Daniel de Juan, a sales engineer from Mitratech, summed up perfectly what LegalTech was like for me this year: “Being at LegalTech is almost like being at a casino, in the sense that you lose all track of time.”
Two years ago, I found the conference to be pretty intimidating, and that was when the conference was much smaller due to the weak economy. Last year, LegalTech New York was much bigger, and I found it slightly overwhelming. This year, due to some bad planning on my part, I came home from LegalTech utterly exhausted.
It seems I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. After a quick search on the Internet, I have seen only a few things written up about the conference, so I’m guessing many people went through the same experience. (For example, I spoke with members of The Posse List on the first night, and they told me that they were gearing up to do 36 interviews during the two and a half day conference — so it must have been a whirlwind for them as well.)
That said, here are some musings from my adventure last week….
The good news is that LegalTech seemed just about as big this year as it was last. It was hard to me to gauge whether or not it was bigger than it was in 2010, but the majority of people I spoke with thought that it was. That is a good sign for the economy and for the field of law.
I am continually amazed by Monica Bay, the editor of Law Technology News and one of the facilitators of the conference. The job of overseeing this conference is massive, and she goes through it with apparent ease, yet she still has time to give a few speeches at various functions, such as during the Fios party at REMI. Fios was celebrating the roll-out of their latest e-discovery tool, Clarify.
As I expected, there was quite a bit of cloud talk at this conference. I mentioned last week a few of the companies that would be implementing their cloud strategies. It seemed to me that, among the many vendors promoting their new cloud capabilities, there were a few where the knowledge seemed to be a mile wide but only an inch deep. According to this post from David Snow at ALM, since “the cloud” is the subject de jour nowadays, law firms are having trouble figuring out exactly what cloud means.
Apparently some vendors thought that if they just said the word “cloud,” people’s eyes would light up and customers would come in by the boatloads. When a few were pressed about what they were doing in “the cloud,” the response was often, “Can I have you talk to one of my co-workers?” In fairness, I used to ask people that same question when I worked for a litigation technology vendor, and I knew someone else in the company would be able to explain the services better than I could.
Don’t get me wrong — there were plenty of vendors ready for cloud talk. The one that stood out the most was My Firm Manager from LexisNexis. That may be due to the fact that their booth was front and center in the exhibit hall and they had a large television screen in the hallway promoting their new service. Nonetheless, it certainly looked impressive. (Disclosure: LexisNexis is an advertiser on Above the Law.)
Nicole Black also agrees that the cloud was the major theme that emerged out of LegalTech New York. I am looking forward to her book on cloud computing, which is coming out later this year. I have mentioned Niki Black before regarding the book she co-authored with Carolyn Elefant, Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier. I caught up with her at the solo and small practice firm dinner, hosted by Lisa Solomon, on the last night of the conference. Being a trial attorney and all-around, self-described “tech geek,” I think Niki’s perspective on the subject will be quite valuable.
Again, the relative lack of knowledge about the cloud was minor and to be expected in many arenas, not just legal technology. Like many competitive industries, there are plenty of vendors in this one who follow the crowd. Once the next big thing or buzzword comes along, they all hop on the bandwagon. I remember a colleague telling me that when the new Federal Civil Rules took effect for e-discovery, back in 2006, every vendor at the conference wanted to tell you how they could help you comply with the new rules. It apparently had become such a joke that someone put up a sign next to the coffee stand stating, “We do e-discovery too.”
Although companies such as Rocket Matter, Clio, and RealPractice are marketing technological efficiences to smaller and midsize firms, LegalTech is still very much an e-discovery-driven conference, as evidenced by a word cloud put together by Inside Legal. The word “e-discovery” clearly showed up more than any other in people’s tweets.
A positive trend I picked up on at LegalTech was something I mentioned when I wrote about The Masters Conference. There clearly is a push toward human interaction, as opposed to simply artificial intelligence. Jason Krause writes about this as well. No matter what type of technology comes to the legal world, without the right people running it, it may as well be useless.
Building on the group of vendors I discussed last week, I recommend this article from LTN’s Sean Doherty for a good summary of vendor announcements. This week, I thought one vendor was particularly worth noting. There are a million review tools out there for e-discovery, yet somehow Relativity from kCura has managed to separate itself from the pack. For a small company, they seemed to be everywhere, and hosting a “Hands-On Lab” at the conference. Not only have they managed to partner with a number of prominent companies, including H5, Bluestar, D4, and Lighthouse, but they have caught the attention of Ralph Losey, who is a well-known expert in e-discovery. His blog, e-Discovery Team, is one of the most comprehensive on the subject.
Speaking of experts in e-discovery, I also want to mention Jason Baron. For those of you who don’t know him, Baron serves as Director of Litigation for the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA), and is renowned in the world of legal technology. We briefly discussed a new workshop that he is putting together called Discovery of Electronically Stored Information IV (DESI IV) in June 2011 at the University of Pittsburgh. The workshop is a way for attorneys and litigation professionals who want to be on the cutting edge of discussions about search standards and procedures, which is a discussion that has been of great interest since the advent of e-discovery.
Finally, let me acknowledge the man who I think stole the show: Jason Wilson, who is a former attorney and V.P. with Jones McClure Publishing. His tweets during the conference were hilarious, and he is definitely someone worth following at jasnwilsn on Twitter.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter.