Evan Schaeffer of Legal Underground notes on another of his blogs that law students can attend the ABA Techshow in Chicago April 20-22 for free (via Blawg Wisdom). Last year I wouldn't have taken an interest, but a clinic in which I recently was enrolled, Lawyering in the Digital Age, required students to attend LegalTech in January and provided free passes to it. I'm glad that they did, as it was an interesting experience. The majority of the vendors seemed to be hawking document review and discovery services that would gather up truckfuls of documents, scan them, make them searchable, even translate them.
These all come at significant cost, of course; even a lawsuit disputing a few million dollars wouldn't justify use of services designed and priced for corporate and class action litigation. As I was supposed to be viewing this at least partially with an eye to pro bono clientele, the exposition didn't strike me as terribly helpful. Even the vendor of a service that allows one download court forms for any jurisdiction and fill them out digitally -- one of the few items that seemed like a potentially worthwhile one for people who didn't have a cadre of attorneys to do that sort of thing for them -- didn't give me much hope. When I inquired into pricing, he said that a clinic or public interest organization couldn't afford it, though perhaps he was just grumpy at being accosted by a starving law student at the end of the last day.
However, many of the services did look like stuff I'd be using in a large law firm, particularly in litigation. One exhibitor creates sophisticated mockups for expert witnesses to use, that can depict everything from the crannies of a disputed invention to the traffic on a toll road. Another would allow me to send my e-mail through a server that would delete the e-mail before it was viewed at my request, as well as reporting whether it had been viewed, for how long (and how much of the message could have been read in that time), when it was viewed again, etc. This last struck me as a little sketchy and invasive of privacy, but I have no doubt that if there were legal problems with it, one of their intended customers would have noticed long before I.
Perhaps most important for the law student deciding whether to attend events of this type: the vendors give away lots of free stuff. Cookies, laptop locks, pens and highlighters, free music downloads, Tshirts, bags, even a Best Buy gift card all ended up as loot from LegalTech. If you have the time to kill in Chicago, go.