Looking Back at (and Looking Forward from) ABA TECHSHOW 2009

Episode 2 of The Kennedy-Mighell Report Podcast is now available at its new home on the Legal Talk Network. In this episode, Tom and I talk with our guest co-host, Adrian Linares, about our take-aways from the recent ABA TECHSHOW 2009.
As I mention in the podcast, TECHSHOW reminded me of one of the recurring themes in my work – that legal technology (and information technology in general) is always more about people than it is about the technology. I recommend that you give the podcast a listen to hear our reactions to TECHSHOW and about some of the social aspects of legal technology today. Note also that we are looking for audience questions to answer in future podcasts.
I’ve been meaning to write a wrap-up post on my TECHSHOW experience, and this seems like a good place to do that.
As I first made my way to the TECHSHOW floor, I immediately saw Tom Mighell and Adriana Linares at the Conference Concierge booth and I felt like everything was in the right place in the legal tech world. From there, it was on the Twitter session and the three-day whirlwind that my TECHSHOW visits have become. I think that I did a good job of trying to visit with everyone I could, but if I missed you, it wasn’t for lack of trying, just a shortage of time.
My one disappointment at TECHSHOW was not getting much time on the exhibit floor to visit with vendors. I had a great conversation with Rick Borstein of Adobe about some ways to use Acrobat 9 (think portfolios and RSS feeds) and have some great suggestions to try. Otherwise, I got the chance to visit with my RocketMatter pals, Larry and Ariel, JD Supra, TotalAttorneys, Clio and Thompson West. I learned some interesting things, some potentially practice-changing, but didn’t get a strong sense of where the vendors are at today. As others have mentioned, electronic discovery is definitely a big item these days on the vendor floor.
As I was lamenting the lack of exhibit hall time I had on Friday afternoon (as the exhibit hall neared closing time), I ran into my friend, Andrew Sandler, at LegalQB, who was busy at work shooting videos of vendors and creating a virtual exhibit hall. You could go to the LegalQB site and mouse over vendors on the floor map and get info and see videos of vendor reps answering basic questions about products and services. The idea is that, at your own pace and without being bothered by sales pitches, you can learn about a vendor and come to the booths that interest you armed with basic knowledge and knowing what questions you have. Cool idea. Even cooler, LegalQB plans to make that info always available outside the conference setting. Andrew shot some video of Tom and me talking about our book and podcast that will be up on the LegalQB site. Give LegalQB a look.
I really enjoyed the three presentations I gave, two with Tom Mighell on topics related to our book, The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies, and one with Joel Alleyne, who was excellent to work with as a co-presenter, on a “client-focused” approach to collaboration. I’ve put up stripped-down black-and-white versions of slides from two of the presentations on SlideShare (here and here) as an example of how you can use this online tool to share presentation slides. There was a fair amount of twittering during the sessions and legal blogger extraordinaire Allison Shields has a nice summary of one of the sessions.
Tom and I did a roundtable session on collaboration tools, where we experimented with some “unconference” techniques. After introductions, we found that two of the attendees were actually on opposite sides of some matters. We took the opportunity to break into groups and discussed what, to me, is the hardest, but very common, collaboration situation – collaborating with people on opposite sides. While I’d characterize the success of the experiment as mixed, the planned 5 to minute discussion went much longer and people had some good ideas. I learned a lot. Then we discussed some questions about confidentiality and encryption, Google Docs, SharePoint and some other specific tools.
As a presenter, doing three presentations in a row reminded on the need to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate, and to protect your voice, especially on the night before. I was a little lacking in both departments, but left with my voice pretty much intact.
We gave away copies of our book – meaning the book and the new 2009 update on CD – at each of my sessions. After very limited success with the “trivia question” approach last year, Tom and I have done the book giveaways by finding the person in the audience who is newest to the legal business. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how well this approach works (it always narrows down to one; trivia questions often draw many simultaneous hand-raisers). The rest of the audience stays interested and there is a good feeling in the room for the winner. Several people came up to me after sessions to say how much they liked this approach.
We heard from several sources that collaboration was a hot topic and that our book sold well. That’s always good to hear. As I mentioned, there’s a new CD update for 2009, with a new chapter of tips, new developments, forms, audio and more. We also took advantage of the opportunity to lobby our ABA publishers to release the book as a Kindle experiment. I’m not sure that we made much progress, but let Tom or me know if you would be interested in a Kindle version of the book and we’ll keep pushing our publisher.
The Sessions. For many years, my friends have discouraged me from attending their sessions, saying “you already know this.” That’s not really true, but I know what they mean. I’ve noticed that I attend fewer sessions at conferences, in part because the best learning really does happen in the hallways and lobbies outside the sessions. I also have a unique position where I can talk to many of the speakers outside the sessions, especially at TECHSHOW where many of the speakers are friends, but for any attendee, access to speakers at TECHSHOW is second to none and one of the big plusses of the show.
