Hello again everyone and welcome to another edition of “Ten Things You Need to Know as In-House Counsel.”
This is one of my favorite posts of the year because every August for the past eight years (really?) I have written about “cool tech” for in-house lawyers – and this year is no exception! Once again, I have been scanning the (virtual) horizon for the most useful technology that will – hopefully – make you more productive, make your life easier, or may just be fun and interesting. If you have been reading my books, this blog, or my LinkedIn posts over the years, you know that I am a big fan of technology as a way to increase productivity and enhance the value of the legal department. The good news is that the technology needed to make this happen does not have to be overly complicated or expensive. In fact, I deliberately try to find low-cost – or free – solutions that are easy to adopt and use. As usual, I make no promises or warranties of any kind, implied or express (sorry, just covering my bases here – you can’t be too careful, especially with the ABA breathing down my neck about some book I’m “supposed” to be sending their way soon). I can assure you, however, that I get nothing for recommending the technology below. I just think these are all useful tools and worth checking out. So, with no further ado, this edition of “Ten Things” sets out my cool tech for in-house lawyers in 2023:
1. ChatGPT/Generative AI
I don’t think there can be any doubt that the coolest and most useful technology of 2023 is ChatGPT (or generative AI, generically). ChatGPT has taken the world, including the legal world, by storm – and it feels like we are only scratching the surface. I wrote extensively about ChatGPT a few months ago, so I won’t repeat all of that here. But I will note that the technology is getting better and better and in-house lawyers are finding more uses for it. The basic setup is free. Or you can get more horsepower, etc. by paying $20 a month for ChatGPT + (which is what I use). OpenAI (the owners of ChatGPT) recently announced an enterprise level version and that may solve many of the issues with ChatGPT that cause lawyers to shy away from using it for hard core legal work. While ChatGPT has gotten a lot of the press, don’t sleep on a new competitor called “Claude.” Claude is also free but has several advantages over ChatGPT, including the ability to load documents directly into the application and the ability to crunch over 75,000 words (roughly four times the amount of the pay-for version of ChatGPT). I am also excited about Microsoft integrating ChatGPT into its Office Suite (named Copilot). It’s not inexpensive but it could be a game changer for legal departments. And, as you can imagine, Lexis/Nexis and Westlaw are close to launching enterprise-level generative AI that will solve a lot of the problems that current make with ChatGPT or Claude less than ideal for legal work. But, these will not be cheap either. Regardless, if you do nothing else with technology this year, check out ChatGPT or Claude or both.
While I am talking about ChatGPT, Nicole Black wrote a great article for the Daily Record on the ten best ChatGPT plugins (i.e., browser extensions that can extend the power of the tool). Here are some of the plugins she listed that I think are the most useful from the ChatGPT plugins store:
- Prompt Perfect: This plugin helps users draft “perfect prompts” for ChatGPT making it easier to obtain specific and informative answers.
- Wolfram: This plugin provides access to advanced computations, math, and real-time data, making it useful for dealing with projects that require data analysis.
- Link Reader: This plugin can analyze and process content from all kinds of links, including webpages, PDFs, images, and more.
- AskYourPDF: This AI-based chat system allows users to interact with PDF documents efficiently, allowing in-house lawyers to extract content from PDF files quickly and generate summaries, analyses, and more.
- FiscalNote: This plugin provides real-time datasets of legal, political, and regulatory data and information. It offers a comprehensive platform that tracks legislation, regulations, and policy issues across various levels of government.
She has more and I highly recommend her article and taking a look at the plugin store for ChatGPT+ to see what might be the most useful for you. You do have to be using the paid version of ChatGPT to access the plugins and you have to set up the plugins by changing the settings. Don’t worry, it’s easy. Here is an article that walks you through the steps.
Not the band, but the AI-enhanced writing app! Oasis is an AI tool that allows you to create “perfect” writing in any format by simply talking. The AI interface (website or smartphone app) transcribes natural speech and then rewrites the text as a professional email or blog post, LinkedIn post, text message, outline, etc. Just select the format that you prefer and the Oasis AI will do the rest. I tried it and it’s pretty amazing, especially when I don’t have the time I would like to edit my scrambled thoughts. I can just start talking into the app and wait (not long) for Oasis to put it all into a professional, business-sounding piece of writing. Here is one of the reviews of the product:
It’s hard for me to put into writing how valuable this app has been to me. This morning I needed to communicate a delicate, nuanced situation about work to multiple stakeholders and with varying outcomes.
