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Friday Tech Tips

Takeaways from Legalweek 2019

By The Editors

For this edition of Friday Tech Tips, we asked Andrea Cannavina, Matt Spiegel, Jerry Ting and Anand Upadhye for their takeaways from Legalweek 2019, which took place Jan. 29-Feb. 2 in New York City. Here are the legal tech pros’ perspectives on the big event.

Matt Spiegel

Since 2011, I have been to almost every Legalweek, formally Legaltech New York (LTNY). Typically, in my capacity as founder of MyCase, I would simply attend to meander the exhibit hall and note the tech trends. This year, I was back at it as an exhibitor for my new company, Lawmatics, and I have to say, after reflecting on past events, how much the conference has changed.

E-discovery still dominates. What has traditionally been known as the e-discovery exhibitors’ conference certainly did not disappoint. E-discovery companies were everywhere, and they seem to keep getting bigger and bigger. It was interesting to see the investment money pouring into the e-discovery sector. It is clear that e-discovery continues to be a powerful force in legal technology. Many smaller e-discovery companies were exhibiting as well, and I suspect that there will be continued consolidation as some of the bigger fish scoop up the smaller players. The push to AI is definitely on in the e-discovery space. While it has been a buzzword for a few years now, it seems the technology is finally maturing and companies are starting to figure out how to really apply it to the market’s needs. Disco (more on them below) seems poised to lead in this area.

Not just all e-discovery. While e-discovery certainly continued to dominate, there were definitely some great companies exhibiting that were not e-discovery companies. It was a pleasure to see a good showing from the practice management companies, which are typically geared toward the small to midsize firm market. Companies like Clio, Filevine and CosmoLex (now part of Tabs) were there in force and seemed to be popular spots for attendees. Pepper in some great tools like AI contract review, new payment processing companies like Headnote and a few other standouts, and you have some great options for the non-e-discovery minded conference goer.

A shrinking exhibitor presence. Overall, it was painfully obvious to me that exhibitor attendance was down. Back in 2011, America’s exhibit hall, which was tucked away in the back of the top floor, was completely full. This year, it was about a quarter full and the Great Hall exhibit area, on the second floor, which traditionally felt like the main hall, was half what it was in the past. To me, it felt like a decrease even from 2018. 

Content is still king. As with any legal conference, the content is what ultimately makes it. Legalweek kicked off with a bang — a keynote delivered by former U.S. attorneys general Alberto Gonzales and Loretta Lynch. What makes Legalweek such an attractive conference now, in my opinion, are the various educational tracks that are offered. You have the option to spend your entire week on legal marketing, legal technology, the business of law and more. While I was not able to attend as many sessions as I would have liked, the feedback I heard was very positive.

Talk of the show. It is no surprise to me that the most buzz came from the company that was literally all over the hotel (their ads were plastered all over the place), Disco. They made a big splash with their omnipresent advertising but they also were the talk of the town due to their recent $83 million round of funding. I have seen massive e-discovery companies come and go in my years attending Legalweek, but it seems that Disco might be here to stay.

Matt Spiegel (@mattspiegelesq) is a lawyer turned entrepreneur. After starting his own law firm in 2009, he founded MyCase, a leading provider of practice management software, which he sold to AppFolio in 2012. Matt remained head of the company until his departure in 2015. He then went on to lead Cammy as CEO until 2017 when he founded Lawmatics, a powerful CRM, intake and marketing automation platform for law firms.

Jerry Ting

Legal operations are increasingly the focus. What I noticed as a difference between this year’s Legalweek versus previous ones was the increased discussion of legal operations and legal processes more broadly. Although e-discovery vendors still dominated the marketing spend in the exhibit hall, panelists and conference attendees discussed using AI for contracts and building better workflows internally, with even law firm partners discussing how to make operations more efficient. Maybe the time has come when lawyers are more efficient transactional business partners?

Jerry Ting is a law school grad turned technology entrepreneur as founder and CEO of Evisort, an automated contract management system that uses AI to replace manual human entry of data, tracking dozens of key fields out-of-the-box. 

Anand Upadhye

Here are five observations, or “high-level” takeaways, from Legalweek 2019.

1. As the industry has moved from the early adoption of legal technology to mainstream adoption, the conversation is shifting from whether to onboard this technology to how to get the most value from it. This includes how best to internally market a new technology, to how to spur usage and how to measure success.

2. An increasing number of firms expect collaborative relationships with their legal technology providers. This expectation includes rapid response to requests and messages, higher-quality customer support and training, and access to key executives and thought leaders in the technology company. From the technology company’s side, more collaboration will lead to better products and features more tightly related to the pain points of AmLaw 200 buyers and end users.

3. The rise of legal operations in function, power in the industry and in mindset is strongly influencing law firm goals and behavior. Law firm executives and partners are increasingly interested in discrete metrics like increasing realization rates, increasing client retention and satisfaction, decreasing associate attrition and decreasing time billed per automatable task. Ultimately, an increased emphasis on operations is long overdue and is very promising for technology providers.

4. Modern clients appear to be nearly unanimously interested not just in what results their law firms achieve, but also how they achieve those results. Clients are attempting to learn how law firms can be better partners, increasingly efficient year-over-year, and more accurate in their legal work.

5. Legalweek is still very much a conference for big law firms and e-discovery providers. The conference must branch out to maintain relevance going forward.

Anand Upadhye(@upadhye_a) is Casetext’s Vice President of Business Development and presents Casetext’s AI-backed legal research products to leading law firms and companies. Before joining Casetext, he was an attorney for six years, first as a prosecutor and then as a litigator at a large firm. Anand frequently presents on legal technology, innovation and rapid change in the legal industry. He is the host of The Modern Lawyer podcast, where he interviews leaders in the legal industry.

Andrea Cannavina

What’s the No. 1 thing I cannot stand? Waste. In any form. You know, like the four hours you’ll never get back watching this year’s Super Bowl. That’s how I felt about the time I invested in attending LTNY last year. But if “show me the beef” was my takeaway last year (my write-up for Attorney at Work is here), then “WOW! Everyone’s at the all-you-can-eat buffet!” would be how I feel this year. From the packed expo hall floor to the quality of the people, I am still stunned by the 180-degree difference in the attendee experience from last year to this year.

Along with touring the expo hall, this year as media I connected with several interesting people, including Kevin Harris and Katie McFarland from Orion. This practice management and financial management technology for small and midsize firms had not been on my radar but it is now. What really popped for me was how long Orion has been doing this (since the mid-1980s), and its methodology of mapping process to people. (This makes us truly kindred spirits. See “Streamline Your Workflow Three Ways” — people are part of the process.)

I also met with Doug Austin from CloudNine (which now owns Concordance and other e-discovery products) for a quick education on the different ways data is being discovered and used not just in the courts and for litigation, but for compliance and as early detection of potential problems or issues from your own company’s data.

However, the tech stunner for me was watching Jeff Asjes, Fastcase’s product manager and software development attorney, whip through the functions of their product. Every time he showed me something new, I was amazed. I’ve heard all the complaints from lawyers about research products, and Fastcase seems built to remove every flaw. But it’s not just that FastCase works so well — when Jeff showed me how each user has the ability to tell the search algorithm what they think is most relevant and important (on a sliding scale of 0 to 10 for about seven or eight items), it blew my geeky mind! It’s under the “Advanced functions” menu but is extremely easy to use and understand.

For me, the whole point of being “live” at a conference is not to play with or through tech. I do it to make face-to-face connections with real live people. So, on the personal side, it was great to run into Brett Burney, who I last saw when we were speakers at the Georgia State Bar’s annual educational event in Atlanta. I also enjoyed time with Christy Burke of Burke & Company PR. I even ran into an attorney I met at the New York State Bar’s annual expo two weeks earlier — in the same hotel and expo room. Quite a surreal experience to be in the same spot at both for sure!

As for the educational part of Legalweek, there is still a lot of confusion — where sessions are held … why several vendors are limited to a little room all the way down that odd hallway … and, seriously, the speakers need to not be so many lawyers talking law. And, as has been discussed widely on social media, let’s leave the discussions of the future of law and innovation to innovators, and make those discussions open, free and livestreamed to the world. If you are seeking a quality education about legal tech beyond e-discovery, this event is seriously lacking from a user perspective — whether that user is at a firm of 1 or 1,000.

So, to sum up, my three takeaways from Legalweek 2019 are:

  1. Don’t just be on the lookout for shiny new tech — seek out the steadfast and long-standing players.
  2. Be sure to investigate the full capabilities of the tech you already have.
  3. Attend for the expo and networking, not the education.

Andrea Cannavina is a personal productivity coach, LegalTypist CEO and Director of the Virtual Bar Association. She specializes in helping stressed-out professionals run organized and efficient offices. From clearing the clutter to working the web, Andrea understands the realities of running a business in the digitally driven world.  She is a trusted resource and ally to attorneys looking for help upgrading their office processes and the products they use to get work done.

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