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Law Technology Today


ABA TECHSHOW 2021 Review Roundtable

Dennis M Kennedy, Allison C Johs, and Julie Bays


  • ABA’s Legal Technology Resource Center board members answer questions and recap the 2021 ABA TECHSHOW event
ABA TECHSHOW 2021 Review Roundtable Dutton

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Just one month ago, the annual ABA TECHSHOW kicked off yet again, but this year things looked very different. This year, for the first time, ABA TECHSHOW went 100% all Virtual. This month we asked our panel what they thought of the new experience of an all virtual ABA TECHSHOW. 

Our Panelists

Dennis Kennedy (DK), Allison Shields Johs (ASJ) and Julie Bays (JB).

What did you like best about TECHSHOW 2021?

DK: There’s a part of me that wants to say the ability to move from session to session and back while they were in progress without feeling that people were watching me stand up and walk out of the room. Seriously, though, I really liked the way the energy from the presentations translated through the virtual platform. There is a lot happening in legaltech, in large part due to COVID, and it was great to see how excited people were about these developments.

ASJ: I love the access to all of the presentations for an additional 30 days. It is often frustrating when looking at the TECHSHOW schedule to choose between tracks and speakers that are taking place at the same time. The virtual format allowed us not only to jump between sessions easily and quickly if we wanted to check out more than one session at a time but also to be assured that we could see both sessions in their entirety because of the access to the recorded material later on. If you attended TECHSHOW this year and missed a session, they’re still available until April 16.

JB: I always enjoy the Keynote speaker at TECHSHOW. They are always dynamic and interesting. But, this year, Renée DiResta was amazing. Her subject matter knowledge and her presentation kept me on the edge of my seat. The added intimacy of her home presentation along with her daughter’s noise in the background made the experience even better.

What new experience sticks out from this event, our first all-virtual ABA TECHSHOW?

DK: I loved the thematic breakout sessions. While many people bemoan the loss of spontaneous hallway conversations at in-person events, these breakout sessions might have been an even better experience for me. I met new people who were interested in similar things and had the chance to have quiet conversations. Not a lot of people tried this channel, but I’m a big fan and encourage others to try this at other events.

ASJ: One of the things I liked best about TECHSHOW 2021 was the interaction between participants during the sessions – while the presenters were speaking, the chat feature enabled participants to not only ask questions but also to interact with one another in real time and share their own insights, resources, etc. This made the experience much richer for me than it would be just sitting in a room listening to the presenters.

JB: Doing presentations virtually is never easy but the platform used this year at TECHSHOW allowed participants to engage more fully in the chat function. The one thing that really stood out were the presentations that were pre-recorded. It allowed the speaker to engage with the audience. I preferred this over the live presentations. This surprised me.

What were your favorite sessions, tracks, or experiences from TECHSHOW 2021?

DK: I especially liked the sessions on legal education and new business models. I also found myself writing notes about great new diverse speakers to contact for future events.

ASJ: I enjoyed the ability to continue a conversation or to speak directly to presenters at the after-session roundtables. That made it easy to know where to catch up with a post-session question, with the added ability to listen in to others’ questions and network.

An added bonus to this year’s TECHSHOW was the Tech Talks. Those short videos gave some great tips and insights about where technology is going, how to use your existing technology, and how to improve your productivity – exactly the kinds of actionable insights that are valuable takeaways from a conference.

JB: My two favorite tracks were Future Proof and Automation. Lawyers must prepare for a future where practicing law is different than it was in the past. These two tracks brought together a way to go forward with a new way of thinking about legal practice.

Did you attend any of this year’s social or networking events during TECHSHOW 2021? If not, why not? If you did, how did these events compare to other virtual networking or social events you have attended in the past year?

DK: As I mentioned, I’m a big fan of breakout room networking. There’s a lot of potential there and I can see ways to make use of this medium going forward. I liked the fact that the events were simple video meetings with resorting to avatars and other IRL substitutes. Eliminating the learning curve for 3D and other platforms makes it easy to chat and network.

ASJ: I wasn’t able to attend many of the virtual social and networking events associated with this year’s TECHSHOW, but I did enjoy the ones I was able to participate in. I liked the ability to move from one networking session to another.

I did attend the related Women of Legal Tech event the week before TECHSHOW and thoroughly enjoyed the networking event held in conjunction with it; the platform allowed you to see all of the different “tables” around the room, and who was at each table, so you could easily see where people were who you wanted to talk to. This made for a more seamless networking experience, and a closer approximation of what “real life” networking or socializing would be like.

JB: I did not attend the evening social events. During the pandemic, I personally find evening virtual social events a little depressing. I miss the one-on-one contact that these events encouraged when we meet in person.

What advice would you give to future TECHSHOW attendees?

DK: Bring your friends and potential collaborators. Go broad rather than narrow on sessions. Try to learn some totally new things rather than focusing only on what you thought you came for. And network, network, network. You will find creative people thinking about the same things you are and willing to share.

ASJ: Attend! There are so many great experiences to be had at TECHSHOW, whether it is held as an in-person event or a virtual one (or a combination). There’s something for everyone. Whether you’re a tech newbie or a pro, you’re sure to pick up at least a few tips or tricks that can improve your practice.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions or to attend the networking and social events – it’s a great place to make new connections.

Make time on your calendar for the event so you aren’t distracted and can take advantage of all of everything that’s available. That’s more difficult in a virtual environment, because you can be more easily distracted (which is what happened to me this year), and since you’re still in your office (even if that’s at home), it’s easier to schedule other things that interfere. Resist the urge – while it’s great to have the recorded sessions to watch later, you will want to maximize the networking and live events as much as possible.

Get familiar with the schedule and the platform in advance if you can. Although the platform this year was fairly intuitive, you’ll want to get your bearings and make a preliminary plan in advance so you don’t miss any of the good stuff.

JB: Attendees should prepare a plan, in advance, of TECHSHOW. Instead of attending presentations that they are comfortable with, they should think about their practice and where they might learn content that will help them build a better future.

What sessions, tracks, or experiences would you like to see more of in future TECHSHOW events?

DK: No surprise here – Legal education and business model innovation tracks. Maybe some like a “basics of new technologies” session. I hope breakout rooms continue and making sessions available for later on-demand replay is great.

JB: Automation, automation, and more automation. Lawyers need a way to be financially viable while providing excellent service to their clients. Automation is the key to providing this.