The ABA's '99 Tech Survey Is Not Exactly Reliable
by Monica Bay
THE American Bar Association's 1999 Legal Technology Survey Report is finally out, but we're wondering why they bothered. To say it's wildly unreliable is probably a gross understatement.
First clue? The introduction's little missive on "methodology." For starters, they used a 801-question survey, which "was administered mainly via the World Wide Web." Who in their right mind has time to answer an 801--question survey?
They "recruited" respondents via ads in the July and August 1999 A.B.A. Journal. Fair enough. They also posted to a variety of legal listservs. Good move. But then
came the trouble: "After the listserv postings, a case management vendor unfortunately faxed out invitations of its own," the report states.
Hmmmm. Could that vendor have been Gavel & Gown? Would that explain why Amicus Attorney ranked at 74 percent of solos and 70 percent of small firms, when the next runner up --Time Matters -- came in at 6 percent for solos and 7 percent for small firms. (Abacus Law placed third, with 3 percent and almost 2 percent, respectively.)
It was most definitely an Amicus fax, admits David Whelan, without hesitation. Whelan is director of the A.B.A.'s Legal Technology Resource Center. Whelan says he inherited the project, which was was so far down the path as to be unstoppable. The criticism, he says, "is completely fair. We realized that the Amicus Attorney fax was going to skew the software numbers, and we expect that other numbers were probably skewed for the same reason, because it was attracting a particular segment of the legal market," Whelan concedes. But all is not completely lost, he says. "It may be a strength because it pulled a lot of solo and small firm data that is pretty interesting."
Another problem: of the 1,245 surveys returned, only 403 were usable.
"It was an awfully long survey, with the demographics at the end," he notes. And although it was not necessary to answer all the questions, if people failed to complete the demographics section, the surveys were worthless, he explained.
"I wouldn't recommend software based on looking at that survey," Whelan says. "But I think Amicus is a good product."
Cathy Kenton, of third-runner up Abacus, took it all in stride. "I guess what I would say is next time the A.B.A. wants to do a survey, let us know so we can send faxes, too," she smirked. "I think they ought to retract it. It's ridiculous," she said.
"We considered not printing," admits Whelan. "But it was a project already underway, and we almost felt obligated."
(If for some reason you still want it, you can get a copy for $249 [members] or $399 [non-members] by calling 800-285-2221.)
What's the future for the survey? The A.B.A. is in discussions with several parties about outsourcing the project.
"Our mission is to serve the members, and our sense is that this survey serves the vendors," he said.
In the meantime, the resource center has started conducting a monthly tech poll, via telephone. They call 500 members and focus on a single topic. "In July, we asked 10 or 15 questions on how people use e-mail." The monthly results are online at ABA.
From Palms to Pines
September brought meetings at three different California venues: Palm Springs for LawNet; Lake Tahoe for the A.B.A. Law Practice Management section fall meeting; and San Diego for the Calif. State Bar annual meeting.
LawNet keeps renewing its reputation as one of the most important (and most fun) events of the year. Drawing MIS/CIO leaders from across the country, it convened this year at LaQuinta (near Palm Springs) August 29- Sept. 1, with panels, exhibits and no small amount of golf and parties. (In fact, it has been dubbed "GolfNet" by more than a few attendees.)
LawNet was jammed full of substance, with a huge array of seminars. (If you missed it, audio tapes are available for most sessions. Contact Master Duplicators at 714- 444-2200.)
I was privileged to moderate two panels, both with provocative and expert speakers. The first addressed litigation support, exploring what firm lawyers expect of their MIS staff. Panelists were John Tredennick, of Holland and Hart (and now C.E.O. of its technology spin-off, CaseShare Systems L.L.C.); Sam Guiberson, who recently launched Digital Advocates, an online CLE company; and consultant Cliff Shnier. (Scheduled panelist Tom O'Connor was temporarily grounded by his doctor and unable to fly.) It was practical, iconoclastic and educational, thanks to these three!
