The Digital Edge

ABA TECHSHOW 2016: An Interview with Chair Steve Best

30 years ago, the legal community began to see the value in the intersection between technology and the law. Lawyers are now using new software and tech devices more than ever in their practices and the courtroom, making the ABA TECHSHOW’s 30th anniversary valuable to anyone working in the legal field. So what’s going on this year?

In this episode of The Digital Edge, Sharon Nelson and Jim Calloway interview Steve Best, chair of ABA TECHSHOW’s Planning Board, about the popular technology topics that will be covered at the conference in March, why lawyers and other law firm staff should care about tech trends, and how Steve personally became so intricately involved.

Topics include:

  • Steve’s career transition from a practicing lawyer to a legal technology consultant
  • Why lawyers should care about security, mobility, and the cloud
  • Regulation violations and security breaches
  • Learning helpful info from the exhibit hall
  • The planning board: IT professionals, in-house attorneys, lawyers, and consultants
  • Two special plenary sessions
  • Getting the most out of the technology you already have
  • The 30th anniversary party at the Chicago Hilton hotel

Steve Best is an attorney and the founding partner at Affinity Consulting Group, a well-known and well-respected law office management and technology company. He is a member of the Florida Bar and the Georgia Bar and is also a certified consultant and trainer, maintaining certifications in many law office software products including time billing and accounting, practice management, document management, PDF production, document assembly, and paperless office packages.

Special thanks to our sponsors, ServeNow and CloudMask.

View transcript

Digital Edge: ABA TECHSHOW 2016: An Interview with Chair Steve Best – 2/2/2016

 

Advertiser: Welcome to The Digital Edge with Sharon Nelson and Jim Calloway. Your hosts, both legal technologists, authors and lecturers, invite industry professionals to discuss a new topic related to lawyers and technology. You’re listening to Legal Talk Network.

 

Sharon D. Nelson: Welcome to the 97th edition of the Digital Edge, lawyers and technology. We’re glad to have you with us. I’m Sharon Nelson, president of Sensei Enterprises.

 

Jim Calloway: And I’m Jim Calloway, director of the Oklahoma Bar Association’s Management Assistance Program. Today our topic is ABA TECHSHOW 2016: An Interview with Chair Steve Best. Before we get started, we’d like to thank our sponsors. CloudMask offers cost-effective and efficient data encryption for law firms, whether large or small, in Google Apps, Office 365 and other Cloud solutions. Sign up now for your 60 day free account at CloudMask.com. We also thank Serve-Now, a nationwide network of trusted, prescreened process servers. Work with the most professional process servers who have experience with high volume serves, embrace technology, and understand the litigation process. Visit ServeNow.com to learn more. We are happy to welcome as our guest, Steven J. Best. He is an attorney and the founding partner at Affinity Consulting Group, a well-known and well-respected law office practice management and technology company. He is a member of the Florida and Georgia Bars and is also a certified consultant and trainer, maintaining certifications in many law office software products including time billing and accounting, practice management, document management, PDF production, document assembly, and paperless office packages. Steve is a nationally known speaker at many CLE events across the US and Canada. Steve’s currently the chair of ABA TECHSHOW 2016 planning board, and is an active member of the ABA’s law practice division. Thanks for joining us today, Steve.

 

Steve Best: Thanks for having me, Jim and Sharon. It is a pleasure to be here with both of you.

 

Sharon D. Nelson: Steve, let’s start by saying that we understand that you are an attorney but you no longer actively practice law and instead you enjoy a career in legal tech. When and why did you make the career transition in becoming a recovering attorney?

 

Steve Best: I did that about 16 years ago. I was practicing law in a small firm here in Atlanta. And unfortunately, the legal assistant that I was working with at the time wasn’t well and she was in need of medical care, was out of the office very frequently. And as a result, I was managing my own deadlines and trying to compile my own documents. And remember, we’re talking late 90’s, 1999 and 2000 and technology wasn’t what it was today. I at that point thought, “Well, there’s got to be some technology out there maybe that will help me,” and I stumbled upon practice management software and document assembly software and document management software. I ordered it, got the floppy disks, loaded it up on my Windows 98 computer, got it to work, customized it, made the packages talk to one another. And at that point, the office manager literally took the palm of her hand, smacked me on the forehead and said, “Don’t you see what you could be doing with your career? You could be helping lawyers implement technology.” And with great fortune, I took her advice and haven’t looked back.

 

Jim Calloway: Getting into TECHSHOW, what do you think are the hot topics in legal technology here as we begin 2016?

