Management Assistance Program

AI Takes Center Stage at ABA TECHSHOW 2024

By Jim Calloway and Julie Bays

As our readers know, we consider ABA TECHSHOW a superb annual conference bringing together practicing lawyers, legal technology experts, founders of legal tech startups and many others offering their products and services to the legal community. OBA Practice Management Advisor Julie Bays had a special role this year, serving on the ABA TECHSHOW planning board.

A year ago, when ABA TECHSHOW 2023 commenced, a national cable news network previewed Casetext’s new product, CoCounsel, a legal research tool powered by artificial intelligence (AI). The hosts discussed how this product would impact law firm staffing, adding to the existing discussion on how AI developments would affect lawyers. So, this year, everyone anticipated many AI announcements and demonstrations at ABA TECHSHOW 2024, and we were correct. AI was the hot topic with several vendors who unveiled new tools and features that use AI. We saw several impressive AI demonstrations and listened to many pitches that highlighted AI-powered features coming soon.

Microsoft’s Ben Schorr gave a talk on Microsoft Copilot to a packed room. Mr. Schorr also spoke with Catherine Sanders Reach, the director of the Center for Practice Management at the North Carolina Bar Association. Their session, “Revitalize Your Law Firm’s Knowledge Management with AI,” examined how AI can help lawyers manage, access and use their firm’s collective knowledge and expertise. The audience was so interested that Ms. Reach and Mr. Schorr were flooded with questions. Both Ms. Reach and Mr. Schorr will be speaking at our 2024 OBA Annual Meeting in July.

But it wasn’t all about AI. In fact, many of the popular programs were programs that may have been presented at TECHSHOW years ago, but the tools to accomplish the tasks have evolved and changed. Sessions on using Microsoft Word more effectively drew large audiences. The strong interest showed that while flashier legal tech grabbed headlines, nuts-and-bolts software competency sessions still resonated with TECHSHOW’s core audience of legal professionals. For example, OBA Management Assistance Director Jim Calloway and Laura L. Keeler, law practice advisor at Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers at the Massachusetts Law Office Management Assistance Program, co-presented a session called “Outfitting the Solo & Small Firm with Essential Tech” that attracted a good audience.

Another interesting session was titled “Winning the Change Management Challenge with Gamification,” presented by Charity Anastasio and Ruby L. Powers. The duo provided a comprehensive overview of how law firms can leverage gamification techniques to increase employee engagement, boost productivity and enhance client satisfaction. Their session highlighted the potential of gamification as a powerful change management tool, providing attendees with practical strategies to foster a more dynamic, efficient and enjoyable work environment within their firms.

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Ms. Bays gave a presentation on “Automating Your Documents – Avoiding Traps and Pitfalls” that we will certainly be offering in July at the OBA Annual Meeting. Ms. Bays provided attendees with practical guidance on successfully implementing document automation solutions at their law firms.

“Cutting-Edge Electronic Evidence: Explore Emojiland – How Will You Decode Tomorrow’s Evidence?” by Dallas lawyer Patrick A. Wright was an interesting program. Given the broad use of emojis in today’s communications, it would be important that those are preserved along with the text portion of messages.

Improved billing and time-capture tools were also on many attendees’ minds, and the services covering those areas usually had crowds at their booths.

TECHSHOW’s Startup Alley competition was the opening event. The contestants were emerging legal tech companies that were selected by online voting on their various proposals. Each company gave a short demonstration, and the live audience voted. The 2024 winner was AltFee, which describes itself as legal pricing and fixed fee management software. The company offers a free trial. It was not surprising to us that a product assisting in the transition to fixed fees was highly ranked by the attendees. Last year’s winner was Universal Migrator, a tool to assist with transferring data between platforms. If you have ever been involved in a major data migration project, such as changing from one practice management solution to another, you can probably appreciate the utility of a tool that does that well. Many law firms evidently agreed as Universal Migrator went from being in Startup Alley in 2023 to being a TECHSHOW diamond sponsor – the highest level of sponsorship – in 2024.

Mr. Calloway, who has attended ABA TECHSHOW for more than 20 years, discussed the history of TECHSHOW with another long-time attendee, and the best description we came up with was that TECHSHOW is special. We appreciate that the word “special” is not very descriptive or informative. But there is a positive tone about TECHSHOW. Legal technology has created great wealth for some over the last decade. But those CEOs still attend TECHSHOW and happily greet their customers and other conference attendees. Several Oklahoma lawyers regularly attend. The OU College of Law sent a delegation of law students, who all seemed to be enjoying themselves thoroughly.

We hope to see you next year for the 40th annual ABA TECHSHOW, held in Chicago April 2-5, 2025. We also hope you will join us at this year’s OBA Annual Meeting, held July 9-12 at Embassy Suites in Norman, to hear about just a few of the hot topics that were discussed at this year’s TECHSHOW and much more. For those looking to take a deeper dive into AI topics, be sure to join us July 12 for “Artificial Intelligence: Shaping the Future of Law Practice,” the OBA’s first full-day conference devoted to exploring the emerging world of AI for lawyers.

Mr. Calloway is the OBA Management Assistance Program director. Need a quick answer to a tech problem or help solving a management dilemma? Contact him at 405-416-7008, 800-522-8060 or jimc@okbar.org. It’s a free member benefit. 

Ms. Bays is the OBA practice management advisor, aiding attorneys in using technology and other tools to efficiently manage their offices.

Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal — April, 2024 — Vol. 95, No. 4

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