What tips do you have for first-time attendees to get the most out of the educational sessions at ABA TECHSHOW?
AP: Review all of the offerings in advance and make a plan. There's always at least one program in progress that will be beneficial to your specific needs in any given time slot, but there are probably multiple. So make sure you think about which program is most beneficial and if you find that there are multiple instances where you wish you could clone yourself, consider bringing an associate. (I'm bringing an associate and a law clerk personally.)
JS: Ask questions. Most speakers are happy to answer questions throughout the session, although some will take questions at the end. Be prepared and think about what questions you may have about the subject matter. If it isn’t covered in the session, ask your question(s) or talk to the speaker(s) during the break at the end. Take advantage of the knowledge of the expert presenters.
AJ: Plan ahead. Take a look at the schedule in advance and earmark the sessions you want to go to. Don’t worry if two sessions are scheduled at the same time – you may decide your first choice isn’t for you, and if you’ve done your homework, you’ll be able to jump right into your second-choice session. You’ll also get materials for each of the sessions, and TECHSHOW speakers are pretty accessible at TECHSHOW, so you may be able to speak directly to the speaker(s) on a session you missed to pick their brain – or sign up for their Taste of TECHSHOW dinner.
Keep an open mind. There are a lot of sessions and speakers at TECHSHOW, and a session that you initially weren’t that keen on may end up being the best thing you attend at the show. Talk to attendees who have been to TECHSHOW in the past, make a visit to the Conference Concierge, or seek out members of the Legal Technology Resource Center (we’ll be at the LP Bookstore during most Expo Hall break times) to get recommendations based on your interests.
AK: Plan out your day! Like a trip to Disney, TECHSHOW can be overwhelming to the first timer. Try not to do everything in one day and understand that it is impossible to do everything at your first TECHSHOW. Also, take advantage of the ABA’s offerings for first timers, such as the LTRC information center in the ABA bookstore booth.
CSR: While speakers have turned in materials, with technology things can change at the last minute and new information may be available. Be prepared to take notes intentionally. That means loading your favorite note-taking app on your smartphone or tablet so you can take pictures of screens (and badges), take notes, and find it all again later! Apps like Evernote, OneNote, and Google Keep will let you take pictures and annotate them, take notes, and record audio. Pick your favorite and if you aren’t adept at using it get a little practice in before the show. You can add these note-taking tools as widgets on your device's home screen or lock screen (instructions for iPhone and Android) so you aren’t clicking through screens to find them.
RT: Don’t try to go to a session every hour every day—you’ll burn out. Pick the top ones for you but take breaks for the Expo Hall and to chat with other attendees.
How should new attendees prioritize and plan their time at ABA TECHSHOW with so many different sessions, events, and Expo Hall?
AP: Make sure to attend at least your top 5 CLE sessions, try to dedicate at least a few hours to the Expo Hall, and make sure you take part in the social activities too.
JS: Spend a little time going through the grid and assign a priority to each time slot you want to attend. Pick at least two sessions in each slot. If your first choice isn’t what you were expecting, jump over to your second choice. Don’t fret if you want to attend every session in a given time slot. You have access to the materials for every session so you can even get information for those sessions you miss. Make sure you designate some time to visit the Expo Hall and other events. You can visit the Expo Hall at any time and not just during the periods of time designated on the grid.
AJ: Try not to get overwhelmed. TECHSHOW can be intense. Pace yourself and make sure you take breaks. You may want to think about one or two topics or areas that you want to focus on at TECHSHOW instead of trying to see and absorb everything at once. Again, you have access to all of the materials, so you can get an idea of the topics and sessions you missed.
Take advantage of Expo Hall breaks, but if there is a time slot when you aren’t attending an educational session, consider going to the Expo Hall then, as it is likely to be less crowded. And remember, the Expo Hall breaks down early on Friday, so if there are specific vendors you’d like to see, make sure you get to them early. If you want help navigating the Expo Hall, see the Legal Technology Resource Center (LTRC) representatives and Practice Management Advisors at the LP bookstore.
AK: I believe that new attendees should read the TECHSHOW brochure and attend sessions that pertain to and would benefit their specific practice. I further suggest that they review the expo floor plan and initially visit the exhibitors they believe would assist them. For example, during my first TECHSHOW, I visited the case management software vendors before doing anything else. This year, the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center will be available at the ABA Bookstore booth to provide information to new attendees about exhibitors and their locations.
CSR: Set some goals. Why are you coming to TECHSHOW? To meet like-minded attorneys and legal professionals? To find a product or service that fills a need at your firm? To get your CLE credits for the year? Prioritize your goals and then strategize where you need to spend your time to meet them. But do make some time for serendipity. You never know when a chance meeting in the hallway pays for your trip!
RT: I create a personalized schedule of events in the TECHSHOW app before I get to Chicago, then follow it closely so I don’t miss out.
How has attending ABA TECHSHOW helped you implement new legal technologies or workflows in your practice?
AP: It's the best single location where I can see the largest amount of legal tech, both in terms of software and hardware, and where I can generally see demos, try the tools for myself, and often get special expo-only pricing or trials. I leave each TECHSHOW with at least one new vendor, one new product, and one new service that I end up implementing in the following weeks and months. Each year, I come back and am able to improve efficiency, productivity and work quality through the new tools I discovered (or ultimately embraced after trying out) at TECHSHOW.
