Law bloggers round up ABA Techshow's highs and lows
ABA Techshow 2013 wrapped up this past Saturday, and law bloggers were out in force. For a comprehensive list of news stories and blog posts that previewed and covered Techshow, you can check out this list of links (that may still be being updated) at Robert Ambrogi’s Lawsites. For more fleshed-out thoughts, read on.
This year’s Techshow kicked off with LexThink.1—where speakers gave six-minute presentations during which the slides behind them were forwarded every 18 seconds. LexThink.1 is inspired by Ignite presentations at which speakers are given five minutes to talk; the six-minute time limit is a nod to how many lawyers still bill in six-minute increments.
Blogger and law librarian Sarah Glassmeyer, the only female presenter on the bill, was ill and had to cancel, and LexThink founder Matt Homann closed the program with his own six-minute take on this year’s “disruption” theme.
Minneapolis lawyer Sam Glover from Lawyerist attended LexThink.1 and distilled each speaker’s thoughts at his blog. Two of his takes:
Matt Homann: “CLE should be better, and technology will not necessarily make it better, because some things are better in person—like learning. Innovate the other stuff.”
Mark Britton: “LegalZoom’s dominance in the entry-level legal market will lead to its broad dominance, so you have to adopt a loss-leader strategy to compete.”
Glover agreed with Homann and Pinnington, more or less, but not with Britton, founder of the lawyer-rating service Avvo. “LegalZoom has been around since 2001, and hasn’t gotten past the kind of forms people used to buy from OfficeMax,” Glover writes. “Now, if LegalZoom really wants to disrupt law practice, it could hire some real, experienced lawyers at the top of their fields at market rate to build them some real forms. If that happens, we really are screwed. Although it would probably put LegalZoom out of business, in the process.”
Glover thinks that that disruptive innovation isn’t coming to law practice anytime soon. He writes at a subsequent Lawyerist post: “Disruptive innovation refers to the creation of new markets or industries that displace old ones.” But, for example, LexisNexis and WestLaw have not been displaced; their business models just evolved as they replaced their print products with online ones. And LegalZoom’s and RocketLawyer’s legal forms have been around forever in some form. “LegalZoom has been around since 2001 without disrupting anything, as far as I can tell. It’s telling that people are still talking about when LegalZoom will finally start disrupting everything. It won’t.”
Glover and Washington, D.C., solo, Carolyn Elefant blogged about how they thought Techshow itself needs some disruption. At My Shingle, Elefant wrote that Techshow should provide forums at which lawyers can share how they actually use their favorite technology. “Maybe it’s a break out room (at Techshow or a substantive program) where during down time, lawyers hang around and share—and show—how they’re using tech just as they share trial stories and techniques. Maybe it’s a bus that travels town to town for a couple of days at a time where lawyers can come in on their own schedule for a quick technology clinic. Right now, I don’t have all the answers, just the thought that maybe something needs to change.”
Glover wrote at Lawyerist that there needs to be more diversity among Techshow presenters, writing that, by his count, more than three-quarters of presenters were men and only a couple appeared not to be white (“although it is difficult to tell who might consider themselves a person of color just from a photograph,” he writes). He notes in his post the ABA’s emphasis on diversity and states in his post that he thinks the legal profession has a diversity problem as a whole. “Whatever the solution, if diversity at the ABA Techshow is going to improve, the conference planners need to keep working hard at it. Techshow is a very good conference, even with all the white guys on stage.”
The websites, the products
One of Techshow’s most popular annual programs is “60 Websites in 60 Minutes.”
Ernest Svenson, co-founder and speaker at DigitalWorkflowCLE, noted some of his favorite website recommendations from that presentation at Ernie the Attorney. Two recommendations from Internet for Lawyers’ Mark Rosch that Svenson liked:
• SearchSystems.net, “a free site that has 55,000 links to public records around the United States, where you can find information by state or category.”
• BiddingTraveler.com, which allows users to compare pricing information from Priceline and HotWire.
However, Oklahoma lawyer Jeffrey Taylor wrote at The Droid Lawyer that he wasn’t as impressed with the “60 Tips in 60 Minutes” companion program. “Too much Outlook/Windows, and not enough of the other stuff,” Taylor wrote. “Also, as I mentioned earlier, there’s too much of an emphasis on iOS (I understand the influence of iPhone and iPad), but I heard a number of comments from people asking to see other stuff, including an Android track.”
New Orleans lawyer Jeff Richardson wrote at iPhone J.D. that he was happy for the iOS emphasis. But he wished the presentations were not “platform agnostic,” as he put it.
“It would have been far more useful to have different sessions devoted to different platforms,” Richardson wrote. “iPhone and iPad users didn’t gain much learning how Android users are trying to work around the lack of legal-specific software for that platform. I really hope that next year the ABA brings back the ‘60 iOS Apps in 60 Minutes’ session that has been so popular in the past.” That suggestion would probably address some of Taylor’s concerns as well.
Taylor urged his readers to “set some money aside” to come to next year’s Techshow. “There’s something magical about Techshow, which you can’t glean until you’re there.”