Experts Weigh in on ABA TECHSHOW 2017

It was another successful year at the 31st annual ABA TECHSHOW! This month, we decided to ask our experts their thoughts and fondest memories when it comes to attending TECHSHOW.

Our Panelists:

Dennis Kennedy (DK), Greg Siskind (GS), Steve Embry (SE)  Allison C. Sheilds (ACS), Robert Young (RY), Erik Mazzone (EM) and Mark Rosch (MR).

When did you attend your first ABA TECSHOW?/How long have you been attending TECHSHOW?

DK: My first TECHSHOW was in 1998, I spoke on two topics – contact management and Y2K. The first topic, at least, is still relevant. With just a few exceptions, I’ve been attending TECHSHOW ever since and remain friends will people I met at my first TECHSHOW.

GS: I first attended Techshow in 1997 shortly after I wrote my book The Lawyer’s Guide to Marketing on the Internet for the ABA. I don’t attend every year, but have been to a lot. I’ll be there this year.

SE: This is my third TECHSHOW and it wont be my last. I look forward to it every year.

AS: I first attended TECHSHOW as an associate in my old law firm, probably 15 years ago…I don’t recall exactly what year. I attended several times since then before I became very active with the Law Practice Division, and since then, I’ve attended TECHSHOW every year. Unfortunately, I had to miss this year’s show but it’s the first time I’ve missed a TECHSHOW in at least 10 years!

RY: My first TECHSHOW was about 15 years ago.

EM: I first attended TECHSHOW in 2008 and have been to most of them since then.

MR: I attended my first TECHSHOW in 2003. I think I’ve only missed 2 or 3 since then.

Why do you think it’s useful/helpful to attend TECHSHOW for a solo/small firm/big firm/librarian/paralegal/consultant? (address your own constituency)

DK: From the perspective on an in-house counsel, the value of TECHSHOW comes from its focus on how technology can be used in day-to-day activities, discussions with vendors about products that might be useful for corporate counsel, and opportunities to meet others interested in practical uses of technology. While not a show primarily focused on corporate counsel, if you do a little homework and preparation, you can get great value.

GS: I’m ultimately responsible for making purchasing decisions on tech for our growing law firm. Techshow is a great place to go to evaluate major products on the market and see what’s new in the field.

SE: I’m with a pretty large firm and am often asked why I attend. It’s the chance to see folks at the cutting edge not only of legal tech but also, to use a clique, to see and hear thought leaders talk about where the practice of law is going. Not to mention the fact by rubbing elbows with small firm and solo practioners , I get a better sense of what’s happening in the profession and they usually have bolder and better ideas about how to do things and practice law.

AS: I think TECHSHOW is a fantastic experience whether you’re a solo, in a small firm, a large firm, or you’re a consultant or other professional that works with lawyers and law firms. It’s an excellent place to develop new contacts or to catch up with old ones, as well as a place to see the most cutting edge tools and learn about the latest in legal technology. Whether you’re a tech newbie or a pro, there’s something at TECHSHOW for everyone. It’s a great place to learn about new apps or tools to help with your practice, and can be an even better place to learn how to make better use those you already have.

RY: Our firm has grown to about 70 employees. The different practice groups within our firm have different needs. TECHSHOW allow us the opportunity to look at many different products to address these needs over a period of 2 days. We distribute the list of vendors and programs to every employee in our office a couple of weeks prior to TECHSHOW. They ask those of us who attend from the office  to look at certain products and attend certain programs.

EM: For a practice management advisor like myself, it’s indispensable. The vendor floor exposes me to a bunch of new products to investigate for my association members, the tracks help me stay current on legal tech, and the group of people who attend are about the sharpest collection of legal tech talent I can get access to all year.


What’s the most memorable or useful tip or thing you learned at TECHSHOW that you we able to put into practice.

DK: I’ve learned so many useful presentation tips from other speakers that it’s difficult to single out just one. In so many different ways, I’d say that “being yourself” as a speaker is something I learn from others every year.

GS: The contacts I’ve made at Techshow have actually been as useful as the content from the sessions. The conversations in the halls and over meals and drinks have been invaluable.

SE: Gosh, there have been so many, from apps, to automation, to better and more efficient ways to practice to a different way of thinking about the practice. Trying to single any one out is hard but if I had to I would say getting to know the people who are disrupting the practice and learning how to be open to new ideas.

AS: It’s hard to choose just one! I always take something away from each TECHSHOW and to implement that as soon as possible, sometimes before I even leave the show. In some years, it’s been a great book I was introduced to at the LP bookstore or through hearing the author speak at a session; other times it was a new app or a new perspective on an old idea. Often, it’s a small tip or trick that makes everyday activities just that much easier.

RY: The advent of case management software has really changed the way we practice law in our office over the last 5 years..

