Last week I attended ABA TECHSHOW, the ABA's legal technology conference held in Chicago every Spring. It was great to learn how other lawyers are using technology in ways that I had not yet thought of, or in ways that I knew about but had not yet taken the time to appreciate. I'll be sharing specific examples in upcoming posts on iPhone J.D. Today, I am sharing some more general thoughts.
Whenever I attend TECHSHOW, my main interest is mobile technology. Even though the conference did not have a dedicated mobile track this year — a strange omission that I hope to see remedied next year — the iPhone and iPad were a central focus of many aspects of the conference. Indeed, the biggest theme of the conference this year was mobile security, a topic that could not have been more timely with the current FBI vs. Apple showdown over the government's demand that Apple create a backdoor that would let someone bypass encryption on an iPhone. Those proceedings are currently on ice for a few weeks; the judge granted the FBI's request for a last-minute continuance after receiving a tip from an unidentified third party on a possible way to access the iPhone without Apple's help — even though the government's brief filed on March 10, 2016 asserted: "Without Apple’s assistance, the government cannot carry out the search of Farook’s iPhone authorized by the search warrant." Of course, if the tip doesn't pan out, the hearing may rescheduled. And even if FBI stops pressuring Apple on this specific iPhone, there could be yet another request by a state or federal government with respect to another iPhone.
The keynote speaker was Cindy Cohn, Executive Director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the leading nonprofit organization aimed at protecting civil liberties in the digital world. About half of her speach was focused on the FBI vs. Apple case, and she did a great job explaining the flaws in the government's arguments. I didn't take notes, but I sat next to Victor Li of the ABA Journal who did, and he wrote this report on the speech. For example, Li quotes this smart statement by Cohn: "This isn’t really a question of privacy versus security. It’s really about security versus security. The question is whether security that keeps you protected but is flummoxing the FBI needs to be downgraded."
I also enjoyed a security-related session that was moderated by David Lat (the founder and managing editor of the popular site Above the Law) with panel members Ben Wizner and Chris Soghoian of the ACLU (who represent Edward Snowden) and Marcia Hoffman, who used work for the EFF and now works in private practice focusing on electronic privacy. Victor Li of the ABA Journal wrote a great summary of that presentation. For example, while the panel recommended using the Signal app to text and make secure calls to clients. That's the app that they use to communicate with Snowden; I can think of no better recommendation for a secure communications app than to know that the ACLU uses it for attorney-client communications with Snowden. They also noted that if you and your client both have an iOS device, the built-in FaceTime service also provides secure, encrypted communications. Remember that FaceTime doesn't have to mean a video call; you can also use FaceTime Audio to make what is essentially an encrypted phone call.
On the Expo floor, I got to talk with representatives from lots of companies developing interesting software for the iPhone and iPad. I'll be reviewing some of these products in the future, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention one particular effort that a vendor used to attract people to its booth. Sure, lots of booths offered pens, mints and lip balm with logos on them. Westlaw had an artist using an iPad Pro and an Apple Pencil to sketch caricatures of attorneys — such as this one, which I'm picking at random of course. But the award for most creative marketing has to go to the website HowToManageASmallLawFirm.com which brought puppies to their booth that you could pet and hold. I've never even worked for a small law firm, and yet even I visited that booth several times last week.
For a look at some of the best swag from the exhibitor booths, check out this slideshow by Molly McDonough of the ABA Journal.
On Friday night, I hosted a Taste of TECHSHOW dinner and had a great time enjoying some wine and Italian food with others who use the iPhone and/or iPad. The ABA kept these dinners smaller this year; unfortunately that meant that only a few folks could attend, but it did make the event more intimate, and I really enjoyed the evening with those who were able to attend: Prof. Kenton Brice of the University of Oklahoma College of Law (who is doing a great job teaching law students how to use technology in their practice), Houston attorney Sally Andrews, my co-host Brett Burney (a litigation support consultant who was Chair of TECHSHOW 2015), California attorney Sean Cowdrey, Chicago attorney Lynn Ostfeld, Ian O'Flaherty (the founder of Lit Software which sells TrialPad, TranscriptPad and DocReviewPad), Kentucky attorney Beverly Burden, and Virginia (and Korean) attorney Hae-Chan Park. We shared numerous interesting stories and had a lot of laughs.
On Saturday morning, I presented a session on recommended mobile apps along with Dallas attorney Tom Mighell (the author of many books including iPad Apps in One Hour) and Brian Focht (the publisher of The Cyber Advocate) in a session moderated by Natalie Kelly (of the State Bar of Georgia, who was the chair of TECHSHOW 2014). This was a combined iOS and Android session, but the primary iOS apps that we discussed included (all links go to the App Store):
- Picture It Settled
- Moleskine Timepage
- Office Lens
- Genius Scan
- Microsoft Word
- Microsoft Send
- Telegram Messenger
- Timeline 3D
- Google Cardboard
- Pocket Casts
- Google Photos
- Google Maps
- No More Voicemail
- Lutron Home Control+
- Elgato Eve
Those are not all of the apps that we mentioned. For example, after Tom discussed PocketCasts, I mentioned that my favorite app for listening to podcasts is Overcast, and other scanner apps that we discussed included Scanner Pro and Scanbot. Nevertheless, that list gives you a sense of the types of apps that we discussed. If you were there at the session, here is what you looked like from the front of the room:
My favorite part of TECHSHOW was catching up with iPhone J.D. readers from around the country. I met some people who I already "knew" from email, others who I had met at prior TECHSHOWs, and many who I met for the first time. Thanks for all of the suggestions on topics to explore on iPhone J.D. I hope to see you again next year!