Knowing that Britt Lorish would lead the charge this year as ABA TECHSHOW 2013 Chair, meant we’d all be in for a well run conference, not dissimilar to past years. As it turns out, 2013 was a record breaker with new attendance highs and heightened vendor interest to the tune of 112 exhibitor booths (5% increase over 2012). While embarking on our 14th TECHSHOW, we have come to expect world-class legal technology content (12 separate tracks, 65+ sessions, plus various dedicated vendor sessions as well as 'meet the author' Q&As); expert insight and advice, 'free of charge', to all -- Adriana Linares' brainchild many TECHSHOWs ago was to setup a concierge desk to enable conference goers to more easily interact with TECHSHOW staff and speakers. This legal technology 'oracle' along with the 'Taste of ABA TECHSHOW' dinners and the annual 'Beer for Blawgers' shindig (thank you Kevin O'Keefe and ABA Journal) makes this conference a definite 'one and only'. Another party worth mentioning was Clio's MeetUp Thursday night at the Luxbar. As usual, Clio was an incredible host and the event brought together a great group for a great time.
Our big focus for 2013, and the main theme for our LexThink.1 legal innovation and disruption event the night before TECHSHOW kick-off, was disruption. As mentioned in our own disruptive post pre-show, we headed into the week with key questions in mind -- what can we learn from market disruption? can innovation and disruption be 'force-fed'? and is 'build it and they will come' still the best way to 'acid test' disruption?
LexThink.1. Yet again the (10) speakers all stepped up in a big way - focusing your thoughts and emotions into a 6 minute, timed presentation has to be one of the hardest things on the planet. And, our audience, 200+ legal professionals, all showed up as planned to support the cause and embrace disruption heading into TECHSHOW. In order to get a better sense of what our speakers' thought of disruption, we asked all 10 of them to name the biggest market disruption they had witnessed in legal. Answers included much of what these days we take for granted ... the internet, email, the cloud and others such as the advent of electronically stored information (ESI) in e-Discovery; the demise of paper; the emergence of the virtual law practice; the potential of big data analytics; LegalZoom-type, online legal services companies; and the end of traditional firm business models. Thanks again to our sponsor, Clio.
Vendor Mix. As mentioned in last year’s conference round-up, one of the many refreshing facts about TECHSHOW is that it remains an educational conference and expo focused on legal technology, not merely eDiscovery or litigation support. In fact, per the official show guide, only 9 of the 112 exhibiting vendors spanning an abundance of legal technologies, apps and legal services touted eDiscovery or litigation support solutions. That's an exhibitor representation of 8% versus 41% eDiscovery vendors at LegalTech NY in January. Is this a fair reflection of smaller & mid firm needs (as in they don’t have the same EDD challenges as bigger firms …) or a sobering reminder that eDiscovery tools for the small and medium firm market are few and far between?!
What we did see as a consistent reality of TECHSHOW technology was the focus on cloud applications spanning storage and archiving to full featured case/matter/practice management systems. In fact, the rapid growth of the 'practice management as-a-service' category and the accelerating ‘arms race’ of the ‘big three’ [Clio, MyCase & RocketMatter] must be putting big smiles on attorneys and legal professionals everywhere, who are or at least should be really getting their money’s worth depending on what they value most. Just in time for TECHSHOW, Clio, for us by far the most prominent (in terms of overall presence, involvement and sponsorships) of the 3 companies, announced a technology integration with NetDocuments. Via the integration, small and mid-sized law firms using NetDocuments get the benefits of practice management through Clio, managing their practices from intake to invoicing, and Clio users, get the power of NetDocuments for storing, organizing and searching documents.
California-based MyCase, which since TECHSHOW 2012, was acquired by AppFolio last October, showcased an app that allows both clients and lawyers to access their case information. Law firm clients are now able to view information about their case; send and receive messages to and from the law firm as well as view and respond to comments.
