Reflections on ABA Techshow 2020 Part 1: Start-Up Alley

Today’s post is part 1 of 3, covering various aspects of the recent ABA Techshow in Chicago.

Thanks to Artie Berns, Research/Emerging Technologies Librarian, Western New England University, School of Law Library, for this fantastic series on the ABA Techshow!

I recently attended the ABA Techshow. This year, I was a man with a mission—to get a good look at every product vendors were showing off. In this post I will discuss what I considered to be the most exciting and innovative products from the Start-Up Alley. My next post will cover several products from the main Exhibit Hall, and after that, I have a report which combines the thoughts from several of our law librarian colleagues about their favorite educational sessions.

Exposition Hall: Start-Up Alley

Start-up alley showcases the contestants of the Start-Up Pitch competition. The competition pits new legal tech products against each other for some fabulous prizes, mostly advertising. You can see a full list of contestants for this year’s competition here. My favorites from Start-Up Alley include Woodpecker, Lawgood, and Josef.

Woodpecker

This is a document automation product that helps produce fillable forms. You simply input a document or set of related documents you have already created for Woodpecker’s AI to analyze. Woodpecker will create fillable forms from whatever you fed into it and will then ask the user to go over the list of fields to make sure each field is just what you want it to be. The user then has a fillable form based on their own document, which could be used with Microsoft Word’s mail merge feature. Woodpecker’s founder and CEO, Alex Melehy, is enthused at the prospect of working with law schools and is willing to provide free access to Woodpecker.

Lawgood

This company has a product called Contract Workbench that can generate contract documents based on current federal law within a specific jurisdiction. Users select the type of contract to be drafted and fill out a short questionnaire, including questions such as jurisdiction, party’s position, and other relevant information. Contract Workbench will then produce the desired document for the attorney to review. At various points throughout this document, there are sliding bars that can be adjusted to favor either party or be neutral.

Josef

Josef is a visual tool that helps attorneys create chatbots. The tool allows branching logic, so one could conceivably create a somewhat complicated expert system for a multitude of uses. Josef has a minimal learning curve because instead of a scripting language, the user is presented with a visual representation of the concepts and can dictate how they connect, similar to creating a flowchart. Josef also includes smartphone apps for the prospective client can use to connect to your bot.

Watch for part 2 and 3 to be posted on Wednesday and Friday.

Assistant Director, Research and Instruction, at Boley Law Library, Lewis and Clark Law School, in Portland, Oregon.