ABA TECHSHOW: A First Timer’s Three Days in the LegalTech World



and why all Attorney’s, technie or not, should be paying attention…

A Canadian Attorney living in Connecticut and I unexpectedly found myself at the ABA TECHSHOW held in Chicago last month. First, it was discovering the dynamite software practice management system, Clio, out of my hometown of Vancouver that peaked my interest, and then a serendipitous connection to a well-known blogger and attorney in Legal Tech, Nicole Black.

At the same time, I had been orienting myself to the possibilities in the US legal market and becoming more and more familiar with the often-ominous recent writings on the legal profession’s irrelevance. It seemed to make perfect sense to go see a hometown start up and to see how and where the legal profession was so significantly changing.

ABA TECHSHOW did not disappoint. What is happening in this area is changing the profession. New technologies are changing discovery, practice management, data management, legal research and the like and it’s igniting the conversation about how to make the legal profession better and most refreshingly, how we can help each other make that happen.

LexThink, an event to kick off the conference, touched on many current issues for lawyers and the profession. Ten dynamic speakers in six minutes made the case for their cure for the legal profession’s ails. From Walmart’s data management models to Big Law’s women attorney “refugees” to attorney rates of suicide – the topics were diverse; people spoke from the heart and shared ideas.

The win-lose game that Steven Harper, in “The Lawyer Bubble” suggests is so entrenched in the legal profession was not what I saw at ABA TECHSHOW. This is why it was such an inspiring conference to attend.

For example, one of my favourite moments of my time in Chicago was at a private dinner as an invitee of Nicole Black. I was incredibly fortunate to sit with two pioneers in the Legal Tech world, CEO’s of successful legal tech companies. They surrounded a young law grad with a great start up idea and a first round of financing and quizzed him on the issues he was facing in the early phases of his start up. These pioneers were eager to share their thoughts on how to go forward and gave valuable advice after having already worked through some of the resistance to change in the profession. They said, “look to the future; present your product with your vision and don’t waiver from that!”. Leaders were invested on a universal level on the success of good ideas for technology and law.

And then there were the seminars that addressed change in the profession in a nuts and bolts sort of way. For example, I attended a seminar on Ethics, Security, and Cloud Computing. The need for State rules to be streamlined for issues such as data management in the cloud was addressed and the need for a cohesive strategy on how to fulfill professional obligations was evidently clear. These issues appeared to be unavoidable and the more that the profession at large pays attention to them, the better the outcomes in the future.

Better legal services through technology was also not all about changing business models and the use of technology in firms, there was also information on how technology can help access to justice issues. The Immigration Advocates Network (IAN) received the Award for Excellence in E-Lawyering during the conference. IAN promotes more effective and efficient communication and collaboration among immigration advocates and organizations by providing free, easily accessible, and comprehensive online resources and tools to more than 6,000 members. It would be good to have even more of a focus on access to justice seminars in years to come.

Finally, it should not go unmentioned that unlike much of cost cutting corporate America, socializing beyond seminars is alive and well at TECHSHOW. This industry is going strong in the networking category. Irish pub night, the blues club and the rooftop bar were all sponsored events for interacting with those inside and outside the industry.

Techie or not, the ABA TECHSHOW is something worth becoming acquainted with.

Featured image: “The way forward railway” from Shutterstock.

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