What will an online ABA TECHSHOW look like for attendees? Jim and Sharon welcome this year’s co-chairs, Allan Mackenzie and Roberta Tepper, to hear all about the reinvention of TECHSHOW 2021 in the virtual realm. With a 5-day schedule this year (March 8-12), attendees can look forward to having access to all sessions, a larger speaking faculty than ever before, and a variety of social and networking opportunities. Register now at: https://www.techshow.com/pricing/.
Allan Mackenzie is a veteran of the legal technology world and co-chair of ABA TECHSHOW 2021.
Roberta Tepper is the lawyer assistance programs director at the State Bar of Arizona and co-chair of ABA TECHSHOW 2021.
The Digital Edge
ABA TECHSHOW 2021 Goes Virtual!
January 26, 2021
Intro: 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 are listening to Legal Talk Network.
Sharon Nelson: Welcome to the 157th edition of Digital Edge Lawyers and Technology. We’re glad to have you with us. I’m Sharon Nelson, president of Sensei Enterprises and information technology, cyber security and digital forensics firm in Fairfax, Virginia.
Jim Calloway: And I’m Jim Calloway, director of the Oklahoma Bar Association’s Management Assistance Program. Today, our topic is ABA TECHSHOW 2021 Goes Virtual!
Sharon Nelson: But first, we’d like to thank our sponsors. Thanks to our sponsor, Alert Communications for sponsoring this episode. If any law firm is looking for a call intake or retainer services available 24/7, 365, just call (866) 827-5568.
Jim Calloway: We would also like to thank our sponsor, the Black Letter Podcast, a show dedicated to making law exciting and fun with informative interviews and advice from esteemed guest. We’d also like to thank Scorpion. Scorpion is a leading provider of marketing solutions for the legal industry. With nearly 20 years of experience serving attorneys, Scorpion can help you grow your practice. Learn more at scorpionlegal.com. Our guests today are the co-chairs of ABA TECHSHOW 2021. After his start as a legal secretary on an IBM Executive Typewriter, Allan Mackenzie has spent over 35 years both tracking and influencing the development, implementation and use of legal technology. A principal or founding partner in three international consultancies, advisor to numerous case management and document assembly software companies and employee of corporations such as weighing(ph) and Microsoft, Allan has taught and consulted with firms in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Mexico, Brazil, Japan, Australia, and China. Co-chair of ABA TECHSHOW 2021, Allan is also the recipient of the Clio Most Valued Partner Award. Roberta Tepper is the lawyer assistance programs director for the State Bar of Arizona and advises lawyers on practice management and legal technology through the bar’s practice 2.0 Practice Management Advice Program. She is co-chair of ABA TECHSHOW 2021, a member of the law practice divisions governing council and was recently honored by the Legal Technology Resource Center as one of the 2021 Women of Legal Tech. You may follow Practice 2.0 on Twitter @AZPractice2_0 and read her monthly column, Let’s Practice in the Arizona Attorney Magazine. Thanks for joining us today, Roberta and Allan.
Roberta Tepper: Thank you so much for having us.
Allan Mackenzie: Indeed, indeed.
Sharon Nelson: Roberta, when did the members of the ABA TECHSHOW board realize that the conference would have to be virtual and how much panic ensued?
Roberta Tepper: Well, as you know, Sharon, as a former TECHSHOW chair, we start working on TECHSHOW the minute the previous TECHSHOW is over and we sat in the room at the end of February in Chicago, thanked our lucky stars that the pandemic had not yet really bloomed and started talking about TECHSHOW being virtual then. But it became apparent as the spring unwound that there was just no way to have an in-person show given the pandemic, given Illinois’ very aggressive schedule for reopening or maybe not aggressive, they are, you know, in Illinois you can’t have an in-person show until the vaccine was widely available and at that point, we didn’t even have a glimmer of hope that there would be one. So, we’ve been working on towards TECHSHOW being virtual pretty much since the spring of 2020. We brought our concerns to the law practice executive committee and they were very supportive in making the decision early that TECHSHOW would be virtual. So, the board just dug in sort of in the middle of the spring and went forward assuming it would be virtual.
