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— Legal Talk Network (@LegalTalkNet) March 17, 2017
ABA TECHSHOW 2017 may have just ended, but preparations are already well underway for TECHSHOW 2018. In this report from TECHSHOW Today, hosts Dennis Kennedy and Steve Best interview Tom Mighell and Debbie Reynolds, co-chairs of TECHSHOW 2018, about what stood out at the conference this year and what to look for next year.
Be sure to stay tuned for a special guest appearance by Adriana Linares and, if that wasn’t enough, her new puppy Rebel, the new unofficial mascot of TECHSHOW Today.
What do you like about TECHSHOW so far?
The panelists start off their conversation with discussion about what made this year’s TECHSHOW special.
Debbie notes the popularity of the TECHSHOW labs. She says, “The labs were packed. They were very interactive, people loved them, and all I could think about the whole time was how do we take this idea and make it better?”
She also praised the communities, saying, “Adriana brought in communities, which we love the concept of communities, and we found that some of the sessions were very community oriented in just getting people to talk to each other about their challenges.”
Tom agreed and brought up his own conference favorites, one of which was the new academic track. He says, “This is the first time that we brought in universities who were actually working to teach people about practice management, and finding ways to bring TECHSHOW attendees to talk with them about that, and figure out how they can grow to other law schools and improve the process of teaching lawyers about both technology and practice management.”
But as cool as the academic track was, the other tracks stood out to him as well. A new approach to tracks produced conversations about productivity, time management, and work-life balance. “In addition to having tracks about technology itself there were things that were more practice oriented,” he says. “Having those options to say it’s not all about technology is effective.”
What TECHSHOW 2018 will (maybe) Look Like
One of the biggest changes that will occur in 2018 is the change in location.
“The logistics for next year are kind of interesting because this is the last year that TECHSHOW is going to be in the Chicago Hilton,” Tom says. “We’re moving to a new hotel and, when moving to a new hotel, there are a lot of challenges and a lot of things that people need to plan for. So they’ve asked for us to come in and help with that transition.” While this may mean a lot of logistical challenges, there are also a ton of advantages that get Tom and Debbie excited about the shift, including an improved vendor hall layout that allows attendees to miss fewer sessions. “Having a new place brings a whole lot more opportunities,” Tom says.
But as big a deal as this change is, it’s not the only difference Tom and Debbie are planning for.
“One of the things we want to work on in 2018 is getting more lawyers involved in the process, bringing more attendees,” Tom says. “As many people as come to TECHSHOW, I still think there could be more.” Getting more people through the door might include expanding on partnerships with exhibitors and working closer with state bar organizations.
And of course, there are the ideas the co-chairs have yet to share. As Tom says, “There’s also some things that we want to do to move the TECHSHOW board forward in a way that helps to groom and build great technology leaders of the future.”
Themes of TECHSHOW
After briefly explaining how those interested can get involved with TECHSHOW 2018 (become a speaker by submitting a proposal via the TECHSHOW website), the panelists talked about current strengths of the TECHSHOW that they want to keep around.
“We need to build on the communities,” Debbie says, highlighting one of her favorite new aspects of this year’s conference. The conversations and networking that happens in these communities provides lasting aid and support for those who participate. As Debbie says, “We definitely see the value in that.”
Tom agrees saying, “The people who speak at TECHSHOW, the people who are on the vendor floor who sell the products, they’re not the only experts, they’re not the only ones with experience with technology. There’s a lot of attendees who have similar experiences and who have similar things they want to talk about and putting communities together really is the nice part of TECHSHOW because you’re bringing people together who wouldn’t ordinarily have a chance to meet and talk about these issues.”
Debbie continues, “It’s about creating a safe place where you can talk about things that you maybe wouldn’t talk about with your colleagues.”
And the conversations that occur in the communities often venture beyond technology to topics like practice management. According to Debbie, “It wasn’t just about technology. In fact, a lot of the problems that people brought up we said those are people problems and those are process problems and technology exists to support that but let’s really dig into what the problem is.”
Tom pushes back a little at this point, reminding that the conference is still about technology in a lot of ways. He says, “We need to have the broader labs and social experiments, but we also need to be a place where we can help people learn more about actually how to use the tools.”
Although a lot of lawyers are taking steps to integrate technology into their practice, there are still a number that come to TECHSHOW to gain a basic understanding of how technology can help them. Tom explains this, saying, “In some of the sessions on Microsoft Office, on things we use all the time in our practice, there were still people who were clapping or saying ‘oh’ and ‘ah’ over some rather basic functionality that we would hope everybody would know how to do but they don’t. So, to me, that’s the other value of TECHSHOW.”
Harnessing Technology for Legal Access
Because it has been such a big topic at this year’s TECHSHOW, Steve asked how next year’s conference will address the issue of legal aid not reaching those who need it most.
Tom mentions this year’s keynote speech and discusses the source of the problem saying, “I think there’s still some disagreement whether it’s regulation in the industry or whether it’s just a matter of lawyers finding the right tools and the right ways to connect with those populations that haven’t quite been found yet.”
He goes on to explain about two events this year that he thought effectively addressed this issue. One was the hackathons, which worked to develop apps for veterans which are underserved in the legal market, while the other was Startup Alley, a collection of startups that introduced new tools that can potentially serve both lawyers and consumers.
He says about the startups, “Encouraging that kind of continued innovation and the ability to bring new ideas forward, I think that helps everybody. It helps the consumer, it helps the other vendors out there see what other people are doing and helps them evolve, and it helps lawyers find out ways to serve other people as well.”
Addressing TECHSHOW Issues
One of the challenges that TECHSHOW continually faces is the wide array of experience in the audience.
Debbie address this problem by saying, “I think the key is tracks and sessions that are descriptive that help people understand what they’re going to get from it, and then making sure that we continue to bring in amazing presenters that meet the expectations of the people that have read the descriptions.”
She also hopes to continue the Monday morning workshops that help those who are inexperienced (and potentially overwhelmed) develop plans to implement what they’ve learned at TECHSHOW.
Tom also says that surveying attendees on the content covered and not covered might help in finding relevant speakers. He says, “I don’t know that we do as good a job at surveying people on the content that we don’t have.”
When talking about the conference, TECHSHOW veterans often mention the relationships created and conversations had that improved their practice. This social engagement is an essential part of TECHSHOW which led to Steve asking how this would be facilitated at next year’s conference.
Though he was hesitant to declare anything as set in stone, Tom acknowledged the social events he hopes to maintain, saying, “I think, frankly, the communities idea is a great method of identifying like people.”
He also spoke about the Taste of TECHSHOW dinners. “They’re good because, not only do you have a chance to talk about a specific topic that you may want to learn more about, but there’s a lot of people that come to TECHSHOW that don’t know anybody and it’s a great opportunity to just talk to people.”
Debbie brought up another aspect that she felt brought people together, saying, “Bringing health and wellness into TECHSHOW has been awesome. I can’t imagine us not doing those things next year.” Some of these health and wellness activities included yoga and a 5k.
Both agree, though, that the most beneficial sources for attendees are the speakers themselves. Tom says, “The fact that the speakers stick around afterwards and throughout the conference where they are accessible to people really is unique.”
Debbie says of being a speaker, “Some of my most proud moments as a professional have been lawyers coming up to me and saying ‘I heard you speak at TECHSHOW last year and what you talked about really changed the way I practice, changed the way I use technology’.”
She continues, saying, “We see, no question about it, that we’re making a difference in these people’s lives that affects them professionally and personally and I love to be a part of that.”
For more about TECHSHOW’s past, present, and future, watch the full video below.
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