I am quickly approaching my three year anniversary of practicing law, and I finally had the opportunity to attend the much acclaimed ABA TECHSHOW at the Chicago Hilton last week (April 4-6, 2013). I have heard about this conference since my very first semester of law school, and being somewhat of a techno-geek myself, I had always been very curious about it. In fact, during my first few months of practice, I was lucky enough to pick the brain of one of my mentors, Lee Rosen, Esq. from North Carolina, and I asked him of all the ABA conferences, if I could only attend one within my first five years of practice, which was the most important for me to save my money and attend? His answer? “Without a doubt, TECHSHOW.”
When my husband, Ben Stevens (a.k.a. The Mac Lawyer, a frequent speaker at TechShow over the last several years) and I married last year, he was excited to tell me all about how wonderful TECHSHOW was and how much we would enjoy attending together this Spring. And yet, even with such tremendous recommendations prefacing my first experience, I was still surprised, and even a bit overwhelmed, by just how beneficial (and profitable) the experience turned out to be. Rest assured that I am still digesting all that I learned, but here are just a few of my initial impressions:
- ABA Guide for Planning your First Trip to TechShow :: The ABA TECHSHOW Planning Board created a special website guide for First Time Attendees which included sections such as: Planning; Selecting Your Sessions; Arrival; Networking; and After. Each section was packed with all the secrets to getting to most out of your experience and trust me, the secrets were worth knowing prior to arrival (such as where to sit to get access to power strips and how to get free drink tickets for the Welcome Reception). From the moment I arrived at the Chicago Hilton, I spent much of the first 24 hours in a state of awe. I was not only in awe of the Hilton itself but also at the multitude of choices presented to me that would allow me to customize my experience to my practice and my interests. In other words, the insider’s guide was a god-send.
- Superb Educational Sessions :: This year’s sessions offered something for everyone, from social media to Android devices to Maximizing your PC and, my personal favorite, the Mac Track. I spent Day One learning about Social Media, E-Discovery, and Paperless Office Strategies, and I walked away with pages of notes on things I have already started to implement in my family law practice. In addition to the resources I discovered, I was able to network with several of the speakers, including the author of several ABA books, Mark Rosch, and current and past ABA Board Members Jim Calloway, Randy Juip, Lincoln Mead, and Brett Burney. I spent Day Two focused in the Mac Track. As some may know, I’m a recent PC-to-Mac convert, so this Track of 4 sessions was exactly what I needed to learn from the ground up just how to make my new Mac family of products work for me in the most profitable ways possible.
- Two Words…EXPO HALL! :: Most people who know me know that I love office supplies – more specifically, I love a good pen – and the Expo Hall was like my own personal Disneyland when it came to free pens and other office items. The variety of vendors showcased was astonishing for this first-timer, but I wasted no time making the rounds, shaking hands, asking questions, and watching lots of demos of the best legal technology has to offer. My favorite swag? My Rocket Matter spaceship (a perfect tool for breaking up the busy work day); my SurePayroll Magic 8 Ball (for when a client asks a really tough question); and my FastCase “Kiss My App” t-shirt (both for comfort and for turning heads).
- Taste of TECHSHOW Dinners :: By far, the best networking opportunity of the entire conference was this dinner. Not only do you get to enjoy a wonderful meal at one of Chicago’s best restaurants, you have the opportunity to meet and dine with several other TECHSHOW attendees who share similar interests. For example, I attended the “Mac Dinner” and had the opportunity to spend much of the evening discussing how to better use my Mac with Larry Staton, a Sr. Software Engineer with Hendrick Automotive and other Mac-loving attorneys from all across the U.S. and Canada.
When you’re making your plans to attend next year, be sure to check with your state’s Practice Management Advisor to see if they are offering a SuperPass. I was able to attend this year while saving a chunk of change by signing up for the SC Bar SuperPass, which reduced my registration cost significantly and linked me with several other South Carolina attendees to jump start my networking opportunities. I could go on and on, but it’s really better just to experience TECHSHOW for yourself. If anything, I’m not sure it’s possible to recommend this conference enough. Even if you’re fairly “techy” to start, I guarantee you will walk away with new knowledge and, more importantly, new contacts from across the national legal community. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to TECHSHOW 2014, and I hope to see you there.