Jim Calloway: They say there’s always a silver lining Allan and maybe this time, it was that you could at least in part reinvent ABA TECHHOW. Did that prove to be the case as you went along?
Allan Mackenzie: No, I’m not sure whether the silver lining was aligning with my hairline, but actually, it is true.
The deal is that when you have an in-place show, there are limitations you never really think about, like the budget for travel for speakers and trying to eke that budget out into as many speaking sessions for one speaker as possible so you only pay for one hotel room. Being live has meant a lot of possibilities opening up in the economic world because so many people who could not afford either the time or the money to be a part of it in person can now be a part of it for just a few hours and move on to whatever else is happening. The doors opening for both speakers as well as attendees is pretty vast.
Sharon Nelson: The listeners are always fascinated to know which platform was picked and why. Roberta, can you give us some insight into the decision making process and how the content will be delivered? Is it all live or is some of it pre-recorded?
Roberta Tepper: Well, it’s a little bit of both. You get a bunch of lawyers in the room. You’re going to get a little bit of both. We are going to use a platform called Convene and we picked it as part of an overall ABA working group that got together and considered a variety of virtual platforms, some of them brand new, some of them with a little more meat on their bones. We were very lucky that the ABA meeting planner, Lyndsey Kent who works with the TECHSHOW board was part of that decision-making group and we got to take a look at Convene, we got to take a look at some of the other platforms and decided that Convene would serve our purposes the best. You know, we looked at the look and feel of it from the end user perspective on how the classes would look and was it a little tiny window? Was it a big window? Would you be able to get a feel that you are a little bit in a room with the speakers and then we decided that with the board, that it would really be the most dynamic TECHSHOW possible in the virtual realm, if most of our content was live streamed. Some of our presenters actually had a preference to pre-record and we have made that possible and they’ll be doing that in the coming weeks, but most of it will be day of live-streamed. All the bumps and problems that come up, we’re hoping there will be none, but it’ll be a live stream that will sort of be the equivalent of live television really for the most part.
Jim Calloway: So, a virtual a ABA TECHSHOW. It’s interesting to think about what that means for the attendees, Allan. I know for me, it means no deep-dish Chicago pizza this year, but what kind of changes will our attendees find?
Allan Mackenzie: Well, I referred to that as the bunny slipper effect a lot. You’re going to be in the comfort of your own home which, you know, when you first think about this and how many Zoom meetings you’d been to before March of last year and how many you’d been to since March of last year. The glimmer may have worn off, but the accessibility of the show will reach an all-time high. The fact that it is not all day every day in terms of night and day and having to balance it across multiple time zones means that there’s going to be an easier attendance with less money and time involved. We are hoping for the ability for more and more people to be involved, but at the same time, while we all love, those of us have been coming as long as all of us in this virtual room app, while people have loved being a part of the in hotel presence, one of the drawbacks of the original shows is that you had to choose classes which you could attend live and only attend live and you could get materials about the class that was at the same time that you missed. Now, you’re going to have the capability of circling back to recorded presentations of the shows that darn it, at the exact same time and you had to choose. So, between those two things, the ease of attending and the ability to get into classes that you had not been able to — would not have been able to see due to time parallels, you’re now going to get even more bang for your dollar than you did before which means you can take full advantage of the entirety of TECHSHOW which has never been Impossible before.
Sharon Nelson: Well, that’s quite a silver lining indeed and I’ll bet you that the numbers really substantially go up which is great.
Allan Mackenzie: We’re hoping.
Jim Calloway: We’re all hoping. Before we move on to our next segment, let’s take a quick commercial break.
