Another Legaltech has come and gone in 2017, and as usual it seems to have passed in the blink of an eye. Legaltech, re-branded this year as “Legalweek—The Experience,” is annually held in New York City, commencing in late January or early February. The 2017 conference opened on Tuesday, January 31, and concluded on Thursday, February 2. The conference has been referred to as LTNY (Legaltech New York) for the past 35 years, but was re-branded for 2017. For the past several years, the Hilton Hotel on the Avenue of Americas (a/k/a 6th Avenue) in midtown Manhattan has played host to Legaltech. I look forward to Legaltech each year, as it is one of the few times I get to see a large number of my industry colleagues in the same location. Since I am a native New Yorker, it is always enjoyable for me to see my peers visiting New York City. I have attended the past 12 Legaltech conferences, and am already planning to be there for lucky 13 next year. Legaltech West will be held in San Francisco later this year on June 12 and 13.
Promoted by ALM as the industry’s largest and most important technology tradeshow, Legaltech/Legalweek is a sizeable conference. The Legaltech app, which is available as a free download, purports that, “Legaltech delves into leading legal technology solutions and showcases how the industry’s most successful firms are preparing for the future.”
The educational seminars provided at Legaltech, in my opinion, have always been very informative and involve many of the top e-Discovery subject matter experts. However, personally this year I was unable to attend any of the sessions, despite being present at the conference each date. This was the first time I didn’t even make one session, and it was not due to my lack of interest but rather because of a full meeting schedule. I did find brief periods of time to walk the exhibit floor each day. It is always interesting to see new offerings from long standing exhibitors, as well as to meet new technology and services providers arriving on the scene. This year there were nearly 200 companies exhibiting at the conference. Of course, there were several other companies that didn’t have booths but were working from suites in the Hilton and other nearby hotels, providing technology demonstrations to existing clients and potential prospects.
There were over 350 subject matter experts listed as speakers on the various panel events during the course of the three days. The topics of the panel sessions taking place at Legaltech covered a wide range of topics including, but not limited to: e-discovery; Information Governance; Cybersecurity; Data Risk Management; Knowledge Management; Data Analytics; Machine Learning/Artificial Intelligence; Information Technology; Emerging Technologies; Data Privacy; Importance of Degrees such as MBA and JD; Dark Data; Social Media; Data Disposition, and Ethics.
The educational seminars at the conference are organized into different categories: LegalCIO; LegalSmallFirm; LegalMarketing; LegalPros; Emerging Technologies; State of the Industry, and several other sub-categories based under a general Legaltech topic. The Legaltech app is a useful resource to find more information about the panel topics.
There were also additional educational and networking events held on Monday, January 30, as part of Legalweek, which took place prior to the official opening of the conference. I attended the ACEDS (Association of Certified e-Discovery Specialists) State of the Union address in which Jared Coseglia, Founder and CEO of Tru Staffing Partners, provided a very interesting and entertaining presentation to an audience of approximately 300 people. Jared was joined by Mary Mack, Executive Director of ACEDS for a question and answer session. Jared’s insightful comments highlighted the relationship between e-discovery and cybersecurity. A main theme of Jared’s remarks was the need for e-discovery professionals to learn about cybersecurity or face career obsolescence. There were at least two other industry events taking place in New York at the same time as the Monday ACEDS event, making the night before the actual start of Legaltech seem as if the conference was already well underway. Colleagues of mine attended other informative competing events that evening, one referred to as “e-Discovery Heroes,” as well as an event hosted by the “Information Governance Initiative (IGI),” which was a launch of a book published by the ABA regarding predictive coding and other advanced search methods.
Each evening and night at Legaltech/Legalweek is packed with networking events. There were an abundance of happy hour events, and dinner events to choose from, as well as late night events. The kCura Relativity party is always an event that is well attended, to put it mildly. The Relativity party held on Tuesday night at the New York Marquee Club was certainly a place to be this year. I witnessed one memorable incident at the event, which for a moment gave me a scare: two of my industry peers, whose anonymity I will respect and not mention by name, greeted one another in an enthusiastic fashion, when one individual lifted the other high into the air with a type of bear hug maneuver. However, the greeting resulted in a scary fall, where the person being lifted fell over the top of his colleague’s head, sending him crashing violently to the floor. Since this incident took place less than two feet in front of me, I was ready to dial 911. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured and the festivities continued with no need to call EMT’s.
