Ten Things: “Cool Tech” for In-House Counsel (2022 Edition)

Well, it’s August and that means lots of things.  If you live in Texas, it means you are seriously regretting your decision to move here because it is just stupid hot and humid.  Apparently, housing lots in Hell are sold out as Texans look to move someplace cooler.  August also means it is time for my annual “Cool Tech” blog – one of my favorites.  Somehow, this is the eighth year in a row where I will share technology and tech-related ideas that can make life easier (or a smidge better) for in-house counsel.  If you want to check out past editions of my “Cool Tech” blog, here you go:

There is a lot of great technology discussed in these past editions and they are worth reading to find a gem or two that works best for you.

You probably know that I am a bit of a technology geek.  Not that I have any special powers (I am as afraid of screwing something up as you are), but rather because I wholeheartedly believe that technology can make an in-house lawyer’s job easier, improve the capabilities of the legal department, and help show the value generated by the legal team.  In my “Cool Tech” posts, I generally try to discuss technology that is free (or very low cost) and adds immediate value.   While I think e-billing systems, matter management systems, document management systems, electronic signatures, and so forth, are table stakes for legal departments today, that is not my focus here.  If you do want to read about this type of big tech (and all in-house lawyers should), I suggest you check out this really cool fairly new site, LawNext.  LawNext is a comprehensive directory of legal technology products and buyer’s resources.[1]  I also recommend the CCBJ 2022 Directory of Leading Legal Technology and Project Management Solutions available here.  But, with one exception, we’ll stay small and focused, i.e., technology you can buy and start using today, much of which is free.  As always, I received nothing for recommending this technology to you.  I just think in-house lawyers will find the technology useful.  But, enough yapping, let’s get to the fun stuff.  Here is my Cool Tech for In-House Lawyers 2022 Edition:

1.  Twos.  Sadly, I still struggle with the best way to keep a to-do list.  I make my daily Top 3 but, obviously, I have (like you) way more than three things pending.  In my search for a solution, I came across the Twos app.  Twos is simple and powerful.  To get started, you use the app (or website) to create “things” (tasks).  The app allows you to quickly jot down “things” you want to remember, prompts you to carry over unfinished to-dos each day, integrates with your calendar with links to meetings, sets reminders using natural language (e.g., “Send Brian an email Monday regarding case strategy”), and much more. Plus, you can share and collaborate on lists with others. Twos is free for iOS and Android and syncs with any computer at www.TwosApp.com.  Check it out!

2.  ErgoFoam footrest.  Man, I know I am getting old when I get excited about a footrest.  But, this simple piece of technology has made sitting at the computer all day much more comfortable and relieved the usual aches and pains that come from banging away at a keyboard for hours.  You can buy the ErgoFoam footrest for around $40.  It’s adjustable and it has two sides, onside is rounded and static, flip it over and you have a rocker that allows you to move your feet and legs while seated.  This may be the best $40.00 I ever spent!

3.  Zechin webcam.  I do a lot of Zoom and Teams video calls and webinars.  Sometimes I even need to record them in advance.  Unfortunately, the built-in camera that comes with most laptops is not very good and it can be difficult to get the right lighting, i.e., you end up looking like a zombie extra on The Walking Dead.  The Zechin webcam solves both problems.  First, it is a 1080P HD camera that clips onto the top of your monitor or laptop screen (and auto-adjusts for the best lighting).  The picture quality is dramatically better than any camera I have tried to date.  Second, it has a built-in light that makes you look like a human – and not like a flesh-eating automaton doomed to roam the countryside in search of brains while constantly trying to dodge fatal blows to my head (if this were me, I’d try quietly quitting…).  Third, it has a multi-directional pedestal that you can adjust in numerous ways to get the best picture angle, i.e., less nose hair and more eye contact.

4.  Hypercontext meeting agendas.  In my blog post “Ten Things: Escaping Meeting Hell,” I write about the importance of having an agenda for any meeting you host or any meeting you attend.  I hear you out there, “That’s great, Sterling.  When the #$^% do I have time to prepare an agenda?”  I’ll excuse your profanity and point you to my new favorite tool, Hypercontext!  Hypercontext has over 90 free meeting agenda templates, ranging from one-on-one meetings to team meetings to project kickoff meetings.  Definitely worth checking out and sharing with your colleagues (in the department and around the business).  Their tagline says it all, “Make the meeting worth it.”