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Sharon Nelson: Welcome back to the Digital Edge on the Legal Talk Network. Today, our subject is ABA TECHSHOW 2021 Goes Virtual! Our guests are Roberta Tepper and Allan Mackenzie, the co-chairs of ABA TECHSHOW. Roberta, what would you tell our listeners of the reasons why they should definitely come to the ABA virtual ABA TECHSHOW and what is the cost please?
Roberta Tepper: Well, you know that I tend to gush about TECHSHOW. You know for me, TECHSHOW is like the prom, you plan for it a whole year, you get ready. This year, you know, just on a very practical level, it’s less expensive to come. There is no hotel. It’s good and bad. No Chicago deep dish pizza. I’m more like Jim with the lack of that or Garrett’s Popcorn, but the best part is probably what Allan referred to as the bunny slipper effect, which is you can be a TECHSHOW from wherever you are most comfortable and the other good part about having a virtual TECHSHOW is we really were able to experiment with format. And so, we have lots of shorter sessions, we have lots of half-hour sessions about different topics, so there’s an even huge variety than usual. I think we went from about 60 sessions to about 90 sessions, granted some of them are 30 minutes long instead of an hour, but it really gave us the opportunity to offer an even broader range of topics. So, the other thing is, we were able to, as Allan mentioned, have speakers that we never could have lured to TECHSHOW before because now, they don’t have to travel. So, we really have assembled a really excellent faculty with interesting tracks about a variety of ideas. And then you’re in your bunny slippers, what could be better, you know, you get to learn about the best and the brightest in technology, in AI here from national speakers and you get to do it and still be able to walk over to the fridge and get a snack if you want to. So, TECHSHOW registration this year and you know, TECHSHOW was five days this year. It’s five shorter days instead of three long days, but it’s $295 for ABA members for the whole show or if you’re not an ABA member, $350. You can, if you want to attend one single day for $175, but really, why bother? You should just attend the whole show.
Jim Calloway: So, what’s the kickoff for TECHSHOW going to be, Allan? And what’s the grand finale?
Allan Mackenzie: Well, I see a trap there, but we’ll run with it. So, we’re going to start off as always and not everyone may realize this because it was usually on the evening before the true kickoff of TECHSHOW proper. We’re going to be doing the start of Alley Competition run by Robert Ambrogi as we have before and that just keeps drawing larger and larger crowds, even though it was much earlier and showcases some of the amazing ideas that are coming out of the technological minds to help not only in the practice of law, but the accessibility of law, which is what excites me. And if you think that either Roberta or I would ever dare to not end the TECHSHOW with 60 and 60, you’re out of your ever-loving mind. We’re not veering from that. However, what might happen just before that is yet to be announced and we will be very excited to talk about things like extra speakers in just a little bit. So, stay tuned to your email.
Sharon Nelson: All right. Well that’s a bait, I’ll take it. You know, Roberta, I’ve been going of course to many of these virtual conferences as I know everybody in this call has and the biggest problem it seems to me is that we’re not with each other, so networking is much harder. So, how at ABA TECHSHOW will attendees be able to network during the conference?
Roberta Tepper: We’re still working on it as a board, but you know, for the past few years, we’ve had groups, we started calling them Communities. Last year, we formatted them as Meetups. Based on a variety of practice areas and settings, depending on what your particular interest is, solo small firm, government lawyers, litigators, international lawyers. This year, we’re adding some Meetups. Based on what people have been experiencing, we have some lawyering while parenting groups planned because we know that that’s been a challenge.
So, we’re going to have meetup sessions probably at the beginning and end of each day because we have that time zone issue and we’re going to have some other opportunities to network. We’re working on some mindfulness and meditation. I’ll call them snacks, little 5 or 10-minute breaks during the day, but we really do want to incorporate that meet the people you know and love and only see at TECHSHOW in the hallway opportunity into TECHSHOW. And so, we’re going to have some, I’ll call them Zoom rooms open throughout the TECHSHOW, that we’re going to have board members. Hopefully, some of the Black Ribbon Club former TECHSHOW chairs hosting or facilitating throughout the show and those will be incorporated into the schedule when it gets finalized.