After meeting with a number of advisors and getting input, I took Oasis on a walk with me. My mind was racing and I just gave myself an 8-minute window to vent.
I talked to Oasis and then read the summary. Hmm. Oasis summarized my scattered thoughts in a way that was calming and directive.
After an hour-long walk with Oasis and I going back and forth, I ended up with a 4 minute transcription that perfectly summarized a path forward across multiple parties and helped bring everyone together.
For an app that is just out of beta, it’s hard for me to imagine the ceiling on what it could become.
While you can try it for free, it does come with a monthly cost. So, you do have to spend some time thinking about how valuable it might be for you. But it’s very slick and, for the right in-house lawyers, a workhorse of a tool.
3. Arzopa Portable Monitor
If you travel a lot like I do or sometimes work in a crowded workspace, you miss your second monitor. I have tried a number of solutions but finally hit gold with the Arzopa portal monitor. It is inexpensive (under $100) and provides exactly what I need when on the road, i.e., a good second monitor in a compact size. It’s easy to connect and functions exactly like the second monitor on your desktop. I even use it at home when I set up at the kitchen table. Of course, it’s not the only portable monitor available, a quick search on Amazon will give you lots of options all at a similar price point and quality but this is the one I chose and I am happy with it.
I am always looking to learn something new or upgrade a skill. While it is always an option to pay for a course, it’s possible to find some great free courses on whatever it is I want to learn. edX.org offers thousands of free courses on just about any subject imaginable. So, next time you want to learn about something new (or enhance your knowledge), check out edX. As alternatives, look at udemy.com, or coursera.com and the free course options they offer.
5. SOKOO Power Converter
I was in Denmark and Switzerland earlier this year (both are awesome!), and I had to lug around a couple of bulky power converters to get 220v down to 110v (the American standard). If only I had known about the SOKOO 230-Watt Step Down 100-220V to 110V Voltage Converter, International Power Converter/Travel Adapter (yes, it’s a mouthful). This is not only a highly functional voltage converter, it is also compact, slim, and sleek. So, I can be stylishly American when frantically trying to get 110v power when I travel abroad. It has multiple power cord plug-ins, three USB ports, and a USB-C port. Next time I go abroad (South Africa 2024?), I am packing my passport and this bad boy power converter!
StableDoodle is an AI image generator. Sounds simple enough, right? But it is so cool! All you do is draw your image in the box, give it a prompt and/or a “style” and presto, instant awesome image!
7. The Form Tool
One way to boost productivity is to create forms, form agreements, and templates. That can be a bit of a pain. The Form Tool makes it easy to generate your own forms and templates all for the price of $89.00 for a lifetime license! With Form Tool “you can easily and quickly create intelligent documents. In less than ten minutes, you can be assembling documents that will eliminate errors, improve service, and increase productivity.” That sounds pretty damn good to me and at $89.00 for a lifetime license, a steal.
A few years ago I wrote about PlutoTV (a free streaming service full of amazing content). I still love PlutoTV (especially when I travel), but SlingTV (only available inside the US) has gotten into the act with a pretty good alternative called FreeStream. Like PlutoTV, it has dozens and dozens of free movies, classic television shows, news, sports, and more. If you are looking for a distraction on the road, or just tired of paying for a television service you don’t use that much, FreeStream is a great choice.
9. SonoFlow Noise Canceling Headphones
I own a pair of Bose noise-canceling headphones and they are essential for blocking out noise at home (leaf blowers), the office (thin walls), or on a plane (everyone else). But they are pretty expensive – around $300 or more. SonoFlow is offering a pair of wireless noise-canceling headphones that are almost as good for under $80.00! So, if you need something to block out noise but won’t empty your wallet, and you can’t find ear buds that do the job as well as over-the-ear headphones, here you go. You’re welcome!
You are probably sensing a theme in this edition of Cool Tech, and that is a heavy focus on technology that can help you create templates or other repeatable processes – because templates, checklists, and standard-operating procedures are critical to achieving big gains in productivity (see ABA, I am working on the book!). Scribe is a terrific piece of technology that allows you to easily create SOPs, training materials, FAQs, checklists, or whatever else you might need to memorialize the “how to do” something without spending hours and hours creating what you need. And it’s free!
August 31, 2023
To find more of Sterling's articles and information about his books, please visit his blog here.