January/February 2020

Perspectives

How Attending ABA TECHSHOW Can Transform Your Law Firm

Rodney Dowell

My first ABA TECHSHOW still stands out as when I discovered how the ABA Law Practice Division could help transform my law firm by guiding how we adopted technology. At every TECHSHOW, I learned something new that made me a better tech lawyer and improved efficiency in the firm. I remember one of my first ventures into legal-related technology with Red Gorilla, a short-lived internet-based company providing web-based services such as timetracking and invoicing. Cutting edge and, apparently before its time, it shut down suddenly without taking care of its customers’ data. 

For those of us early adopters using PalmPilots and Handspring Visors, we could see the utopia of working from anywhere to access information and functionality. The names—Red Gorilla, PalmPilots, Handspring Visors—are for many readers completely unknown and speak to the rapid and ongoing transition of technology and its place in the legal workplace. As I look back at these first experiments with technology, I realize how much I learned from experience but also how I could have saved time and money by going to the ABA TECHSHOW earlier to learn best practices in implementing new legal technology.  

Legal technology continues to be a brave new world that requires attorneys and firms to stay up to date in the tech arms race. Unlike those now-defunct companies, now companies develop and market products and services specifically for the legal industry, and the competition for market share is intense. How do attorneys and the firms adjust and make decisions on the proper technology to choose, how to implement it most effectively and how to safeguard their client information? Where do they learn best practices? My experience is that they come to the ABA TECHSHOW.  

While we at the Law Practice Division hate to brag, we consider the ABA TECHSHOW the crown jewel of ABA programming. Every year more than 1,400 attorneys attend and meet with vendors to learn what technology is new, how technology is changing and, more importantly, how to choose and implement key technology into their law firms to make those firms thrive in an increasingly competitive world. TECHSHOW led the way on using Macs in the law office, effectively working in the cloud, and always providing a sharp focus on how to keep client information secure.  

While ABA TECHSHOW celebrates the growth of the legal technology landscape, the unfortunate truth is that the utopia we envisioned of work from anywhere has come with terrible flaws. Attorneys are now tethered to work 24/7. Associates and partners now live with their smartphones next to their bed so they can monitor the endless flood of emails, texts and Slack channel messages. The 24/7 demands lead to burnout and loss of effectiveness and can deprive attorneys of the time for deep thinking needed for sophisticated work. More importantly, the legal professional does not have time for the simple joys of life. 

While there are no simple answers to work-life balance issues, the ABA TECHSHOW has taken steps to start that discussion by adding peer support meetings in the mornings and a session on digital detox. However, this discussion of attorney well-being is ongoing, and one of the best sources of best practices and thoughtful discussions regarding this critical intersection of technology and well-being happens right in the ABA Law Practice Division. Join us at the ABA TECHSHOW, and join LP where you can find help on these critical legal management issues.

Rodney Dowell

Rodney Dowell is the chair of the Law Practice Division. He is bar counsel, Massachusetts Office of Bar Counsel, Board of Overseers. Rodney@LMInnov.com