Jim Calloway: What has the new format meant in terms of getting speakers, Allan?
Allan Mackenzie: Oh, we’ve alluded to it and it’s really opened some amazing doors. You know, we talked a little bit about budget and the fact that we need to eke as many presentations out of anyone presenter as possible where now people can flow in. There are people who can attend the convention and if their schedules are such or their speaking engagements are such that they could only have been part of it for a few hours of one day, we can have them now. So, we have the ability to expand on the size of the faculty more than we ever have before which gives us more opportunities to mix and match new speakers versus seasoned speakers and some first-timers as well as those who couldn’t even be there that we could record in advance. We’ve never had that flexibility before. Now, understand that we still have the limitations that on the constraints, the challenge of saying that something is CLE(ph) worthy is one thing if you know the rules for your state, but try doing it for 50 states at the same time. That’s an amazing job to accomplish and with the possibility of more people, we can offer a whole lot more diversity on everything from topics to speakers to lawyers and non-lawyers as well.
Jim Calloway: I’m ready to go now Allan, but before we move on to our next segment, let’s take a quick commercial break.
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Sharon Nelson: Welcome back to the Digital Edge on the Legal Talk Network. Today, our subject is ABA TECHSHOW 2021 Goes Virtual! Our guests are Roberta Tepper and Allan Mackenzie, the co-chairs of ABA TECHSHOW. All right Allan, now is your chance to tell us about some of that exciting programming that we can look forward to.
Allan Mackenzie: Oh, the diversity is a tracks in trying to limit it down to such things. The joy of the ABA TECHSHOW as opposed to some of the other conventions out there is that we can offer broad spectrums of things not only in terms of topics, but in terms of personal expertise of the attendees. So, we’re blending everything from taking yourself into new areas of automation documents and otherwise, business planning boot camp is going to be fun for those who are starting up the era of collaboration and what it means do you need additional tools or can you actually do something within a case management system your own, core concepts popular every year always wanting more on the basics of working with PDFs and Microsoft Office Products. So, we’ve got a whole track on that. Everyone of course is continuing to talk about cyber security and the importance of it just gets more and more focused shall we say as you look at CNN, but we’re also going on the flip side with the positive results of change. So, disruptive innovation, especially now that we’ve had to deal with a whole year of working from home and elsewhere, extracting and expanding and working with diversity, it keeps getting hotter and better topic. But then of course, the flip side everybody who comes looking for CLE credits is looking for that elusive ethic. So here we go. We’ve got a whole track on ethics possibilities and then in addition to that, preparing to make sure that your firm, your practice is future proof, which is an interesting topic as we keep learning that the future changes day by day.
Leadership and guidance for those who are in law firm management realm, what’s going on in litigation and the changes of that especially with the idea of broadcast trials, marketing of course near and dear to everyone as we work in a more competitive market and thanks to technology, making this small firm able to compete with the law firm. That’s a really big center for myself and then of course, our integration that we began four years ago with Academia, the future of the law firm and the training of a lawyer especially in technology prior to leaving law school and then a whole bunch of interesting split off topics on doing things virtually and remote including maybe just a little bit of sharing yourself as a video with a little bit of AI and then near and dear to all of our hearts as we’ve come to the end and this is that you have to do a little digital detox. So, we’re going to be talking about well-being and what it takes to survive what’s going on in the legal industry from a personal level.
Jim Calloway: We all love prowling the expo hall, grabbing some swag, talking to the vendor representatives. How’s that going to be handled this year, Roberta?