5.  YouCanBookMe.  Perhaps the only thing worse than getting stuck in a shitty meeting without an agenda is the now infinitely painful task of trying to schedule the shitty meeting.  YouCanBookMe is a new tool that, like Calendly, allows you/everyone to easily find times when you can meet.  YouCanBookMe integrates with Microsoft and Google calendars, you get your own booking page, and it automatically sends reminders (including via SMS).  There is a free version (with one calendar) or a paid version with multiple.  Either way, if you’re looking for a better way to schedule meetings, check out YouCanBookMe.

6.  Pluto TV.  I travel a lot and there are times when I just want to mindlessly watch something without having to get too invested or scroll through dozens of tiles.  I rediscovered Pluto TV late last year[2] and I love it. First, it’s free.  Hard to beat that.  It does have commercials but they are not overly intrusive.  Second, the content is phenomenal.  Tons of movies, television shows, and more (including on-demand content).  There are hundreds of channels, including sports, movies by decade, television shows by genre (e.g., classic sitcoms), or programs with their own dedicated channel.  For example, Mystery Science Theatre 3000 has its own 24/7 channel!  So do Dark Shadows and Gunsmoke.  Yes, I am old.  But, if you’re stuck in an airport, hotel room, in-laws wedding, or dance recital, Pluto TV is the perfect way to find a quick diversion.

7.  DarkReader.  Sadly, but after staring at a screen all day, my eyes seem to get very tired these days.  I wanted an easy way to switch things to dark mode (much easier on the eyes).  I found DarkReader (which, at first, sounded to me like a highly literate Star Wars villain…).  DarkReader is a free Chrome extension that allows you to easily toggle between light and dark mode on any webpage.  In addition to light and dark backgrounds, DarkReader allows me to adjust brightness and contrast as well.  My eyes have been thanking me every day!

8.  Black Diamond Moji lantern.  Living in Texas means the power can go out at any minute.  I guess Texas exceptionalism doesn’t extend to our power grid.  When this happens (usually at night), you need to have a portable light to find your way around.  I have flashlights, LED lanterns, etc., but when I found the Black Diamond Moji lantern, I bought several of them.  They are awesome.  To start, they are small, about the size of a hockey puck on steroids, or a very large scone.  Second, they are bright (and you can adjust the brightest by pressing a button).  Third, they are highly portable and have a built-in hook, so you can hang them wherever you need light.  Fourth, they look good.  I have one on the nightstand and have placed others strategically around the house.  We have had to use them several times this summer and they work great, throw off a ton of light, and last for hours and hours on 3 AA batteries.  I bought one for my mother-in-law because they are so easy to operate.  And I have one I take when I travel because it is small enough to put in my carry-on or computer bag.  I have watched enough disaster movies on Pluto TV (San Andreas anyone?) to know that you never know when you might need some light!

9.  Toby.  Some days I look at my browser and realize I have dozens of tabs open.  And I don’t remember what half of them are unless I reopen them.  If you remember from my 2018 Cool Tech blog, I use OneTab to manage tabs and “Control-Shift-T” to bring them back if I accidentally close my browser.  Toby is a Chrome extension and a kick-ass (and better) way to manage tabs. There is a paid version that allows for easy team collaboration or a free single-user version that just allows you to manage all your tabs.  Toby allows you to create collections of tabs in a single webpage so you can use them, share them, save them, and arrange them as necessary.  If you find yourself with a lot of open tabs check out Toby.

10.  CLOC.  Okay.  Okay.  I know I said I wasn’t going to talk about “Big Legal Tech” but I lied.  But, you’ll be glad I did.  Back in May, I attended (and spoke at) the 2022 CLOC Global Institute in Las Vegas.  In case you don’t know, CLOC is the premiere organization for legal operations professionals and, I must say, threw one hell of an event.  Besides all of the great speakers and panels I got to listen to, I signed a few copies of “Showing the Value of the Legal Department: More Than Just a Cost Center” and – most importantly – I wandered the expo floor where all of the vendors were set up.  Talk about tech-geek heaven! Holy crap!  I stopped by quite a few booths, mostly those that had to do with contract management tools (though I will throw some love to the folks at Practical Law because I am such a huge fan of that product).  As I have written many times, producing contracts is the highest and best use of a legal department and any technology that helps you get contracts done more quickly is always on my radar.  So, for this edition of “Cool Tech” I want to highlight a few of the vendors I saw at CLOC:

