If you really want to know what’s going on with technology in law practice, you get yourself to the annual conference of the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA). That’s just what InsideLegal’s Jobst Elster has been doing for 13 years now, so we knew he’d be the ideal guest blogger to report on ILTA 2011, which wrapped up yesterday in Nashville.
When someone talks about going to a legal conference, do you unconsciously start the eye-role and wonder why not do it online? I have definitely attended my share of educational sessions that made “watching paint dry” an exhilarating alternative. Enter ILTA 2011, the antithesis of a lame legal event, and the crown jewel of the International Legal Technology Association’s educational programs. The 34th annual edition, aptly themed “rev-elation,” featured more than 300 speakers presenting nearly 200 education sessions throughout the four-day event.
Here are Five of the (Many) Things I Learned
1. News, news, news. It’s been a while since several high-profile legal technology related announcements collided all at once—in this case, right around the ILTA conference. The big news in the legal tech market includes Microsoft’s decision to shutter its legal market division (despite its major sponsorship and speaking line-up at ILTA 2011); HP’s $10 billion acquisition of Autonomy, a legal document management provider to large law firms; ADERANT’s acquisition of Client Profiles and CompuLaw, which includes Deadlines.com; Steve Jobs’ resignation as Apple CEO; and Workshare’s patent infringement lawsuit of Litera. Whew!
2. Sour apples. In a move irresistibly described in many headlines as the “iQuit,” Steve Jobs’ announcement that he is stepping down as Apple CEO this week, has left investors and consumers—including millions in legal—wondering what’s next. When asked what has made Jobs such a genius, Jobs’ biographer Alan Deutschman attributed Jobs’ and Apple’s success in innovation to risk-taking, a rarity in corporate America. Of course, the news kept ILTA 2011 buzzing. But considering the feverish pace of conference iPad rentals and app downloads, there is no slowing ahead for the Apple express.
3. Common sense 2.0. In conjunction with the conference, InsideLegal presented our eighth annual legal vendor education program, with workshops and sessions designed to help legal vendors work better with legal media, law firms and law firm decision-makers. During the “Selling to Law Firms” session (one of the most popular), two law firm CIOs stressed the importance of using common sense when you are cold calling, emailing and otherwise reaching out to them. Remember what your mother taught you, they advised. That applies to attorneys in their client interactions as well.
4. Herding cats more effectively. The educational session Law2020 Hot Topics featured several law firm CIOs discussing their visions for the future of legal IT. One of my favorite (and the most memorable) remarks came from a UK firm CIO, who said the iPad has completely changed the way IT interacts with her firm’s attorneys. Before the iPad, he said, “No one would ever dare talk to IT, now they are lining up at my door” to request one or get permission to download a specific app. The comment reflects a trend toward making IT more consumable—something mentioned repeatedly during the conference. For insights into more trends on the legal tech front, here are highlights from the 2011 ILTA/InsideLegal Technology Purchasing Survey.
5. Technology not just for tech’s sake. Often times, we are told a tech gadget will solve all of our problems and provide the silver bullet for our productivity vows. Well, in a rare instance of that actually being true, attendees at this conference were provided the handy dandy ILTA Conference mobile app, which actually did everything promised and more. ILTA, which took its conferences paperless a few years ago, provided the free app to all conference goers for use in scheduling sessions, navigating the vast Opryland conference site, connecting with colleagues via Twitter, checking out new products and more. In addition, ILTA set up an iPad rental program so that anyone who wanted to experiment with this new wonder drug could do so for $50 (for the entire conference).
To dive in to more legal tech, find live TV, audio recordings and presentation materials downloads at the ILTA downloads site.
Jobst Elster is Head of Content at InsideLegal.com, an online community and advisory resource for legal technology vendors, law firms, legal technologists and thought leaders. Jobst has spent the past 13 years in the legal industry, working with vendors, consultants, the media and law firms on various marketing consulting, public relations and market survey initiatives. He is a frequent contributor to publications including Peer to Peer, Legal Management and BtoB magazine. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.