EM: That the less than one mile to walk to Intelligentsia Coffee in the morning is super worth it. Seriously, the amount of stuff available is overwhelming. Some of my most memorable tips came from my fellow practice management advisor, Jim Calloway, before my first TECHSHOW:  bring lots of business cards for all the drawings on the vendor floor; carry a bag with you to have a place to keep all the vendor swag; study the schedule in advance and identify the tracks and sessions and speakers you are most excited about.

MR: Remember, this was a long time ago…I first learned about Word’s “Paste Special” feature from Jim Calloway at one of my first TECHSHOWs. That’s probably one I use the most often.

Have you purchased or recommended any products or services you learned about at TECHSHOW?

DK: Yes, regularly. I remember a demo of the Fujitsu ScanSnap where it effortlessly scanned a big mess of oddly sized papers. I bought a ScanSnap because of that demo.

GS: Yes. Many. Document management system and email encryption system are two recent ones.

SE: I have purchased wordrak, a great tool for better writing, transcript and TrialPad, a scansnap scanner and probably many apps that I cant remember.

AS:  Yes! In fact, I depend on some of the information I receive at the show to pass along to my blog readers, clients and other lawyers.

RY: In the last two years, we have implemented an app based timekeeping system, online credit card provider and purchased 2 bulk scanners based on review of these products at TECHSHOW.

EM: Too many to recount. Virtually every technology-oriented member benefit that I’ve brought back to the North Carolina Bar Association has its roots planted in TECHSHOW.

MR: Many. One that stands out in my memory is  TheFormTool  – a plugin for Microsoft Word that helps automate document assembly creation right in Word. I first learned about it at the TECHSHOW Expo and have mentioned it to many people since


Have there been any insights or observations from any of the TECHSHOW Keynote speakers you’ve seen that have stuck with you?

DK: There have been so many. I often attribute my long interest in Open Source software to the keynote speech that Bob Young, a founder of Red Hat, gave at TECHSHOW 2000. His clear explanation of Open Source and its potential has stayed with me for a long time.

GS: Haven’t heard one in my last few trips. Sorry.

SE: Last year’s presentation by Cindy Cohn was as memorable as it was chilling as it dawned on me how our privacy is being assaulted. This year the panel discussion by the CEOs of Avon, Rocket Lawyer and LegalZoom was enlightening in showing how far we have come with alternative legal providers. I thought this years panel discussion about, for lack of a better term, robo-lawyers, was also enlightening as we debate how far automation and bots can go in replacing some of the work lawyers do.

AS: I always enjoy the TECHSHOW keynote – and they have all been different – but Richard Susskind’s keynote speech in 2009 stands out to me, possibly because of all of the discussion his keynote and his book sparked among lawyers about “bespoke” services, what clients really want from lawyers, and what the future of the profession would look like.

RY: Lawyers are starting to learn that technology impacts all four core areas of the LPD, technology, marketing, management and finance. The last two years, I spend a great deal of time looking at the app based timekeeping system, online credit card provider and bulk scanners. This year, I received a great deal of information about marketing my practice and our firm. A few years ago, I am not sure how many lawyers would have seen this as “technology” and this year it was the most valuable programming for me at TECHSHOW.

EM: Ben Stein was hilarious. I’d love to be 1/10th the public speaker he is when I grow up.

MR: A few years back, Ari Kaplan’s keynote focused on the concept of “just good enough” – essentially how there are some things (projects, products, marketing materials) that don’t have to be perfect when we launch them into the world. Digital publishing like websites, blogs, PDF brochures allow us to put out a “good enough” product to start, knowing that you have the ability to work towards the perfect product in future versions. This concept is also referred to in software development as a “Minimum Viable Product” or MVP. Giving myself permission to to do that helped me get a current project launched, while continuing to work on future iterations to add features and  functions in the future.

What’s your favorite or most memorable piece of TECHSHOW SWAG?

DK: My introduction to the Australia candy called Cherry Ripe at TECHSHOW 2017 was quite memorable. Thank you, Michael Pattison of ContractProbe! When my daughter was very young, ProLaw gave away a zebra beanie baby that was quite a hit when I returned home.

GS: I probably have all the USB dongles all in a drawer at home. Never thrown them out.

SE: The first year I attended and Randy’s “selfie stick”, Tom Bolt’s introduction of anything, Adriana Linares passion about everything TECHSHOW, this years start up contest. The list goes on and on!

AS: The TECHSHOW swag seems to get better and more creative every year, but one of my favorites is the caricature drawn by the caricature artist sponsored by Thomson Reuters at the show.

RY: LP selfie sticks from two years ago were definitely a hit!

EM: I’ve got my pack of Fastcase 7 playing cards in my center desk drawer right now.

MR: As silly as it may sound, it’s probably my ABA TECHSHOW selfie stick from 2014. The LPD’s  external mobile device backup battery from 2010 or so has also come in handy over the years.

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