The second panel was a free-wheeling exploration of the deliciously vague topic of e-lawyering. It featured David Craig of Baker Robbins Co.; Hal Marcus of Document Forum; Larry Mull of Hummingbird Ltd.; Patrick Schlight of ELF; and Jeffrey Schwarz, of McDermott, Will & Emery. We explored everything from e-billing, to litigation support, to document management. I must admit I was just a tad hyperbolic with my prediction that billable hours as we know them today will be gone in five years, but then . . . maybe I'm right!
LawNet also is legendary for its parties, and once again, it did not disappoint. There was at least one fete every night, including a special Halloween-themed night in the exhibit hall (see page 84), and a Mardi Gras-themed gala that included a parade of decorated golf cart "floats", led by the La Quinta High School Marching Band.
LawNet confererence co-chair Catherine Reilly (of New York City's Martin, Clearwater & Bell) was crowned Mardi Gras Queen, and was chauffered around by Michael Kraft, of Kraft Kennedy & Lesser.
The "floats" included Gateway-inspired Midwest cows to New York skyscrapers to the Southern California entry that featured a bikini clad gal precariously perched on the "roof" of the cart. It didn't hurt to watch the procession from the patio bar, where they served margaritas in glasses so big you could use them for aquariums.
Resorting at Tahoe
If there's one thing the ABA Law Practice Management section does almost flawlessly, it's pick venues for its spring and fall meetings. Each incoming chair selects the meeting sites for his or her tenure, and it's become almost a subtle one-upsmanship contest to see who can choose the most dramatic locale.
Often, the chairs use the occasion to show off a home-state venue (outgoing chair Arthur Greene picked picturesque Portsmouth, N.H.); past venues have included Asheville, N.C., Skamania, Wash., and Banff, Canada.
This year, chair Dixie Lee Peterson picked the Resort at Squaw Creek, a stunningly beautiful location at the base of Olympic Valley (Squaw Valley) at Lake Tahoe.
After the Saturday Council Meeting a group of us, including Dan and Carolyn Coolidge, Sheryn Bruehl, Storm and Dan Evans, and Ross Kodner, took the "Tahoe Gal" paddle boat across the lake to Emerald Bay. What a fabulous way to relax. It's about three hours, and they serve up "beach food" along the way (burgers, hot dogs, etc.) at very reasonable prices.
The Tahoe meeting was held in tandem with the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm section meeting, and drew some ABA heavyweights, including new president Martha Barnett; chair of the House of Delegates Karen Mathis; and executive director Robert Stein.
Wrapping up the meeting, everybody gathered at the somewhat silly but fun Ponderosa Ranch in Incline Village, for a Saturday night BBQ that included a "whip" demonstration by a "gun slinger" cowboy. It won't surprise anybody who knows Dan Coolidge that he was quick to jump up when the cowboy asked for volunteers.
However, we won't go into what happened when Coolidge and Kodner had access to chocolate, marshmallows and graham crackers at the BBQ. Unfortunately, my camera was temporarily out-of-commission during this little "episode." (Hint: think John Belushi in Animal House.)
On to San Diego
The State Bar of Calif.'s annual meeting in San Diego Sept. 14-17, showed definite signs of revival, now that the Bar is back in good graces with the powers-that-have-changed in the Sacramento legislature. (The Bar was all but shut down by the previous governor, Pete Wilson, and its mandatory CLE program was challenged.)
If anything, the Bar's annual meeting is now even more of a CLE factory, with more than 100 courses offered during its four-day stint. Many panels were sold out as the state's lawyers scramble to complete their coursework now that the state Supreme Court has put its imprimatur on the mandatory program. Technology courses were among the most popular, including a great session on computer security by Albert Barsocchini, outgoing chair of the Law Office Technology and Practice Management section.
Barsochinni, a member of the LTN editorial advisory board, is succeeded by Carol Langford of Walnut Creek. David Bell, formerly of the Bar's staff and now a solo practitioner in Fairfax, (and Langford's law firm partner) is next in line.
