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Live from TechShow: Jim Calloway of the Oklahoma Bar Association

March 14, 2008

Our guest for today’s final live dispatch from TechShow is none other than Jim Calloway, director of the Management Assistance Program at the Oklahoma Bar Association. A most knowledgeable figure in technology, both as it pertains to the legal realm and to the greater world, Jim also writes the blog Jim Calloway’s Law Practice Tips Blog.

Jim is more than your average TechShow attendee: he’s been attending the conference for nearly a decade, and in 2005, served as its co-chair. With that experience, his interview – available after the jump – provides a nice-wrap up to the technology discussion we’ve been having at this blog for the past week.

1. Rob La Gatta: As a former chairman of TechShow, how do you think it’s going this year?

Jim Calloway: Well, I’m pretty excited with a number of changes about TechShow.

I think I first came to TechShow in ’99, and have been to every TechShow from ’99 forward. This year they’ve tried to do several things to make it a more interesting experience for the attendees: having one sit-down, plated luncheon where they gave out the first Jim Keane award for e-lawyering was a nice touch. And then, of course, we’re just in a new venue…and the Hilton is certainly – in my view – more upscale than the Sheraton Towers was.

2. Rob La Gatta:

I also saw they’re starting to incorporate things like a Twitter feed, a tag, etc. How are those working out so far?

Jim Calloway:

I was talking to Tom very late last night, and [he said] there were only a dozen or so on the Twitter. I think the blog feed has been fairly well-utilized, and the nice thing about that is that it’s going to be an archive for people’s contemporaneous comments, which others can go back weeks or months later to read.

The major difference between ABA TechShow and pretty much every other legal technology conference I’ve ever attended is that this is really more of an educational conference, where the vendors are invited to participate. And in other types of conferences – I don’t necessarily want to name any – you feel like the vendors are often driving the show, and there’s talk about, “Does a big enough sponsorship get you a place at the podium?” [But] this event is really put on by the American Bar Associations’ law practice management session as an educational enterprise.

3. Rob La Gatta: For your blog, what keeps you going and makes you want to come back each day to write?

Jim Calloway: A little tongue in cheek: I’d say if you’re the kind of person whose friends always complain about how frequent and long your e-mails are, then you may be a good candidate for blogging.

I think I’ve carved out a space that I’m comfortable with, that complements my job. I’m able to use my blog to share bite-sized bits of information with my members (because I’m employed by the Oklahoma Bar Association), but I’m also able to let the rest of the net-using lawyer public in on it at no additional cost or effort. So it’s a great adjunct to my job, and a great service for the public as well.

4. Rob La Gatta: Overall, do you see blogs as a viable marketing tool for practicing lawyers?

Jim Calloway: I definitely think that they are a marketing tool, and I know LexBlog has long been a proponent of lawyers using blogs as a marketing tool. But I think it requires a certain dedication, personality and mind-set, and so it’s not necessarily for everyone. The overcrowded, overworked lawyer who is having trouble maintaining all their personal and business items may have to take a look at themselves as to whether they really have time to support a blog.

Having made that slight disclaimer, I would say that blogs are an incredible tool, because of the relative inexpense and the ease of use…particularly if you can limit the blogs somewhat in your subject matter. You should either you take a very narrow subject of the law and you go national with it, to try to become the national authority in this very narrow area. I’ve also seen a lot of people that have set up things like the Kansas Family Law Blog or something like that, where they limit it both geographically and by topic.

The fact that the search engines still seem to love the blog content, the fact that somebody can easily update their blog in about the same amount of time it would take to draft an e-mail…these things make blogs a potential great marketing tool (for the right people).

5. Rob La Gatta: With technology and the law continuing to become intertwined, where do you see this all going in the future?

Jim Calloway: That’s a great question, because there are several aspects to it.

Number one, in terms of the practicing lawyer: what we do as lawyers is in a large part based on receiving, processing and communicating information. Many lawyers who thought technology just meant that you had a computer as a glorified word processor in the office are now understanding that there are lots of different aspects to the way it is changing legal practice.

I think we’re going to continue to see lawyers change the way they do business. I just attended a session at TechShow on online collaboration and collaboration tools, and I think we’re going to see more of that kind of architecture: clients and lawyers having internet shared presences, so that they are working together more cooperatively and  looking at things in a process, instead of the lawyer just presenting the client with an end product.

So I see that change, but I also see the way technology is changing our world: you go out on the street now and you see kids text messaging, you see how many gifts under the tree last Christmas were based on technology advances…as technology changes society, we’re going to see a whole lot more of interesting issues in everything from intellectual property to privacy rights. For those lawyers who want to be on the cutting edge in that area, we’re going to see a lot of interesting decisions where the old rules that made a lot of sense don’t quite make as much sense anymore.

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