Review – ABA TechShow 2019

Thanks to a CS-SIS travel grant, I had the good fortune to attend the ABA TechShow 2019 in Chicago.  If you, like me, are teaching a course in legal technology, this conference is a must.  Part of receiving the travel grant was a request to write about the conference and my takeaways.

First, I learned that it is very important to download the conference app.  If you go to the ABA Techshow, you will not have time to go to everything you might want to see.  The programs that I attended were excellent, but often choosing which one to go to was difficult.  The conference app gives you access to program materials, and you can download the materials for those programs that you can’t attend.  It’s not the same as actually attending the program, but at least you get some information about what it covered.

Most of the programs I went to were part of the academic track, which I understand is a new track for the TechShow.   Each program was interesting on its own, but attending all of the academic sessions together provided me a bigger picture of what law schools are teaching, why, and what the impact is on legal education and practice.   The Tech Competencies: Past, Present, and Law School Tech Training on a Shoestring focused on what and how to teach technology.  One discussion that I found particularly informative considered the Legal Technology Core Competencies Certification Coalition (LTC4), the National Society for Legal Technology, and Procertas to determine which worked well for the various schools.  The programs Can Legal Technology Competency Help Get a Job?, Should Law Students Learn to Code?, and Marketing U: How to Integrate Marketing Into Law School Curriculum covered valuable skills that students need and can use to assist in finding employment.  One of the more fascinating themes at the conference for me focused on the question of what level of technological competency in new employees is sought by employers.

The two programs that I found most interesting, however, were Artificial Intelligence and the Legal Profession: Ethical Issues and Algorithms and Algorithms and Hidden Biases: What Responsibilities do Lawyers Have to ‘look under the hood’ of Legal AI?  Both programs discussed the importance of ethics rules and their relationship to AI.  The clear takeaway is that you need to know how the AI works and that this can be difficult to discover.  Programmers don’t want to tell you exactly how their AI functions because it is their work product, and so in some cases, we won’t have that knowledge.  While much of the conversation focused on how we deal with AI and analyze it, the role of attorneys in developing AI was also discussed.  The idea that attorneys should take a more active role in AI programming, even if only as consultants to ensure the AI doesn’t violate the law is something that I expect will come up over and over again.

A couple of final notes.   First, do take the time to visit the exhibitors.  I found all of them ready to talk about their products, and many were willing to see if they could work with me to bring information to my students.  Also, while many people skip the last day, I found it to be fun and informative.  The last program of the TechShow, 60 in 60, was an enjoyable mix of fun tech, jokes, and useful tips.