The Legal Tech World the Second Time Around

Last year, I attended the American Bar Association Law Practice Division’s 29th annual legal technology conference, ABA TECHSHOW, and wrote “A First Timer’s Three Days in the Legal Tech World.” Tech friendly or not, I suggested that TECHSHOW was worth attending. I also suggested that a whole new faction of the legal profession could be found at TECHSHOW—one of innovation, vision, and engagement.

This past April, I went to my second consecutive TECHSHOW. During my sophomore visit to this legal technology juggernaut, I was intently focused on furthering my understanding of the intersection of law and technology, and writing about it from the perspective of an attorney who once resisted new technology. Yes, that was me, before attending my first TECHSHOW. So when I attended some of the seminars this, it surprised me how far along my legal tech acumen had come in just one year. Perhaps for that reason I then felt like I was personally invested in the conference’s success, especially given the challenges facing the legal profession.

After attending Legal Tech New York in February 2015 (LTNY), and being struck by the buzz of data analytics, automation, machine learning, and the different models of “systemic disruption of law and legal practice,” I understood the pressing need to have these incredibly important conversations about the future of the profession. From empty courtrooms, to the disappearance of associate work, to attorney dissatisfaction, there are many challenges facing our profession and industry, all of which are in need of thoughtful analysis and action. The following month, I attended the Above the Law Converge Conference in New York City, and a panel of legal tech pioneers suggested that what makes these conversations so difficult is that it is impossible to predict the future of the profession, both because of the frenzied pace of technology generally, and because of the difficulty in predicting which technologies will stick and be transformative. Add to that the legal profession’s dogged refusal to acknowledge the technology tsunami in its midst.

That’s where TECHSHOW comes in.

TECHSHOW’s significance on our evolving profession is twofold: It provides a forum for great content presented by the top practitioners in legal technology, which is consumed by the 1000+ legal professionals who come to the conference looking for ways to modernize, update, and make their practices more efficient, but at the same time, TECHSHOW is a venue for progressive legal minds and leaders in our field to come together, and, dare I say, socialize. You can find the “heavy” issues and the light-hearted. From the vendor hall to the social events, it’s a pretty small, friendly, and familiar world where attendees in the field are personally invested.

The social events cement these relationships. Highlights include the ever popular “Taste of TECHSHOW” dinners, which are intimate get-togethers hosted by TECHSHOW faculty and Planning Board Members, and any attendee can sign up for one of these dinners, and hit the town with a group of about a dozen other attendees and speakers. The Wednesday night festivities proved worthwhile again, this year with a new program called the “Appathon.” Another TECHSHOW institution that shouldn’t be missed is Beer for Bloggers, hosted by the gracious Kevin O’Keefe of LexBlog. This was the 8th consecutive year for Beer for Bloggers, and once again it was standing room only—well, except for the area where Laurence Colletti of Legal Talk Network was actively recording and podcasting. He managed to secure a few seats for his guest law bloggers, who made a 60-second pitch that could barely be heard above the noise of the beer crowd. Clio took its party off-campus once again, to an underground Chicago night club party that featured branded cocktails, and was a “who’s who” in the legal profession. The events bring people together in a way that furthers friendships and collaboration throughout the year. Finally, the evenings capped off with a private function hosted by TECHSHOW Chair Brett Burney, whose invited guests were welcomed to the Conrad Suite on the top floor of the Chicago Hilton, with breathtaking views of Grant Park and Lake Michigan.

Some of the educational seminars even felt a little like social events, with standing room only (sans adult beverages of course). That was definitely the vibe at Saturday morning’s 60 iOS Apps in 60 minutes, presented by Jeff Richardson (@iPhoneJD), Tom Mighell, Adriana Linares, and Joe Bahgat (@j0eybagodonuts). I think I counted a few more than 60 apps in the hour, but nobody was complaining. It was a high energy affair not to have been missed. Joe also presented alongside former TECHSHOW Chair Paul Unger in Thursday’s opening session for the iPad track, “Introducing your iPad into your iPractice.” This was the perfect session for the legal tech newbie (like yours truly); Paul and Joe walked us through a lawyer’s typical work week, and showed (not told) how the iPad can have a profound impact on the efficiency of any lawyer’s practice. It was obvious that the speakers not only knew but embraced the materials they taught. And it looked like they were having fun, which made it fun to watch and learn.

