Positively 54th Street: Six Observations from LegalTech
by Frank Strong*
Though I’ve been to plenty of trade shows in my time this year was the first time I’ve attended LegalTech in New York. When I discovered that Charles Christian was unable to attend, I offered to jot down some notes and share a few photos with him, and possibly, with the greater Legal IT Insider community.
Here are six observations:
1. Let’s talk about the weather. Mother Nature has thrown quite a few curve balls at the US this winter and New York has been especially hit hard; the LegalTech show was not to be spared. Snowfall on the Monday preceding the show hampered, delayed and even canceled many flights for travelers planning to attend. The weather returned on the second day of the show adding a mix of snow, sleet and rain. I haven’t seen any official reports on the impact on attendance, but in observation, while the show was busy, indeed some of the key note sessions had standing-room only, I cannot imagine overall attendance hit some of the record levels of previous years.
2. iPads everywhere. Whoever said lawyers are not tech savvy didn’t make such a statement on the basis of mobile devices on hand at LegalTech. Being one of the few with a laptop out for note-taking during sessions, I was especially conscious that iPads seemed to be everywhere. It was reminiscent of the rise of mobile phones, circa 2000, when seemingly overnight, the Motorola Razor – with a built in camera phone – mushroomed on everyone’s palms. I too succumbed to the purchased of a Razor. It’s probably only a matter of time before I give in to the iPad…despite my affinity for a keyboard.
3. eDiscovery. As Andrew Haslam reported on this site in previous years, eDiscovery was again prominent at the show. According to Inside Legal, 38% of the registered vendors at LegalTech had eDiscovery on display. That’s down about three points from the previous year, but math aside – it would be difficult to see that in the volume of eDiscovery discussions. Whether in chatter on social networks, or chatter in the hallways between sessions, or in the after-parties, eDiscovery was top of mind for many at the show. Ralph Losey, whose Twitter bio indicates he’s written five books on the topic, discovered eDiscovery even looks cool on ice.
4. High in the clouds. Plenty of vendors, including us, were touting the cloud. In the aforementioned Inside Legal post, the writers reported of the 200 or so registered vendors just “…17 companies offering practice, case and matter management products, some client-server but many of the being offered in the cloud or via SaaS model.” The conversations in the hallways tended to flow along two lines of thinking:
a) The cloud is not new – why is this big deal?
b) The cloud is not new – but the legal industry is just beginning to get comfortable with the concept.
5. Theory and practice. One line of commentary I heard several times was that the sessions focused too much on theory and not enough on practical application. I’m not entirely sure I agree with the sentiment as it probably depends on the choice of sessions a given attendee attended. In some cases, such as Luke Williams’ talk on disruptive thinking I found to be both theoretical and practical.
6. Integrating social. If LegalTech announced an official Twitter hashtag for the show, many missed the announcement. Several hashtags were in use including #legaltech, #LTNY2014 and #LTNY. The abbreviated version, with just five characters, appeared to be the most commonly hashtag used and was reflected in the social media posts by the show’s own Twitter handle: @LegalTechShow
Finally, I’d close with one thought, and perhaps this is a seventh observation – that no single announcement seemed to take the show by storm. Occasionally at trade shows, a company or organization will make an announcement that causes the collective group to take a breath. I did not have that sense at LegalTech and arguably it’s a sentiment reflected in other summaries of the show. What observations would you offer?
* Frank Strong is a communications director with the LexisNexis Business of Law Software Solutions group.
(Our photos, also supplied by Frank Strong, show (1) ProofPoint with its own coffee shop + (2) Daegis offering ice-cream from its booth + (3) the Bloggers Panel with, from the right, Vivia Chen, ALM/The Careerist – Bob Ambrogi – Kevin O’Keefe – Loretta Ruppert, LexisNexis + (4) outside the Hilton when the sun finally came out to play on Thursday.)