There were two sessions I attended that I wanted to note. The first was the Twitter session at the start of the conference. While, admittedly, sitting by Jordan Furlong was guaranteed to result in Twitter shenanigans, and it did, it was fascinating to observe the twittering during the session and how the #techshow hashtag moved up to the #3 trending search term on all of Search.twitter.com during the session. While I liked the session, my sense by the end of it was that I’d probably focus more on the whys, hows and so whats of Twitter if I ever presented on the topic.
The other session, which I think was the centerpiece of the conference, was Richard Susskind’s keynote speech. I posted my notes from the session here, so I won’t go into any detail here. A few conclusions – buy the book (The End of Lawyers?), read the book and discuss the book with others. I enjoyed getting a couple of chances to chat briefly with Richard. I compare the book favorably to Tom Friedmann’s “The Earth is Flat” in that pulls together and synthesizes a lot of important ideas that people have been tossing around, systematizes those ideas in highly understandable ways, and provides a single point of entry for those new to the discussion. The presentation was excellent on so many levels and gave me many touchpoints to tie into my presentations the following day.
Probably my favorite part of the move of TECHSHOW to the Chicago Hilton has been the willingness of the TECHSHOW chairs and ABA Law Practice Management Section to open up a suite to attendees to hang out in the evenings. As I mentioned before, the access to speakers is a huge selling point of TECHSHOW.
Anyway, I spent more than a few hours at the suite on the evenings I was there and appreciated the chance to talk to others about technology and other topics. On the first evening, I found myself in a great conversation with Marc Lauritsen, Jordan Furlong and Ariel Jatib in which we were trying to predict what the next wave of lawyers’ use of the Internet would be. If websites were generation one, and blogs were generation two, was Twitter the start of generation three? Maybe. We went well beyond that and the conversation was worth the trip for me. The Twitter length summary of what’s next from our conversation – audio/video (the easy answer), SMS as a platform, and automated decision-making / legal risk management.
Thanks to Adriana Linares, Kevin O’Keefe, Ed Adams (my “boss” for my ABA Journal tech column) and others who organized events like Beer and Blawgers, the great dinner events, and other activities. One of my favorite TECHSHOW moments was at the Beer and Blawger event, where bloggers/twitterers who knew each other by reputation got to meet in person for the first time. It was funny and cool at the same time to hear people shouting, “Oh my God, you’re @legaltypist!” or @econwriter5 or other Twitter handles. It was also fascinating to see the difference in approach of people who brand their names on Twitter (e.g., @denniskennedy, @tommighell, @jimcalloway) as compared to those who use handles.
Tom and I hosted a very nice dinner at Catch 35, a very good seafood restaurant with a very memorable bread pudding dessert, where we talked about Kindles and a bunch of other topics. Thanks to all who signed up for our dinner.
The last day of sessions ended with the speaker luncheon and the passing of the torch from the current board chair, Laura Calloway (fabulous job, Laura!), to the next board chair, Debbie Foster, and the first meeting of the new board. As a former board member, I always enjoy that tradition.
On Saturday afternoon, I had the rare chance to sit down and talk for a couple of hours with my friend and honorary cousin, Dan Pinnington, something we haven’t had the chance to do for a few years. Dan, along with Reid Trautz, has co-written a new book , The Busy Lawyer’s Guide to Success, which is chockful of law practice management tips (more than 700) and is a must-read. Lots of great info in it and they have a website for it at http://lawyersuccesstips.com.
I made the comment in my presentations that, especially because of the economy, TECHSHOW was a gathering of the right people at the right place at the right time on legal technology. I suspect that the ideas, relationships and energy generated by TECHSHOW 2009 will one day be seen to have played an important role in the evolution of the practice of law toward the ideas some of us loosely call Law 2.0.
Toward that end, I end by pointing to the continuing Twitter conversation that began at TECHSHOW and has keep going at a great pace ever since. It can be found by searching for “#techshow” (or just “techshow”) at Search.twitter.com. You can even join in this conversation by adding the hashtag #techshow to your related tweets. It’s definitely a space to watch.
A big thank you to everyone for making this one of my best TECHSHOWs of the ten or so I’ve attended. As I said, legal technology ultimately is more about people than technology.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]
Check out the new The Kennedy-Mighell Report Podcast on the Legal Talk Network.
Follow my microblog on Twitter – @dkennedyblog; Follow me – @denniskennedy
Now Available! The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together, by Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell. Visit the companion website for the book at LawyersGuidetoCollaboration.com. Twitter: @collabtools
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  1. Jason Schoolmeester says

    Kindle version? Why wouldn’t you release your book on multiple platforms? Or does the Kindle version work on other platforms?