Oregon State Bar Bulletin — AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2010
Legal.online
Sites That Simplify
Save Time and Some Money
By Robert J. Ambrogi


I am always on the lookout for websites that make lawyers’ lives a little easier or save them a few dollars. This month, I have three such sites to tell you about, all recently launched.

Also in this column, we have an update on the legal-networking site Martindale-Hubbell Connected.

Bulk Discounts on Legal Products
Anyone who has ever shopped at a warehouse discount store knows that buying in bulk can save money. A new website extends that concept to lawyers, enabling even solo attorneys to buy goods and services at bulk discounts. To help build up the critical mass of buyers needed to achieve those discounts, the site uses the power of social media.

Called GroupESQ, www.groupesq.com, the site aims to deliver group-buying power to all lawyers, without regard to the size of a lawyer’s firm. As an example of one recent deal available on GroupESQ, the CLE provider MCLEZ offered either its California or New York $99 “Super Bundle” for $49.

Each deal is offered only for a limited time and requires a minimum number of buyers in order to take effect. So, for the CLE deal described above, it required 35 attorneys to sign up by a set deadline in order to go through.

As a buyer, if you see a deal you like, you submit a purchase order. If the minimum number of buyers is reached, your credit card is charged and you receive a voucher for the purchase. If the minimum is not reached, you are charged nothing. You can withdraw an order anytime before it closes.

Here is where the site taps into the power of social media. Buyers are encouraged to use Facebook and Twitter to help drum up interest in a deal and reach the requisite number of purchasers. If the deal you want needs five more buyers to go through, promote it to your network of friends and colleagues.

This is a win-win-win — a win for the lawyer, who gets a good deal; a win for GroupESQ, which gets its users helping to promote it; and a win for the vendors, who get their customers helping them sell.

GroupESQ is owned and operated by LawLink, a social network for the legal community.

Manage Service of Process via the Cloud
When his lawyer could not readily provide an update on the status of service of a lawsuit, software entrepreneur Robert J. Daino decided to do something about it. Recently, after two years of development, Daino launched ServeCentral, www.serve-central.com, a beb-based tool designed to help legal professionals manage the process of service of process.

The site allows lawyers, paralegals and legal assistants to handle every stage of service of process, from assigning a process server to final billing and payment. A simple dashboard provides an at-a-glance summary of the status of all your cases. E-mail notifications keep you informed of every development.

To set up a new service of process, a wizard walks you through the process. It prompts you for details about the case, the service and the person to be served. You can even upload a photo of the person. You then upload the documents to be served in PDF format.

When it comes to choosing a process server, ServeCentral gives you three options: select from a list of process servers who work in the location, ask ServeCentral to select a process server for you, or assign the job to a process server you work with by inviting the server to join ServeCentral (there is no cost to the process server).

Once the case is assigned, your dashboard displays real-time updates of the status and you receive updates via e-mail. When the service is complete, you receive an electronic proof of service and an itemized receipt. As soon as you approve the receipt, ServeCentral pays the process server.

The dashboard maintains a complete history of all your cases, even after service is completed. Participating process servers get a similar dashboard from which they manage their assignments.

To use the site, the law firm pays a nominal fixed fee per service (in addition to the process server’s fees, of course). There is no added subscription fee and there is no charge to the process server. ServeCentral’s pitch is that it easily pays for itself and more, given the time savings for law firm staff, the reduction in internal printing costs and the elimination of courier expenses.

Headquartered in Syracuse, N.Y., ServeCentral was founded by executives of Promergent, a company that develops process, change and document management software.

A Site to Manage the “Document Lifecycle”
Litéra, a company that markets a suite of “document lifecycle management” products popular among many larger law firms, has now launched a cloud-based version targeted at smaller firms that do not require enterprise-level applications.

The new software-as-a-service, Litéra Live, www.literalive.com, allows users to clean, convert, compare and collaborate on documents. More specifically, users can: collaborate on documents in real time with multiple users; compare Microsoft Office and PDF documents, including documents with embedded objects and images; clean metadata from Office and PDF documents; convert Office documents to PDF; and extract native PDF documents to Word.

Because Litéra Live is cloud-based, it can be used from any device and from any location. Later, Litéra will roll out a desktop widget, called Litéra Communicator, that will serve as a drag-and-drop interface between the user’s desktop and the application in the cloud.

An unlimited license to use Litéra Live costs $14 per user per month. It can also be used by purchasing credits in increments starting at 40 credits for $10. (A document comparison requires four credits, metadata cleaning is two credits, PDF extraction is one credit.) New registrants receive four free credits for a free PDF conversion.

Law firms that use the company’s desktop applications include Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Jones Day, Akin Gump, Alston & Bird and Crowell & Moring.

Update: An Overhaul for Martindale-Hubbell Connected
A year ago, this column brought you one of the first published reviews of the beta version of the legal-networking site Martindale-Hubbell Connected, www.martindale.com/connected. In the year since, the site (which is owned by LexisNexis) continued to evolve but was plagued by a clunky interface that made it difficult to navigate and sometimes cumbersome to use.

As I write this, Martindale is preparing to roll out a relaunch of the site, with a new design, new features and enhanced functionality. The relaunch is slated for early June, so by the time you read this, it should be up. (Editor’s note: It is.)

The redesign has two main goals. One is to make it much simpler to use. The other is to create tighter and more seamless integration between the members- only Connected and the public Martindale.com site.

I participated in a preview of the redesign. The preview used a demonstration site that lacked full functionality. But if the promised features hold true, then the redesign will be a major improvement. Navigation through the site is significantly enhanced and simplified. And now members’ profiles are directly aligned with their public profiles on Martindale.com, with new features that make them easier to edit and update.

The changes appear likely to improve significantly the “experience” of using Martindale-Hubbell Connected. The cleaner design and enhanced navigational elements look promising. Better integration with the Martindale.com parent site makes sense. Let’s just hope that this integration does not turn Connected — which is free to join — into a forum focused on upselling to paid products and services.

Robert Ambrogi, who practices law in Rockport, Mass., is the former editor of National Law Journal and Lawyers Weekly USA. He is internationally known for his writing about the Internet and technology. He is the author of three blogs, which can be read at www.legaline.com.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Robert Ambrogi, who practices law in Rockport, Mass., is the former editor of
National Law Journal and Lawyers Weekly USA. He is internationally known for his writing about the Internet and technology. He is the author of three blogs, which can be read at www.legaline.com.

© 2010 Robert Ambrogi


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