Got a minute or two?
Two former TECHSHOW Planning Board chairs (Roberta Tepper, lawyer assistance programs director for the State Bar of Arizona, and Reid Trautz, director of the Practice and Professionalism Center at the American Immigration Lawyers Association), an incoming TECHSHOW chair (Brooke Moore, founder of MyVirtual.Lawyer), a law practice advisor (Laura Keeler, Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, Massachusetts Law Office Management Assistance Program), and a first-time TECHSHOW attendee and a completely virtual immigration lawyer (Kimberly Felton, founder of Onward Immigration) walk into a bar… No, no, no, just kidding. But, what they did do is weigh in on the recent virtual TECHSHOW 2021. If you haven’t gone, you should. If you have, I’ll see you next year. Take a gander for insight on the impact of what’s to come.
Shawn Holahan: What is the most impactful topic or session you attended?
Roberta Tepper: Of course, I’m a little biased as the co-chair of TECHSHOW 2021, but I thought all of the programming was impactful. Personally, the Microsoft 365 session taught by Ben Schorr and Annette Sanders was one of the ones at which I took the most notes; also, Stephanie Everett’s Marketing Blueprint session, and Dan Siegel’s Adobe session.
Reid Trautz: As many firms transitioned to more virtual services during the pandemic, the need for secure client portals became more clear. Jim Calloway’s session on client portals contained great information about the functionality and security firms should seek in client portals.
Brooke Moore: The most impactful topic for me was the well-being track. I am a big advocate for lawyer well-being initiatives and am thrilled to see the profession increasingly highlighting and integrating mental health sessions into continuing education offerings and other legal training.
Laura Keeler: It’s hard to choose!
For those stymied by cybersecurity (most lawyers are in this boat), Rochelle Washington gave an outstanding talk on “Data Security and Privacy for Lawyers,” and David Ries gave critical pointers in “Best Practices for Securing Your Virtual Practice.”
For those that learn best by knowing how to maximize the tools they use, Dan Siegel and Annette Sanders gave an excellent presentation in “Adobe Acrobat DC: Exploring the Newest Features.” (Dan Siegel has written a terrific guide on Acrobat, too.)
For those interested in academics, professors like April Dawson spoke eloquently about teaching and designing courses for both “law of technology” and “law practice technology.” Several sessions illustrated precisely why law librarians and techy professors are fonts of wisdom. For example, “New Skills for a Remote World: The Evolution of Instruction to Become Technologically Competent” introduced me to knowledgeable speakers like Nicole Morris, Jennifer Wondracek, and Debbie Ginsberg.
For those finding it challenging to communicate with and manage remote employees, Lauren Rosenthal and Joey Silberfein’s “Remote Team Management: Innovative Approaches and Best Practices” was packed full of ways to improve communication, collaboration, and connection.
Kimberly Felton: I think it was the second day where there was a discussion about returning to a “new normal.” I love that the profession is starting to recognize that the old way isn’t necessarily the better way. It sparked a discussion that inspired me to begin analyzing my current processes and finding a way to do better.
Shawn: As a result of attending TECHSHOW, what trends did you notice that you will share with your firm or others?
Roberta: I’ll share a couple of trends with the lawyers I advise. First, AI continues to improve lawyers’ abilities to better serve their clients, as well as underserved populations, and is not something to be afraid of or avoid. Next, lawyers need to be mindful of their health, mental and physical. The trend of addressing lawyer wellness and well-being continues to resonate and the synergy between diversity, equity and inclusion and lawyer well-being is vital.
Reid: Solo lawyers are finding and using multiple non-legal specific software subscription services to build virtual firms with little or no staff. These small but tech-heavy firms may use a dozen or more cloud-based tech services to market their firms, on-board clients, automate workflows, communicate effectively with clients, and get paid for a faction of the cost of engaging staff. Not only does this keep costs down, but can add flexibility to the lawyer’s work location and schedule.
Brooke: One trend I found to be recurring was that many attorneys want to remain at least partially virtual post-pandemic, but they are struggling with choosing systems and structuring their processes because they had to make the switch to virtual so abruptly. As a result, since TECHSHOW we have been focusing more heavily on training the attorneys we work with on fully utilizing the capabilities of their current software programs, and creating more efficient systems and workflows.
Laura: While leading a breakout group for my state’s solo practitioners, I highlighted four key trends. First, document automation is becoming far more user-friendly, with many options now that don’t require programming language to help create templates, clause libraries, and pull data for fill-in forms. Second, contract management systems are a dominant up-and-coming industry. Almost half of the Start-Up Alley pitches are related to using automation/AI for drafting and managing contracts. Third, firms are embracing technology that’s been around for a while, but finally recognizing how effective it is for streamlining firm operations: systems like client portals for sharing documents securely; electronic legal payment processing systems; and streamlined intake procedures. Fourth, the shift to virtual and hybrid practices will keep increasing long after the pandemic.
