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LegalTech 2013 – Day One report: ediscovery, Big Data & other musings

JoAnna Forshee of InsideLegal in the US reports on the event’s first day…

Well, LegalTech New York Year 31 is here – 220+ vendors, untold consultants, technologists and literally unknown numbers of attendees (we have been lobbying for event attendance numbers for years), have taken over the construction zoned Hilton and 3 floors of exhibit space. With 13 past LegalTech participations to our name, we have developed a set of expectations we judge the annual tech bonanza by:

eDiscovery or more… Yesterday we revealed the 2013 exhibitor breakdown and 6 year trending. 41% of all vendors in NYC are peddling eDiscovery wares, a 4% decrease from last year – seemingly due to last year’s wave of M&A activity. Nonetheless, this reflects a 12% EDD vendor increase since 2008. Interestingly enough, we counted a 15% decrease in total exhibitors (262 in 2008 vs. 224 in 2013) during that same time span. So, for now, there’s no stopping the EDD train.

Innovation & market disruption: When is the last time you went to LegalTech and witnessed true innovation, perhaps even market disruption, that left you gasping for air? While we can’t remember one ‘best of’ moment, Thomson Reuter’s WestlawNext launch in 2010 was pretty impressive, if primarily from a production standpoint. While we admittedly only spent 30 minutes or so on the exhibit floor today, a thorough review of the show guide and several conversations with fellow conference goers confirms that nothing super cala fragilistic expialidocious will emerge from the 31st edition either.

Content: Did anyone say Big Data? You can take a look at the word cloud we compile each year from the LTNY agenda and see the focus on Big Data. Last year, the term Big Data wasn’t mentioned on the LTNY agenda, but this year 3 of the 21 LTNY session tracks and 9 of the 58 conference sessions are Big Data themed. ‘Making Big Data Meaningful for the Legal Market’ looks at practical applications of ‘BD’; ‘Big Data and the Business of Law’ tackles analytics and related decision making; and ‘Information Governance in a Big Data World’ analyzes the risks and rewards of leveraging (or stopping to ignore) big data.

IMG-20130129-00301Commercialization: Anyone following our past LTNY coverage, knows we are not big fans of toilet sponsorships (I think that happened in 2010), but the reality is that ‘logos everywhere’ is the status quo. With that said, we know, as usual, big $ was spent on track sponsorships – 21 tracks had 20 vendor sponsors, 17 of which were EDD. In addition, 17 of the 25 sponsors (68%) of this week’s keynotes, plenary sessions and super sessions are EDD vendors. Getting back to sponsorships, on our way to Tuesday’s keynote we were handed Huron’s “We See Things Differently” 3D glasses (haven’t seen the special effects yet) and greeted by numerous eDiscovery adverts including Kroll Ontrack’s elevator door sponsorships and literally being interrupted in the middle of a meeting by someone handing out ESI Roundtable logo flashing necklaces in the common areas of the hotel.

Global appeal: How many non-US vendors and companies are here? We counted a handful and noticed a few newcomers from across the pond. But, based on insight from Charles (‘yes, I really am not in NY’) Christian of the Legal IT Insider, the UK delegation is smaller than usual with many European legal IT professionals opting to travel over for the ILTA Conference each year and check out LTNY every few years. This seems to be the consensus as at least 5-7 UK contacts that we typically meet with each year aren’t in attendance this year.

Meeting space: To any one reading this that hasn’t experienced it, this might come off as trivial, but not having options for meeting folks while onsite is a real fail. LTNY is notorious for having very little open meeting space and 2013 is the worst case scenario. The popular Marketplace restaurant and adjacent Starbucks (where we conduct 60% of our meetings) are closed for renovations. The Bridges Bar where normally people go to meet and conduct business has been temporarily converted to a breakfast and lunch spot (just during LegalTech) which requires full meal purchases. I realize that’s additional revenue, but it would have been much better had LegalTech left that space open for meetings as there are plenty of options to grab a meal within a block of the hotel. Also, it would have been really helpful to have a heads up before the event for alternate plan making. Of course we are resourceful and have forgiving and flexible meeting partners, but being worried about finding an empty chair is one problem that can easily be avoided. We scored a table in the lobby area today and had no less than 12 desperate people come to ask us if we would be leaving any time soon. It was a mad house!

Is the keynote dead… The keynote today was given by a senior Am Law 100 partner talking about the U.S.’s supreme court justices and their race, religion, political affiliation, university training, etc. and did not really fit the conference’s theme of technology. In fact, technology was only mentioned once – “Everything I need to know about legal technology, I get from my granddaughters.” Based on what we heard at the keynote today, the concept should be ‘revisited’ or the model changed to really promote high quality, appropriate content. Stay tuned for our verdict come Friday’s ‘post’ post.