 

Steve Best: Well, Jim, I think there’s lots of different hot topics in technology. But if I were willing to pick the top three, I would probably say that the first and foremost lawyers are really going to have to deal with cybersecurity, whether someone’s breaking into a server or surveying communications be that someone who shouldn’t be or maybe the government shouldn’t be. I think social security issues, I think compliance with governmental regulations like HIPAA are very, very important and lawyers really need to pay attention to that and at the ABA TECHSHOW we’re going to have some very, very interesting programs and sessions about those topics. Secondly, I think mobility continues to be a hot topic. Lawyers and our staff, we often want to work from home, we want to work from wherever we are on the road. Perhaps we don’t have a traditional four wall office and we need data and client data, client information, work product, research, wherever it might be, available to us anywhere we are in the world at any time. So I think that’s a hot topic and I also think the Cloud continues to be a hot topic. I think more and more lawyers are getting more and more comfortable with the concept of the Cloud. And the Cloud is one of those terms that I often will say I don’t really care for that term because we’re really not putting anything up in those murky, stratospheric clouds that are in the sky. What we’re really talking about, obviously, as both of you know, are servers or software solutions available over the internet. So I think those are the biggest hot three topics at the top of 2016.

 

Sharon D. Nelson: Sometimes it’s hard to get lawyers to care about the hot legal technology topics. Why do you think they should care?

 

Steve Best: I think they should care specifically about the three that I mentioned. Security issues, if you’ve suffered a security breach, that could be very costly. If you are under surveillance, of course that can be costly and troublesome to a lawyer’s career. We have an obligation to protect our client’s data, to protect our work product. We certainly don’t want that to be subject to anybody breaking in or hacking into locations where they shouldn’t be. And data breaches can be even more costly as can violation to regulations like HIPAA which I mentioned, the fines are pretty stiff. So I think lawyers should pay attention to those topics and they should care because I think that topic in particular affects a lot. Mobility, I think we should care about that because our lives are so much more mobile than they were before. We are out and about. Many lawyers, many people coming out of law school are not working within the four walls of an office. I recently had the opportunity to speak with an attorney whose paralegal lived and worked in a different state and they connect through mobility functionality on their computers and on their networks. And the Cloud, I think we should care about that because it’s here to stay. To my mind, there is no state or provincial Bar or law society that has issued any more attorium to lawyers putting data in the Cloud. There’s some suggestion of where we should go. But in this day and age, we’re all in the Cloud now. Whether you’ve got servers or software systems in the Cloud or whether you play Words with Friends, that game is in the Cloud too. So we’re all in the Cloud, it’s here to stay, and honestly that’s why I think we should care about those topics and more. There are many more topics coming up at TECHSHOW.

 

Jim Calloway: Steve, we first met through ABA TECHSHOW, it’s really one of my favorite events of the year. Can you tell our listeners what got you interested in attending ABA TECHSHOW and when was your first TECHSHOW?

 

Steve Best: Well, my first TECHSHOW was TECHSHOW 2000, so this will be my 16th TECHSHOW; I haven’t missed one at all. Maybe this is 17 years in a row if you count the year 2000. And all I did was fly up to Chicago for the day, got a free visit hall pass. I went through the exhibit hall and found it absolutely fascinating. I was new in the career of legal technology so I wanted to learn and soak up as much information. Quite frankly, the exhibit hall then and the exhibit hall now is a great place to soak up some real interesting information, helpful information, about technology. So like I said, I have been at TECHSHOW for I guess this will be number 17 if we count the year 2000. I’ve been there ever since, loved the people that I meet there, I’ve made some good friends there. Some of those friends have become my business partners now. So I love TECHSHOW and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

 

Sharon D. Nelson: We know that you were asked to serve on the planning board for ABA TECHSHOW in 2013 and you served on the planning board for 2013, 2014, 2015 and now 2016. So what are some of the significant changes in the last few years that have happened with respect to planning ABA TECHSHOW?

 

Steve Best: Well, TECHSHOW, like technology, is really ever changing. I think in the last few years when I had the privilege of serving as a member of the planning board and now have the privilege of leading the planning board, TECHSHOW is really following the growing trends in technology. The discussions that we have around the planning board table are incredibly interesting because the planning board really is made up of experts in legal technology, albeit practicing lawyers, some are technology consultants, some are in-house counsel. Some are IT professionals within law firms. And we discuss the hot topics and the hot trends that are out there right now in legal technology. The foreman of the conference is still really all about education and about that exceptional conference that I just mentioned. And this year in particular, we really tried pushing things towards the cutting edge.

