THE American Bar Association unveiled plans to launch "the first telecomputer for the legal industry" this Autumn, at the ABA section of Law Practice Management's 11th Annual Techshow in Chicago last month.

ABA-sponsored digital satellite technology will enable multimedia services, such as legal news, entertainment, legal education seminars and practice-specific information, to be broadcast to a lawyer's home or office.

ABA has joined with Broadcast International to launch the venture, which is called the Lawyer's Communication Network. It will be available to ABA members and non-members at an initial cost of $700, with monthly fees of $59.

"Our goal is to have a small satellite dish in virtually every law firm," said Robert Stein, ABA executive director.

Richard Susskind, author of The Future of Law, predicted the UK would have similar technology "quite rapidly".

"It is a question of when, not if, this technology is introduced into the UK," he said. "It could be launched by an entrepreneur or by the profession. What is interesting is that the ABA is running the initiative."

Other products showcased at the exhibition were Toronto company McMillan Binch's guest voicemail boxes for clients, which allow them to send individual and group messages throughout a firm.

The Techshow conference also highlighted some overlooked gadgets, such as the telephone, which, said speaker Bernie Stea, head of IT at Miller Nash, is under-used.

"Just ask your lawyers if they can transfer a call to another lawyer in the firm, and you'll start to understand how we don't take full advantage of even the simplest technology available to us," he said.

The Techshow conference was attended by more than 2,000 lawyers and experts.