The 29th ABA TECHSHOW has come and gone, leaving in its wake a number of tired, yet exuberant lawyers. You have been reading a few such stories this month, from general observations to an Expo Hall walk-through to specific action items from sessions. Many of you saw my blue hat prowling the Expo Hall, ducking in and out of sessions, snapping photos or standing, live tweeting a speaker or tip.
That’s one of the things I love about TECHSHOW: that immediate tip, like converting handwriting to text in OneNote, that turns into a crowd-pleaser. OneNote became a useful tool after that, and a few attendees I talked to after the session said that it came with their Office bundle and, though they hadn’t used it, were in the midst of composing an email to the IT department asking to implement it.
That made me think of South by Southwest as the idea conference, and ABA TECHSHOW as the get-it-done conference. SXSW tells us what is coming, and gives us examples from other industries on how to handle change, like automation. TECHSHOW gives us the nuts and bolts of what we can use right away.
This year, it’s hard to reflect on TECHSHOW without hearing Randy Juip announcing “Selfie!” Be it in an elevator:
— Randall A. Juip (@rajuip) April 17, 2015
Didn’t matter. He took selfies everywhere. There was no escaping the Juip Selfie. Yes, I, too, got caught, but you’ll have to dig for that one.
There was even selfie training going on post-TECHSHOW:
— Nancy Duhon (@nancyduhon) April 21, 2015
Training is the other theme that stuck out for me this TECHSHOW.
It popped up in side conversation between sessions, in conversations I had with law firm trainers, and in the plenary with D. Casey Flaherty and Andrew Perlman. They stressed the need for training, that even though we have all of these cool tools at our disposal, we don’t necessarily know how to use them. The most obvious: Microsoft Word, but even social media sites like Twitter fall into that category. Flaherty made a point about “digital natives,” too. It’s an acquired skill, but summed up by this quote:
“We want magic…but it requires some user output.” Acquired skill through deliberate practice. #ABATECHSHOW
— ABA LTRC (@ltrc) April 18, 2015
Indeed. We want magic. We’ve become accustomed to things just happening. We don’t have to go to the library anymore and dig around in the card catalog and library stacks to find answers. We just type words into Google and poof! We get answers. Magic. Little to no work on our part, except that there is an aspect of user involvement: we still have to think of what it is we want to know before typing something into that search box. Simple as it may be, it represents a thought process behind the action.
Listening to related conversations, and talking to law firm trainers, the thought process stops after the first year, when training is mandatory. After that, lawyers come up with a litany of excuses for why they don’t need training. It becomes an uphill battle, unless there is a firm-wide switch to a new system. Then everyone gets training to learn the basics to get their jobs done. Otherwise, those lawyers with initiative or desire to learn, or understand that effective use of technology helps rather than hinders their ability to hit billable hour targets, seek out additional training. This is a common problem that, judging from the conversations, is also an old one. The billable hour reigns supreme because that is the thought process, from top down, at law firms. Changing that requires a change in firm culture. If this question can be answered:
Will firm culture change? Perhaps only time will tell, so ask yourself: what can you do now to answer that question?
I’m reminded of one of Diane Ebersole’s tips in “60 Tips in 60 Minutes,” specifically about how the poop emoji is being endemically misinterpreted as an icecream emoji among older emoji users. After all,
Much the same way that it’s not about whether efficiency is a metric clients use when hiring law firms, but how clients interpret efficiency. Work on that, and then come to ABA TECHSHOW 2016 and tell me what you’ve learned.