Takeaways From My Fifth ABA TECHSHOW

Originally posted on Legal Technology Today on April 27, 2015 by Julie Tolek

This is the fifth ABA TECHSHOW I have attended. I met someone this time who recognized that I have been coming to TECHSHOW since I was a law student. Sometimes it really blows my mind when I am reminded of just how much I have learned and how many amazing people I have met over the past five years.

It’s amazing how much I have learned in one year of actual practice, not just substantively, but also operationally (which includes using technology and manning the firm and running the business). This TECHSHOW, I found myself very introspective about what kinds of things I did well, what I could do better, and what I should abandon all together.


What follows are some of the things that got me thinking this time around.

General Observations

This year, I spent more time listening and analyzing in sessions instead of furiously taking notes; I still created a notebook, but found that I wasn’t as determined to write everything down. I think this is for two reasons: first, I am more comfortable in running my practice than I was last year (it was my first year in practice!), so I was better able to filter the information that I find useful and only write those items down. Now I trust my brain more to absorb what I need and just go with the flow.

Second: I know a lot of people now! I have made so many friends over the past four years that I don’t have to worry about feeling alone or out of place or awkward. I found myself bumping into familiar faces constantly! I am so appreciative of being welcomed into the TECHSHOW community; I feel like one of the “cool kids.”

Even though I know a lot of people, I met even more new people this time. It’s really a small world and I really love how everyone is connected. You never know who you are going to meet. I met the people from Attorney at Work—one of my favorite blogs—just by chance at a Taste of TECHSHOW dinner!

I feel kind of like a jerk for saying this, but I am kind of tired of having to keep up with all the social media of being at TECHSHOW. I love following everyone, but the thought of tweeting and posting constantly throughout the conference seemed exhausting to me this year. I feel guilt about that as it’s always been “my thing,” but this year, I said no and I focused on just being present and soaking it in.

Highlights From Day One

The Name Game: How to Manage and Organize Your Digital Documents

I am not an organized person. Like, at all. Running my firm has forced me to get organized. For a while I was terrible at naming things, but since I became Of Counsel at Skylark Law & Mediation, PC, I’ve had to learn to name documents the way the firm does. And I have applied that nomenclature to my own practice at Think Pink Law. It was super helpful to hear more ways to organize and name files and documents, especially because now it actually made sense to me!

So You Want to be an LP Author

I always wondered how attorneys got into the publishing world of the American Bar Association. This session was super informative and the process was explained very well. Definitely inspiring!

Accelerate You Practice with Microsoft Excel

I hate numbers. There, I said it. And for better or worse, I have never had an occasion in my life to have to use Microsoft Excel. This session included a cheat sheet with the most commonly used tools in Excel, and might have been the session I learned the most from this year.

Highlights From Day Two

Litigator’s Toolbox: Top Tech Tips for the Active Attorney’s Practice

Here is one where I mostly listened, but I did learn about creating a photo album in PowerPoint with all the images I want to use in trial, which is actually something I never thought of doing.

Internet Legal Research on a Budget

This was pretty useful to me since I am a solo and a startup and I want to spend as little money as possible. For example, I learned that I could use the Legal Technology Resource Center as a starting point for journal searches as secondary sources (shame on me, I should have known this). However, the second half of the presentation focused on legal research software that is available through a bar association membership (not to be confused with the being a member of the state bar for your license to practice). For me, in Massachusetts, bar association membership is not mandatory, so I found that these options did not apply to me. I did, however, win Carole A. Levitt and Judy K. Davis’ book, Internet Legal Research on a Budget, for being the most recently barred attorney in the room (2013 baby!).

How to Digitize Your Signature and Use it Responsibly and Effectively

I have been curious about digital and electronic signatures for a long time. This is a session where I took a lot of notes, and now I have a starting point and a game plan to start making and using digital signatures. I just wish someone would research all the different softwares and tell me about each of them! Maybe there will be a more in depth session about this next year.

How to Do More in Less Time

I listened so hard in this class, I think I strained my ear muscles. The concept of having “Do Not Disturb” time in the office is so obvious but seems rarely implemented. I am pretty good at isolating myself to only one task, but it takes me a good twenty minute warm up to get into my groove, and if I get interrupted, I have to refocus all over again. I thought I was the only one with this issue since I am a new attorney, that it was just a growing pain of sorts. It turns out that it is very common. It made me feel better that I am not alone.

Alternative Fee Arrangements

It was so interesting to hear about shifting away from the billable hour and to alternatives when, in my practice, I am currently trying to shift back towards the billable hour. I generally love flat fees because it gives the client some reassurance of what to expect as a bill.

For me, the problem I faced being a new attorney is how to effectively use flat rates so that I’m not charging too little for too many hours. I think this is probably my biggest learning curve so far. When you are first starting out, you have no idea how long it’s going to take you to do something. Now that I have a better idea, I am better at flat rates, but I am trying to move to the billable hour for those things with uncertain time frames. Contrary to popular belief, most of my clients have not minded a billable hour and a retainer. Most even expect it. However, I do still offer all options, so it’s good to know what type of billing method works well with certain types of cases.

Social Event Highlights

The welcome reception provided me with two free drink tickets, just like last year. I am allergic to beer and wine (seriously), so I was afraid I would not be able to use my tickets and have a drink, but this year they had mixed drinks! I was so excited! The finger food was a little weird—corndogs and popcorn, like a carnival, which did turn out to be the actual theme of the evening. By then I was starving, so I had one gin and tonic and three(!) corndogs.

Clio always has an after party, but I had never been to it until this year. It was at a really cool club called Cuvee in Chicago, pretty close to the hotel. Let me just say that Clio knows how to market and to make people feel special (I talked about this in my post about the Clio Cloud Conference). From logos on the bar itself, to logos sprayed onto drinks, to logos on the walls,to pillows with the Clio logo, the vibe of exclusivity was off the hook! Some people turn their noses up or roll their eyes at so much self-promotion but I eat that stuff up and I loved it!

Here’s a low-light, if you will: lunch on the second day. I swapped my roast beef sandwich on brie for a veggie wrap, and it was much better. Why aren’t there ingredient lists on the signs by the food? This would be helpful and probably prevent some allergy issues.

Overall, as usual, ABA TECHSHOW was fun, informative, and energetic. It is always a positive experience because everything there is really passionate about what they are doing. I will be there next year again for sure!

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