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What We Saw at ABA TECHSHOW 2014

By Jim Calloway

ABA TECHSHOW 2014 was reported to have had an all-time record number of registered attendees, including at least seven from Oklahoma. There are other legal technology conferences, but ABA TECHSHOW is special. No other conference brings together so many of the people who write and blog about technology, do technology consulting for law firms and are experts in their field. The attendees include some of the sharpest people I have had the pleasure to meet. Of course, I haven’t missed an ABA TECHSHOW since my first one in 1999 and I am a former ABA TECHSHOW chair, so I am biased.

In this column, some of us will share our ABA TECHSHOW experiences and readers will also be provided with links to lists of great apps for lawyers and online resources that you can put to use right now. You will not want to skip the endnotes section on this column and you are reminded that we will post this to the Management Assistance Program page with live links within the next few weeks. 

The formula for ABA TECHSHOW is really simple:

    1)   Only allow each person to do a couple of presentations, usually paired with a co-presenter, which means a lot of experts are needed to fill the 50–plus sessions,
    2)   Avoid CLE presentations by vendors in most cases, but allow some clearly identified vendor showcases which are not for CLE credit,
    3)   Actively recruit new first time speakers, and
    4)   Truly engage the attendees. What other conference has small group dinners with the speakers that attendees can sign up to attend?

Cheryl Clayton of Noble is vice chair of the OBA Law Office Management and Technology Section and was a first-time attendee at ABA TECHSHOW this year. We stopped to talk in the exhibit hall for a moment, and I knew she was really enjoying TECHSHOW when she said, “I’m sorry. I’ve got to go. There’s just not enough time.” and hurried off to see more vendors. So I asked her to share her impressions when we returned to Oklahoma.

“Initially, I felt intimidated by program presenters clearly in the forefront of legal technology,” Ms. Clayton said. “But they understood that we were lawyers, first and foremost, and kept it simple.”

“The show was fast paced and each hour there were at least two or three sessions I wanted to attend, so instead I had to make hard choices,” she said. “There were more software, hardware and service vendors than I expected. They gave me a sense of where legal technology was heading. If there was a buzzword, it was ‘the cloud.’ There were cloud applications for computing, storage and whole office solutions. At this point, I am not completely sold on cloud computing in large part because I practice in an area where Internet services can be spotty. But it looks like the wave of the future.”

“The next buzz word was iPad,” Ms. Clayton said. “Lawyers have taken the iPad and made it their own. I know I love mine. Whether for iPad or Android tablets, more and more apps are being developed that are particularly useful to lawyers. And something really special happened at the show. My beloved WordPerfect is not down and out, despite Jim Calloway’s predictions to the contrary. Corel announced a new app for the iPad, and you can try it out by going to iTunes and downloading the free “WordPerfect X7” iOS app. Granted, it will require a few fixes but as an iPad word processing app, it is a game changer in my opinion.”

“I am excited about incorporating what I learned at ABA TECHSHOW into helping to plan a CLE for litigators. But it will just be a small bite of the big apple. Since the Oklahoma Bar Association is an event promoter of the annual ABA TECHSHOW, we need a larger presence there. On top of making a serious dent in MCLE requirements, the show is just plain fun. The speakers are entertaining, the food good and the hotel first class. I want to go back,” she concluded.

Steven J. Goetzinger of Oklahoma City also attended the conference. “The ABA TECHSHOW exceeded my expectations,” Mr. Goetzinger said. “Until I attended the show, I considered myself fairly tech-savvy and proficient at utilizing web-based legal resources. But after attending seminars on free legal research websites, Word on iPad for lawyers and iPad demonstrative evidence, among many others, I walked away realizing that I had been living in the tech dark ages. Anyone who practices law, whether in a small or large firm, or for a company, will benefit by attending this show and seminars such as these.”

Jeffrey Taylor (aka The Droid Lawyer) spoke at ABA TECHSHOW again this year. He posted “ABA TECHSHOW 2014 Round-up and Review” on his blog the day after the show concluded. He also live blogged several of the presentations. (Interestingly I could not get the live blog page to open in Internet Explorer, but it worked fine in Chrome.) Needless to say, he appears to have attended or presented at all of the Android sessions. 

He did one shootout session I wish I could have attended, “Office 365 v. Google Apps.” You can download the materials for his Android customization presentation. Many of you will also be interested in downloading the apps he showed off with Dan Siegel in the Saturday morning shootout between mobile devices. Their session was “60 Android Apps and Widgets.” Mr. Taylor will be speaking at the OBA Solo & Small Firm Conference this summer on “The Google-Powered Law Office.”

I spoke on “How to Add Document Assembly into Your Workflow” and a session called “iPad in Action” with Tom Mighell, who has written several books about lawyers using iPad devices. I’ll be speaking about document assembly at the OBA Solo & Small Firm Conference this summer.

ABA TECHSHOW concludes each year with a panel program called 60 Sites in 60 Minutes. After more than two days of a flood of technology information, this program gives the audience a chance for a few laughs as really goofy websites are mixed in with new important websites and web services. The complete list is online on the ABA TECHSHOW website.

