Last week, both Thomson Reuters and LexisNexis held simultaneous summits on Wednesday, January 16 to sneak-preview their LegalTech New York agendas. Law Technology New's technology editor, Sean Doherty, covered the Lexis event in New York; I flew to icy Minnesota for the TR event, which like the Lexis program featured briefings and a dinner. The TR briefings were held at the company's Eagan campus, 15 journalists and bloggers (from the U.S. and U.K.) participated in the program that ran from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m.
>> Paradigm Shift: The biggest announcement wasn't the debut of two new, web-based practice management systems Firm Central, for small firms, and Concourse for corporate counsel (a product name inspired by airport hubs and their many connections). Rather, it was a change of direction for the entire company. Mike Suchsland, president of TR's legal division, was the first speaker, and proclaimed that Thomson Reuters is now embracing mobile work options and cloud computing. "In five years, we think we will be more of a software company than an information company, but we still need to support core legal processes," he said, also promising to repair customer service. (Read more in my Wednesday report, http://at.law.com/LTN117TR.)
>> Rick King, COO of technology, was up next, and explained some of the issues that had to be addressed before TR could move forward to cloud computing. He cited lessons learned by monitoring other large corporation's issues, such as Netflix' recent streaming issues on Amazon's cloud. King acknowledged that the legal community is obsessive about security, a key reason why TR decided to play to its strength (and history with data centers) and run its own private cloud. "We are providing the underlying infrastructure, which gives people the level of security [they expect]," he said. "There is never 100 percent security on anything, but we do spend a ton of money on keeping things secure," and will be spending more, he said. Reliability, security, and appropriate redundancies are crucial to customers, he said. "It needs to be up 24/7/365." The private cloud "costs money and expertise to maintain. Our job is to provide services at costs that are less than buyers can do themselves," King said.
>> @iammobilebob, aka Bob Schukai, without a doubt stole the day-long show. He joined Thomson Reuters in June 2010, and is responsible for "overseeing the development and execution of the mobile growth strategy ... including creation and deployment of system platforms, business model development, world-class user experiences, and new business opportunities," according to his LinkedIn profile. Schukai previously spent almost six years at Turner Broadcasting Systems, and almost 19 years with Motorola. He has a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering degree from Arizona State University.
Schukai doesn't exactly look the part of a typical Thomson Reuters executive, but he would fit right in at just about any Silicon Valley tech shop or road crew for Black Sabbath or Metallica. But when he started talking, nobody was checking their email. Eschewing the customary PowerPoint-supported presentation, Schukai instead immediately engaged audience with a lively presentation about why and how lawyers and other professionals are migrating to mobile, and how TR is rethinking its long-standing assumptions. "Our user engagement was poor," he conceded. "There was a mind-set with the company that our information is so good that people would do whatever it took to get it."
There is no reason why good design and great information services cannot be combined for a great user experience, said Schukai, who acknowledged that he has been influenced by Apple Inc.'s late CEO Steven Jobs. "We are changing our mind-set," he declared. "We now engage with Apple. The iPad is the most important product in the enterprise space security is decent. The iPad is setting the benchmark. Consumer pull is dragging enterprise along." That pull, he said, "is fundamentally affecting how Thomson Reuters is designing products. We are thinking two things: how do we make it personal, and contextual."
Features and services in the works include "a cool aggregator, that is tailored to what you want," and "contextual" products and workflow tools. Then he threw out some statistics: "In 2012, 700 million smart phones were sold, 850 units if you add tablets." This year, he said, predictions are for $1 billion in combined sales of smartphones and tablets. "In China, 400 million people are mobile web users," he noted. "The revolution that is going to come is not going to be on a desktop, it will be on a mobile device."