 

Jim Calloway: Well, Steve, now you have the privilege of being the chair of ABA TECHSHOW planning board and every TECHSHOW  chair wants their year to be the best. Can you share with us a little bit about your approach in planning ABA TECHSHOW 2016?

 

Steve Best: Yes, sir. So this year, when I first got to sit down with the current planning board, I really challenged them to think outside the box. So a couple of the changes that we’re making to TECHSHOW this year, we have retired the 60 tips in 60 minutes sessions and combined them into one. So as you know, if you’ve been to TECHSHOW in the last five to six years, there were two 60 tips 60 minutes sessions; typically one on Friday afternoon, one on Saturday morning, we were just doing the one on Saturday morning. And instead, we now have two very special preliminary sessions that we’re offering at ABA TECHSHOW 2016. One in particular has me very excited and it’s going to feature Ben Wizner of the ACLU. He’s the ACLU counsel representing Edward Snowden. He is coming to TECHSHOW this year and presenting a panel that is going to discuss one of the hot topics that I just mentioned, which is secure client communications in a world of digital surveillance. So that, to me, is an absolute not to be missed session; that’s going to be on Friday, March 18th in the afternoon. Our second preliminary’s going to take place on Saturday morning, the 19th of March. It’s going to be hosted by my esteemed co chair, Adriana Linares, and she’s assembled a panel of four Florida lawyers who resisted technology for as long as they possibly could until recently when the Florida Bar mandated that lawyers have to keep up with technology in order to be compliant with the rules of professional responsibility in Florida. She’s got a panel put together of these lawyers and they’re going to tell you their stories of how they resisted technology and how they’ve now embraced it and the positive impact that it’s had on their practices and their lives. So those are some of the exciting things that we’re doing this year at TECHSHOW and the approach that the planning board took to try to change things up a little bit.

 

Sharon D. Nelson: Well, that all sounds great, Steve. We’re looking forward to it. Jim and I have been going to ABA TECHSHOW for a very long time, too, and we both love it. But let’s now pause for a quick commercial break and we’ll be right back.

 

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Sharon D. Nelson: Welcome back to the Digital Edge on the Legal Talk Network. Today our subject is ABA TECHSHOW 2016: An Interview with Chair Steve Best. Steve, give our listeners some idea about the sessions that are being offered at TECHSHOW this year and why you think they’re important.

 

Steve Best: Well, a couple of different tracks, so to speak. One of the approaches that we took this year in planning TECHSHOW was really to discuss among the planning board what we thought were important topics to lawyers to consider and one of the things that came right back to was an e discovery track. We kind of let that slide a little bit in TECHSHOW 2015 and combined it with litigation topics, but we thought it was important enough to bring back as its own track obsession. So the e discovery track will be offered on Friday, March 18th all day with four sessions. In particular, we have on session that we’ve never done before on cross border e discovery. So our esteemed planning board member, Stacey Blaustein of IBM, is the head of our e discovery track and she’s really worked very hard to put together some amazing content and amazing speakers on e discovery. And I think electronic discovery is really a very important topic that perhaps a lot of litigators shy away from just because of the fear of not really understanding what it is and what to do with it so I think we thought this was a very important topic to bring back. We’ve also got a series of sessions dedicated to getting the most out of the technology you have. As I mentioned before, TECHSHOW has a phenomenal exhibit hall with exceptional top notch vendors who are there to help us understand the technology, they’re offering how it’s going to benefit our office. But there are many lawyers that will come back to the office and say, “That was great; I wanted to embrace some of the new technology but I also want to understand some of the technology that I’ve got in the office.” So we put together a series of four sessions – also on Friday the 18th – called Understanding the Technology you Already Have. So I think that’s a not to be missed track as well. We have a dedicated track on those days dealing with security concerns, cybersecurity, social media concerns, both from a marketing perspective and an electronic discovery perspective, and really so much more. So those are the highlights I’d like to bring up on the show today.

 

Jim Calloway: Well, TECHSHOW’s been around a while, and we understand that now it is the 30th anniversary of ABA TECHSHOW. Are there any special programs or plans to celebrate and commemorate TECHSHOW’s 30th year?