Another fun evening event was the gathering at “Three Monkeys” on Monday night, in which Tom Barnett, Esq., special counsel for e-Discovery and Data Sciences of Paul Hastings, entertained the sizable crowd with his saxophone prowess. Tom is quite an accomplished musician and seeing him play is something I look forward to each year during Legaltech. The Monday night event was sponsored this year by EDT, and they were gracious enough to provide Zebra hats to all the attendees, which made for some wonderful social media photo opportunities.
There were events held at “Faces and Names” each night of the conference, and this was a crowded destination throughout Legalweek. The event organized by Bryant University on Wednesday, February 1, at Connolly’s Pub and Restaurant was also a well attended gathering which included lively conversation. Legaltech also organized “LegalLive—The Main Event,” a nighttime gathering at the Hard Rock Café on Broadway on Wednesday; access to this event was included as part of the conference pass purchase.
The importance of the knowledge being shared throughout Legalweek cannot be overstated, and the networking among industry peers is invaluable. This was the first year the conference charged admission for a pass to the exhibit hall, and I know there were some attendees that expressed their displeasure about that fact. Personally, I think that it may have negatively impacted the number of conference attendees on the exhibit floor, although I have no data regarding the attendee count this year. On one hand though, I do think it may have reduced the number of attendees that would only come to the conference seeking freebies from the exhibitors, which is one of the rationales that I heard in support of the fee charged by ALM to access the exhibit area.
During the course of the conference I spoke with several industry subject matter experts and asked them for their opinion about what they felt was interesting about this year’s Legaltech/Legalweek. Several of the experts I spoke with were kind enough to provide quotes to share for this article regarding their take on Legaltech 2017.
Here are some of the interesting insights that were shared with me by conference participants.
Hon. Andrew J. Peck, United States District Court Magistrate Judge, Southern District of New York
“Last year, discussion was about the new Federal Rules. This year, most presentations took the topic to the practical side: what lawyers can and should do in practice under the Rules. For example, what to include in an ESI protocol.”
Jason R. Baron, Esq., Of Counsel, Drinker Biddle & Reath
“I thought Andrew McAfee’s keynote on Day 1 about ‘The Second Machine Age’ was right on the money: what he said is what many of us are thinking, namely, that the accelerating pace of technological change may itself be accelerating! Just as few were predicting—even a year before it happened—that a software algorithm would be good enough to beat the world’s best Go player in 2016, we need to adjust our expectations and anticipate that the world of AI, coupled with the Internet of Things, is about to transform legal practice sooner than conventional wisdom suggests. This is good news for e-discovery lawyers within the Legaltech (or should I say, Legalweek) ‘bubble’: we can continue to evangelize about advanced search and review techniques incorporating forms of AI, knowing that the utility of these algorithms to mine streams of data from all devices on Earth is only going to be more greatly recognized and valued in the short term. So, knowing that, are we ready to retire, or shall we strap in our seat belts and embrace the future of legal practice?” (Note: Jason was a co-author of the book entitled, Perspectives of Predictive Coding and Other Advanced Search Methods for the Legal Practicioner, published in 2016.
Scott M. Cohen, Director of e-Discovery Support Services, Winston & Strawn
“With a new format and the majority of exhibitors and sessions focused on innovation, change was clearly in the air at LTNY 2017. Consolidation in the e-discovery industry was evident in the exhibit hall with the absence of some of the more well-known players. Also, most of the new vendors appeared to have set their focus on legal technology challenges that go beyond discovery, offering analytical solutions for a wide spectrum of administrative and legal practice areas. As in past conferences, LTNY 2017 has given me plenty of food for thought about opportunities to add value to my firm.”
