ABA TECHSHOW Road Show debuts in Boston

Issue March 2009 By Tricia M. Oliver and Jennifer Rosinski

More than 100 legal professionals from across Massachusetts made their way to the Boston offices of the Massachusetts Bar Association on Feb. 11 to take part in the first local version of the ABA TECHSHOW, which is held annually in Chicago.

The MBA and the Law Practice Management Section of the American Bar Association teamed up to showcase national presenters on the most current trends and tactics related to legal technology.

Informational sessions covered topics ranging from efficiencies gained from digital dictation and the benefits of using PowerPoint in the courtroom to archiving client and case information in Outlook, to steps for making law firms more profitable. The program ran from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with two concurrent tracks of educational sessions. 

“The Mobile Office: Take Your Desktop in Your Pocket” gave attendees an overview of all the latest gadgets and accessories available to take the practice of law on the go. From comparisons between laptop and tablet PCs to security measures that include Lojack for your laptop and encryption, speakers Debbie Foster and Paul Unger provided practical tools to get started.

Alex Flannerly, who works in IT for Looney & Grossman in Boston, attended the mobile session to see what new products are available. There is “a lot of good stuff out there we’re not using and should be,” he said.

Attorney Stacey Ochae of Greenbaum, Nagel, Fisher & Hamelburg LLP in Boston attended the session as part of a research mission on behalf of the firm’s partners. She was instructed to find out what technology can do for the small firm.

“I found everything interesting,” said Ochae, noting that descriptions of smart phones and digital dictation were especially useful.

The other early morning session was “New Resources and Personal Knowledge Management,” which featured the best new sources of online legal and factual information, as well as how to keep up with them on RSS feeds, social book marking services and online notebooks.

One of the most popular sessions was “Turbocharge Your Practice with Affordable Technology” held in the late morning and presented by MBA Law Practice Management Section Co-Chairs Alan J. Klevan and Rodney S. Dowell. While attendees took notes on paper, laptops and mobile devices, the pair described free and low-cost technology solutions that included e-faxing, conference calls, file sharing, security and printing.

“I came to see how we could improve our office. I was surprised because a lot of these things we have already implemented, which is a good thing for us,” said Kelley Greski, a paralegal at Shapiro & Associates in Boston.

For Martin Tomassian, on the other hand, the session was a whirlwind of new information he was excited to bring back to his firm, Tomassian & Tomassian on Martha’s Vineyard.

“I wish the session was 45 minutes longer. It was so much information my head was swimming at the end. I was taking notes as fast as possible,” said Tomassian, who is also an MBA delegate for Dukes County. Tomassian was most interested in learning about how dual monitors can improve efficiency.

The other late morning session was “Shock and Awe: PowerPoint for Opening Statements and Closing Arguments.” Catherine Sanders Reach and Paul Unger shared basic and advanced tips for using PowerPoint to make opening statements and closing arguments more powerful and persuasive.

Lunch was then served while attorneys chose to attend “60 Law Practice Management Tips in 60 Minutes” or “60 Essential Web Sites in 60 Minutes.” Adriana Linares, chair of the ABA Law Practice Management Section’s Technology Core Group, along with speakers David Bilinsky and Jim Calloway, offered helpful URLs of sites that offer streamlined functionality for the office and home.

Audience member Kevin Whitaker, a small firm attorney in Weymouth, said he definitely walked away from the Web site lunch session with some practice pointers. Like many solo practitioners and other small firm attorneys, Whitaker often handles administrative and technology responsibilities for his firm.

Following the lunch programs, “PDF-ing for Lawyers” and “Look Who’s Talking! What Lawyers Need to Know about Digital Dictation and Speech Recognition,” were offered in the early afternoon.

One of the last programs of the day was “Accidentally Successful: How to Tell if You and Your Firm are Making Money.” The session covered helpful law practice management tips that would lead to a more profitable and efficient practice. Speakers highlighted the importance of a sound business plan. Bilinsky explained how important it is for practitioners to develop an “outline of what your practice looks like on paper.” Calloway added how crucial the first meeting with the client can be. “The initial client interview is a time to shape expectations,” he said. Both speakers’ suggestions underscored the importance of planning in the success of any law practice.

The other final program of the day was “The Lawyer’s Guide to Managing Client and Case Information with Outlook.” The interactive demonstration covered pointers for attorneys on how to more effectively archive client and case correspondence using Outlook. “Contacts are the center of your universe in Outlook,” said Linares, who co-led the program with Foster. Linares also highlighted the “activities” feature in “contacts” in Outlook 2007 as a helpful way to better track attorneys’ interaction with “contacts” or clients.

Paralegal Mary Bussell of Klevan &
Klevan in Wellesley attended the session on Outlook and found some helpful hints. She was eager to implement the ideas on archiving to better organize her boss’ many e-mails. Following the program, the feedback from participants and speakers on the comprehensive program was equally positive.