ABA TECHSHOW 2012
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ABA TECHSHOW is one of our favorite shows of the year, if not our favorite. We've been attending for 13 years and it keeps getting better. This year's TECHSHOW kicked off last Wednesday evening with Reid Trautz, 2012 ABA TECHSHOW Chair, welcoming hundreds of conference attendees gathered to partake in a couple of 'eve of' events. First, the ABA LPM section and marquee sponsor RocketLawyer hosted a 90-minute interactive session focused on entrepreneurship ... specifically how lawyers would go about starting a business, in this case, building and marketing a food truck. The idea was novel and the session format very unique -- RocketLawyer MCs asked the crowd to split up into break-out groups and design their own food trucks with the help of a professional artist who captured group ideas via colorful sketches. Based on fairly sparse crowd participation and post crowd feedback of 'what did this have to do with technology', the session may not have been a huge hit, but definitely 'A for effort' on RocketLawyer's part for trying to engage TECHSHOW goers in a new creative way. An unfortunate lesson that you can never compete with a bar in the same room! LexThink.1, our 3rd 'future of law practice in 6 minutes' event, followed to wrap up the evening's programs.
Content is King
A 'tale-of-the-tape' of the 2012 TECHSHOW conference education program revealed 60 highly qualified faculty speakers covering 13 separate tracks (ranging from advanced IT, cloud computing, Mac sessions, paperless, solo and small firm basics) and 72 sessions. Financial support was provided by 24 sponsors and 25 state bar associations were listed as event promoters. Based on feedback we received from some consultants, technologists and attendees, the new 'wars' sessions offered in the mobile/smartphone tracks were a huge hit and everything Mac was standing room only. One session that we missed that we really wish we had been in was the Plenary Session "The Future of Law Practice" led by legal tech guru, Jim Calloway. We heard it was one of the best sessions. Of course, one of the most popular sessions each year is the finale '60 Sites in 60 Minutes' session, which this year was hosted by Natalie Kelly, Dan Pinnington, Catherine Sanders Reach and Reid Trautz. We'll be posting some of the 'best of' from the session soon.
Exhibit Floor Impressions
We created a separate TECHSHOW Guide file with just the exhibitor listings. One of the many refreshing facts about TECHSHOW is that it remains a tradeshow focused on technology, not merely eDiscovery or litigation support. In fact, per the official show guide, only 14 of the 107 exhibiting vendors spanning an abundance of technologies and software touted eDiscovery or litigation support solutions. That's an exhibit representation of 13% of eDiscovery versus 45% eDiscovery at LegalTech NY 2012.
On the flip-side, the cloud and 'web-based' providers dominated the Hilton's show floor this week with approximately 40% of all vendors advertising cloud and web products and services (compared to 14% cloud representation at LegalTech NY). One product launch enjoying a 'home field' advantage was Law Bulletin Publishing's soft launch (generally available in a few months) of JuraLaw, their new web-based case, calendar & docket management product. Leading the show in terms of new news and super busy booths was the smattering of cloud-based practice management systems including Advologix, Clio, HoudiniESQ, MyCase, RocketMatter and Total Attorneys.
APIs In the House
The application program interface was all the rage in Chicago with all the major cloud-based practice management players announced the availability of APIs thus giving third party developers an open platform to integrate products and develop new ones within the technology framework of the existing systems. In fact, API mania was running so wild, that Law Technology News technology editor Sean Doherty joked he'd be doing API reviews during the week as opposed to his usual 'under the hood' product inspections.
A Little of This, a Little of That...
We were asked by quite a few people what the trend of the exhibit hall this year was and my very non-technical answer was "a little of this, a little of that." We've been attending and analyzing the industry and its events since 1999, but this how was a true example of participation by a lot of different technologies that would be useful in a law firm. We saw all types of technologies - electronic signature; cloud-enabled Wi-Fi, smart file trackers; collaboration tools; credit card processing systems; backup systems; web archivers; virtual receptionists; and email encryption services.
What we found interesting this year was the evident focus on calendaring and court rules/calculation services which often, despite their mission critical nature, are overlooked by firms looking for new technology. Case in point, long established online legal deadline calculation service Deadlines.com (owned by Aderant and based on CompuLaw's comprehensive court rule calculations), announced a simpler pricing model that will provide law firms with the ability to generate unlimited events for cases, a more cost effective pricing option. JuraLaw and HoudiniESQ touted calendar and court rule integrations and LawToolBox.com came out of virtually nowhere (never heard of them before) to offer cloud-based court-rule sets. How the calendaring/court rules landscape will shake out is anyone's guess, but as we noted while chatting with lawyer and legal thought leader Bob Ambrogi, not all court rules are created equal, and the true test will be in how comprehensive offered deadline calculations are and how many lawyers are actually dedicated internally to consistently update rules.
Wrapping up our product impressions, the 'welcome back to legal' award goes to Roe Frazer and his TECHSHOW debut of the Barrister App, a firm-branded app giving firms the ability to give clients direct access to their pertinent contact information, attorney bios, areas of expertise and messaging capabilities. Roe, former CEO and Founder of CaseLogistix, and now managing director at digital marketing and creative agency Digome, celebrated his re-entry into legal with the Barrister launch and his web 2.0-themed LexThink.1 talk on Wednesday night.
Finally, the most non-traditional vendor nod goes to TLO and its TLOxp® tool used by global corporations and law enforcement agencies to investigate and research people, locations, companies and their interrelationships for due diligence, risk assessment and identity authentication. An interesting side note -- One of TLO's founders is John Walsh, host of America's Most Wanted TV show and long-time proponent for new legislation to protect children from predatory crimes.
'Beer for Blawggers'
Thanks to Kevin O'Keefe of LexBlog and the ABA Journal for hosting the '5th Annual Beer for Blawggers' get together celebrating law blogging and law bloggers Friday evening. We enjoy this event every year as it is a great way for us to connect with every one before the end of TECHSHOW. Special thanks to Molly McDonough, deputy managing editor of the ABA Journal for coordinating the event.
As always, we had a tremendous time this week catching up with many of our consultant, vendor and technologists friends. Good luck to the future Chair of TECHSHOW 2013, Britt Lorish of Affinity Consulting Group and make plans to attend April 4-6, 2013. We'll see you there!