Sandra Serkes, CEO, Valora Technologies
“After nearly two years of labor and effort, the ABA book Perspectives of Predictive Coding and Other Advanced Search Methods for the Legal Practicioner was published and released to the public. The Information Governance Initiative organized the book launch, which was graciously hosted at the New York office of Drinker Biddle & Reath on Monday January 30, as part of Legalweek. It was quite a way for me to start off Legaltech this year. As one of over 20 chapter authors , I was honored to have my chapter included along with such industry luminaries as Jason Baron, Esq., Ralph Losey, Esq., Maura Grossman, Esq., Hon. Judge Peck and many, many others. Congratulations to all of us on a job well done!”
Michael Quartararo, Director of Litigation Support Services, Stroock & Stroock & Lavan
“Regarding attendance this year, although I have no empirical evidence to support this and I could be entirely wrong, the conference felt smaller this year. I feel the switch to paid attendance for even a walk through the exhibits was a huge shift for ALM and it resulted in less people attending. I know it affected the decision to attend for people at my firm.” (Note: Michael authored the book entitled Project Management in Electronic Discovery, published in 2016.
Craig Ball, Esq., Owner, Craig D. Ball P.C.
“After two decades of Legaltech, I was struck more than ever before at the impact of consolidation in the legal technology space. We knew once-mighty vendors had been laid low by commodity pricing; but, seeing them hawking wares on the floor instead of offering catered meals in private enclaves was a reminder of leaner times. Belt-tightening is a healthy development, yet the industry must yet weather the consequences of bad business taken in to keep the doors open. I sensed buoyancy in some, particularly those making big cloud plays; I also saw the preening of nervous companies seeking white knights. All-in-all, Legaltech was humbler, but happier; the weather was mild, even as Delta Airlines’ cyber-difficulties made travel hell for some arrivals.”
James A. Sherer, Esq., Partner, Baker Hostetler
“I came to Legaltech expecting to hear more about Artificial Intelligence and its impact on the work of outside counsel, and I was not disappointed. But these conversations were not limited to traditional e-discovery applications or predictive coding, they also covered how companies—our clients—are incorporating AI into their day-to-day business and compliance activities. This is the stuff of today, not the distant future.”
Jared Michael Coseglia, Founder and CEO, Tru Staffing Partners
“Cybersecurity providers would be wise to get into the legal market now, before e-discovery providers begin to build cybersecurity departments of their own. Top three takeaways from Legaltech New York 2017:
1. Ghost Town: The extreme vendor consolidation was evident on the vendor floor with fewer booths than any of the last seven years since the recession. The reduced foot traffic on the vendor exhibit floor was eerily noticeable after the initial Tuesday morning rush, leading many to fear the future of what exhibiting means for driving revenue in the space. E-discovery vendors continued to dominate the floor, but there was a clear lack of energy from all exhibiting. The additional fee to enter the exhibit hall did not help matters.
2. Cyber Who? Few if any cybersecurity exclusive service providers were in attendance at the conference despite the fact that cybersecurity was the most talked about topic in education sessions… cyber vendors have a narrow window to overtake the legal market before legal specific vendors build practices to compete, namely in incident response and information governance.
3. Suites are Sweet: The real deals and demonstrations at Legaltech are being done in suites with greater intimacy and focus from the vendor community. Legaltech seems to be turning towards more of an opportunity to have these kinds of meetings, regardless if you are buyer or seller.”
John L. Kapp, CEDS, Manager—Practice Support and e-Discovery, Shearman & Sterling
“It’s nice to see New York’s premier legal technology conference stay as dynamic as the industry itself. The evolution from Legaltech to Legalweek and the tracks addressing the issues of the moment, most notably Artificial Intelligence and Cross-Border Discovery, keep it a great combination of seeing old colleagues and discussing new topics.”
Kenneth N. Rashbaum, Esq., Partner, Barton
“I was impressed by the increased awareness that cybersecurity is integral to information management for day-to-day business activities as well as litigation. The number of exhibitors that focused on security offerings was far greater than in years past. Similarly, more presentations comprised discussions of pragmatic approaches to cybersecurity, including awareness training, cognizance of regulatory requirements g information safeguards and cybersecurity business imperatives for verticals ranging from law firms to financial services organizations to healthcare providers.”