  • SpotDraft – first, I need to tell you that Spot Draft had me on their panel and brought me to CLOC, but I would have them on this list no matter what.  I have seen a demo of SpotDraft’s CLM technology and they should be on your short list of vendors to talk to about a contract management system.  In particular, I like their new templates feature (44 templates and counting) and how they can help you create contract playbooks.
  • DocuSign – you may think of DocuSign as only an electronic signature tool.  While they provide an excellent e-signature tool (we use it at the firm), they have much more to offer, including a top-of-the-line CLM tool.  I particularly liked the integration of the e-signatures (no surprise) and the AI-driven analytics that come with the tool.  Do not buy a CLM without talking to Jason Smith and the folks at DocuSign.
  • Ironclad – one of the newer kids on the block, they are more than just a cool name (and it is pretty cool).  I thought the drag-and-drop features were excellent as is the ability to create a self-service portal for the business to create their own contracts without the need for the legal department to get involved.  That is how a legal department shows value by disengagement!  Worth checking out.
  • LinkSquares – put these guys on your list if you are in the market for a CLM.  I liked just about everything I saw with this CLM.  Super clean interface and highly intuitive to use.  Mostly, I liked how AI drives most of this product and how you can find about anything you need by using tags (vs. creating a contract directory by customer, etc.).  I think this product is really going to take off.
  • Conduent – yeah, they are not a CLM tool per se but Conduent has such awesome legal analytics technology that I had to mention them here as well.  I saw a demo of their legal invoice analytics and contract analytics tools.  If you run a legal department and you need insight, KPIs, or just access to contract and invoice data, you need to get a demo from the goods folks at Conduent.  Tell them “Ten Things” sent you!

Of course, there were many, many other worthy vendors at CLOC but the above are some that really stood out to me as having “Cool Tech.”  If you have any interest in CLM or contract/invoice analytics, I would make sure I am speaking with the group above in addition to any others on my list.

*****

That’s it for the 2022 version of “Cool Tech for In-House Lawyers.”  I hope you saw at least one thing worth checking out for yourself and/or your team.  If you have any suggestions for cool tech, let me know (and post them in the comments or in a reply on LinkedIn).   If you want to hear me blabber about all things in-house, check out David Hamm’s awesome “Conversations with GC’s Podcast” where he gets stuck with me for 30 minutes or so.  You can hear it here.   In a few months, we’ll be entering year nine of the “Ten Things” blog.  I cannot thank you all enough for taking the time to read the blog, passing it along to colleagues and friends, and buying my books.  I truly, truly appreciate it.  You keep reading it, I’ll keep writing it.  Better yet, I have several really interesting topics coming up in future blogs.  So, stick around.  More to come!

Sterling Miller

August 30, 2022

I have started working on book number six which will deal with productivity and will come out in 2023.  But, my fifth book, Showing the Value of the Legal Department: More Than Just a Cost Center is available now, including as an eBook!  As the ABA says, “Buy this book or suffer the consequences!”  I know this is a bit vague but the ABA is serious so just buy a copy of the book and not risk it (whatever it is).  You can buy it HERE.

Cover of Value Book

Two of my books, Ten Things You Need to Know as In-House Counsel – Practical Advice and Successful Strategies and Ten (More) Things You Need to Know as In-House Counsel – Practical Advice and Successful Strategies Volume 2, are on sale now at the ABA website (including as e-books).

I have published two other books: The Evolution of Professional Football, and The Slow-Cooker Savant.  I am also available for speaking engagements, webinars/CLEs, coaching, training, and consulting.

Connect with me on Twitter @10ThingsLegal and on LinkedIn where I post articles and stories of interest to in-house counsel frequently.  

“Ten Things” is not legal advice nor legal opinion and represents my views only.  It is intended to provide practical tips and references to the busy in-house practitioner and other readers.  If you have questions or comments, or ideas for a post, please contact me at sterling.miller@sbcglobal.net, or if you would like a CLE for your in-house legal team on this or any topic in the blog, contact me at smiller@hilgersgraben.com.

[1] Check out the latest edition of new products added to the directory at https://www.lawnext.com/2022/08/the-10-latest-additions-to-the-lawnext-legal-technology-directory-8-2-22.html.

[2] I mention Pluto TV generally in my 2019 Cool Tech post along with other free streaming sites.  My recollection is that it was only “okay” back then but has been seriously upgraded in terms of content and is now worth watching in its own right.

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