Last week I attended the 2023 ABA TechShow at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Chicago. ABA TechShow is one of the two biggest legal tech shows in the U.S. (the other being ClioCon). It’s a conference that those following legal tech don’t want to miss, and for good reason. With many sessions to choose from over the course of this four-day event, it’s a great way to learn about the newest developments in the field, earn CLEs, and get tips on ways to get the most out of technology that has become old-hat. The Expo of legal tech vendors also gives attendees a chance to review the latest products and services available to law firms.
Jennifer Carter and I attended from MSBA. Because the schedule was jam-packed with interesting sessions, we decided on a divide-and-conquer strategy in order to bring back as much information as we could. We also set a goal of checking in with as many of our Advantage Partners in the Expo Hall as possible. I personally wanted to spot any legal tech journalists in attendance, including Bob Ambrogi, who is probably one of the best-known legal tech journalists in the U.S. (I not only spotted Bob, I managed to say “hi” to him after coming off the elevator.)
If I had to pick a theme for this year’s TechShow, AI (artificial intelligence) would be the overall winner, with multiple presentations dedicated to ChatGPT and similar AI text generators. However, there were also sessions that covered how legal tech can improve practice management, as well as sessions explaining new or underused features in common tech, like Microsoft Word or Adobe Acrobat.
There were two keynotes, one on Thursday and one on Friday. The first keynote was led by Jack Newton, CEO and co-founder of Clio, and featured a panel of three lawyers who are leading legal tech companies they founded: Kimberly Bennett of Fidu, Erin Levine of Hello Divorce, and Jazz Hampton of TurnSignl, a company based in Minnesota. (Yay, Minnesota!) They discussed the challenges of running a start-up and what they are trying to achieve in doing so. Jack also asked if any of them had used ChatGPT; all had and could see its potential.
The second keynote was a mock public hearing on proposals to amend 5.4 and 5.5 of the Rules of Professional Conduct. It was a rousing discussion on adjusting the rules related to the sharing of fees with non-lawyers and the unauthorized practice of law to allow for tech solutions that would increase access to justice. The presenters were careful to say that this was a fictional hearing; the rules are NOT changing.
The threat of snow closed the Expo Hall early on Friday so exhibitors could pack up and catch their flights, but the sessions continued on until wrapping up with “60 in 60.” This rapid-fire session featured a standing panel of presenters who shared their favorite tips and tools from TechShow.
According to Jayne Reardon, a member of the TechShow planning board, there were more people in attendance at this year’s TechShow than had attended in 2020, before the pandemic closures. The energy and excitement of exploring legal tech with experts makes me eager to return next year.
In honor of the “60 in 60” session, here are a few of the things I learned during the sessions I attended at ABA TechShow:
- An NFT (non-fungible token) can be “burned” or made to “disappear” by moving it into a wallet that isn’t owned by anyone. It still exists because there is always a record of it.
- One in four people in the United States has a disability. This is the only minority group you can join at any point in life, which makes designing for accessibility (universal design) in legal tech and websites critical.
- In planning for succession at your law firm, it is important to designate a successor who can handle your business if an emergency occurs. Also, during mergers and acquisitions between firms, having a good policies and procedures manual in place can significantly increase the value of the firm being sold.
- Adobe Acrobat DC allows people to sign documents, so it can be used as an alternate to standalone signing software. Also, Adobe makes significant changes to Acrobat twice a year, in the spring and fall.
- If you have written a blog post and want to share it on LinkedIn, don’t share it in your update; share it in the comments section. LinkedIn wants to keep users on its site and will not share updates with external links as widely as other updates.
- When thinking about access to justice, we often consider those with the lowest incomes, but those who are in the middle-income brackets also have difficulty accessing or affording legal services. This is a huge market opportunity, some of which could be filled by legal tech.