#ABATechshow: Who Says You Can’t Party in the Basement?

April 13, 2011
Salt Lake City, UT

Quite literally, #ABATECHSHOW is held in the beautiful basement of the Chicago Hilton. I was debating between the words 'basement' and 'bunker', because of the unique marble architecture surrounding the building – giving quite the bunker-feel at times. While feeling very safe from anything in the outside world, the downside, was a near total disconnection and isolation as my AT&T iPhone continued to read "searching…" for most of the event. I had to connect to the "outside" world so I could participate in the silent conversations happening in the room I was sitting in. Yes, Twitter was ABLAZE the entire show, and in all of the sessions. It created a type of unseen energy and current in the session, as the speaker would say something, it was instantly voted on through Twitter, giving the sentiment of the crowd, or at least those of us online.

Aside from the widespread activity of social media, and the frequent comments about spotty wi-fi, there were some common and important themes in terms of where the legal technology market is headed. The common threads that began to emerge begin to build a valuable picture of where a legal technology vendor, consultant, or firm should focus as they shape their strategy moving forward.

Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and Terms of Service (TOS) – This topic came up in several sessions on cloud computing, as a way for savvy shoppers to differentiate between the good and bad providers of web services – asking critical questions like: Who owns the data? Who has access to the data? Where is the information stored? Is it secure, encrypted and redundant? How about the datacenters? What types of other programs does it play nicely with? How about what happens to the data if you want to leave?

Having a potential provider of web services answer these questions (and more) will take the covers off who may be cutting corners when it comes to security and privacy. SLAs and TOS will also open a potentially dark closet of the freemium model - Catherine Sanders-Reach stated, "If you're not paying for it, YOU are the product", highlighting the way consumer-services providers gleam personal info, or use widespread market presence to drive company valuation in the market. Many of these freemium-based companies are backed by venture capital firms which can't guarantee the company will be around long enough for them to transition those free users to paying customers.

Web-based and Cloud Computing – Even though it was the first year the show had a full Cloud Computing tract, I'd say it was a success. Nearly all sessions we're full, and based on the show of hands in the room, most attorneys have at least one web-based solution implemented in their firm. The takeaway - The industry is moving away from clunky, on-premise, hardware-intensive solutions.

People are sick of hardware, software, and the expensive upgrades that come with them. The strengths of cloud computing highlighted through the various session related to the plug-and-play aspect of the service, no upfront investment, no maintenance costs, lower internal IT costs, quick time to value, automatic and incremental upgrades, and the list goes on.

Mobility – I know mobility is such an over trodden word lately, but the real challenge and theme of these discussions are around which mobile applications should be adopted to maximize productivity?

And what services will help maintain consistency across devices, platforms, browsers and offices. It was about bringing the love of mobility in our personal lives, into the workplace. The consumerization of technology and IT is pushing the market to increase the level of user-friendliness and integration with business applications in order to drive productivity and ease of use. I loved the visual, as Erik Mazzone said in a session, "you can't swing a dead cat around this room without hitting at least two dozen iPads".

So I'm convinced. The ABA TECHSHOW is managed, organized presented and attended by a group of thought-leading, gadget-toting, forward-thinking, legal technologists and was well worth the trip to attend. I look forward to reading all of various blog posts that will undoubtedly come, but you could get a great summary of the show by looking at and following the tweets from…

(Disclaimer: this list does not intend to be comprehensive,… I may have missed some obvious names)

@econwriter5 @rodneydowell @stevenjbest @erikmazzone @bschorr @ethics_Maven @debbiefoster @barronHenley @david_bilinsky @blorish @Pauljunger @recessguy @legaltypist @bburney @trialpad @goclio @ALAeditor @victormedina @themaclawyer @rajuip @colincameron @finisprice @briannaneal @FamilyLLB @Kevinokeefe @TomMighell @macsinlaw @MassLOMAP @matthomann @stephkimbro

Post written by Marriott Murdock, NetDocuments Global Partner Program Manager. Contact him at @MarriottMurdock and let him know what you thought of the show.