ABA Techshow to delve into 'future proofing' law practices

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With increased demand, the ABA’s marquee technology conference is doubling its academic offerings, moving events to larger venues and even providing more yoga classes—all in an effort to help keep attorneys’ practices, and bodies, spry and ready for the future.

This year, ABA Techshow, now in its 33rd year, will take place Feb. 27 through March 2 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.

Without a specific theme, Techshow co-chair John Simek says the show will be about “future proofing” the practice of law. With the endless chatter around artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and data privacy, the various tracks at Techshow will introduce these technologies to beginners, but also examine complexities that will acutely affect the business and practice of law.

Take, for example, blockchain. While those without an investment in bitcoin might not think this topic applies to them, Celiza Bragança, owner of Bragança Law in Chicago, sees it another way.

“In the not too far future, someone will call an estate planning lawyer and will just expect that any estate planning lawyer will be able to handle the inclusion of cryptocurrencies as a part of an estate plan,” she says. Beyond estate planning, some firms are experimenting with taking cryptocurrency as a payment, which raises other interesting issues.

That’s why Bragança and Antigone Peyton of Protorae Law in Virginia are speaking on a panel titled “Bitcoin and Blockchain for Lawyers” at 2 p.m. Feb. 28. While it might not seem so at the moment, Bragança says, blockchain is seen as a specialization, much like e-discovery was once. Now, any litigator needs to be able to handle electronically stored information such as texts, emails and other digital documents. She expects a similar trajectory for the emerging technology.

“[Cryptocurrency] is becoming much more ubiquitous,” she says.

Betsy Ziegler, the CEO of Chicago co-working space and technology incubator 1871, in her keynote address scheduled for March 1, intends to provide a more wide-ranging look into the future of legal technology. Titled “The Future is Here,” Ziegler will talk about how industry-altering technology is coming from the startup ecosystem. She says these technologies have the potential to create value and impact for industry leaders.

“I’m excited to arm the legal community with vital insights on how advancements in technology and entrepreneurship will shape the world for years to come,” Ziegler said in a emailed statement.

ABA Techshow co-chair John Simek.

Other speakers will cover a breadth of topics, including how and when to use the cloud for storage, the European Union’s new General Data Protection Regulation and how to recover from a cyberattack. Techshow co-chair Simek points out that over 50 percent of the speakers this year are women and about one-fifth come from a diverse background, including disability, ethnicity, race and sexuality.

This year will also see the expansion of hands-on sessions, which help people learn skills to take back and use in their practices. For example, The Mac Track, which is being brought back this year, will help Mac owners learn to use iOS workflows for attorneys and how to create an information management system. Additionally, Microsoft Office tutorials will abound.

Other tracks include Cybersecurity, Process Management, Solo/Small Firm and Core Technology, which will tackle topics like developing digital presentations for clients and juries and learning to leverage project collaboration software.

Not all about software and hardware, the Beyond the Tech track takes a look at how to succeed within the gig economy and go through a digital detox.

One complaint from previous years is that there are too many interesting panels happening at once.

“One thing we hear a lot is, ‘I need a clone, I wish I could attend multiple sessions.’ Another is, ‘Techshow has so much practical, usable information I can put into practice right away,’ ” says Catherine Sanders Reach, a co-vice chair of Techshow. “So, we decided to combine the request with the comment and come up with a session that helped everyone who attends go back to the office and implement what they learned now and in the future.”

The solution is Techshow 2019 Takeaways, which will distill the top two or three points from each panel at 9 a.m. March 2.

Back again for a third consecutive year is Startup Alley, hosted by legal technology blogger Bob Ambrogi. Held at 5 p.m. Feb. 27, 15 startups will pitch the crowd on their companies with a chance to win a bevy of marketing and advertising prizes. This diverse cohort of companies focuses on topics from patent analytics to client communications. After the pitches are complete, audience members will vote on their favorite.

Last year, the competition was standing room only, which led organizers to move the event to the much larger exhibitor hall. Regardless of who wins, all Startup Alley participants will have booth space in the hall throughout the conference.

Correction: Spelling of Celiza Bragança’s name corrected in two places on Jan. 29.

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