Brad Schaffel, CEDS, Litigation Support Manager, WilmerHale
“It was great to see the evolution of Legaltech this year. It expanded its reach and content and was rebranded as Legalweek. While always good to see current and previous colleagues, the benefit was definite in the meetings, demos, conversations, brainstorm sessions, and panels. What struck me in my role as an AmLaw 50 Lit Support Manager, was the focus not just on all things cybersecurity, but on the attention being given to the compartmentalization of outside counsel through data science and analytics. Further to this was looking at legal spend and the increased involvement and management by in-house counsel.”
Maribel Rivera, Independent Marketing Consultant, Maribel Rivera Marketing
“This year I felt that the exhibit floor had far less traffic than I have seen in past years. The expansion of Legaltech to Legalweek to bring together smaller events into a larger event based on different areas of legal was a good concept but with some of the sessions overlapping, I was unable to attend the LegalMarketing sessions and of course the LegalWomensForum without missing some of the excellent sessions held at the various Legaltech tracks. Of the sessions I was able to attend and conversations I had throughout the week, I can say attendees wanted to hear about artificial intelligence and cloud technologies and many of the new companies on the tradeshow floor were eager to provide that information to them.”
Robert Childress, CEO of Master’s Conference
“It was interesting to see that despite all the changes at ALM, the event was not much different. I commend the people that worked for ALM throughout the years to support the conference, and continue to do so. The efforts of the conference organizers is proof that what ALM built is a great model. Legaltech this year had great sessions and a wide range of speakers. The typical attendee has changed, I noticed a more refined quality to the participants. Legaltech is missing the “tech” part, the event is the CES (“Consumer Electronics Show”) of our industry. Both Legaltech and CES are the largest conferences in their respective industries, but both have room for improvement. I would like to see more exciting tech announcements at Legaltech. Since I’m a software developer, marketer, and legal research expert for over 20 years, all within the legal space, I can support my clients in every aspect of technology. I don’t walk out of Legaltech feeling like, “That was incredible! That is unbelievable!” The conference does not generate the feeling for me I think it should. I would love to see a showcase on state of the art technology: Bleeding edge; Drone discovery; Robot Litigation; and other topics along those lines would be so cool. The event should bridge the gap between legal and tech. For example, IBM spoke about Watson, but did Watson improve the Legaltech experience? Watson could welcome you to the conference. The organizers of the conference should think big, think out of this world. Watson is HAL. For those that don’t know HAL is IBM, they chose that name since “H” directly precedes “I,” and “A” is one letter before “B,” with “L” immediately before “M.” If you didn’t know that fact about HAL you just sat back and said, “Holy crap!” That amazed feeling is what we need at Legaltech. Overall though, I feel Legaltech is an excellent event that could be even more intriguing.”
Phil Homburger, President, LawBase from Synaptec Software
“Legaltech, now part of Legalweek, was noticeably different this year from past years. For one, the consolidation taking place within the market was evident in the number of vendors in the exhibit halls as there were less vendors and more open booth spaces. The exhibit hall traffic also felt a little lighter, although the traffic that was there seemed more qualified. This could be due to them charging for the first time ever for an exhibit hall pass. It will be interesting to see how this event changes as the market consolidation continues.”
Susan G. Kavanagh, RP, CeDP, CLSP, Senior Advisor, iControl ESI
“I observed that companies are continuing to shift away from the realm of traditional e-discovery services to meet the growing and changing demands of the market. Particularly areas of cybersecurity, managed services, auditing, risk and compliance are having a greater foothold in our industry than ever before. It’s also very clear that e-discovery is falling more squarely on the shoulders of IG in major companies, therefore putting the process of vetting service providers into the hands of the records managers. I’ve long said that you can’t count out the ‘little guy’ in e-discovery. More and more paralegals are also making buying decisions in small to mid-sized law firms and in e-discovery departments of corporations. I’m very interested to see how this will continue to evolve and develop in the next several months and how companies will react to stay relevant in the industry.”
Jonathan Maas, Managing Director, The Maas Consulting Group
“Every successive year of conference feels like a round of musical chairs: someone removes chairs each year so that we now see people balanced on ledges over precipitous drops or hunkered down on the floor. Similarly, I love the Groundhog Day moment every lunchtime when the venue is faced with yet another unexpectedly large amount of hungry mouths to feed! That said (and I would appreciate it if these two small issues could be dealt with), this remains the go-to conference in our annual calendar. Numbers may be down, the suppliers may be slightly diluted (really, a tailor’s booth?), but the networking opportunities remain second to none. Finally, can we please revert to good ol’ ‘Legaltech’?”
