ABA Techshow

With diverse slate of speakers and new hands-on learning sessions, ABA Techshow promises wide appeal

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ABA Techshow

The ABA’s flagship technology conference is back with new hands-on tracks and wellness events to give attorneys experience and ideas to take home and implement.

Now in its 34th year, this year’s ABA Techshow will take place Wednesday-Saturday at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.

“If you’ve been to Techshow before, it’s not the same this year,” Techshow co-chair Catherine Sanders Reach says. “So you should come back.”

From the Luddite to the aspiring cyborg, Techshow will have something for everyone. For those just dipping their toe into the sea of technology, there is a Core Concepts track that introduces people to apps and programs designed to increase their productivity, including Microsoft Office 365 and document management software. For those comfortable with technology and looking to the horizon, there is a new track called Next 20 that will look at a diverse set of cutting-edge topics, including blockchain and virtual reality.

Branching out beyond technology, this year’s conference will include a Human Skills track, Reach says. Participants will have the chance to improve their skills around negotiation, hiring and firing, management, challenging bias, creating culturally diverse work environments and managing remote workers.

This year will also see the introduction of the UnTrack for Doers, which eschews the talking-head model in favor of hands-on opportunities for participants to try new things, like set up a social media presence or create a video.

With signs of a slowing economy, there will also be a track helping attorneys think about how to preemptively manage the next downturn.

“The last recession hit everyone out of the blue, and now we need to know the reality so it doesn’t hit as hard again,” Reach says.

Not only are topics more diverse this year, but the speakers are too.

“This year, my co-chair and I made it a goal to increase the diversity of our speakers,” co-chair Heidi Alexander says. “Explicitly, we aimed to add more faculty of color and more women, as well as to bring in new speakers that are pushing the bounds of innovation in the legal industry. Our board helped to uncover some amazingly talented speakers that will debut for their first Techshow ever.”

As of mid-February, nearly 60% of accepted speakers were women and more than 30% were of a diverse background, which includes race, ethnicity, sexuality and disability, Alexander says.

Follow along with the ABA Journal’s coverage of the ABA Techshow 2020 here.

The rise of legal operations

This year’s keynote will be Mary Shen O’Carroll, director of legal operations, technology and strategy at Google and president of the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium, or CLOC. (O’Carroll was named a Legal Rebel by the ABA Journal in 2016.)

“Today’s legal department leaders are charged with creating a legal service delivery strategy for their organizations that not only provides top-quality, timely legal services, but does so in a way that maximizes value,” she said in a statement. “To achieve this, leaders have a dizzying array of options to choose from as a result of globalization, disaggregation of legal services, new market entrants, new technology capabilities, and of course, the rise of legal operations.”

O’Carroll says her keynote will focus on “the rise of legal operations, the impact it has had on corporations and the industry, how it’s driving demand for technology and changes in the way legal services are delivered.”

This year’s Techshow will continue to increase wellness activities for conference attendees. A “relax and network” lounge is being added to the expo hall, and activities like the 5K run, yoga and peer-support meetings will make a comeback.

The conference will also include “meetups” for various affinity groups—a move away from what Techshow has done in the past, which was to create “communities” for various practice areas.

Other events will include the traditional Taste of Techshow dinners and the inaugural Rebel Riot Luncheon honoring ABA Journal/ABA Center for Innovation Legal Rebels and the Law Practice Division’s ABA Women Rainmakers Committee’s Women of Legal Tech Summit on Wednesday.

Back again for a fourth consecutive year is Startup Alley, hosted by legal technology blogger Bob Ambrogi. From 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, 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 automated electronic court filing to chatbots to automation and more.

After the pitches are complete, audience members will vote on their favorite.

For the past two years, the competition was standing-room-only, which led organizers to move the event to a larger, dedicated space in the hotel. Regardless of who wins, all Startup Alley participants will have booth space in the expo hall throughout the conference.

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