Tidbits Worth the Trip To ABA TechShow 2012

As my friend Matt Homann has said, the best and most interesting part of a conference happens outside of the conference. And even at ABA Tech Show, with some of the most high quality, substantive programming of any conference, Matt’s observation still holds true, with the personal connections taking place outside of the classroom sessions and making TechShow all that much rewarding and enjoyable.

Of course, at a place like TechShow, even many of the personal conversations and off-the-record comments aren’t limited to idle chit-chat, but touch on big picture issues like the promise of technology and the future of law and challenges of moving forward. Those are the topics where three of my outside Tech Show programming “best of’s” come into play:

1. Best idea: One of the best ideas I’ve heard in a long time came in the form of a question from an unidentified participant during the Bilinsky/Adkins session on new virtual business models for law firms. As Dave Bilinsky itemized the litany of potential ethics considerations that the bars have only just started to address, this participant asked “What about a challenge to the Bar rules on the basis that the obstacles to virtual practice violate the Americans With Disabilities Act? The questioner went on to describe at least some of the lawyers who favor, and clients who patronize virtual law practices do so because online services are easier to deliver and access for those with disabilities. (As an aside, after my post on NJ’s Bonafide Office Requirement, I received an email from a disabled attorney who had written a letter to the NJ Powers that Be, describing his own personal reliance on a virtual model). Though I’ve been knocking my head against the wall to change some of the outdated bar rules, the ADA isn’t something I’d ever thought of. Pure genius!

2. Best document generating tool At dinner on Friday night, I sat next to one of my favorite TechShow/blogosphere buddies, Ken Adams. Though you’d probably never guess from Ken’s precise, measured writing style and flair (in contrast to my rantings), we actually have several common pet peeves including low quality forms and templates. But in contrast to me (all complaint, little action), Ken has actually put his money and skills where his mouth is and developed an automated, superior NDA that is now available FREE by registering here. I urge you to take a look at what Ken has developed and take advantage of it to get a sense of what high quality document automation can be like (see my previous post here on my review of Ken’s NDA product.

3.Best Observation I had a few conversations with Scott Stanley, CEO of Associated Legal Blogs a service that offers short feeds from all legal blogs all in one place. After the 60 Apps in 60 Minutes session, Scott remarked on the benefits of apps that take one function and do it really well, as opposed to platforms that incorporate multiple functions in a lackluster way. After Scott shared the insight, the lightbulbs went off in my head, explaining why niche practice, particularly solo niche practices have gained so much ground lately: because of the app-ification of the way we do business. Because of apps, consumers no longer expect or desire a product that does everything OK, if they can find an app that does one thing that rocks. So too with niche practice where smaller clients find a lawyer for their precise problem. Likewise, the app-ification of law has replaced the “one stop shopping model,” as even large firms are increasingly willing to bundle up a bunch of smaller niche practices for their needs instead of sending all their business to one large firm.

Of course, just as a developer may design several apps, solos aren’t limited to one practice niche either. In many ways, my own practice model is a bundle of apps itself – eminent domain, FERC practice, social media in regulated industries and appeals – with the common thread of solving problems of first impression and last resort. But my practice, like others similarly structured works because like apps, discrete, niche areas are easy to set up, inexpensive to market since the target audience is limited, and so well suited to client needs that clients become loyal and supportive fans.

The app-ification of law practice. How about that my futuristic friends?

Needless to say, there were plenty of other bests at TechShow beyond these three – these are just the ones most relevant to my beat at MyShingle. Though if you came away with similar best of’s, I welcome them in the comment section below. In the meantime, if you’d prefer a big picture view of TechShow 2012, take a look at posts by Nicole Black (Legal Technology and Innovation at Its Finest) and InsideLegal’s TechShow 2012: What Went Down, and if you want a quick run down on Jim Calloway’s outstanding keynote on the Future of Law: Dark Clouds or Silver Linings, see Connie Crosby’s excellent summary or Dave Bilinsky’s cautionary words. By the way, tomorrow, I’ll be posting on where I found the future of law last month – surprisingly, much as I enjoyed TechShow, it wasn’t there. Stay tuned….