Kimberly: Something I was happy to see catching on is the use of tech that isn’t necessarily designed for attorneys or legal practice. I’ve been using a tech stack that doesn’t include practice management software and knowing that others are discovering this means that efficiency is a priority. I’m currently designing a client portal with multiple features I’ve yet to find in any integrated portal. I also designed a case evaluation through AfterPattern. It took 13 pages of work and condensed it to a dynamic form that automatically completes the PDF for us. All I have to do is look at a single page that tells me what they are eligible for, what potential problems they will have, and if they need a waiver. I literally automated legal analysis in a matter of three days and now I can offer free 15-minute calls with people who complete this. By embracing technology and efficiency, I am able to offer these services in tandem to my caseload. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Shawn: What programming would you like to see TECHSHOW do in the future—live or virtual?
Roberta: Selfishly, I’d love TECHSHOW to be in-person in 2022 – seeing everyone in person and having that social interaction has always been such an added joy of attending. But I have faith in the TECHSHOW Board to make the best decision they can and to give us another great TECHSHOW in 2022, whether it’s in-person or virtual. I do miss the deep dish pizza and Garrett’s popcorn (Chicago mix, of course) – my two TECHSHOW guilty pleasures.
Reid: As this was the first virtual TECHSHOW, I liked the mix of 30-minute and 60-minute sessions spaced throughout the day.
Brooke: I love interactive sessions, and would enjoy even more hands-on, practical programming, like workshops or practitioner panels, that provide tangible, actionable steps to take away from TECHSHOW and implement into your practice.
Laura: I would love to have a way to have a hybrid option of both live and virtual sessions. I greatly missed the buzzing energy of the live conference, and the natural interactions with fellow attendees, presenters, organizers, and exhibitors. Many great brainstorms result from talking with fellow attendees after a session, or picking a presenter’s mind with follow-up questions, or gathering together at the themed topics for breakfast discussions. Such communications can be done with intention virtually, but it’s far easier in person. On the other hand, the virtual options had great benefits, like being cheaper and more accessible for more people to attend (including many law students who attended). I relished the new opportunity to watch recordings of the virtual TECHSHOW sessions, since inevitably you want to watch multiple sessions that occur simultaneously.
Kimberly: I really enjoyed how interactive the virtual conference was. It kept me engaged and I came away with a lot more than I may have at an in-person venue. I think the workshops were great, by forcing us to take the knowledge and apply it. I would like to see more of that integrated. It’s great to learn about these new methods but without knowing the “how,” it causes a lot of us to abandon the project once we forget the “why.”
Shawn: Describe some “a ha!” moments from this year.
Roberta: Well, it’s not exactly an “a ha!” moment, but TECHSHOW always brings home to me that no matter how much you focus on legal tech and practice management in your day-to-day, there is always something to learn, even about tools you thought you knew well.
Reid: I learned about “Jarvis” an AI-based copywriting service at Conversion.ai. This service could be a game-changer for the stogy writing of lawyers. I also learned that Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365) continues to get even more powerful and more secure for lawyers, so I’m determined to spend more time exploring features and apps. But I was absolutely blown away by the session “Rules as Code” by Jason Morris, a lawyer and computational law expert, and creator of Blawx, an innovative new way to encode rules and make them more accessible. Really amazing stuff!
Brooke: An “a ha” moment for me was learning during our 60 in 60 session that there are so many COVID-friendly, fashion-forward tech accessories that light up. I hope to see everyone next year wearing light-up face masks, gloves, and glasses.
Laura: TECHSHOW showcased many ways of embracing the new norms and combatting challenges of the legal industry.
Danielle Hall’s session on “Setting Boundaries to Create Life-Work Balance and Improve Your Productivity” demonstrated numerous creative tips and tricks for setting boundaries, especially when working from home. I loved her explanation of striving for “work-life harmony,” which will ebb and flow as needs adjust.
Billie Tarascio’s session on “Go with the Workflow: Improving Your Virtual Client Intake,” is the best talk I’ve seen on virtual intakes. She spoke as eloquently about the technical side as she did the people side, including assessing whether the client and your firm will be a match.
Stanley Tate’s “Solve New Legal Problems with Technology and at Scale” was an inspiring talk. He spoke to the opportunities in having a clearly defined niche, and how finding a tech stack that works for your needs can vastly streamline your workflows.
Stephanie Everett’s “Should I Stay or Should I Grow?” gave great insights about attorneys thinking of possibly growing their firms or partnering with other attorneys, including the importance of alignment on vision and values.
I look forward to seeing and sharing new trends at TECHSHOW 2022.
Kim: I loved seeing the different ways that many attorneys are succeeding. From Stanley Tate to Billie Tarascio, Kimberly Bennett and Regina Edwards. They find ways to automate and maximize tools around their desired business model. It inspired me to sit down and think about my own business model approach, and how I can use tools to achieve that. Also, there is a rise in direct-to-consumer services like Boundless, which to an immigration attorney may seem threatening. But instead, I want to embrace it and figure out how to work within that realm. I’ve started dipping my toes in subscription-based offerings and very limited scope representation, which gives more affordable options to my intended clients. Normally these clients may not be able to hire me at full-representation cost. But since I can fill a need for them, like coaching them on how to prepare for an interview, or form review, it opens up an untapped market where there is a demand.
About the Author
Shawn L. Holahan is practice management counsel for the Louisiana State Bar Association, and also administers its fee dispute arbitration program. A former member of the ABA’s LP Publishing Board, TECHSHOW Planning Board, LP State and Local Outreach Committee, she serves as an editor for Law Practice Today. Contact her @LSBAtech.