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How Expensive Is AI for Law Firms Really?

While AI has arrived for work at some law firms, it is still in the future for most.

It's not that law firms are lagging behind in technology. It's just that the high end solutions are too expensive for most lawyers.

Sure, even a solo practitioner can buy a digital assistant for about $200 to manage a calendar and make electronic deposits. But a small firm will spend about $30,000 to install a software robot to handle legal tasks like workflow management and contract review.

And if you need a system to accommodate 500 users, we're talking $250,000 -- to start. After set up, there's the cost of tech personnel and support. It's a half million dollar robot -- not quite Iron Man dollars but more than Robby the Robot.

iPad Pro and Apple Pencil Enable Lawyer to Go Completely Paperless

"A chorus of angels started singing in my head!" attorney Eric Cooperstein said. "Scales fell from my eyes! "

It was not the second coming of the Messiah, but it was a close second for the paperless attorney. Cooperstein, like many lawyers, went paperless in his law practice a decade ago. Drafting and saving pleadings on his computer; scanning letters and other documents; e-filing, e-discovery, and cloud computing: these all became part of the paperless law office.

But there was no paperless solution for Cooperstein's handwritten notes -- until he saw the iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil.

What Should Small Firms Know About AI?

What should solo practitioners and small firms know about AI?

He was only the highest-scoring point guard in the history of the NBA, that's what! He stood toe-to-toe with Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all time, crossed him over and scored on him like a boss!

Wait, you want to know about the other AI? Fine. Work with me here.

Like gifted athletes on the basketball court, solo practitioners and small law firms can own the big leagues on the other court. And AI can get you there. That's what I'm talking about. Artificial Intelligence, not Allen Iverson.

There are some tech devices that all attorneys need. Things like decent computers, quality printers, and effective software are essential for today's practice. Then there's tech that many lawyers should have, like a mostly paperless practice options and good practice management software. But more importantly, there's the tech that attorneys don't need, but want. Really want, because they're cool, helpful, novel, or just entertaining. That's what we're focusing on today.

Here are five nonessential but very worthwhile gadgets you might be interested in, taken from the FindLaw archives.

There are plenty frustrating things about legal writing, like annoying in-text citations, needless jargon, and inflexible word limits. But sometimes just writing is the difficult part. That's because our emails, word processors, and smart phones don't make it easy to use the special characters we need, like section symbols and paragraph signs.

Now there's a keyboard just for lawyers that will end some of that frustration -- and give your mouse and alt key a rest.

Tips for Using Echo in the Law Office

Echo, if you haven't heard, is basically Amazon's desktop version of Apple's Siri. It's a digital assistant that looks like a speaker and responds to voice commands. Call her, "Alexa," because she was programmed that way.

Marketed primarily for home use at $179, Alexa can do a lot of things. Play music, turn on appliances, read news stories, calendar events, set reminders, send messages, and even order products online.

Because of such conveniences, some lawyers are using the device for their law offices. After all, what personal assistant will do all those things for less than minimum wage, plus overtime?

Here are some points to consider:

You're a tech-savvy attorney, as fluent in gigs and RAM and blockchain as you are in personal injury, summary judgement, or motions in limine. You know how to tell a worthwhile tech product from an unnecessary one, and you know how tech can improve your practice of law. Or, hey, maybe you can't tell a Mac from a PC -- but you want the best new tech out there anyway.

If either of these sound like you, here are five worthwhile gadgets you should check out.

Harder, faster, better, stronger. That's the promise of technology. With a few gadgets and programs, you can cut down the time spent on tasks and compete work with more ease and accuracy. Just think of what things would be like if we didn't have email or electronic legal research databases, for example. But even with all these technological advances, it can still seem like the work is never over, especially after the 300th email of the day lands in your inbox.

So, to help you use your tech better, and cut down on time spent on slow or frustrating tasks, here's a review of some of Technologist's best tech tips and tricks, from the FindLaw archives.

Technology is essential to today’s legal practice, from your website, to your practice management software, to simple word processing tricks. But you’re a lawyer, not an IT specialist. So when it comes to setting up your firm’s intranet, evaluating cloud computing security, or figuring out what’s wrong with your email, sometimes it’s necessary to bring in a little help.

Enter the legal tech consultant. A legal tech consultant can be a lifesaver for your practice, whether you’re rebuilding your firm’s computer infrastructure or just looking to improve your staff’s document management competency. But, like with all hires, you’ll want to make sure you’re bringing the right consultant on board. Here are some common mistakes to avoid.

Drones have been around for some time now. What was perhaps the first aerial bombardment of a city involved a sort of proto-drone. In 1849, Austria employed "unmanned aerial vehicles" (balloons filled with remote-controlled bombs) against revolting Venetians. By the late 1950's, the U.S. Air Force was routinely using unmanned aircraft during missions in hostile territory.

But drones are just recently being embraced for business and recreational use, with non-military drones quickly outnumbering their combative counterparts -- used more often for photographing scenic vistas than bombing neighbors. That proliferation has led to a host of legal issues and the birth of a whole new practice area: drone law. Here are some of the most interesting legal developments in this burgeoning field, from the FindLaw archives.