There were also more serious educational sessions that were just as compelling. Virtual law practice pioneer Stephanie Kimbro discussed her activities during her fellowship at the Stanford Center on the Legal Profession. One area she is looking at is gamification in lawyering, for increasing online engagement with clients, access to justice and productivity in firms. Another area of study she talked about was marketing to clients. The sobering part of her talk was about why people aren’t pursuing legal representation. She detailed worrisome reasons people actually cited for not pursuing their legal rights—they viewed their legal problems as their fault, and therefore not deserving of help. (This caused me to wonder whether there is a psychology where people have abandoned using law as a societal tool in enforcing their rights aside from known access to justice issues related to cost.) Later, in the Vendor Hall, George Psiharis, VP of Business Development at Clio shared his visionary and thought-provoking presentation “Entrepreneurship in Law, KPI’s, Metrics and the Modern Law Practice.” He talked about taking a fresh look at the legal profession, and what might be possible with data and a business mind as we configure the future of our profession. It was very apparent that George (who is not a lawyer himself) has deep insight of the issues that are increasingly challenging the legal profession.

Another great presentation was at Saturday morning’s plenary session: “I’m a Lawyer, Not a Techie! Examining the 21st Century Lawyer’s Evolving Ethical Duty of Competence.” There, Casey Flaherty and Andrew Perlman made the case that technology is now part of a lawyer’s competency requirements. Other highlights included Nicole Black’s take on wearable tech for lawyers on Legal Talk Network; the seriously funny and insightful Lawyerist TECHSHOW blog of Aaron Street, Sam Glover, Gyi Tsakalakis, Jeff Taylor and Steven Chung; Jeena Cho and Keith Lee’s podcasts and of course, Legal Technology Resource Center’s Gwynne Monahan and her blue hat!

One year in, I am proof for other technology reluctant lawyers that one can quickly become immersed in law and tech leaving you wanting more. And, like last year there continue to be aspects of law and tech that are inspiring and just cool, (Gaming in lawyering? I’m in!), but there’s also a tough part of the story at ABA TECHSHOW – one of computers replacing legal work, the harried nature of technology right now, and new challenges for the profession to be relevant and a force for good in society.

Take it from me though, one year has shown me how important it is to be part of these conversations and to embrace and understand technology and all that brings to our professional and personal lives. As Adriana Linares said in the State of Legal Technology Luncheon, a little bit of learning about technology each day goes a long way. Plus, knowing technology, says Nicholas Carr of The New York Times in the Keynote Address, is how we can explore how lawyers should balance automated technologies with human skills. And, it’s the human skills of lawyering – reasoning, empathy, critical thinking – that can be put to good use as we navigate the future. Technology is one of the catalysts of a much needed transformation happening in the legal profession. ABA TECHSHOW is where we can (and must) participate with a mind to shaping law and society in the 21st Century.


Gillian-Fattal_avatar-90x90Gillian is a Canadian citizen and permanent US resident, and obtained her Juris Doctor from the University of Victoria Law School and her undergraduate degree in Political Science from Simon Fraser University both in British Columbia.

After law school, Gillian worked as a Law Clerk for the Honorable Justice John O’Keefe and the Honorable Justice Robert Mainville at the Federal Court of Canada in Ottawa. During that time, Gillian completed the Harvard Negotiation Institute’s Mediation Program. After clerking, Gillian was called to the bar of the Law Society of Upper Canada in 2009. Upon moving to the US, Gillian worked for Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation as a Senior Associate, Legal in the $1B commercial aftermarket business.

She has volunteered for Crown Counsel Victim Services, the Art Gallery of British Columbia, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Vancouver, the Connecticut Legal Veterans Center, Girls, Inc., the Greater Hartford Arts Council and the American Heart Association.