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Is it time to take the TECH out of TECHSHOW?

By Dan Lear
March 05, 2019

TECHSHOW 2019 is a wrap, and, overall, it was great. Highlights included the Women of Legal Tech Event held on Wednesday at Chicago Kent and the Chicago Legal Hackers MeetUp Thursday night. Another highlight was speaking on three panels on Friday: Design Thinking for Law Firms with Susan Letterman White, Should Law Students Learn to Code with Jeannette Eicks and Jack Cushman, and Build or Buy Tech For Law Firms with Ivy Grey. The first two sessions went great but by the Build or Buy session at the end of Friday, I was pretty wiped out. Shout-out to my co-presenter, Ivy Grey, who carried far more than her weight in that one! 

I had a number of conversations at TECHSHOW, with both TECHSHOW veterans and relative newbies, that were quite enlightening. Some of the veterans observed that when they started coming to TECHSHOW, TECHSHOW was where they came to hang out with innovative lawyers. This was because innovation and creativity meant technology and technology meant TECHSHOW. There wasn’t a great deal of thought given to what type of technology or even looking beyond technology at TECHSHOW. That there was a TECHSHOW was enough.

Today, law practice and technology, and, arguably, innovation, are much more closely aligned. And my conversations with the newbies reflected this sentiment. Modern lawyers may be innovative (certainly compared to their predecessors and probably compared to their peers) and they’re creative by nature (they have to be in order to survive in today’s rapidly changing legal landscape) but, for them, technology is a given. Of course they use cloud-based practice management software. Of course they’re list-building for email marketing purposes. Of course they’re thinking about creating and offering digital products as either a lead generation exercise or to develop recurring or subscription revenue for their law firms. Of course they’re analyzing the effectiveness of their digital marketing and working hard to measure their cost of customer acquisition. Of course they’re using online marketplace resources like Fiverr or UpWork, or LAWCLERK to handle administrative tasks and outsource legal work. Of course, of course, of course . . . . 

This new generation of lawyers uses technology, but they also walk on two legs and breathe oxygen. They can’t think of building a modern practice any other way.

You can see this divide between old and new in the content offered at TECHSHOW. While certain 100-level sessions on basic law practice technology or general technology tools are wildly popular at TECHSHOW, they are less relevant to this new generation of lawyers. To be clear, it’s not because this new generation doesn’t need this information nor is it that they have these tools mastered. It’s that they don’t come to TECHSHOW or, really, any of these types of conferences to improve their basic technology competence. They search YouTube. Or search Google. Or, if they’re really lucky, they live in one of the 36 states where comment 8 to rule 1.1 has been adopted (or if they’re really, really lucky, they live in a state like Florida or North Carolina that’s taking the new duty of technology competence seriously and mandating technology CLE). When these modern lawyers are at TECHSHOW, surrounded by and learning from some of the most innovative, creative legal professionals in the country, it can feel like a bit of a waste to talk styles for Microsoft Word.

So, what does that mean for TECHSHOW?

Maybe it’s time to think about taking some of the “tech” out of TECHSHOW. It’s not that the modern lawyer doesn’t use tech. It’s that using it is second nature. Early on, TECHSHOW was about technology because technology was a proxy for the rare innovative lawyer. To my, and likely many TECHSHOW veterans,’ great delight the modern practitioner has come a long way in a few short years. Let’s respect the progress that they’ve made and consider a new type of event - or at the very least a new name - for the event that represents a new type of lawyer.