The ABA TECHSHOW: Where Lawyers and Technology Meet

Since living in Chicago, I have been fortunate to attend the ABA TECHSHOW Expo every year. As a technology librarian, the Expo portion of the TECHSHOW is always a thrill for me; I enjoy getting to try out new devices and equipment, speak to vendors, and learn about the latest and greatest technology products and services on the market.

Through the generosity of a CALL grant, 2015 was the first year I was able to attend the full ABA TECHSHOW conference. This presented a wonderful opportunity to go beyond vendor showcases to learn directly from the experiences of those who are working at the intersection of law and technology.

CALL members visiting the vendors at the ABA TechShow 2015
more CALL members visiting the vendors at the ABA TechShow 2015

Search Techniques

As a librarian, of course one of the first sessions I wanted to attend was the one with a catchy title that promised to relay tips on effective search techniques, entitled “Bingoogleduckyahoo! How to Search for Anything and Find It.” This session served as a good refresher on how to make effective use of the advanced options available via many popular search engines.

What I appreciated even more about this session was that it went beyond just web searching to providing advice on optimizing your entire digital world for more efficient searching. For example, you can change the order of search results returned in Spotlight search on your iPhone to prioritize Mail results (go to Settings -> General -> Spotlight Search) and, in Windows 7 and 8, you can customize the built-in search index or purchase a relatively inexpensive 3rd party search tool tool like X1 or Lookeen to have greater control over which programs are searchable.

Mobile Apps

Even though I am a fan and advocate for the convenience and flexibility that mobile tablets offer us to further our personal and professional interests, I have never actually composed and delivered a presentation from one before. Attending “Easy and Effective Presentations from Your iPad” sparked my interest and inspired me to consider doing so when I give my next presentation.

I was amazed to learn that the workflow for putting together a presentation in the mobile version of Apple’s Keynote software seems surprisingly more fluid in many ways than creating one via the traditional computer-based version.

One of the important takeaways from this presentation was also the concept of matching the technology used to the needs of the audience and to think about how tablets might be utilized to display more than just presentations.

For example, instead of passing out paper copies of a document for distribution to a small group, the document could be loaded into a program like DocsToGo and projected so that everyone in the room can follow along and suggest edits on-the-fly.

Productivity Tips

I also attended sessions aimed at enhancing my productivity skills with Evernote and other apps. My favorite session of these was probably the “Mac Power Users: 60 in 60” presentation, which featured 60 tips for getting the most out of your Mac in a fast-paced and fun format.

In this session I learned about apps like Fruitjuice (http://fruitjuiceapp.com/) that help you ensure the longevity of your laptop battery, Cloak VPN (http://www.getcloak.com/) for protecting your Mac on an unsecured wireless network, and Bartender (http://www.macbartender.com/), an app that lets you create a sub-menu bar to declutter and organize your icons to only see what you need to at any given time.

Technology in Legal Practice

After two days of immersion in the various applications of technology in legal practice, the closing plenary on the third day featuring Casey Flaherty and Andrew Perlman was a wonderful way to wrap-up the conference. Flaherty and Perlman spoke on the need for lawyers to be interested and involved in exploring how technology can help them realize efficiencies in practice.

Flaherty contends that the idea of so-called “digital natives” is actually largely a myth; just because students today frequently possess multiple devices does not mean that they are savvy technology or information users. Flaherty charged law schools in particular with the task of helping to better train students because “technology is a learned skill.” As librarians, we certainly can play a role in helping to emphasize and model technology skill development and in directing students or new associates to appropriate resources to help them develop these critical skills.

Having the opportunity to attend the ABA TECHSHOW as a full participant definitely enriched the experience for me. I learned a number of tips and tricks that I was able to immediately apply to my workflow, and I was inspired by the closing plenary to help others be successful in doing the same. I am grateful to the CALL Grants & Chapter Awards Committee for providing me with this opportunity to recharge my technology toolkit.

Illustrations from several sessions were drawn during the sessions and displayed in the exhibit hall throughout the event
Illustrations from several sessions were drawn during the sessions and displayed in the exhibit hall throughout the event – click to view this one larger.
An unusual takeaway from the TechShow: a balloon judge!
An unusual takeaway from the TechShow: a balloon judge!
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