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March 31, 2000

In Search of the Best of the Best of the Best

Darryl Van Duch
American Lawyer Media

CHICAGO -- There are trade show exhibitors and there are trade show exhibitors.
And nearly all kinds were to be found at the ABA TECHSHOW 2000 Thursday through Saturday at Chicago's Sheraton Hotel and Towers. One thing they all clearly had in common though was their unfailing belief that their product or service for the legal community was superior to all others.

"We're the best because we simply do a better job for our clients," said one document management software company representative.

"We're the best because our software is unmatched in its user-friendly features," assured a competitor, two booths down from the first.

"We're the best because we pioneered the field and have been around the longest," grinned a third.

Perhaps one of the most aggressive at promoting his new product - and it was undeniably an impressive niche item that could very well "revolutionize" the industry as claimed - was Jay M. Jackson, president and co-founder of I-DEP. According to Jackson, a non lawyer marketer, I-DEP is the first company to have figured out a way to conduct live, two-way video/audio depositions over the Internet "from anywhere to anywhere!"

The first such Internet deposition was actually conducted Monday, and very successfully so, Jackson said, from an unknown location with undisclosed lawyers and for secreted parties.

Regardless, the I-DEP "kits" are now being made available to court reporters around the country on a lend-lease basis, he explained. And, Jackson emphasized, the one-of-a-kind hardware/software packages enable lawyers to not only see the person being deposed on their laptop, but to read the court reporter's transcript on a split screen as the deponent speaks.

Exactly how does the real time kits work? "I can't tell you that," Jackson said.

However, Julie J. Furer, a co-founder and an associate at Chicago's Schiff Hardin & Waite, was also on hand to explain in detail the many ways in which I-DEP can cut discovery costs dramatically and to address concerns that lawyers using her product would not be able to simultaneously see all the participants at a given deposition.
Even Jackson's publicist was on hand to point visitors to the big write up I-DEP got recently in a local newspaper.
Surely, the I-DEP founders were not alone in using the event to launch a new product. Martindale-Hubbell, for instance, made a big deal about its plans to soon launch a legal career center on the Internet. And Daticon Systems, Inc. announced its new electronic discovery service that indexes e-mail libraries and converts them to usable images, thereby making the copier and scanner unnecessary.

Nor was I-DEP alone in pulling out all the stops to draw attention to itself.

RealLegal.com CEO Martin Steinberg, for instance, had a six-foot stuffed angry lawyer walking around as the company's mascot. "The idea came to me at a Halloween costume party," Steinberg said.

And Findlaw dressed up its reps with judicial robes and old-England powdered wigs.

Also, as at any trade show, most of the TECHSHOW exhibitors had some gadget or thing-a-ma-jig to give away free to any passerby who would stop and chat and listen to a sales pitch.

RealLegal.com, for instance, handed out hand-held versions of its angry lawyer that screamed when squeezed, "My client is innocent." But the showstopper award had to go to Enlighten's Lee Ulrich who passed out balls that flashed a red light when bounced on the floor. "I've had other exhibitors ask if they could have one of my balls so they could bounce it on the floor...and get people to stop and talk," noted Ulrich.

The ABA itself gave out a handy ABA TECHSHOW 2000 CD-Rom that not only provided detailed listings of all sessions and exhibitors, but also made it possible to tap into an online video feed of key events. Even more popular was the accompanying T-shirt and red handbag with Lexis-Nexis' logo on it.

Also popular was Prolaw's distribution of a zebra-like Beanie Baby knock off. The attached pennant with the company's trademark on it, however, was seen sticking out of nearly every garbage can on the convention floor.
The best of the best of the best? Clearly, it was the designer pocket calculators given away by the event co-sponsor, American Lawyer Media.

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