It's been a couple years since the Calif. Bar last was in San Diego, and has that city ever exploded in energy and size. The "Gaslight" area, once a run-down, red-light-district blight, now overspills with revelers who jam jazz clubs and a wide range of restaurants. It's become a cross between Chicago's Rush Street and New Orlean's Bourbon Street, with more traffic than Manhattan at rush hour.
A group of us, including Barsocchini and his wife Julie Gustafson; immediate past section chair Judd Kessler and Andrea Kessler; Cathy Kenton and husband Joe Ventimiglia; Richard Lee of JusLaw.com, and Chris Braun, publisher of our sister paper (and my old roost), The Recorder, braved the traffic and enjoyed a fantastic dinner at Fio's, right in the middle of all the action. It was great fun, but the best part was getting there and back, via bicycle cab -- the current hot fad on San Diego streets.
"I grew up in the time when Shepard's was still a book," declared Pamela Samuelson, the keynote speaker at the State Bar luncheon, co-sponsored by its business law section.
Samuelson is a joint professor at the University of California's Boalt Hall law school and U.C.B.'s new School of Information Management and Systems. She also is a MacArthur Fellow.
Last spring, Samuelson and her husband Robert Glushko, (a director at Commerce One) donated $2 million to establish and endow The Samuelson Law, Technology and Public Policy Clinic at the law school.
The clinic "aims to establish a moral voice and public conscience for Silicon Valley," the school explains. It will address such issues as anti-trust, copyright, privacy and encryption topics. Students will file amicus briefs, draft model legislation and provide assistance to individuals suing corporations or government entities.
At the luncheon, Samuelson's keynote explored "the social life of information," and she pondered the impact of technology on the legal profession.
Ultimately, predicted Samuelson, artificial intelligence won't replace lawyers, because we have the unique ability to "size up the social context and adapt," when encountering everything from hostile judges to new clients.
But it's not surprising that lawyers are technophobic she joked. "We don't like technology. If we liked technology a lot, we would be in a different field."
Back in my Counsel Connect (now law.com) days, Laurie Gordon, Todd Drucker and I started some of the first online legal education courses. But in the last two months, there seems to have been an absolute explosion of online and non-classroom CLE offerings. For example:
* Sam Guiberson, a frequent contributor to LTN, has launched Digital Advocates service this month (See page 10). It will feature a lot of LTN regulars, including Tom and Gayle O'Connor, Michael Arkfeld, Cliff Shnier and John Tredennick. (Digital Advocates)
* The State Bar of Calif. has just signed a deal with Taecan.com, to provide its Web-based online CLE. Taecan offers courses in more than 20 states, and also has content partnerships with the Los Angeles County Bar Association.
* The Center for Continuing Education, of Monterey, Calif., lead by Robert Moselle, offers audio tapes as well as online self-study tests, for Calif. and New York attorneys.
* Houston-based whereas.com is offering CLE via CD-ROM.
* Peter Keane, formerly second-in-command at the San Francisco Public Defenders Office and now dean of Golden Gate University. School of Law, hosts Legal InCITE, MCLE on the Radio. It broadcasts on radio station KBZS (1220 AM) in the Bay Area.
Three one-hour seminars are offered at each sitting.
For example, a recent stint featured "Using Focus Groups in Civil Litigation", with Joseph A. Rice of Jury Research Institute; followed by "Employment Litigation: Management Perspective," with Michael Wilbur, of Cook & Roos; and "Mass Tort Litigation," with Lawrence Gornick, of Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison." (www.legalincite.com).
* Richard Lee, former head of Berkeley's Continuing Education of the Bar (and a former chair of the Calif. MCLE committee) is now vice president of JustLAW.com. The company offers a "full service video production and Internet broadcasting company for the legal market." The service helps CLE providers put content on the Web, and offers streaming media services and other tools.