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LegalTech 2010 offers new legal research, dictation, e-discovery tools

New York – LegalTech 2010 got off to a busy start, with lawyers and tech experts crowding exhibit halls and conference rooms to find out the latest news on e-discovery and legal technology services and products.

Here’s a look at some of the most interesting new offerings:

WestlawNext: Searching goes to the next level

Legal research shouldn’t be interesting, fun or easy, right? Westlaw says it can change all that.

With much fanfare, it launched WestlawNext, an upgrade to the existing Westlaw system, on the first day of LegalTech.

The product is a marked change from the prior system, with a dashboard that is cleaner and simpler to use. Users no longer have to work their way through a series of databases in order to search – you simply enter terms or a phrase and choose a jurisdiction.

Search options include case law, statutes, secondary sources and even court orders and administrative decisions, all clearly delineated. Users are given the option of filtering out different types of results and can further limit their search results by judge, reported or unreported opinion, date range or other options.

Some of the new features include a folder system to save documents, case summaries provided for search results, and the ability to highlight portions of a document as well as add notes.

In another improvement, when a document has been “red flagged” WestlawNext explains if it is because the decision was overruled or because it is unreported and therefore can’t be cited in that jurisdiction.

Westlaw describes the new system as “legal research goes human,” in part because the system remembers what you’ve looked at it (it will mark documents with a set of eyeglasses to let you know you’ve already viewed them) and it also offers other “related topics” that the system thinks you might be interested in based on your search.

Cost for the new service varies based upon the user’s existing plan with the company, so individuals interested in upgrading to WestlawNext should speak with their Westlaw rep.

The company is planning on rolling out additional features over the next few months, including integration with Kindle and various mobile devices.

KeyScan Keyboard: Scan while you type

KeyScan has combined a scanner with a keyboard in one time-saving, space-saving product.

The KeyScan Keyboard is PC compatible and looks like a normal computer keyboard with one difference – the upper right-hand corner has a built-in scanner.

The scanner will accept documents up to 8.5 inches and as long as 30 inches, but can also scan plastic cards, like driver licenses and ID cards.

Scanning begins automatically with the insertion of a document, with a resolution of 600 dpi. Scanned documents can be saved in a number of formats, from a Word doc to a PDF, TIFF or JPG.

Users can set up the software to default to a number of options, from saving the document to sending a fax or an e-mail attachment.

The KeyScan Keyboard is available on the company’s Web site for $139.99.

MerlinOne: E-discovery at a flat rate

MerlinOne is entering the e-discovery market using a novel approach. It is offering its services at a flat rate.

Instead of charging per gigabyte of electronically stored information, per the industry custom, MerlinOne charges an initial set-up fee and then a monthly fee after that (the monthly fee does vary depending on the amount of information, however).

For example, a smaller case, say 20 gigabytes of electronically stored information, would cost $1,800 for an initial set-up and then $1,800 per month for the life of the case.

The software is available in-house or in a Software as a Service (SaaS) hosted platform.

The company touts its speed, reliability and security, with multiple firewalls and the ability to restrict access to certain users. Searching ability includes documents, photos, e-mails, and even audio and video files.

Regus: Office space, videoconferencing and more

Whether you are working on a case in a different state and need office space for a few months, have a deposition in another city and need an office for just a few hours, or work from home but don’t want to meet clients in your living room, Regus may be able to help.

The company has office space in all major cities across the United States (and internationally) as well as in some smaller urban markets. You can rent an office or a conference room (furnished or unfurnished) for an hourly period, a day, a week, a month, or longer.

The company also provides videoconferencing services at many of its locations, with technical support.

In addition, Regus offers virtual office services, including a business address and a receptionist to answer calls in the name of your law firm.

Prices vary depending upon location, but the company offers discounts and monthly promotions.

Crescendo: Digital dictation on the go

Crescendo has offered office-based digital dictation for years, with a variety of platforms depending on a law firm’s size and needs.

It now offers digital dictation for lawyers on the go with its DigiDictate-Mobile program.

The system, which supports the BlackBerry and the iPhone, interacts with your firm’s case management system on a touch screen interface.

A lawyer can scroll through recent activities to find a case and matter to work on, or do a more detailed search of all files.

Reports are displayed by date and by description, and all dictation functions (such as play, record, rewind and insert) are available. A progress bar lets the user know how far along he or she is in the dictation.

Once the dictation is complete, the user has several options for what to do with the recording, including deleting it or uploading it to the central server.

A time tracker included in the software allows lawyers to track their time for billing purposes, based not just on the length of the dictation, but on time spent editing, reading it back or sending it as an e-mail.

Questions or comments can be directed to the writer by email.

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