Roberta Tepper: Well, I’ll just pull the Band-Aid off in one fell swoop and tell you there will be no swag. We do not anticipate that any of our vendors will be mailing you swag and anybody who knows me knows that nobody really mourns that loss more than I do. But our marketing team has lined up quite a lot of vendors including about 20 new ones at this point and they are continuing to work on that. I know that there were some people hoping for VR goggles and a virtual expo hall with you know, a virtual gloves and movement, that’s not going to happen either. But the nice thing is that our vendor exhibit, we’re not going to call it an expo hall because we’re not going to physically be in a hall, is going to be pretty expensive. It’s going to be incorporated into the main platform, so you don’t have to leave the floor let’s say to go visit them. Our vendors are going to be able to have branded areas where they can chat with attendees. They will be able to share marketing materials. They’ll be able to share videos if they want. There will be that back and forth between the vendors and the attendees through the virtual platform, but it’ll all be on that same platform. If you’re really jonesing for the swag, then you know, make plans to come to TECHSHOW 2022, which we have every confidence will be back in person. But yeah, there’ll be quite an opportunity and we’ve built in breaks during the schedule that people can go to. The other nice thing about being virtual is you’re not really limited to TECHSHOW hours to contact those vendors and it will be up to the vendor as to how long they are available either before or after the day starts.
Sharon Nelson: I love your reference to ABA TECHSHOW 2022 from your mouth to god’s ears. Allan, will there still be a passport to prizes? That’s a beloved tradition too.
Allan Mackenzie: So, the answer is we are going to talk to you and say, yes, the technology around it is developing as we speak, so why don’t you just come on to TECHSHOW and find out.
Sharon Nelson: You got it.
Jim Calloway: Well, there’s the ultimate teaser, but let’s try it once more. Who wants to say the final words about why everyone should come to ABA TECHSHOW and how do they register and find more information?
Roberta Tepper: Well, I will say everybody should come to ABA TECHSHOW because it’s never been easier, it’s never been less expensive. The content is phenomenal and you don’t have to be in Chicago in the winter now. I personally like a little cold weather, but not everybody does. So, you don’t have to unpack your boots and your galoshes and your scarves and gloves. So, it’ll be a great experience. I think we just have a variety of topics that are sure to enthrall and entrance everyone no matter where you are in your practice or what kind of practice you have and go to techshow.com to register for updates and stay tuned for some of those updates that Allan was teasing us about.
Sharon Nelson: Really looking forward to the conference and Jim and I want to thank both of you dear friends for joining us today. And for some reason, beyond all the wonderful things I heard about ABA TECHSHOW and how great this new virtual TECHSHOW will be, the image I will carry with me from this podcast forever is that of bunny slippers.
Roberta Tepper: You know, instead of getting out your boots, get out your best bunny slippers. Thanks, Jim and Sharon for having us and giving us the opportunity to talk about our true labor of love for the last 10 months, 11 months and you know just on a personal level, you know, thank you, Jim and Sharon as always because you are two of my most valued mentors and inspirations.
Allan Mackenzie: Just along those same lines, for those who don’t really know this or understand this, the ABA TECHSHOW board has never ceased to amaze me in the number of things that between 10 and 14 people can get done in a year and that better than 2500 attendee at conference can be pulled off by not only the incredibly creative board members and Roberta and I, while we’re a part of it this year, ours is more of an overseeing role. The number of unique and wonderful ideas that bubble up in the course of meeting after meeting after meeting through the year is just astounding and it also blows me away every year that the staff of the ABA themselves can collectively come together and make such an incredible show with a small manpower number and a relatively small budget. I am thoroughly impressed as well are each of the individual board members who say I have never seen 12 people do so much. So, thank you to the board itself for the year that Roberta and I got to be your intrepid leaders in this time of change and for reacting so quickly and coming up with something outside of the normal game plan to keep all of this alive and going.
Sharon Nelson: Well, we certainly join you in thanking the board and thanking the two of you and 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 an Apple podcasts. And if you enjoyed our podcast, please rate(ph) us in Apple podcast.
Jim Calloway: Thanks for joining us. Goodbye Ms. Sharon.
Sharon Nelson: Happy trails, cowboy.
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