AK: My first TECHSHOW was in 2002. It was at this TECHSHOW that I learned the importance of case management software and how it benefits your firm. I also discovered the benefits of using multiple monitors! I parlayed these two tips, as well as a few others, into a successful law practice as well as law practice consulting firm. Over twenty years later, I still am learning new and exciting things at TECHSHOW!
CSR: In my role as a practice management advisor, TECHSHOW is where I can enjoy an immersive experience away from the office to really connect and learn about legal tech and practice management. I get new ideas, new connections, and get introduced to tools that I can go back to all year long.
RT: Learning starts in the sessions, then often continues by visiting related vendors in the Expo Hall, then reinforced by the written materials and PowerPoints when I get back to the office to share with others.
What advice would you give to first-time attendees about networking and creating meaningful collaborations with tech experts and fellow attorneys?
AP: Show up and engage in the conversation. It's really that simple.
JS: One of the “features” of ABA TECHSHOW that sets it apart from other legal technology conferences is the easy access to so many knowledgeable presenters. The speakers are very accessible so don’t be afraid to ask questions from some of the most well-known experts in the country. They are more than willing to share their knowledge. Besides the speakers, there are many like-minded attorneys like yourself in attendance. Share your experiences and challenges with other attendees. Perhaps they have solved the same problem that you are struggling with.
AJ: Don’t be afraid to ask questions of speakers, vendors and other attendees. Attend the networking events and introduce yourself to people you don’t know. Sign up for a Taste of TECHSHOW dinner. Look at the schedule and the Expo Hall info on the TECHSHOW website to see which speakers and vendors you’d like to talk to at TECHSHOW and find out where they will be in the Expo Hall or when they will be speaking so that you have a good idea where to find them. Don’t forget to get the contact information to follow up after the event – and don’t be afraid to reach out to speakers and vendors after the event even if you didn’t have a chance to meet them; most will be happy to answer your questions. If you meet other attendees at TECHSHOW who have the same interests, are in the same area of practice, or are struggling with the same tech issues, see how you can help one another, or plan to compare notes after TECHSHOW about what you learned.
AK: Don’t be shy. Bring business cards or virtual cards and meet as many people as you can. I have found that the best resource for me is through the friends and tech experts I have met at TECHSHOW.
CSR: Be a good listener and be prepared to share. Listen with intent and with an open mind. Sometimes things that don’t seem useful now may become so in the future. Try to curb your skepticism. Also, don’t be afraid to share what you know – no one knows everything, and everyone is there to learn. Your insights are valuable. Strike up a conversation with a stranger!
RT: Everyone is there for the same thing so feel free to strike up conversations with speakers and attendees.
What advice would you give first-time attendees for following up after the event to keep learning and implementing what they learned?
AP: Take down the speakers' contact info. Just about all of us will display it as part of our slides or provide it in the materials. Ask questions. We're all happy to help. Same with the vendors. The good ones know that even if you're not ready to buy the tech now, if they maintain an open dialogue and answer your question, they are more likely to one day see you turn into a client. So most are happy to help you learn and grow...
JS: Top of my list is to only focus on a few things initially. The tendency is to try too much too fast, which leads to doing a bunch of things not very well. As an example, review your cybersecurity posture and implement practices with a big return. Make sure you have MFA enabled everywhere you can. Make sure you are protected from ransomware attacks and can easily recover should there be an incident.
Artificial intelligence is impacting all areas of law practice. Subscribe to news feeds to stay abreast of the rapidly changing landscape. Attend CLEs to maintain your technical competency and by all means communicate with your peers to see how they implemented new ways to be more efficient in their practices.
AJ: Follow the speakers on social media – many of the TECHSHOW speakers write or speak frequently on their areas of expertise. If you liked their presentation at TECHSHOW, you may want to see what other events they are speaking at, or see what other information they post on the topic. Before you leave TECHSHOW, make a list of one to three things you want to implement, whether it’s something you learned from a session, or a piece of software or hardware you want to learn more about or obtain for your office, or a group of people you want to connect/follow up with. If you wait until you get back to your office, chances are you’ll get busy and you won’t implement anything. And if you try to implement more than 1-3 things, you’ll also probably implement nothing. You can always keep a secondary list of ideas you may want to follow up on in the future, after you’ve tackled your first priorities – or maybe at next year’s TECHSHOW.
AK: Walk away from TECHSHOW with only a handful of ideas for your practice, not anything else. Focus on how these few ideas will make your practice more efficient.
CSR: Pick one or two things you learned that you can immediately adopt and do it. Join the ABA and get great content about practice management and technology from the Law Practice Division and GP|Solo in the form of newsletters, online magazines, and CLEs. If you really want to be forced to keep learning, consider volunteering! I’ve learned more about legal tech from being a volunteer speaker and author because I must do the research! Also, seek out resources for legal tech and practice management at your state or local bar association and/or law school.
RT: Many speakers and exhibitors have blogs, keep track as you listen and meet people, then bookmark or subscribe to their blogs. Follow your favorites on social media. Finally, be sure to access, save, and read the written materials that will help you solve your most pressing tech issues.