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What's in New in Legal Tech? Highlights From ABA's Techshow

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on April 23, 2015 7:01 AM

The ABA's Techshow took place in Chicago last week, gathering lawyers and tech vendors from around the world to look at the potential future of technology in the legal world. (As an aside, the ABA would like us to refer to the conference as the TECHSHOW, but we will politely decline.)

From exhortations to test lawyers' tech skills, to warnings that computers could dumb us all down, the program presented a nice mix of the useful and trivial, the inspiring and worrisome.

If you couldn't make it yourself, here's a few highlights of what you missed.

A Glimpse Into Your Smarter, Stupider Tech Future?

According to the Techshow round ups we've found, the gathering featured a balanced look into the potential future of tech and the law. For example, one presentation by Randy Juip focused on using infographics to convey data to juries in easily understandable ways. A graphic designer and some complex statistics could help make a case.

On the other hand, the keynote speaker, Nicholas Carr, warned that the legal industry's embrace of automation could lead to attorneys with increasingly "dull brain skills." Carr warned that attorneys need to seek balance between traditional work and computerization and not cede sophisticated thinking to the machines.

Not Everything Will Change the World

Some of the tech showcased seems like it would be more helpful than others. I, for one, still don't imagine wearables like the Apple Watch will be changing legal practice in any major way, or even allowing lawyers to "practice law remotely." As for innovative websites feature at the conference, websites that check the strength of your passwords could actually be of much use. But I'm not so sure about how Invisible Girlfriend fits in as a practice tool.

Diversity: Still in Development

Like many other tech events, the ABA Techshow was heavy on white male presenters, light on diversity. Check out their list of presenters and you'll see -- well, very few visible minorities. While women make up just under a third of the presenters, there were hardly any people of color to be found. According to Jeena Cho, writing for Above the Law, the conference's "white people problem" stretched to attendees too, with very little diversity expo hall or mixers.

We can't say we're surprised -- FindLaw.com, with offices in the heart of Silicon Valley, has often covered the lack of diversity in the tech sector. Of course, the ABA has struggled with diversity as well -- certain sections of the organization devote significant resources to supporting diversity, some devote almost none at all. It appears that the organizers of the Techshow may fall into that later category. Here's hoping the Association's "longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion" is more on display in years to come.

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