The top ten practical tech lessons: a view from Chicago

Insiders liked last week’s ABA TechShow. Veteran US commentator Bob Ambrogi was fulsome in his praise of the way that the schedule had been refreshed by a rule that no one who had spoken in the last five years spoke again this year. I have no idea how it compared with previous years but it was certainly impressive in itself. Previous blogs report on each of its three days. This and the following one cover reflections on the conference as a whole.

A number of sessions looked at specific products for specific purposes. In addition, the exhibition space was just overwhelming in the diversity of those selling their wares.

These are the ten practical injunctions that struck me as being the takeaway tech lessons from the conference, applicable both in the private and not for profit sector.

1.Pay attention to internet security – particularly with open wifi

All lawyers have some degree of awareness of the importance of keeping client information private though compliance with acceptable standards might vary. The big lesson for me was to use a VPN to protect yourself when on open wifi as in a coffee shop or a major hotel – like the Chicago Hilton, where the conference was being held and a good quarter of the audience appeared not to be protected in their use of the free wifi (including me).

Find a way to deal with passwords and use a password manager.

2 Automate your practice processes as much as possible with practice management systems and easy to use time recording systems

Self-evident. Experience of legal aid (back in the day) will have most domestic UK practitioners ahead of the game here.

3. Use generic productivity systems to the maximum

Skype or some equivalent video programme alone can revolutionise your practice by changing how you relate to clients.

4. Map out your business strategy and, in particular, identify your competitors within and outside the legal profession and identify how you are going to see them off

Bog standard business advice. Analyse your businesses processes – preferably visually.  Look for the possibilities of automation by, for example, the use of standard forms. Visualisation makes you re-conceive things. The main sessions of the conference were summarised in a poster by an artist immediately after they finished. They were very impressive.

5. Maximise your marketing with freemium information

Personally, I like the way that Co-operative Legal Services is, for example, developing their website. See how it gives you a considerable amount of free information about wills to entice you in.

6. Explore legal research tools, particularly those that are are

You can go a long way with Google and products like Google Scholar. You can find a lot of information about people and businesses on the net free of charge.

7. Keep in touch with the best sources of information

You could spend your life reading and following blogs. I discovered two commentators that I would keep up with and whose sites will update you with their latest contributions – David Curle of Thomson Reuters  and Bob Abrogi (see above). I would recommend them as a way of dipping your toe in the water and keeping up with the main developments

8. Prepare for disaster

Standard business advice but it cant be wrong.

9. Keep an eye on the big US legal service firms that are honing their business methods

Yes. This includes Avvo, RocketLawyer and LegalZoom – pretty marginal as yet in the UK but with business models that are eminently transferable and, in consequence, where experience in the US is likely to be deployable across the Atlantic.

10. Keep an eye on the use of artificial intelligence and blockchain

These are going to transform commercial B2B practice: they may have less effect in practices aimed at low income clients but watch out for trickle down effects.

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