A Solo Lawyer’s Rundown of ABA TECHSHOW

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the 2015 ABA TECHSHOW. As a first-time attendee, I was kindly asked to write a post and share my experience. Ultimately, I hope that this piece will motivate even more new attendees to come to not only the TECHSHOW, but also to the many other events that the ABA puts on throughout the year. Especially as a solo-practitioner, like myself, the education and connections I am able to gain from bar association functions is invaluable.

Back to the show.

What a great event! Kudos to everyone that worked to organize the show and helped out on the day of. The entire event was well coordinated, convenient, and highly informative. Since I am local, there wasn’t much excuse for me to stay at the Hilton Chicago during the event. While I missed out on the opportunity to enjoy the lush accommodations and excellent service, the convenience of attending an event in my own backyard was a nice consolation. However, that doesn’t mean late nights weren’t spent downtown, because, beyond the show, there were several networking opportunities for attendees. Oftentimes, such opportunities to mingle with peers are just as important a part of your marketing program as a local ad. Throughout the show, the Law Practice Division also set up a nice book shop showcasing various titles written under their brand that offered more in-depth evaluation on specific topics.

Sessions

A nice feature of the show was that it provided several class options to attendees. The classes were grouped under “practice tracks” which meant if attendees were particularly interested in practice management, litigation technology, or even operating an exclusively Mac-based office, multiple classes shooting off of the particular theme were available.

For myself, I focused on the “Law Practice Management” track, including classes detailing internal benchmark reports that every law firm should be running and a discussion of alternative fee agreements. There were also several authors who held sessions to discuss their work and their books. I was able to crunch a few of those sessions into my packed schedule, but my personal favorite concerned the use of iPads at trial. For litigation lawyers, the ease-of-use of the programs highlighted came close to a very real competitive advantage inside the courtroom. Being able to enhance, manipulate, and recall exhibits in real-time allows an attorney to provide a more dynamic, and compelling, narrative for fact finders.

ABA TECHSHOW App

Given the context of the show, some kind of App is a given, but even I was surprised at the level of completeness, ease of use, and convenience that the ABA TECHSHOW App provided. Easily downloadable far in advance of the actual show, I was able to map out a schedule of events that synched with my calendar to alert me to details during the show. I appreciated the ability to download class content, including outlines and papers. I personally felt that having access to the speaker’s content also allowed me to be a more engaged audience member because it allowed me to review the materials ahead of the conference, and think about clarifying questions or other concerns that could be addressed by speakers during their presentation.

Expo Hall

Typically, I don’t enjoy strolling through vendor-laden convention floors because they are filled with sales staff that have one clear purpose in mind. However, I am now aware that the reason for my often-glazed eyes at other shows was namely because my interest and need for those particular vendors was not matched.

Being a new solo-practitioner, I see the real value that several of the products and services engineered by companies have. The types of services and products offered, obviously, were technologically skewed, which meshed well with my background and business strategy. The number of vendors at the event was large and provided a representation of several facets of the law firm management environment. Vendor representatives were knowledgeable, courteous, and sensitive to their target market needs (as any decent salesperson should be). I appreciated the fact that the large number of vendors meant several competing companies were present. Always cognizant of efficiently using my limited time, it was great to be able to speak with competing providers at the same event, including testing office equipment at certain stations, so that my concerns and questions could be immediately addressed. Regardless of the industry, an educated consumer is a happy consumer.

As part of my practice, owing to my educational background, I am actively seeking to create a lean law firm operation. Low-hanging fruit in this endeavor includes supplementing processes with technology in order to streamline activities for the legal service industry. Items like client intake, accounting, and file management are all areas that are fraught with muda. Muda is a Japanese term meaning “wastefulness” and is routinely used by lean practitioners to describe processes that include too many touch points and other unnecessary steps to produce the final good or service expected by the end-client. In that regard, I was particularly interested in the various options vendors made available on document automation and case management. Several vendors also highlighted growing trends in the industry, including paperless offices, by showcasing scanning equipment and cloud-based storage. Just as important, however, with the increased use of technology in law practices, is the necessity to protect sensitive information. Recent high-profile cyber-attacks have highlighted the damage that can be caused to consumers as well as businesses.

ABA TECHSHOW and My Law Practice

As I actively seek to streamline my office, one of my advantages is that I am not encumbered with legacy costs and other concerns surrounding transformation of established procedures. Because of this, however, it is very important for me to create a system that uses complementary software and steps within my internal process management framework, so that I am not willingly adding inefficiencies. Part of lean methodology, of course, is to constantly re-evaluate and improve those systems. Research, implementation, monitoring, and review are all parts of the lean cycle.

Ultimately, I found ABA TECHSHOW to be a success, and allowed me to learn useful tips and resourceful tools that I am actively incorporating into my practice. In addition to increasing my use of document automation, I am also re-configuring my data storage procedures, and actively working on new intake and file management systems that will allow me to become a truly paperless office.

While my experience was through the point-of-view of a solo-practicing attorney, the event is also useful for firms of all sizes wishing to stay abreast of developments in the technology area. As additional pressures continue to make their presence felt on the professional legal services market, successful attorneys will appreciate the time and cost savings secured through operational efficiencies. The adoption of new technology within your law practice is one important tool toward that end. I look forward to seeing you all at future events and doing my part to promote the evolution of the profession.

If you would like to discuss further, please feel free to call me at (847) 346-5565 or email me at ASF@Filippone-Law.com.

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