Ed. note: Gabe Acevedo will be covering LegalTech for Above the Law this year. If you are interested in communicating with someone from ATL about LegalTech coverage, please contact Gabe at gabe@gabesguide.com. Thanks.

The pregame show for LegalTech New York 2011 has been in full swing the last few weeks. Vendors and their PR reps have been constantly reaching out via emails, text messages, phone calls, and smoke signals, to contact industry experts, “thought leaders,” law firm decision makers, members of the media, and, perhaps most importantly, knuckleheads like me. All are doing their best to generate “buzz” before they announce their new products, alliances, services — fill in the blank as you see fit — at the conference.

Then, at 9:00 AM on Monday, LegalTech New York will open with what I am certain will be a riveting keynote address from Gabriel Buigas, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel of Hewlett Packard, entitled Legal vs. IT: Turn the Battle into a Solution to Meet Compliance. At that point, everything will reach a crescendo.

Well, not exactly.

Don’t get me wrong; I am sure Gabriel Buigas will give an excellent speech. But the real action will begin at 10 AM, when the doors to the exhibit hall open. That is when all hell breaks loose, and hundreds of technology vendors will be eagerly waiting to share with you the great news about their respective companies.

With that as a backdrop, here is some of what I expect to see at this year’s LegalTech….

Let’s start with the overall theme. The themes every year at LegalTech, as well as at many other trade shows, are usually not that hard to spot. For example, in 2006, it was all about the new Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and how they applied to e-discovery. In 2009, with the economy a mess for everyone, talk was of cost efficiency, as well as the rise of social media networks. An entire panel was even dedicated to Twitter. In 2010, people were concerned with “early case assessment” (ECA) and “defensibility.”

I fully expect cloud issues will be an overarching theme at this year’s conference.  Discussions of “the cloud” have really picked up steam since 2010. Sean Doherty of Law Technology News, who put together a great rundown on what to expect from various legal technology vendors at LegalTech, mentions several vendors who will be releasing cloud-related products or services. They include Business Intelligence Associates or BIA, with TotalDiscovery.com; CaseCentral, with R5; and Nextpoint, with their SmartCrawl technology. Doherty also notes that the company Index Engines “will also introduce a cloud-based service to extract data from tapes.”

So which faces will stand out in the crowd? Last year, Thomson Reuters was all over the place, with their unveiling of WestlawNext. They had large-screen televisions advertising their products and Westlaw employees acting as “human kiosks,” demonstrating their new service on MacBook Airs.

While not as much hype has been made about any single product or service this year, one company that is making a lot of noise in the LegalTech pregame is Planet Data. Planet Data, which is celebrating its tenth year anniversary, has unleashed an aggressive PR campaign for this year’s conference, and has been in contact with anyone who will listen for five minutes. I am not saying that to be critical; this is what you have to do get noticed in a show like this. It’s really easy to get drowned out by the many voices around you.

As part of their efforts, Planet Data is presenting a panel on February 1 entitled E-Discovery 2020 — The Next Generation of Innovation. The panelists include Judge Michael Baylson, from the United States District Court of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania; Andrew Horne, partner at Kirkland & Ellis, LLP; and Ian K. Hochman, Special Counsel of E-Discovery at Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP.

Speaking of the year 2020, the panel may also be a nice precursor to the third day’s keynote address, by futurist Michael Rogers, entitled A Look at the Law: 2020: A Radical Perspective on how Technology will Shape the Legal Industry 10 years from Now. Will you be Ready? That keynote is sponsored by DiscoverReady.

Another way for vendors to stand out on the exhibit floor is to get creative. On that note I have to give credit to a company called RealPractice, which tries to make law firms more technologically efficient. Instead of giving away the normal trinkets you typically see at trade shows, such as pens, notepads, and koozies, RealPractice is giving away free headshots to people who want to use them social media profiles. Is it as cool as a trip to Hawaii? No. But it’s something that is relatively inexpensive for them, useful to the recipient, and helpful in giving RealPractice the opportunity to maximize publicity before and during the conference.

With nine different tracks going at the same time, I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of the surface of LegalTech. There will be much more to cover in the next few days; LegalTech New York is the Super Bowl of legal technology conferences.

With this Super Bowl, pregame is about over, and the show is about to begin.

Gabe Acevedo is an attorney in Washington, D.C. and the publisher of the e-discovery blog GabesGuide.com. His articles on legal technology and discovery issues appear regularly on Above The Law. You can reach him at gabe@gabesguide.com and follow him on Twitter.


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