International Legal Technology Association Conference 2016

Although most people see Labor Day as the end of summer, for the last several years I have viewed the International Legal Technology Association’s (ILTA) annual conference as the close of the summer season.  ILTACON, as ILTA’s annual conference is known, commences each calendar year on the Sunday prior to Labor Day weekend, and concludes on the Thursday before the start of the holiday weekend.  I always enjoy attending ILTACON, and this year was no exception. However, there is an element of sadness that hits me each year at ILTA as I deal with the reality that another summer season is over.  As a resident of New Jersey, summer is my favorite time of year, and I sense another summer is ending as I walk the exhibit floor of ILTACON.

ILTACON is promoted as a four day educational conference, while truly it is a 5 day event but the first day, the Sunday, is generally for networking and recreational events, such as a golf outing.  The educational seminars provided at ILTA are very informative and involve many of the top legal technology experts.  ILTACON focuses on technology utilized by law firms and corporate law departments.  Since technology changes rapidly, the discussions that take place at ILTACON differ each year.

There are over 40 subject matter experts that volunteer their time to take part as ILTA Conference Team Members.  The industry peer team of volunteers, along with the professional ILTA staff, organizes and plans the various educational panels and seminars provided at ILTACON each year.  At any given time there are as many as 16 simultaneous panel sessions taking place throughout the day at ILTA. The sessions generally range from 60 minutes to 90 minutes in duration, and the cast of panelists includes industry experts from law firms, corporations, service providers and consultancies.

The topics addressed at ILTACON cover a wide range of technology including, but not limited to, the following:  Information Governance; eDiscovery; Cybersecurity; Risk Management; Knowledge Management; Data Analytics; Machine Learning/Artificial Intelligence; Information Technology; Emerging Technologies; Legal Writing; and Preparing for the Future.  There are over 350 experts involved in presenting information, and are close to 200 separate educational sessions during the four day event.  In addition, there are over 200 services providers represented in the expansive exhibit hall.

The knowledge being shared at ILTACON is clearly valuable.  The conference strives to create a learning environment each year, and there are always a number of different formats for the various seminars.  Some of the sessions are more interactive in nature than traditional panel events, providing a workshop style that divides the audience into groups that are asked to create content to share with the other seminar participants.  Additional networking opportunities at the conference include functions such as an author’s corner that features an opportunity to meet experts whom have published books related to legal technology earlier in the year.

ILTA was founded as an organization in 1980, and incorporated in 1985.  Personally, I have attended seven of the past eleven ILTACON annual events. This conference was the first one I was able to attend at the National Harbor (Maryland) location.  There were two other conferences in recent years held at the Maryland location, I had missed both. Since my introduction to ILTACON, the conference is often held at a Gaylord Resort, and those locations are always scenic and picturesque.  The conference has also been held in Las Vegas. The recent ILTACON’s held in Las Vegas were hosted by Caesar’s, which is always an exciting venue for the event.

The conference location changes each year, and seemingly so does the topic of conversation. While there is always a focus on eDiscovery issues, in recent years cybersecurity is an increasingly important topic at ILTACON. This year’s conference included much conversation about artificial intelligence and machine learning.  In addition, advancements in auto-classification was a topic of growing interest for both law firms and corporations.  I spoke with several industry experts at ILTACON this year and asked them for their opinion about what they felt was interesting about this year’s conference.  Many of the experts I spoke with were kind enough to provide me quotes to share for this article regarding their take on ILTACON 2016.  Here is some of the insight that was shared with me via some of the conference participants:

Michael Arkfeld, Esq., Director, eDiscovery Education Center

“Beginning in early 2000, we saw the advent of practitioners and the courts focusing on a new form of evidence, electronically stored information. For the last 15 years this has resulted in numerous eDiscovery startups, which has concluded in significant consolidation over the last several years. 

Sadly, most practitioners still do not understand the legal issues involved with electronic discovery, and continuously push IT questions down to the paralegal and IT staff, even though a basic understanding is required to apply the legal principles.

Now, we have moved on to legal analytics, which was reflected by the number of new exhibitors in this emerging market. 

This will have a profound impact on the practice of law. How soon? Anyone’s guess, but it is inevitable.”

Scott Cohen, Director of eDiscovery Services, Winston & Straw, LLP

“What I found most interesting about ILTA this year was that the educational content and much of what the vendors were promoting reflect the transformational change that is underway in our industry.  It was exciting for me to see that the focus this year was on innovation in the key operational areas that have long needed it.

David Lapresi, eDiscovery and Litigation Support Manager, PhillipsLytle, LLP

“Since 2007 I have attended ILTA conferences only missing a few.  It is always nice to reconnect, learn updates on best practices and technology, network with peers and yes, have fun at the social events. Technology is definitely getter better by doing more of the work and making it easier to use.  As heard as a quote during the show “You don’t have to be great to use it, but to be great you have to use it”.”

Daryl S. Hogg, Firmwide Manager, McDermott Will & Emery, LLP

“I was very encouraged to see that AI is no longer just a special interest topic discussed at the fringe, but the focus of many seminars. Firms are now understanding the value that AI can bring to the firm and their clients.”

Michael Quartararo, Director of Litigation Support Services, Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, LLP

“I spoke at a session with Dera Nevin and Daryl Shetterly on project management in litigation support. During our session on project management, we called a last minute audible and instead of using the three-panelist talking head format where we sit upon the dais above the audience, we brought in some director’s chairs and sat right with the audience in an effort to have a more engaging and interactive discussion. We used just one slide, took questions from the audience, and we were still able to hit upon the topics we wanted to share with attendees. It just felt great to do the session this way and the feedback I have heard was all positive.”