 

Steve Best: Yes, sir, there are. And isn’t it amazing to think that here we are in 2016? So in 1996, somebody had the forethought to believe there was going to be a convergence of law and technology, and here we are 30 years later and there certainly has been. So we are planning a 30th anniversary celebration party on Thursday night, March 17th – and yes, Thursday night, March 17th is St. Patrick’s Day and we are in Chicago. But we’re going to keep this one a little bit subdued, hopefully. It’s going to be at the Chicago Hilton, it will be in the hotel. Our celebration is sponsored by Thomson-West, so we’re very grateful to them for sponsoring this and we’re going to include in the celebration – in addition to some toasting and roasting of the 30 years of evolving legal technology – we’re also going to feature a gaming night at the celebration. So I believe it starts – if I’m not mistaken – at 6 o’clock on Thursday the 17th. So after the first day of TECHSHOW is complete, we’re all going to get together and have some cocktails, have some good food and some gambling tables with safe Thomson-West money in the Chicago Hilton; we’ll have a good time.

 

Sharon D. Nelson: Well, I’m already singing Luck be a Lady tonight. So I think there are tons of reasons to go to ABA TECHSHOW; clearly I’ve been going forever. I went before I Was a speaker and I’ve been a speaker there for a long time. But if you had to identify the top three reasons that our listeners should come to ABA TECHSHOW, what would those be?

 

Steve Best: I think that number one to me is the phenomenal continuing legal education and sessions with some of the best speakers out there – Jim and Sharon, you of course included in that. Experts in legal technology are there and the best thing about the sessions aside from the fact that the content is so wonderful is that the faculty is so approachable and they want to interact with the attendees and they want to talk technology with you. So that to me is a huge reason. Great sessions, great faculty, and everybody is approachable. Number two – I think I mentioned before but I’ll reiterate it again – the exhibit hall has over 300 top notch vendors, some of whom have been there for this entire 17 years that I’ve been going to TECHSHOW and every year there’s always a series of new vendors that come and they love to engage with the attendees and talk about their products. No one is a hard salesperson. We encourage our attendees to spend as much time as they can in the exhibit hall and talk to these folks that are really trying to help us practice law more efficiently and more productively. And then thirdly, I haven’t even had a chance to mention this yet, but thirdly I think KeyNote, we have a very exciting speaker this year. We’re featuring Cindy Cohn of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. She is a renowned expert on one of the hot topics that we’ve talked about which is cybersecurity and protecting our privacy in a world of digital surveillance. So I’m very excited to have Cindy join us and be our featured KeyNote speaker, she’s going to fly in from San Francisco. And I personally haven’t heard her speak, but I’ve heard that she’s a phenomenal and engaging speaker. So I’m really looking forward to KeyNote on Friday the 18th. And of course, you said 3 but I’m going to reiterate the 30th anniversary party, I think that’s a not to be missed event.

 

Jim Calloway: Steve, TECHSHOW has been an incredible event for me, professionally. I’ve had different members having trouble with companies and being able to call the CEO directly because we met at TECHSHOW. I know all three of us want to encourage all of our listeners to attend TECHSHOW. So please remind us when TECHSHOW is and how they register.

 

Steve Best: I’d be happy to. So ABA TECHSHOW this year is March 16th to the 19th in Chicago at the Chicago Hilton on Michigan Avenue. ABA TECHSHOW starts this year on Wednesday night, March 16th; we’re going to have our opening reception in the exhibit hall for the first time, another change. And sessions are the 17th, 18th, and the morning of the 19th which is Saturday. Registration is open now and available at www.TECHSHOW.com. But also, I want to also mention to our listeners, please contact your State Bar about discount codes. That may be available to help you save some money on the registration costs. Many State Bars like yours, Jim, in Oklahoma and mine here in Georgia, offer discounts to members of the State Bar who want to attend the ABA TECHSHOW. So we’d love you to come to the website and look it over. But before you look it over, check with your State Bar, there may be some discounts available.

 

Sharon D. Nelson: Well, we’re very excited about this year and it’s kind of ironic to me because I was the chair of TECHSHOW in its 20th anniversary. So a decade later, I’m feeling old because it’s the 30th anniversary. But it’s always a heck of a party. It’s a place where you learn and have fun and meet people and network. It’s just phenomenal. And thank you for taking us through a description of what a grand lady TECHSHOW is and all the reasons why folks should come and what they’re going to find when they get there, Steve. It was really a pleasure to interview you so thank you for being our guest today.

 

Steve Best: It was my pleasure, thank you for having me.

 

Sharon D. Nelson: That does it for this edition of The Digital Edge, lawyers and technology; and remember, you can subscribe to all the editions of this podcast at LegalTalkNetwork.com, or on iTunes. And if you enjoyed our podcast, please rate us on iTunes.

 

Jim Calloway: Thanks for joining us. Goodbye Ms. Sharon.

 

Sharon D. Nelson: Happy trails, cowboy.
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