ABA TechShow Takeaways from Grant Winner Aimee Self Pittman

Guest post by Aimee Self Pittman, Reference and Legal Research Librarian at LSU Law Library.

Why should you attend the ABA TechShow? Because it gives you invaluable insight into the business of law and the state of technology in law firms that we often don’t get in our academic librarian roles.

This year’s LIT-SIS grant made it possible for me to attend the ABA TechShow for the first time. It was one of the most useful conferences I have attended because it gave me real-life insights into how law firms of all sizes are leveraging technology to make practice more profitable and easier.

Our law students want to know what to expect when they enter the workforce, and the ABA TechShow allowed me to gather more intel about what that tech-savvy legal landscape looks like. Having that practical knowledge helps me better prepare students for the modern practice of law.

The exhibit floor was a treasure trove of legal tech solutions. Some of my favorite and most useful discoveries were:

  • Lead generation. I had no idea there were so many companies that specialized in lead generation or that a firm would subscribe to more than one at a time. By asking lots of questions of the vendors, I’m now fully armed to lead my students in discussions about how to get business in the door of their law firm.
  • The future of legal billing. Talking to the folks at AltFee about realigning billing practices in the age of generative AI was eye-opening. There’s been a lot of chatter about the death of hourly billing for decades but it has gained momentum with the advent of generative AI. By analyzing the available alternative fee structures, the firm can choose the non-billable-hour solution that works for them and manage the billing system going forward. AltFee won the StartUp Alley Competition this year and gets their product amplified by free marketing and advertising from the ABA.
  • E-discovery and document review tools with AI-powered searching
  • Secure client portals and communication apps
  • Legal research and drafting software with data analytics capabilities

The educational session tracks covered vital topics like cybersecurity, process automation, legal operations, and emerging technologies. A few sessions that really opened my eyes included:

Beyond the substantive legal tech insights, attending ABA TechShow was also valuable for making connections with innovative lawyers, legal technologists, and vendor representatives. As an academic law librarian, it’s easy to get stuck in an ivory tower mindset. TechShow reminded me how rapidly the practice is evolving and the importance of staying plugged into those changes.

Law firms are usually nimbler and more creative with technology than law schools as they seek to remain competitive and meet client demands. Academic law librarians should strive to engage with practitioners to gauge their level of tech-savviness and forward-thinking in order to properly train future lawyers. The ABA TechShow is an annual immersion into that crucial intersection of law and technology that can inspire new ideas and perspectives. I highly recommend the experience for other academic law librarians.

Research Librarian, Perkins Coie LLP