Wrapping up his presentation, Schukai noted that TR is leaning "much more strongly toward native build [apps]. Right now we largely are building where our customers are, which is iPads, not Andoids," he said. "We still build for BlackBerry, especially in financial services. There are some cross-platform [situations] where we use Adobe Air," he said, "but I don't think HTML5 is ready yet. It's about performance, and performance sucks," especially in financial services with its time sensitivity. The bottom line, he said: "Getting the experience right."
>> Kris Nimsger, managing director and general manager of TR's Litigation Solutions, outlined how litigation products would be growing and changing with the company's new orientation. Big Data drivers will be "a huge trend" she predicted, with an "explosion of technology to manage." She also anticipates that cloud offerings will help users store and interact with data and software applications on third-party services. SaaS (software as a service) will continue to grow, she said,as well as "platforms as a service, infrastructure as a service, and data as a service."
Nimsger noted that TR's CaseLogistix would be moving to the cloud "in a couple weeks," and West Case Notebook would also be in the first wave of products to go up. Both will be connected with Westlaw, she said. Also in the works, hosted practice technology that will help users process e-discovery on the cloud. The cloud-based services will have special appeal to smaller firms, and "obviate the need for infrastructure investment and maintenance," providing flexibility, she said. "The last place they want to invest is in infrastructure."
>> Allison Guidette, managing director, large law firms, discussed changes to the Elite product line, citing a key goal of improving cross-selling and business development workflow. Elite will respond to the "persistent focus on alternative fee arrangements, and predictable budgets," she said. The company wants to help firms "find new means to demonstrate value to corporate counsel."
Managing risk and complexity is an ongoing concern, as is accelerating and streamline workflows, she said. Three key areas are 1) relationship management, which has now become aligned into the Elite unit; 2) business development will be aided with TR's Contact Manager, Proposal Generator, Monitor Suite, and Current Awareness; and 3) education, addressed by the West LegalEdCenter. Integration between Elite and Westlaw will be improved, she promised, and the company is working on better aggregation of data, and filtering. TR will be partnering with Wolters Kluwer and CCH, she said, to offer "Practitioner Insights." At LegalTech New York, My Business Intelligence Mobile will be launched, first to iPad, and then to desktop.
>> Karl Florida, managing director of Small Law Firms and Consumer, had the last demonstration of the day, and showed off the Firm Central product, designed for small firms with up to 10 attorneys. (TR's ProLaw targets the larger end of the small firm market.) Firm Central is a web-based practice management system designed to address common challenges currently faced by practitioners, such as problems finding and storing documents; concerns about reusing documents and briefs and worrying that citations may not be current; the nuisance of having to install software and maintain services; integration of software; and re-entering the same client data into multiple systems.
Firm Central creates a dashboard hub, where lawyers can gather their most frequently used tools, said Florida. Lawyers can create matter files; import cases and research from WestlawNext; and share data with others in the firm with the option to designate files as private or public, he said. Time and billing functions help lawyers addresses the constant issue of lost billable time, by helping users "track time, capture expenses, bill clients, and get paid, while in the office or on the go," said Florida. TR has collaborated with Ebillity, which will power the time-and-billing function. The system will also offer off-line synchronization.
Firm Central, like its big sister Concourse, will integrate with the Microsoft Office suite. It also will have two-way synchronization with QuickBooks, he said. The browser-based service will support Apple's iOS, Google's Android, and Research in Motion's BlackBerry devices, he said.
Prices, said Florida, have not yet been finalized, but the service will be offered on a per-user, monthly subscription, with pricing bundles available. Firm Central will launch at LegalTech New York, and will be available in February, he said
LTN asked Florida to identify key competitors for the new product. "No one in the market integrates with research, and has all tools sets," he said, but noted that Clio, Rocket Matter, and LexisNexis' Firm Manager would likely be adversaries. "Our Windows desktop integration is stronger," he said.
(Handout: Download Firm Central Pilot Flyer.)
3 Geeks and a Law Blog post by Ryan McLead.
Monica Bay is editor-in-chief of Law Technology News and a member of the California bar. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @lawtechnews @LTNMonicaBay.