Last week was the ABA TECHSHOW 2023 in Chicago. I am partial to this show–it’s my favorite of the legal technology shows I attend. It’s my favorite not only because it’s put on by the ABA Law Practice Division, of which I am the current Chair (Yes, I know. I can’t be impartial about this). But it was my favorite even before I became Chair or commenced a leadership position in the Division. I have written about TECHSHOW several times, here, here, and here.
TECHSHOW is geared more toward smaller firms and solo lawyers. There is less high-power selling and nerd speak. There is more education, training and discussion. There is space for more substantive discussions and learning from vendors. People are less interested in sales and more interested in learning.
Indeed, one of the best things about TECHSHOW is that it’s an opportunity to get a lot of information about tech products in one place. To see some and use the products in the exhibit hall.
Unlike other shows, this one is geared toward those who need it the most: lawyers and legal professionals who need hands-on information. Information not filtered by sophisticated nerd speak from those who are never in a courtroom.
The Law Practice Division itself is all about serving and helping its members and the bar as a whole
The Law Practice Division itself is all about serving and helping its members and the bar as a whole. This vibe-service and helping—is present throughout every TECHSHOW.
The 2020 TECHSHOW was the last big legal tech show before everything shut down. The 2021 TECHSHOW was virtual as the pandemic continued to rage. The 2022 Show was part live, and part virtual. By the 2022 Show, people were just beginning to cautiously ventur out of their foxholes, rub their eyes, and feel comfortable being around people again. And TECHSHOW 2023 has mirrored the rise and, hopefully, the last gasp of the covid pandemic.
But TECHSHOW 2023? If there was ever a back to normal celebration, this seemed to be it. You can see this by the numbers alone. A 56% increase in the number of full conference registrations. A whopping 76% increase in vendors exhibiting on the exhibit floor. A standing room only start up alley competition. Full educational sessions.
But the numbers are only part of the story. There were lots of people congregating on the exhibit hall floor and in hallways in general. Talking to one another. Laughing.
Lots of people seeing each other for the first time since 2020. Lots of hugs. Lots of random and informal meetings and discussions about tech and where the profession is going. Lots of energy. Lots of “buzz.” People just being grateful to be back in person again.
The educational sessions themselves were well done and well attended. A great mix of the fresh—lots of ChatGPT related sessions—and more traditional– “how to do things sessions.” The litigation track, for example, featured Pablo Arredondo in one session. Pablo discussed his company’s (Casetext) new large language model product in one session. Pablo also patiently explained to all of us how these models work and the benefits and risks of things like ChatGPT. But the litigation track also featured Tara Cheever and Brett Burney in some other sessions. Tara and Brett presented hands on, practical training on how to effectively and seamlessly use many available trial technology persuasion tools.
And the other tracks seemed similar. A good mix of the cutting edge and tried and true practical education.
The two Keynotes featured some of the best minds in the industry. Industry leaders who discussed things like the benefits and risks of regulatory reform relating to law firm ownership. And who debated and the future of the profession.
And in keeping with the collegial and “learning with good friends” vibe, we kicked off the show by honoring Bob Ambrogi. Bob has been writing tirelessly about legal tech and teaching and serving the legal tech community for so many years. It was fitting that TECHSHOW 2023 kicked off with recognition of someone who has been so committed to the profession. And committed to making us all about the benefits and risks of legal tech. While the recognition may have left Bob speechless, I can’t think of anyone who has done more for legal tech and law practice.
Oh, and by the way. The small intimate taste of TECHSHOW dinners returned this year. These dinners let small groups get together with a knowledgeable host to, again, talk and learn.
We, as lawyers, have an ethical duty to keep abreast of the benefits and risks of relevant technology. We at LP take this duty very seriously
Notice I have used the phrase “risks and benefits” several times. I did that purposefully because the phrase is used in Comment 8 to Model Rule 1.1 on lawyer competency. Comment 8 says that we, as lawyers, have an ethical duty to keep abreast of the benefits and risks of relevant technology. We at LP take this duty very seriously and strive to aid our members and the bar as a whole in satisfying that duty. That is, in part, what TECHSHOW is all about: teaching and learning in a safe, friendly setting.
I think this year’s TECHSHOW more than achieved that goal. Thanks to TECHSHOW Board chairs Jeannine Lambert and Gyi Tsakalakis and the entire Board for making this possible. And thanks to a great staff at the ABA, led by Zach Bambacht, who ensured that all the details were covered and support provided.
Legal tech journalists agree: TECHSHOW was a really great Show and a joyous celebration for us all.