopher Baldwin of Oyez Legal Technologies.
Anyway, I did manage to get there (thank you, automatic transmission) and it was so worth it. "There" was the Westin Salishan Lodge & Golf Resort, where the ABA's Law Practice Management section was holding its fall meeting under the leadership of Bill Gibson. He could not have picked a more beautiful venue for the meeting; the complex is enveloped in the Northwest's trademark redwoods and mist. I was instantly sorry that I could only stay one night.
I was honored to be invited by the section to present a luncheon speech about my experiences covering the World Trade Center disaster in New York, and the ramifications of the Sept. 11 tragedies on the legal community (disaster preparation, recovery, etc.)
A huge thank you to Gibson for the opportunity, to West Group's Gretchen DeSutter for helping me with the projector, etc., and to the attendees for their very kind accolades.
London via New York
I would have gone straight to London from the West coast, but I wanted to return to New York City to see my aunt's one-woman show, Elaine Stritch At Liberty, which was beginning previews at the Joseph Papp Public Theater in Greenwich Village. I admit I'm completely biased, but even if I wasn't related (she married my uncle, actor John Bay), I'm sure I would have had the same reaction to this amazing, poignant performance. It's nothing short of breathtaking.
I was thrilled to see that The New York Times critics agreed, giving Stritch rave reviews. The show, which quickly sold out, has just been extended through Dec. 30, so run, don't walk, for tickets.
Room with a view: Westin Salishan Lodge & Golf Resort
Next, onto London, booked on UA 976 -- my favorite routing (because it ain't a red-eye) and the only flight in weeks that wasn't jammed. It was, hands down, the best service I've ever had on United.
By the way, people are flying. Yes, schedules have been trimmed (esp. ORD-LGA), but that may not be for long -- almost all of my trips went out full, if not oversold. But security isn't going as smoothly as in the first weeks after Sept. 11. There were, literally, 1000 people in line to get through the metal detectors at O'Hare on Nov. 6. (But that was the day after the morons let that idiot through with seven knives.) IMHO, the government can't take over security rituals soon enough! O.K., Enough whining.
John Tredennick, Neil Ewin, and Liam Ferguson
This year's LegalTech London was held at the new ExCeL conference center, in the Docklands area of London. It's a gorgeous facility, and I suspect, once the adjacent Canary Wharf area completes its initial build-outs (Clifford Chance, among others, is in construction), it's going to be a prestige venue for events.
The only drawback: It takes about 45 minutes to get there from downtown London, making it a bit difficult for spontaneous attendance by High Street firm lawyers.
But it was well worth the easy tube ride. I moderated a panel on litigation support with John Tredennick of CaseShare Systems Inc. / Holland & Hart; Neil Ewin of the "XML Working Party" and Solicitec; and Liam Ferguson, of Ernst & Young. As always, Tredennick was fascinating as he demonstrated how he had effectively used graphics to energize a case about spawning salmon that would have been stifling without strong video, charts and other visuals.
I also had the opportunity for a very interesting chat with expatriate Christopher Baldwin, now a Londoner and managing director of Oyez Legal Technologies. Baldwin and colleague Louise Ashley helped explain some of the differences and similarities between U.K. and American legal technology.
And of course, you can't (or shouldn't) go to London without partaking of West End theater: John Lipsey, of Interface Software Inc., and I enjoyed the silly, bubbly Mamma Mia, and Tredennick and I suffered through ART, which was perfectly dreadful.
Topic A among Americans in London was the seemingly universal inability to access the Internet through our normal ISPs. Tredennick and I were both going nuts with access problems. Only Ian Levit seemed to be able to connect easily. (He uses GRIC, an alliance of ISPs that routes him to his own home ISP.)
Normally, I'm a huge advocate of America Online, which works almost flawlessly in just about any city I've visited worldwide. But on my last two trips to the U.K., I've been unable to connect to any of the dozen or so numbers listed on AOL's access roster.
After trying for an hour, with the help of the excellent staff at The Connaught hotel, I gave up and decided to try to open a local ISP account (because I go to the U.K. so often). So I wandered over to Oxford Street and got a CD-ROM from the British Telecom (BT) cell phone shop.
But I hit a Catch 22: They won't give you an account without a British address and a BT phoneline -- you can't just give them a credit card -- it's all tied to phone bills. Eventually, I was able to jerryrig a pay-per-use BTOpenworld account by using the hotel address and phone number (a long story for another day; I can't wait to get the bill.) Once I had access via BT, I then tried to e-mail AOL's technical support department. A complete waste of time: All you get, days later, is vague form letters that seem to be triggered by key words in your inquiry.
Completely incensed, I sic'd assistant editor Richard Peck on the task, and told him to go through the media relations staff to try to get an answer. That worked, and very quickly.
AOL's Jimmy Hennessy resolved the mystery and offered alternatives. Turns out BT has upgraded U.K. phone lines to a new server, which knocked out connectivity for users of Windows 2000 software who were trying to access the "0845" numbers. Bingo. That was moi. (Something about an L2tp connection.)
After I got back home, I upgraded to Windows XP and to AOL 7 -- which should solve the problem, says Hennessy. AOL 7 is designed to use a Wan Miniport Driver, which can use old and new access numbers, he explained.
But if you are still on W2000, one alternative is to purchase a U.K. AOL "light access" account (or if you've got a lot of folks traveling to the U.K, set up a regular flat rate account). (So, AOL: How about adding some notes on your U.K. roster so others won't go through this nonsense?)
Anyway: Even with access, getting on the Internet in the U.K. can be very, very expensive, as hotels charge big bucks for phone connections, even to local numbers. But there is an alternative: Internet cafes.
Again on Oxford Street, I discovered the joys of easyEverything: The Internet Shop. For a pound (about $1.50) you can get an hour or more of online access (exactly how much time depends on traffic and time of day.) Daily and monthly passes are available. The shop, directly across from the Bond St. tube station, is open 24/7, but does have limitations: You can't plug in your own laptop, or print, so it's basically helpful only for checking e-mail and surfing. It's hooked in with Nestles, so you can get your java fix while you surf.
Chicago: Debra Hix-Sykes, David Hambourger, Kingsley Martin; John Janes (front)
The chain currently operates in 15 cities in eight countries (In the U.S.: only in New York City's Times Square, so far).
24 Hours in Chicago
Ian Levit demonstrates his software at ExCeL
Last, a quick flight to Chicago for LegalTech Chicago. It was gratifying to see the steady traffic at the show, as life seems to settle back to regular routines.
During the whirlwind trip, we had a great visit with Jean Richards, marketing manager for Spring-field-based Legal Files Software Inc.
And once again, I have nothing but praise for terrific panelists, this time for the program on "Technology Overload," which discussed how firms can best plan for and handle upgrades and technology installations.
They included David Hambourger, of Chicago's Winston & Strawn; Debra Hix-Sykes, of HS Group Management Inc.; consultant Kingsley Martin, who recently left Kirkland & Ellis; and John Janes, of Ernst & Young (Hambourger and Janes are both LTN Editorial Advisory Board members.)
The trip was capped off by dinner at Shulas, one of my favorite Chicago restaurants, which just happens to be at show headquarters at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers. Hey, it's very convenient, and a little red meat once in a while won't kill you! Yvonne Dornic and Mark Tramontozzi of eSentio Technologies, and the aforementioned Ian Levit of Levit & James provided the good company.
Now, onward to the final show of the year: LegalTech New Orleans. I can't wait for that venue! Beignets here I come!