ABA TECHSHOW 2021 Review Roundtable

The annual ABA TECHSHOW started again a month ago, but this year it was very different. This year ABA TECHSHOW became 100% completely virtual for the first time. This month we asked our panel what they think of the new experience of a purely virtual ABA-TECHSHOW.

Our panelists

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

What did you like best about TECHSHOW 2021?

DK: There is a part of me that wants to say that he can move from session to session and back during the process without feeling like people see me stand up and walk out of the room. Seriously, I really liked the way the energy from the presentations was translated through the virtual platform. There’s a lot going on in legal tech, in large part due to COVID, and it was great to see how excited people were with these developments.

HOW: I love having access to all presentations for another 30 days. It is often frustrating when looking at the TECHSHOW schedule to choose between tracks and speakers that are happening at the same time. The virtual format not only enabled us to switch between sessions easily and quickly if we wanted to check out more than one session at the same time, but also to be sure that we could fully view both sessions due to later access to the recorded material. If you attended TECHSHOW this year and missed a session, they’re still available until April 16th.

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

What new experiences stand out from this event, our first purely virtual ABA TECHSHOW?

DK: I loved the themed breakout sessions. While many people complain about the loss of impromptu hallway conversations at personal events, these breakout sessions could have been an even better experience for me. I met new people who were interested in similar things and had the opportunity to have quiet conversations. Not many people have tried this channel, but I’m a huge fan and I encourage others to try this at other events.

HOW: One of the things I liked the most about TECHSHOW 2021 was the interaction between the participants during the sessions. While the moderators were speaking, the chat feature allowed attendees not only to ask questions, but also to interact with each other in real time and share their own insights, resources, etc. This made the experience a lot richer for me than just being in would sit in a room and listen to the moderators.

JB: Making presentations virtually is never easy, but the platform used at TECHSHOW this year enabled attendees to get more involved with the chat function. The only thing that really stood out were the presentations that were being taped. It enabled the speaker to engage with the audience. I preferred this to the live presentations. That surprised me.

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

DK: I particularly enjoyed the sessions on legal training and new business models. I also wrote notes of great new, diverse speakers to contact for future events.

HOW: I enjoyed the opportunity to continue a conversation or to speak directly to the moderators at the roundtables after the meeting. That made it easy to know where to catch up a question after the session, and the ability to listen to the questions and other people’s networks.

The Tech Talks were an additional bonus to this year’s TECHSHOW. These short videos gave some great tips and insights into where technology is going, how to use your existing technology, and how to improve your productivity – exactly the kind of actionable insights that are valuable insights from a conference.

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

Did you take part in one of this year’s social or networking events during TECHSHOW 2021? If not, why not? If so, how did these events compare to other virtual networking or social events that you have attended over the past year?

DK: As I mentioned before, I’m a huge fan of breakout room networking. There is a lot of potential there and I see opportunities to use this medium in the future. I liked the fact that the events were simple video meetings using avatars and other IRL replacement products. Eliminating the learning curve for 3D and other platforms makes chatting and networking easier.

HOW: I haven’t been able to attend many of the virtual social and networking events associated with this year’s TECHSHOW, but I enjoyed the ones I was able to attend. I liked the ability to move from one networking session to the next.

In the week before the TECHSHOW, I attended the corresponding Women of Legal Tech event and really enjoyed the networking event associated with it. On the platform, you could see all of the different “tables” in the room and see who was seated at each table so you could easily see where the people you wanted to talk to were. This resulted in a more seamless network experience and a closer approximation of “real” networking or socializing.

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

What advice would you give future TECHSHOW attendees?

DK: Bring your friends and potential co-workers. Walk broad rather than tight during meetings. Try to learn some completely new things instead of just focusing on what you thought it was for. And network, network, network. You will find creative people who think about the same things that you are and want to share.

HOW: Visit! There are so many great experiences at TECHSHOW, whether it’s a personal event or a virtual event (or a combination). There is something for everybody. Whether you’re a novice tech or a professional, you’re sure to find at least a few tips or tricks that can improve your practice.

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

Make time on your calendar for the event so you don’t get distracted and take advantage of all that is available. It’s more difficult in a virtual environment because it’s easier to get distracted (which happened to me this year), and since you’re still in your office (even if it’s at home), it’s easier to plan other things to disturb. Resist the urge – while it’s great to watch the recorded sessions later, maximize the network and live events as much as possible.

Familiarize yourself with the schedule and platform in advance if you can. While the platform has been pretty intuitive this year, it’s a good idea to orient yourself ahead of time and make a preliminary plan so you don’t miss out on anything good.

JB: Participants should make a plan for the TECHSHOW in advance. Instead of attending presentations that they are familiar with, they should think about their practice and where to learn content that will help them build a better future.

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

DK: No wonder here – legal training and innovation paths for business models. Perhaps some like a “New Technology Fundamentals” session. I hope the breakout rooms continue and it’s great to have sessions available on-demand for later replay.

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

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