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I Attended ABA TECHSHOW 2008 and All I Got Was This Lousy Blog Post

By Mazyar Hedayat | Saturday, March 15, 2008


So it's Friday night, getting late, and I've been at ABA TECHSHOW 2008 (hereinafter TechShow), sponsored by the Law Practice Management Section of the American Bar Association. In the past 48 hours I've been misdirected, lost, achy, breaky, sleepy, and mildly amused. But did I learn anything? No time for existential questions ... it's time give the legions of TechnoLawyer subscribers something to read and hopefully some useful tips in the process. In this first report, I'll try to give you a flavor of TechShow — the sights, sounds, smells ... you know the cliche.

Thursday, March 14, 2008

4:30 am: Unlike most attendees and speakers who have flown in from around the country and only have to fight jetlag, I live about 30 miles outside Chicago so I need to wrestle with traffic before setting foot in the hotel. It's a 2-hour commute into the city no matter what and the Thursday preceding St. Patrick's Day would be no exception. (Note to TechShow Planning Committee — please consider returning TechShow to April.)

6:00 am: You only get once chance to make a first impression. I chose a dark blue suit and a shirt with a fine windowpane check, paired with an orange tie and handkerchief. Yes, that's me in the photo. I also armed myself with a legal pad, Redweld file, a pen, a highlighter, my iPhone, a digital camera, and a digital recorder. By the time I walked out the front door, my pockets were swinging uncontrollably from the weight and momentum of my multiple devices. Worse, the messenger-style bag I donned for the occasion cut mercilessly into my shoulder. Now I was ready.


7:40 am: Don't you love it when a plan comes together? Well, almost comes together. TechShow chair Tom Mighell (of Inter Alia fame) was giving the keynote address at 8:00 so all I had to do was make it to the Sheraton by then ... and I was making great time. The Sheraton Chicago has been the home of TechShow for nearly 10 years. Funny thing though ... it turns out that the TechShow board wanted to shake things up, which included changing the dates and venue of the show. (Second note to self — always read the literature before you show up.)

8:00 am: As I sprinted to the registration desk at the Sheraton I couldn't help noticing the lack of ABA paraphernalia in the familiar lobby with its serene, elegant waterfalls. At first this seemed like a refreshing change — more subtle, less obtrusive. But the dark, unmanned desk was not reassuring.  Nor did it help that I had to haul 40 pounds of technology gear up and down the first, second, and third mezzanines until it dawned on me that maybe the party was going to be held somewhere else.

8:20 am: It's not that I missed the keynote: I was just fashionably late. And what I saw in the cavernous Grand Ballroom at the Hilton (the real venue of TechShow) was a capacity crowd and Tom holding forth about TechShow and the bright techno-future that awaited us.


8:30 am: With the keynote over, it was time to embark on the day's seminars. First however, I headed to the makeshift media-room set up by the ABA Division for Media Relations and Communication Services.

No sooner had I entered than one of the young staffers asked who the heck I was and what I was doing there. Despite this charming greeting, I was actually impressed by the fact that the LPM Section has included such features as:

TechShow Blog
Live blogging feeds
Live photo sharing on Flickr
Twitter feed! Wow!
• Group on

Of course it only took another 10 seconds before I remembered that the inclusion of such tools — cool as they are and useful as they can be — means squat when coupled with a population that by and large doesn't use them.

8:35 am: Time for my first seminar, Eliminating the Paper Chase: From Boxes to Bytes, a soup-to-nuts look at how to go paperless, if not entirely paperless, in an average law office. More on this seminar and all the others I attended in subsequent Posts.

My Initial Impressions

Making Tom chair of the TechShow was inspired: it shows that the ABA is acknowledging (if only a wee bit) that it needs to change the way it does things. At its best, TechShow is where a host of new, smaller, out of the way vendors get to present themselves each year and out of every new crop some make it and others opt out (legal is a tough market). This year was no different. If anything, Tom's influence will no doubt encourage a slightly different group of lawyers and vendors to participate, and that is de facto a good thing.

On the other hand, I loved the Sheraton, I don't care much for the space at the Hilton. It's literally in the basement of the building where the trucks dock — the signs are still up on the walls and the cinderblocks are apparent through the bad paint job. Come on ABA — you can do better. Even if you consider legal technology and LPM in general to be second-rate, you don't have to be so overt about it!

Read more firsthand reports from ABA TechShow 2008.

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Topics: CLE/News/References | Technology Industry/Legal Profession | Trade Show Reports
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