Last week, I attended ABA TECHSHOW 2018. For decades, this event held in Chicago every Spring has been the biggest and best event for learning more about legal technology — in other words, for about as long as legal technology has even been a thing. Every TECHSHOW is different, and there were some big differences this year, most notably a new venue at the Chicago Hyatt Regency. Debbie Foster and Tom Mighell were the co-chairs of TECHSHOW this year, and they and the rest of the planning board deserve lots of praise for making this transition work so well. Pretty much every aspect of the venue was better this year. The layout of the Expo Hall was particularly improved, with everything together in one huge space. And it was nice having the conference rooms much closer to the Expo Hall so you could more easily go back-and-forth.
The iPhone app associated with the conference was also great this year. It contained the full schedule and made it easy to create your own agenda of the events and sessions you want to attend. You could see all program materials. You could get information on speakers and attendees. And there was a nice integrated social component with pictures and information, a fun way to see what people were doing without having to do a search on Twitter. I wish that the app had been updated to accommodate the larger iPhone X screen, but otherwise, it was a great companion for the conference and made printed materials unnecessary.
My big complaint about the conference this year was the lack of mobile content in the sessions. ABA TECHSHOW has a ton of sessions, with multiple tracks occurring simultaneously. Even a cursory look at the Expo Floor would confirm what you already know — mobile technology is one of the hottest areas of legal technology, as it has been for many years. And yet there has not been a mobile track at TECHSHOW since 2015. This makes no sense to me. There could have easily been a track devoted to just the use of the iPad in the practice of law, or there could have been an even broader track focused on iPads, iPhones, wearable devices, etc.
I raised this issue with co-chair Tom Mighell. It's not like Tom doesn't get the importance of mobile technology; back in 2011, he authored a book on how lawyers can use iPads, he used to publish a website called iPad 4 Lawyers, and he and I have co-presented at TECHSHOW in the past on mobile technology topics. Tom understands mobile technology. Tom's response to me was that mobile technology could just be incorporated as a sub-topic of other sessions. I agree that is good too, and I saw some of that myself. For example, in a session focused on using Macs, Florida attorney Katie Floyd, California attorney David Sparks, and New Jersey attorney Victor Medina shared some great tips on using an iPhone and iPad in a law practice:
But there was only a single session which even mentioned mobile technology in its title, a (great) session by technology consultant Brett Burney and California attorney David Sparks called All in the Family: Seamless Workflows From Mac to iOS:
There are so many more mobile-specific technology topics that could have been explored because so many things work differently (and often better) on an iPad and iPhone than a computer. Moreover, I know that this is an area that lots of lawyers want to know more about. I lost count of all of the attorneys who mentioned to me at the conference that the lack of sessions devoted to mobile technology was a curious omission this year. Indeed, that is also the reason that it makes sense to have a Mac track at TECHSHOW (which was abandoned last year but brought back this year) — many attorneys use Macs, and things are different on a Mac. I hope that the planners of TECHSHOW 2019 decide to "think different" on this topic, and either restore a full track focused on mobile technology, or have many more session topics throughout the conference with a specific iPad and/or iPhone focus.
The Expo Floor was particularly good this year, with lots of vendors showing off lots of great technology, including iPhone and iPad hardware and software, from the largest companies like Thomson Reuters to small startups. I enjoyed learning about lots of products that could be useful for my own law firm, and I had a chance to learn about future directions for products that I already use. Here is a short, two minute video that New Orleans attorney Ernie Svenson created which gives you a sense of all of the activity on the Expo Floor:
Adam Camras, Laurence Colletti and others from the Legal Talk Network were recording podcasts from the Expo Floor, which was fun to see. Here is a picture from one session being recorded with the TECHSHOW co-Chairs Debbie Foster and Tom Mighell, along with St. Louis attorney Dennis Kennedy and Steve Best of Affinity Consulting:
Lit Software is probably the best publisher of iPad software for attorneys, and they had lots to share at TECHSHOW this year. Not only did they preview some new features on apps like TrialPad and TranscriptPad, they also pre-announced an iPad app that lawyers will be able to use to collect all of the key date-based information in a case and create a timeline. I really look forward to trying that one out when it is released later this year. And I know that they have other useful apps in the lab for a future release. Here is a picture of Ian O'Flaherty (founder of Lit Software), Tara Cheever (product manager) and Kyle Kvech (lead applications developer) at the booth. You can tell that I took this picture first thing in the morning because most of the day this booth was packed:
I also enjoyed talking to John Kuntz, co-founder of Bellefield. That company created iTimeKeep, an app that you can use to enter your time using an iPhone (or iPad) and which integrates with the time entry system that your firm is already using. (My review.) I cannot think of how many times I have communicated with a client on my iPhone, or some some other billable work away from my office. In the past, I would sometimes forget to record that time, but with iTimeKeep on my iPad I can take just a few seconds and record it immediately.
It is always fun to walk around TECHSHOW and bump into people who you "know" from the Internet. For example, I ran into lots of attorneys who have emailed me iPhone and iPad-related topics of interest over the years, and it was great to talk to them in person. I also bumped into perhaps the most prolific person on Twitter when it comes to sharing links to legal technology articles (not to mention a frequent author herself) — New York attorney Nicole Black, who now works for Mycase (@nikiblack on Twitter):
I can't attend TECHSHOW every year, and I missed last year. But whenever I can attend, I'm always glad that I did.