ABA Techshow

Techshow attendees come away with new ideas to enhance practices, solve pressing challenges

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Julia L. Gray, the founder of Paramount Legal in St. Louis, said she has taken steps in recent years to bring her general practice firm from the 1990s to the 2020s when it comes to technology.

To keep the momentum going, she decided to attend the ABA Techshow 2022—her first time at the Chicago gathering focused on legal technology.

By the end of the conference’s first full day Thursday, Gray and her chief operations manager, Cindy Vineyard, said they had taken away multiple ideas about how to better use technology at their firm, which handles estate planning and small business matters, among others. They highlighted the lead management software Intaker as one tool that could potentially prove to be beneficial to the firm’s interaction with prospective and new clients.

“We have had some great insights in terms of how to streamline the intake process, in terms of vetting clients and making sure that by the time the client is speaking to a representative of our firm, that there is a good match between what the client needs and what we are able to do for them,” Gray said.

Other attendees shared similar stories about how the conference has helped provide them with new ideas about how to use technology in their legal work or aided them in solving a challenge specific to their job.

Judge Scott Schlegel of the 24th Judicial District Court in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, said he has been trying to figure out a way to allow inmates to electronically sign plea agreements in real time, rather than have paper copies delivered to them in jail, which can be a time-consuming process.

While at Techshow, a vendor suggested that he just use the chat feature on Zoom to share a link to the plea agreement with those inmates appearing at their hearings via the video platform.

“If I’m able to have the lawyer sign it first and press a button that sends it to me in my Slack channel, I can then easily upload it anywhere I want and provide a link within the Zoom chat feature so that the inmate can sign next from the device they are currently using,” said Schlegel, a 2021 ABA Journal Legal Rebel. “One idea with zero cost.”

Follow along with the ABA Journal’s coverage of the ABA Techshow 2022 here.

Khaled Emam, executive director of the nonprofit Justice Call, said he came to Techshow wanting to learn how different software could help his team more easily communicate with clients and secure documents and e-signatures from them.

As someone who grew up in Egypt and practiced law there with more limited technology, Emam said he was very impressed with the wide variety of software presented at the conference that could meet his needs and possibly be useful to attorneys he works with who are in Egypt.

Emam, who came to the United States in late 2020 and is based in Washington, D.C., also expressed interest in tools that connect legal teams with freelance attorneys.

“You can have a freelance lawyer for certain hours a month who can help you manage cases in the right way without paying so much money,” Emam said. “I think it is a good idea for us in the U.S., as we are starting in a new country and in a new system.”

Douglas Lusk, president and CEO of the National Society for Legal Technology, said he came to Techshow hoping to find ideas for the latest tools that he could share with students he teaches about legal technology.

One that quickly caught his attention was DepoDirect, which provides technicians and reporters who host virtual depositions and operate all aspects of the platform.

“That is probably the biggest one where the tech geek inside of me went: ‘I need to be showing people that this exists,’” Lusk said.

Meanwhile, Christi McGowan, the director of legal operations for the software company Exterro, said she was pleasantly surprised to have many solo and small firm practitioners, particularly in the area of family law, come up to her company’s booth in the ABA Techshow Expo hall. Exterro provides tech assistance with e-discovery, privacy, digital forensics and risk management, and McGowan said the small firm lawyers she spoke with asked great questions.

“It is telling me smaller firms are finally looking for solutions,” McGowan said.

Dorna Moini, the CEO and co-founder of Documate, recommends that lawyers who are not as familiar with technology focus on four basic areas to start: intake, document drafting, payments and making sure that their data is smoothly transferring between different solutions and is securely stored.

“I think those four elements are things you can implement today,” said Moini, a 2019 Legal Rebel.

Along those lines, the conference’s last day Saturday will feature workshops designed to help attendees plot out practical steps that they can take when they return home from Techshow.

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