eDiscovery Daily Blog

What is the Future of the Legal Technology Conference?, Part Three

Editor’s Note: Tom O’Connor is a nationally known consultant, speaker, and writer in the field of computerized litigation support systems.  He has also been a great addition to our webinar program, participating with me on several recent webinars.  Tom has also written several terrific informational overview series for CloudNine, including his most recent one, Thinking Like a Millennial: How Millennials are Changing Discovery.  Now, Tom has written another terrific overview regarding the state of legal technology conferences titled What is the Future of the Legal Technology Conference? that we’re happy to share on the eDiscovery Daily blog.  Enjoy! – Doug

Tom’s overview is split into three parts, so we’ll cover each part separately.  Part one was Monday, part two was Wednesday, here is the third and final part.

My Observations Regarding Legal Tech Conferences

Are we left, then, with no true educational conferences?  Not entirely, as the Georgetown Law Advanced EDiscovery Institute offers a great value of 2 days of intense educational sessions every fall, albeit in one narrow field only and Prex makes a similar strong educational showing . But by and large, bar associations have taken up a large part of the slack, mostly at local or regional level.

The leader in that category is the ABA TechShow. Now in it’s 34th year and held in Chicago every year since 1989, TechShow has always had an emphasis on assisting attendees learn technology skills. In the same category are state and local bar association shows such as the Louisiana Bar Solo and Small Firm Conference, the Wisconsin Bar Solo and Small Firm Conference or the Illinois Bar Solo & Small Firm Conference, all of which offer a similar focus on skills necessary for the competent practice of law.

There is, however, another category of conference which has become increasingly predominant as traditional conferences fall off.  These are user conferences, which fall into two distinct types, general user group meetings and product specific user meetings.

The undisputed leader of the first category is ILTACON, the annual technology conference for members of the International Legal Technology Association. This 4-day conference (which is also open to non-members) once concentrated on large firms but now brings together legal technologists from small to large sized law firms, corporate and government law departments, academia and the G100 firms. Although it too has begun to drift more and more into the area of vendor speakers (this year’s conference has a Litigation Support Day with three organizers, one of whom is from legal technology giant Relativity and is also serving as Moderator for the day’s activities), I think it is no stretch to say that the 140 + sessions at this conference offer a deep dive into every facet of legal technology that is unparalleled in the conference world.

Other user groups like Sedona, CLOC, LMA and most especially the unfortunately often overlooked AALL, offer educational conferences primarily to members and remain true to the educational paradigm, while the area of user groups for specific products has both exploded and expanded to provide general educational sessions beyond the scope of just their own product information. Chief among these are the Clio Cloud Conference, Infusion by Exterro and the long standing Ipro Tech Show.  But, the one that stands head and shoulders above the others is Relativity Fest.

Offered every year in Chicago, Relativity Fest has thousands of attendees from 29 countries, participating in 17 workshops and over 180 sessions with more than 300 speakers.  The content covers everything from hands on training and certification in the Relativity product line but also numerous sessions on basic legal subjects with 19 subject qualifying for CLE credit at the 2018 conference. Much of the credit for that latter category goes to David Horrigan, Relativity Discovery Counsel and Legal Education Director, who does yeoman’s work overseeing the non-product specific sessions including an annual Judges Panels that is on my must attend list every year.

So, are big tech shows dead?  Well, I’d say as consistent sources of educational content, they are trending down.  Certainly, they are still a factor but exhibitor attendance is down and as we saw in New York this year, more vendors will focus on offsite activities in which they can completely control content. The trend seems to be for those with products or services to sell attending and networking but not exhibiting. The shows more specifically focused on users, specific practice areas or even user groups will continue to grow. I also predict that live streaming for both speakers and attendees, such as the U of Florida has done for several years now, will grow in prominence.

The big struggle will be to get the decisions about what is important to develop in the hands of the consumers: that is the attendees.  In his column noted in the previous part, Bob Ambrogi referenced legal scholar and economist Gillian K. Hadfield who argues for how to reinvent law for a global economy in her book, Rules for A Flat World.

Her recommendations? First, “Don’t leave it to the lawyers.” She recommends rather that the conversation needs to include those who are “paying the price of inadequate, complex, and costly legal infrastructure.”

In other words, let’s get the clients involved in deciding what is most important at a tech show. The product users, the people who argue the motions (there are some litigators still left out there, right?), the folks who process the data and review the documents.  They vote with their wallets and attendance figures will tell us who the winners are.

Is anyone listening?

So, what do you think?  Do you attend legal tech conferences and do you think attendance has proven valuable to you over the years?  As always, please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

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