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5 reasons why your law school should send students to ABA TECHSHOW

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This last week, I had the distinct pleasure of attending the American Bar Association’s TECHSHOW as a law student. It’s an experience that was incredibly special, although I wasn’t aware of how special it was until I got there.

See, not every law school sends students to TECHSHOW. Mine did, so I guessed it was more ubiquitous than it turned out to be – and that needs to change.

After networking like crazy, connecting with people on Twitter and LinkedIn, and sharing meals with a much larger breadth of folks than I normally would, I think I met every student at TECHSHOW. As far as I can tell, they came from a handful of schools.

If you’re a law student, connect with me, and I’ll make the case personally to your dean why your school should find funding for you to attend next year, or please steal my reasons below. If you’re a dean, I hope you’ll consider the following 5 reasons why you have to send students next year:

1. With the constant rate of technology innovation, and the increasing nature of the gig economy (translated even into larger law firms via flat fee arrangements), students need to be on the leading edge, both in terms of exposure and in terms of adoption.

At times, law school seems to be like drinking from a fire hose. Then, internships, externships, and other words that roughly translate to real work for free or basically free demand that we know how to use some of the key performance management platforms. But, because of understandable demands on time/curriculum, we didn’t cover how to vet these platforms in Torts, Wills and Trusts, or even Secured Transactions.

We might know all the substantive law in the world, but if we can’t translate that into today’s economy, it does us very little good.

2. As a corollary, it’s expected of us to be the leading technologists in whatever field we are hired into – older partners find the youngest person in the room and ask for help. If and when we don’t know the answer because we have never heard of these kinds of needs before, that not only reflects negatively on us, that reflects negatively on the school that hosted the OCIs, is on our resume, and claims to help us achieve minimum competency according to ABA rules.

Help us be the people who continue to drive firms to hire people from your school because we a practice-ready quicker. This is an incredibly cheap way to manage your school’s reputation. Which brings me to…

3. Marketing basics suggest that there’s a first mover advantage. I’d suggest that, if you’re not already investing heavily in tech education for students, you’re already behind, but it’s not too late. There’s only a handful of schools sending students to TECHSHOW right now. Most are within an hour or so of the host city.

Your school can more fully invest in tech education, then market that like crazy to your students as the only school in your region that does this. Bring the best and brightest to your school, and use every arrow you can put in your quiver to get them there. This is one thing to look forward to for students, and one thing that you can do next year to help your recruitment team further differentiate you from your direct competitors.

4. Personally, I’m about to go back and be the biggest legal tech evangelist at my school. It’s not just that I have had an outsize level of exposure to various available technologies compared to most other law students, it’s that I’ve seen how real life attorneys use them in their workflows.

Because of this, I feel more confident contextualizing their practices to usable practices for me tomorrow. And, just because my school is like this, I’m going to be passing this along – my group of friends believes in the “rising tide lifts all boats” philosophy, and we’ve saved each other enough that I can count on the principle that sharing this kind of knowledge will pay exponential dividends, both for me and for them.

Your school needs to build tech evangelists, and as many as possible. By all means, force them to teach one key takeaway when they get back to their fellow students – it’ll be well worth it for them, in exchange for your supporting them.

5. Finally, sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know. As an attorney, I need to have a working level of knowledge about the legal and ethical issues, including those that haven’t been well-defined yet. We all know that laws and regulations have not stayed up to date with new and emerging technologies.

This conference had multiple sessions about these kinds of legal implications we need to consider, including admissions that we don’t know how this is going to shake out yet. Putting these kinds of issues on the table, seeing who the presenters are – I’m going to know who to turn to when I have that weird case that isn’t as defined as it needs to be yet. There were times when multiple sessions had compelling content, so I had to split up with a few of my fellow attendees and share notes later.

But either way, I found out more about those things that I don’t know about than I knew before. Your law school won’t be able to ask and answer every question, so lubricate the machinery of inquiry into those things that might slip through the cracks, in spite of your best efforts. We all have blind spots, we just don’t know where they are because we’re blind to them. Put students in situations to have subject matter experts bring them to light.

And finally, one bonus, although this is something that I might have been able to finagle at home, albeit not with the same situational/conference aids: Networking. Don’t think that I didn’t pay special attention to everyone I met from my home state who came here. I want to work with and for those people and firms that are on the leading edge of legal technology, not the ones who are still trying to use the tools of the past. Your students will too.

Your law school needs to send law students to the ABA TECHSHOW next year. You need to help them secure funding for it.

It’s an investment in your and their future.

More on ABA TECHSHOW

Fast pitch: 1L fills in for app creator at TECHSHOW’s Startup Alley

Go with a goal: Law student takes on TECHSHOW with a purpose

OU Talis Law blog: 2019 TECHSHOW recap

More from Talis Law: 6 benefits of TECHSHOW from a law student

ABA Journal: News from TECHSHOW

Rich A. Lubbers Rich A. Lubbers is a 1L at the University of Oklahoma College of Law who loves running, cheering for OU football, and cheating at cards. Happily married to a real life lawyer, father to an almost 4-year-old, he is interested in corporate transactional work, maybe. ("I’m a 1L, I don’t really know.")