Note: Michael was one of the authors featured in the author’s corner at ILTACON2016, his book, Project Management in Electronic Discovery, was published earlier this year, and may be ordered here:

Craig Ball, Esq., Owner, Craig D. Ball, PC

“ILTACON has become my “can’t miss” confab on legal technology.  I like its gender balance (women predominate) and ILTACON’s greatest strength is that attendees possess a deeper understanding of information technology and in-the-trenches challenges than those attending lawyer-centric events.  Accordingly, the discussions tend to be pragmatic and the solutions real-world.  I leave ILTACON with answers I can implement, not spent from a regimen of lawyerly mental masturbation.  The structure and much content of ILTACON 2016 was like prior years.  Some sameness stems from tradition, and some reflects that not much has changed in legal technology–particularly in e-discovery–over the last five years.  On the vendor floor, consolidation is killing differentiatation.  Everything looks and sounds alike, whether mushed together as an end-to-end product or scarily ensconced in the cloud.  Too many core features are on development roadmaps instead of in the tools.  Vendors: please, I’m not buying your bucket list; make it work already!”

Stephen Dooley, Assistant Director, Electronic Discovery and Litigation Support, Sullivan & Cromwell, LLP

“ILTACON 2016 at the Gaylord National Harbor was an optimal venue for networking with fellow professionals and collaborating on current topics.  I especially appreciated the sessions on Business Intelligence and Artificial Intelligence.  Our industry is prevalent with buzz words, and it is helpful to hear how those concepts translate into practical day-to-day meaning in the evolution of our industry.  The Business Intelligence content explained how to identify your business goals, and then investigate and test solutions that will help you analyze, report and validate your data to achieve and sustain those goals.  There were a few sessions on Artificial Intelligence which was helpful in assessing different perspective of the same concept, which can be a bit abstract.   In the coming years it will be interesting to see how the AI field progresses in enhancing legal services.  One element of my role is to assess new and innovative tools or processes and convert the abstract and conceptual into practical and valuable solutions that could potentially enhance our value to the Firm’s clients.”

James Sherer, Esq., Counsel, Co-Chair – Information Governance Team, Baker & Hostetler, LLP

“This was my first ILTA, and I was very pleasantly surprised by the energy and enthusiasm I saw on display wherever I looked – I was especially impressed with the high level of attendance and participation during my 9:00 am panel.  And I was encouraged when I walked the floor and sat down for lunch, chancing upon interesting discussions of where technology is heading, what expertise is expected of practitioners both today and in the future, and what dedication is required to get the necessary work done in this space.  Often the work at conferences happens in the hallways; at ILTA, those connections were made wherever I turned.”

Rob Robinson, Managing Director, Complex Discovery

“ILTACON continues to be one of the preeminent legal technology events in the world and this year’s event appears to have only enhanced that envied position. From my perspective as a data discovery technologist, this year’s conference amplified the quickening pulse rate of interest and need for data classification and discovery automation technologies from IT and legal professionals. From auto-classification and file analysis to the simplification of eDiscovery through task and process automation, the yearning from information professionals for tools that shorten the path from data identification and ingestion to insight and intelligence was palpable and provided great learning and discussion opportunities during the event. Definitely a great conference!”

David Horrigan, Esq., eDiscovery Counsel and Legal Content Director, kCura

“There’s been a fairly major sea change in the legal community’s attitudes on emerging technologies, and the education sessions at ILTACON reflected this change. We’ve evolved from a state of Fear and Loathing of emerging tech to much more of an embrace of technology.  Speakers disputed the stereotype of the risk-averse Luddite lawyer, with ILTA’s John Alber asking rhetorically, ‘Do you really think plaintiff’s lawyers are risk-averse?’ A big indication of this legal-technology harmony was the large number of sessions where artificial intelligence was part of the discussion. Lawyers, paralegals, and technologists at ILTACON seemed far less concerned about robots taking their jobs. Instead, the big issue was how lawyers could jump on the AI bandwagon so Watson and his fellow robots don’t leave them behind.”

Jeff Kirksey, Director of Business Technology, Sutherland Asbill & Brennan, LLP

“The buzz this year seemed to revolve around Artificial Intelligence (A.I.). There were a lot of A.I. offerings, but as a child of the 80’s, I was somewhat disappointed that the majority of them were at some level just complex decision models as opposed to actual machine learning such as KITT or HAL. Just because the toilet knows to flush as I walk away, doesn’t make it “artificial intelligence”.”

In Conclusion

Regardless of the area of practice all attorneys rely on some form of technology.  I know that many legal experts are not comfortable addressing some of the complex issues that pertain to electronic devices, and the “internet of things”.  However, it is clear that in order to fulfill their duties of professional competence, attorneys need to have some understanding of technology.  At the very least, attorneys need to have access to reliable subject matter experts that can help educate them regarding the specifics of various forms of technology.  There is tremendous value provided by an organization such as ILTA, as the education provided at conferences such as ILTACON is essential for legal professionals.

The role of technology in the workplace, and at home, will continue to having increasing impact on our lives.  Changes in data privacy rules, and data protection practices, will require more focus on electronically stored information. The scheduled implementation of “General Data Protection Regulations” in the EU will have global significance, and those regulations must be complied with as of May, 2018.  By participating in educational conferences and networking events, such as ILTA, legal professionals become better equipped to serve their clients and their employers when it comes to meeting the challenging demands associated with managing electronic information.  I am sure the dialogue around the topics addressed at the ILTACON event this year will continue, and I look forward to discussion about whatever proves to be an area of focus at ILTACON2017

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