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— Legal Talk Network (@LegalTalkNet) March 16, 2017
There was a time when legal professionals were impressed with flip phones and the newest MacBook Air. Needless to say, technology has come a long way since then. In the more than 30 years of its existence, ABA TECHSHOW has evolved along with the technology it features. In this report from TECHSHOW Today, host Dennis Kennedy and guests, Kimberly Sanchez, John Stewart, and Adriana Linares (who happens to be this year’s chair) talk about some of these changes and how they reflect shifts in the legal industry at large. Because of the wide reach of the TECHSHOW, their discussion covers a lot of ground, including Florida’s changing CLE requirements, Trump’s budget plan that slashes the Legal Service Corporation, and how legal technology will affect access to justice. They even talk about how communication is shifting towards being primarily emojis. All the while, ABA TECHSHOW reflects these changes by offering technology solutions and encouraging innovation.
Is Florida (yes, Florida) raising the bar?
The acceptance of technology varies among legal sectors. Some are more welcoming and open to sending staff to TECHSHOW while others don’t see the need. But even the states that no one thought would ever shift focus can, in fact, shift focus. Florida has recently changed their CLE requirements to now include three hours of mandatory technology training. Such a change might be partly because of the growing attendance of bar leadership at TECHSHOW. “I think part of Florida’s pivot springs from participation here. That information, that dialogue is so valuable,” John says.
“Florida was always my example of anti technology, but they’ve completely changed their approach and it’ll be interesting to see what other states really start to pick that up,” Dennis agrees.
John continues, “What we found out is three hours is not the solution but it’s enough to let you know what you don’t know. And now people are learning what they don’t know and they see how valuable it is to their practice. That’s the incentivisor for doing it and I think it’s paid off already.”
Legal Services: A Hotbed of Innovation (Even After Budget Cuts)
Speaking of sectors, one of the more progressive sectors is legal services. Due to budget restraints, they have to get more creative in order to handle the massive amount of clients they handle. “There is so much innovation that occurs within legal services in technology because we just don’t have the capacity,” Kimberly says. These constraints may be worse if Trump’s proposed budget cuts pass, which eliminates funding for the Legal Services Corporation completely. “The administration has a very different idea of what should and shouldn’t be funded and Legal Services Corporation is just not one of those things,” Kimberly says.
To handle their tight budget, legal services often turns to technology and, in doing so, TECHSHOW. At the conference they can use the experiences of others and the exhibited technology to help solve problems.
As Kimberly says, “The problem, I think, is after a while we’re innovating, and innovating, and innovating, and keeping it sustainable is something we need to do by incorporating all of the legal and the nonprofit sectors together, which is why TECHSHOW is awesome.”
Can technology help with access to justice and other legal issues?
With a defunded Legal Services Corporation, one of the legal industry’s biggest issues, access to justice, faces another setback. “How do you help people legal aid can’t help?” John asks, which is a question a lot of lawyers are asking. Since technology is growing so rapidly, many are considering whether advances could help improve access to justice.
“It’s really an interesting problem,” John says, “Because the thought is that technology will help solve the access problem by allowing lawyers to reach consumers in a more competitive way in terms of price points that they can deliver products and still make money.”
But so far, price points aren’t reflecting any change.
“It’s early so that could change but if it doesn’t change than we have to look for another solution,” John continues.
Regardless of whether the solution is technology, something has to change. Innovation is a focus of TECHSHOW, which gathers creative thinkers to brainstorm solutions. As Dennis says, “People are asking ‘how can we do something that’s actually an alternative delivery of legal services with technology that deals with staffing, that deals with volume, that deals with some of the constraints that people have?’”
As change occurs, especially regarding technology in the legal realm, John insists that conversations need to happen that ensure sustainability and efficiency.
“It has to be a conversation and people need to think it through rather than just assume that everything will be fine,” he says.
What’s new (and old but really good) at TECHSHOW?
Access to justice is not the only harbinger of change, especially for TECHSHOW which constantly tries to keep up with shifts in the legal industry. This year, there were a couple notable new additions to the lineup.
The Academy came to Adriana with the desire to learn more about teaching practice management. This resulted in TECHSHOW’s first ever academic track, which focuses on effective ways schools can better equip students with practice management and technology skills.
Another new feature was Startup Alley, a series of booths that featured 12 startup companies. These particular companies were voted in by the internet since vender positions at TECHSHOW and are normally too expensive for the average startup to afford. The competition was held with the intention of welcoming new ideas to TECHSHOW. As Kimberly says, “Startup Alley is one of my favorites because you get to see all of the new, interesting, innovative technology that people are just coming up with and have the ability to showcase.” Once at TECHSHOW, the companies created a pitch and the winner, Ping, was chosen by audience vote.
The inclusion of startups in this year’s TECHSHOW reflects how these companies are becoming a source of innovation and are driving change in the legal industry. Dennis observes that, instead of becoming consultants, lawyers interested in technology are creating their own startups. “What we sort of took as business as usual in the legal profession they see as a problem that needs to be routed around,” he says of these lawyers. “If something needs to be done, they’ll just start it.”
For more stories and experiences from the panelists, watch the full video below.
Legal Talk Network is a podcast network for legal professionals with hosts from well-known organizations and brands in legal. Over 20 active podcasts cover important legal news and developments, including access to justice, law school, industry events, legal technology, and the future of law.