By Christy Burke

“Management” was the constant refrain emanating from Legalweek 2020 in New York.  Apparently, you can learn to manage just about anything in legal with the aid of technology, process design and qualified human resources.  From change management to contract management, case management to eDiscovery project management, and the all-important management of client expectations who look to technology and consultants to solve their most complex problems…the ubiquity of management is here to stay in legal tech.  

On Tuesday morning, the keynote was a fireside chat with former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.  Since leaving his position at the Department of Justice in 2019, Rosenstein joined King & Spalding as a Partner in the firm’s Special Matters and Government Investigations practice. During the session, Rosenstein steered clear of any negative comments about his White House challenges.  Instead, he focused his remarks on major data management and government/legal concerns affecting the legal profession and general public, on a global scale.  

Rosenstein emphasized the need to improve technology as a means to restore U.S. confidence in its election process. He also stressed the importance of making sure politics doesn’t affect legal decisions, or vice versa, as dangerous as that territory is in today’s world. 

From top left clockwise, Rod Rosenstein, Kelly Twigger, David Cowen, and Dr D Bommi Bommannan

From an international perspective, Rosenstein outlined many challenges that the U.S. faces for data security and privacy.  He noted America’s constant battle with China which is a nation steadily looking to “exfiltrate” information from the U.S.  He also said that American policy for data privacy protection will ultimately serve as a model for other countries, but that Europe has been more on the forefront of developing this legislation including GDPR.  Rosenstein pointed out that the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which includes freedom of speech, religion, and the press among other broadly defined freedoms, poses unique restrictions which will shape American data privacy rules.  

Rosenstein’s comments reinforced law firm CIO concerns voiced earlier that same morning at The Cowen Group Legalweek State of the Industry Breakfast 2020.  At the top of some law firms’ “To Do” lists was ensuring compliance with the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) which just came into effect on January 1, 2020.  CCPA is the first state-wide data privacy regulation to be passed in the U.S., but it’s certainly not the last.

Another overarching theme from the law firm CIOs at The Cowen Group breakfast was the difficulty of enacting change management initiatives at law firms, especially due to blocks from older lawyers who were “letting the clock run out”, i.e. intending to retire without learning to use technology.  Since more senior lawyers are often powerful and beyond reproach at their firms, IT often must accept them as built-in impediments to innovation and change.

David Cowen and team

Speaking of innovation, eDiscovery was certainly not old news at Legalweek.  It was very much alive and tackling new issues stemming from widespread use of social media, cell phones, text messages and instant messages which are increasingly becoming pivotal evidence in today’s litigations and criminal cases.  Attorney Kelly Twigger, Founder of eDiscovery Assistant and Principal of ESI Attorneys, included this in her remarks at CloudNine eDiscovery tech provider’s annual NineForum eDiscovery Education event series.  

At NineForum, Twigger presented “The Five Most Significant eDiscovery Cases of 2019: Their Impact on 2020 and Beyond.”  Twigger highlighted a Wisconsin case where a judge accepted a Facebook “Friend” request from one of the parties before the case was over.  This act demonstrated a risk for bias and ultimately deprived the opposing party of his right to an impartial judge.  This case proves that social media’s impact reverberates loudly through the litigation world, joined by other modern communication methods such as text and instant messages and Slack/Microsoft Teams correspondence.  

Kelly Twigger presents at NineForum

Legalweek’s exhibit halls were full of eDiscovery technology and services firms are creating new solutions to defensibly extract and produce this next generation of data, showing opportunity for industry newcomers and incumbent providers alike to innovate.  For example, CloudNine launched CloudNine Collection Manager™, a data extraction solution that defensibly collects Office 365 emails, their attachments, and OneDrive files, just one of many companies breaking new ground in the established eDiscovery field.

Legalweek and its predecessor Legaltech New York have long had a reputation for being an eDiscovery and case/practice management hunting ground.  However, this year’s exhibit hall roster clearly showed that burgeoning Contract Management and Artificial Intelligence technology providers are out to stake their claims.  

For example, Evisort, an artificial intelligence (AI) driven contract management and analytics company unveiled a new pre-signature contracts module at Legalweek, to be released in Q2. The new pre-signature module integrates with Evisort’s post-signature contract management technology which uses AI/machine learning to read through contracts and extract names, dates, and clauses. Evisort raised nearly $20 million in investment in 2019 including funds from Microsoft’s investment arm, proving that contract management is a dynamic, fast-growing industry that is coming of age.

Another area of innovation and growth is the intellectual property (IP) technology world, which is typically under-represented at Legalweek.  Because of their dependence on government PTOs (Patent and Trademark Offices), intellectual property lawyers have formidable obstacles that hinder speed and innovation.  Dr. D Bommi Bommannan, a patent attorney, PhD and CEO of MaxVal IP solutions company, explained that IP management systems (IPMSs) have evolved to facilitate the IP prosecution process.  At Legalweek, MaxVal released Symphony 3.6, the latest version of its IPMS now including Prosecution Analytics which leverage data to effectively predict patent examiners’ behavior and better manage prosecution strategy, along with their new Analytical Insights Module which is an advanced reporting engine capable of integrating data from different sources to provide complex, powerful analytics capabilities.

Management is commonly defined as the process of dealing with or controlling things or people.  And yet, anyone familiar with the legal industry will agree that controlling lawyers and the work they do is a daunting job.  However, successful management of law-related people, processes and technology has great rewards.  Legalweek 2020 illuminated many distinct challenges facing legal professionals and their clients, but it also revealed a vibrant swath of product and service providers who are dedicated to solving even the most intractable legal problems.  As we kick off a new decade, the future of legal tech is moving fast but hopefully the product and service providers will be moving – and managing – even faster!

About the Author
Christy Burke is President and Founder of Burke & Company, a New York City-based PR and marketing consulting firm specializing in legal/tech.  She is a prolific writer, having published columns in many legal industry publications.  For more information, visit burke-company.com or follow Christy on Twitter @ChristyBurkePR.