I mentioned that one Saturday morning slot was broken down by which mobile device one uses. The largest crowd attended “60 iOS apps in 60 Minutes.”1 It showcased a great collection of apps. Jeff Richardson posted the list of all of the apps profiled at his iPhoneJD blog. The app Cycloramic impressed us all, even though it really has no business purpose for lawyers. You stand your iPhone on end and it uses the ringer vibrator to slowly spin the phone around to take to take 360 degrees pictures. Jeff also posted some pictures he took at ABA TECHSHOW. I would not mention that here except for the fact that vendor MyCase hired an artist to produce live murals during several of the presentations and the results were interesting. You can see a couple of examples here.

Reid Trautz, another former TECHSHOW chair, posted his “Top Ten Takeaways from ABA TECHSHOW 2014” on his blog. Some of you will remember Mr. Trautz from his presentations at past OBA Solo & Small Firm Conferences and the Technology Fair. At the 2011 OBA Annual Meeting, he noted that several of the programs centered on workflow. Mr. Trautz said that a better term than workflow is “business process improvement” and predicts we will all be hearing more about BPI in the future. He highlighted The Form Tool’s Doxsera, Wordrake2 and a newcomer, ITimeKeep Mobile 3 app, as examples of BPI focus.

Of course, writing is not the only way that people share what they learned at ABA TECHSHOW. Tom Mighell and Dennis Kennedy did an “ABA TECHSHOW 2014 Wrapup” podcast on their Kennedy-Mighell Report, while Sharon Nelson and I interviewed ABA TECH-SHOW 2014 Chair Natalie Kelly for “Headlines from ABA TECHSHOW 2014” on our Digital Edge: Lawyers and Technology podcast.

There are a good number of Canadians at ABA TECH-SHOW every year and sometimes visitors from other countries. Philippe Doyle Gray, a barrister from Sydney, Australia, attended his third consecutive ABA TECHSHOW and was a speaker this time. He was the first-ever ABA TECHSHOW speaker from Australia. I sat in on his session on Evernote and really need to find the time to put his tips into practice. He has developed a free web resource titled “How to Optimize Your Use of Evernote,” with links to his videos, writings and other observations about Evernote. It is now online. Here is how he describes Evernote on the site:

“Evernote is software that is a digital extension to your biological memory. Remembering ideas becomes trivial…The intellectual demands on professional life can be overwhelming. Great minds are best deployed to the intractable problems to hand. But life is made up of lots of little things that have to be remembered. Evernote stops you wasting effort on remembering all those little things, and liberates your imagination.”

ABA TECHSHOW is also a time when many legal software vendors announce new or updated products. For information on new products and the features of existing products that were showcased there, see Bob Ambrogi’s “Top 10 Product Announcements at ABA TECHSHOW” and Kandy Hopkins’ "Trending: Legal Technology on the Rise.”
 
The two keynote sessions were very different in subject matter. Rick Klau is a partner at Google Ventures where he helps lead Startup Lab. Rick Klau has attended and spoken at TECHSHOW many times in the past so it was good to see him back. His three lessons for lawyers from his talk were data always beats opinion, sometimes you just need to say no and always think big. While those may sound like something from a fortune cookie, his explanation was actually quite impressive. No matter how smart you are, your opinion is just an educated guess. A survey of the marketplace will give the correct answer. If you are trying to decide which phrase of two contenders works best for marketing on your website, buy a Google AdWord for one on one week and then the other on the next to see which one “sells out” more quickly. Admittedly, that is a very simple example, but a lawyer trying to catch a consumer’s attention cannot stop being a lawyer and adopt the consumer’s state of mind.

Former White House Counsel John Dean spoke of his insider view of the Watergate scandal. “How in God’s name could so many lawyers get involved in something like this?” was the quote we will all remember from his speech. Twenty-one lawyers, including Dean himself, were caught up in Watergate. It was after Watergate, he said that “the American Bar Association made the decision to modify its model rules so that students would be required to take legal ethics in law school, would have to pass a special ethics examination before they could practice law, and would have to take mandatory ethics CLEs in order to keep their licenses.”

We hope to see you at ABA TECHSHOW sometime in the future. That is just a peek at this year’s event. But if you haven’t had enough, a link to 50 more posts about ABA TECHSHOW 2014 may be viewed on the Business of Law Blog. I’m sure you are not surprised that a lot of ABA TECHSHOW attendees write for blogs.

Mr. Calloway is OBA Management Assistance Program director. Need a quick answer to a tech problem or help resolving a management dilemma? Contact him at 405-416-7008, 800-522-8065 or jimc@okbar.org. It’s a free member benefit!

1.  In a real sign of the times, there were only three people present at the Blackberry session that morning.
2.  Wordrake provides a discount to OBA members.
3.  See a recent review of iTimeKeep.

Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal -- May 17, 2014 -- Vol. 85, No. 14