I spent two days and spoke at Legal Tech NYC September. A couple of my legal technology friends observed that there was nothing new and asked if I agreed or not. Drawing on my training as a lawyer, I said “yes and no.”

My first observation is that in the economy at large, the pace of technology innovation has slowed. To be sure, there are interesting developments such as Wi-Fi (wireless net connections) and grid computing (tapping the processing power of multiple PCs to solve complex problems). In reading e-Week, Information Week, and other technology trade publications, however, I have been struck over the last two years how the focus of editorial content has shifted to infrastructure upgrades and efficiencies rather than totally new systems. The “zeitgeist” is to do more and better with what’s in place today rather than buy new systems.

I think it’s safe to say the same is true in the legal market. The emphasis now is to integrate and adopt the systems that are in place. Most law firms have decent infrastructure. The challenge now is primarily to adopt new business mindsets, processes, and culture that take advantage of what’s in place; the challenge is no longer primarily one of technology acquisition.

My second observation was that there were some interesting developments at Legal Tech. E-discovery is a hot bed of activity. An increasing number of vendors offer software and services to harvest and process digital data in the discovery process. Though not necessarily visible to that many lawyers, there is a lot interesting happening behind the scenes.

More visible – and very impressive upon first viewing – is an e-discovery digital document harvesting and review systems from Attenex (a company affiliated with law firm Preston Gates). The most striking aspect of the Attenex offering is a new way to visualize large document collections. I have always been a fan of visual displays in law practice and the works of Edward Tufte on creating powerful graphic representations. Attenex has taken Tufte principles to heart in creating a compact visualization of digital documents that looks like a very promising way to identify and review large volumes of documents. I was impressed by the demo I saw.

Attenex also has an interesting product they call Knowledge Assembly Software, better known to many of us as document assembly software. The company’s literature shows a clean and intuitive interface to manage documents at a clause level. I ran out of time to see a live demo of this one.

Also new is LexisNexis Total Search, which is an automated knowldge management tool that integrates with a law firm’s document management system. The software integrates searches of LexisNexis with searches of the firm’s own work product. The video presentation and white papers explaining Total Search suggest that it is quite powerful and potentially very useful for law firms interested in better and faster access to and re-use of their work product.