The biggest ‘what could this mean for ‘SmallLaw’?’ announcement came from the Rocket Matter camp with the introduction of Rocket X1, a new internet marketing service for law firms. A stand-alone RM business, Rocket X1 is designed to bring together several "agency" marketing services, such as website design and search engine optimization, under one umbrella and is initially targeted at 10 or more attorney practices. While this, at first glance, sounds very much like what FindLaw and Lawyers.com offer, we’ll definitely stay tuned to see how this advances.
Disruptive keynote: New York Times Columnist and personal tech gadget guy David Pogue stole the show in his Friday afternoon keynote focused on guess what, disruption: "Disruptive Tech: What's New, What's Coming and How Will It Change Everything". Pogue, a truly likable and very funny dude, was introduced, in another keynote first for us, via 'piano and song' by the multi-talented Steve Best (member of the 2013 ABA TECHSHOW planning board and LexThink.1 2012 speaker alumnus). Pogue spent his keynote hour cracking jokes and singing (hear below) about technology not just about what's out there but also and most importantly to him how it affects people. He talked a lot about what he calls 'app phones', you may know them as smartphones, and the evolution into true productivity, entertainment and business devices. He discussed the evolution of Web1.0, where site owners create content, to Web 2.0, where site visitors create content, and how this continues to shift our online experience. Sticking with the online theme and how we are now in control of content creation, Pogue cited Wikipedia and the sheer idea of 'random people' posting content and context. And, to the amazement of the standing room only TECHSHOW crowd, he stated that Wikipedia was tested for accuracy versus the iconic Encyclopedia Britannica and come out 2% more accurate leading to the recent demise of Britannica's entire print operation. While Pogue touched on a myriad of tech examples and innovations through pictures, URLs, and short video clips, he summarized his biased opinion of our favorite social media tools including Twitter in a few show tune-style songs to wrap-up the 'best ever TECHSHOW' keynote. Like many of the TECHSHOW board members and presenters said, as we walked out of the session, the 2014 planning board is 'screwed' and 'good luck' when it comes to trumping the Pogue keynote selection. Something tells us with Natalie Kelly (Program Chair of the Georgia Bar) as the 2014 Chair, they'll find a way.
Big Data. Big Hype? Of course, we couldn't complete a technology conference post (at least recently) without mentioning Big Data and what it can/should/could/might mean to legal. We started this discussion late last year, really got active on the topic during and post Legal Tech, and are now kicking-off an InsideLegal Big Data content series. Our mission in Chicago was to continue our big data and legal tech vendor conversation (stay tuned for a chat with kCura's Jay Leib) as well as getting a better sense for BD's application in small law which synched up well with a majority of TECHSHOW attendees. The short answer, based on an impromptu Big Data survey we conducted onsite, is that BD's potential in legal 'depends' on who you are, how you want to use it and how easily you can access it. With that said, there's a general consensus (at least broad enough to generalize) that analytics, business intelligence technologies and data mining tools are the most obvious way to take advantage of big data. The challenge we saw in talking with many folks is that there has not been a 'landmark' event or occurrence to make anyone do more than just think about BD opportunities or even how it might harm them or their clients. No one is yet being asked to solve any specific BD 'problems' therefore there has not been much thought given to it. This is where to us, disruption becomes paramount and ignoring the conventional 'wait and see' attitude can quickly catapult certain companies and organizations to the forefront of legal big data innovation. At TECHSHOW, we predicted that in 2014 up to half of all exhibitors will have some type of a big data story or at least know how it might impact legal. Also, while BD as a broad concept might not resonate with small law firms, tackling a small project that uses stored and on-hand data to better serve clients and one up the competition should be in everyone's realm of possibilities.
ABA TECHSHOW 2013 was a blast and we are already looking forward to 2014. Good luck to 2014 ABA TECHSHOW Chair Natalie Kelly and the Planning Committee. See you there March 27-29, 2014...