CONNECTING: At the ABA TechShow by Katherine Greene

Attending the ® ABA TechShow 2008 was a great experience. Maybe it was because my colleague and I traveled by train to Chicago, or maybe it was because our double room at the Chicago Hilton had two closets and bathrooms. Most likely, it was because of the excellent programs and extensive Expo Hall. We were lucky the train and hotel kept us well rested; the ABA TechShow is intense! The American Bar Association’s Law Practice Management Section put together 50 sessions covering 16 topical tracks. (Download the Program Guide.) With seven simultaneous sessions and nearly 120 exhibitors, it was hard to take it all in. Fortunately each registration packet came with a CD of handouts and supplementary materials. A month after the conference, attendees received a link to the Power Points. I will be delving into the sessions I missed for the rest of the year.

As an academic law librarian without a J.D., I had three objectives in coming to the TechShow. First was to explore law practice technology with the idea of creating a presentation or workshop for our graduating students. The exhibitors at the Expo were generous with their time and sample software. I came away with an overview of technologies that are being used in law practice and what future webinars and on-site training opportunities are available for our students. It will probably take me several months to peruse all the opportunities.

Second, I looked at how and why lawyers are using technology. I concentrated on sessions from the Paperless Office, the Solo/Small Firm I, and the Mobile Technology tracks and learned that technology can not only make law offices more efficient and effective, it can also help attorneys fulfill their Code of Ethics obligations. Since our university is actively pursuing digitizing faculty publications, I wanted to see how attorneys approach digitizing documents. Paul Unger’s presentations in the Paperless Office track were especially clear and helpful in explaining the process and the technologies used.

My third objective was to attend the 60 Tips in 60 Minutes and the 60 Sites in 60 Minutes sessions to prepare for a short presentation on technology I was giving for the Southwestern Association of Law Libraries annual meeting. Preparing for my presentation is how I ran across the ABA TechShow website in the first place. Among the free resources I found on the site were annotated listings of all 60 Sites in 60 Minutes from 2004 through 2007. The 2007 CD and selected audio recordings of sessions are also available for purchase. Between the TechShow and the website I came away with more than enough resources to evaluate

Keynote speaker Marc Rotenberg, Executive Director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, is an example of just how tech savvy all the presenters were. Rotenberg incorporated the Governor Spitzer prostitution scandal endlessly playing on the elevator TV screens into his afternoon address. Spitzer served as an up-to-the-minute illustration of how little privacy is possible online as Rotenberg showed us documents, images of the hotel room, the call girl Ashley Alexandra Dupre’s MySpace page, and a selection of the many news sites and blogs covering the scandal.

The TechShow made me realize that attorneys are starting to take on activities from the information transfer cycle: creating, storing, organizing, accessing, and destroying information. This gives librarians an opportunity to use our expertise to expand our role in law firm settings beyond legal research. I found the TechShow to be well worth my time. I learned a lot from those tech savvy attorneys. The sessions were informative and stimulating. I even had the chance to eat with a speaker and a small group at a Taste of ABA TechShow dinner, but I was too new to feel comfortable participating. Maybe next year I’ll try that. The ABA TechShow is free for law students and has a reduced registration rate for academic law librarians. Just email the Law Practice Management Section for details. Attorneys can receive CLE credit. The 2009 ABA TechShow will be held April 2-4, 2009 at the Chicago Hilton. Maybe I’ll see you there.