Mary Mack, Executive Director, Association of Certified e-Discovery Specialists (ACEDS)
“For me, it felt like more people wanted to be there. That could be a function of charging for the exhibit hall pass, or it could be a function of better economics, or just extraverts self-selecting for the trade show of record. I saw more distinguishing technology/process in EDRM tools, and more emphasis on security. Pro bono activity is also higher this year, with both law firms and corporate legal departments taking on bigger cases while assisting with the individual cases. The ACEDS community was well represented, with chapter leaders from Jacksonville to the UK joining their NY counterparts.”
Benjamin Whetsell, Co-founder, Paper Software
“The level of engagement that we saw when giving product demos was noticeably greater than in past years, and I attribute this to the decision to charge admission to visit the exhibit hall. I think this sent a powerful message. It’s certainly valuable to hear thought leaders discuss the future of legal technology in speeches and panels (and attendees have historically paid for this). But it’s also valuable to experience new products that you can use right now.”
Daniel Torba, Manager of e-Discovery Services (US Region), Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
“Cybersecurity is a new litigation support community. Legaltech proved that consolidation in the litigation support market will continue. It is apparent that Computer Assisted Learning (CAL) and analytics are still hot topics. As someone working for a large law firm, I am interested in Relativity One, and am curious as to the pricing models that kCura will offer. I also noticed a visible trend of re-branding among some of the newer companies. There is more marketing and buzz by the “Self Ingest/Manage” new age review technologies (Everlaw, Disco, Logicull). It is also evident that cloud computing is a very important topic. Microsoft is getting in the game; I wonder if there is a review platform coming from them next? I attended the ACEDS/TRU ‘State of the Industry’ presentation, and felt that event provided insightful content and the attendance was high. Based on what I saw at this year’s Legaltech, I think there is no doubt we will see more and more automation in the legal practice.”
Gary Swenson, Senior Business Development Manager, Tower Legal Solutions
“I was impressed by the turnout. This was not necessarily in numbers but in quality. I saw some folks that I had not seen at Legaltech in some years. I also liked meeting some of the bright young stars that are coming up in the business. I attended an after hours event or two every night and the energy was fantastic. All in all, I thought that Legaltech 2017 was a resounding success.”
Jerome Raguin, Global COO, Yerra Solutions
“There is still a lot of interest in legal spend management. It might seem like ‘old hat,’ but the need to properly manage and control outside counsel spend is still top of mind for in-house legal operations professionals. While it isn’t getting the kind of play it used to in the sessions, the people we spoke to still expressed a great need and interest in implementing legal eBilling and legal spend management or improving the use of systems that are already in place. The need is particularly great amongst legal departments in Europe and Asia and those with limited internal administrative resources who might need support for legal invoice review in addition to software.”
Rob Robinson, Chief Marketing Officer, CloudNine
“Legaltech is an important event that annually impacts the fabric of e-discovery. It helps to form and shape opinion. It helps to form and shape understanding. It also helps to form and shape relationships and partnerships. By focusing its considerable influence on the e-discovery ecosystem by challenging itself, industry support organizations, and industry authors and reporters to refocus on the people and problems of e-discovery instead of the promotion and profits of e-discovery, Legaltech should not only be able to maintain its place as the leading event in e-discovery, but it might also be able to position itself as one of the leading influencers and educators in e-discovery.” (Note: Rob Robinson also authored an article discussing Legaltech, which can be found at the link provided here.
Based on the insightful comments from my industry peers and colleagues, it is evident that Legaltech serves an important role for the litigation support community. Despite the rapid pace of technological change, certain things remain the same. The need that a gathering of industry experts fills is important in several respects. While artificial intelligence, and other advanced forms of technology, might reduce the need for human involvement, I don’t think it will ever fully replace talented and educated people. The theme of needing the three key elements of “People; Process; Technology,” will always resonate with me, and each year Legaltech confirms that belief.