The Big Takeaway from LegalTech New York

It’s taken me several days to absorb everything I saw at LegalTech in New York last week. Attendance was good, down abut 10-15% in my entirely unscientific appraisal but that gave us enough room to walk the exhibit hall without fighting crowds and find a seat in most sessions.  ED was of course the major theme with minors in international litigation ( I participated in a great panel on Safe Harbor with Craig Ball, George Rudoy, Deborah Coram and Chris Dale which Chris has reviewed on his blog  ) and web hosting  (see my white paper on the CaseLogistix web site)


E-discovery players continue to shift to the left side of the EDRM model but the biggest surprise of the show to me was the lack of reaction to the entry of players from the far left or even off-stage left of that model.  The announcements of the Autonomy acquisition of Interwoven and the Clearwell alliance with ECM drew little or no attention that I could see and have barely been referenced in the psot show reviews I’ve read so far.  I’ve said for over 2 years now that the only way to control ED costs is through effective document management policies and here we have two major ECM companies partnering with ED companies yet it seemed to draw little or no attention.

Why? Well certainly because ED companies who don’t play on the left end of the EDRM model are not going to talk about it. But more important, the attorney attendees who reacted focused only on the impact on their firms. Folks, the play is not for the law firm data…. it’s for the clients data!  Clients are working more and more to pull early ED tasks like data collection and culling in-house and this is the way they will do it.  The data is already in-house they just need integrated tools to massage it before they send it to outside counsel. 

The lack of reaction to this obvious shift in focus by clients seems to further support the observation of Judge Facciola in his keynote address that attorneys are lacking in technology skills not from ignorance but stubbornness. They simply aren’t taking the time to learn the basics of handling electronic data and as a result, they dont really know what is important and what is just marketing fluff.  Judge Facciola’s keynote speech was a major revelation because he said what many of us have known for years now: attorneys who willfully refuse to learn the most basic concepts of technology, let alone e-discoverywaste the time of litigants, the money of their clients and the patience of judges. And in the extreme case, like the Fannie Mae decision, the tax money all of us pay.
What can we do about it?  Well the Judge noted the lack of action by law schools and bar associations, a failing that I have pointed out on numerous occasions as people such as Browning Marean and Andy Adkins and even myself have attempted to introduce educational efforts at those levels over the past two years. He then he went on to say that when even sanctions as extreme as those in Qualcomm have failed to generate any significant  action perhaps the answer is some form of national technology competency standards, speaking with admiration of the new ED Training Academy at Georgetown as a step in the right direction.
Is that just fanciful speculation? Well remember that all bankruptcy practicioners must take a 2 hour course in the ECF system before they can file documents …  and electronic filing of documents is required in all bankruptcy courts. Why then would courts not institute a similar requirement before they allow an attorney to file a motion involving e-discovery? 
But the awareness we need is that e-discovery is a process that begins with the data clients already have in their possession and ends with data being produced to other litigants and even the court if the matter goes to trial. The Georgetown Academy is the start we need to generate this awareness but it is, necessarily, a small start. The bigger challenge is to get attorneys paying attention to technology as an essential part of their practice and not think it is something they can pick up in a 60 minute CLE course. 


1 comment so far

  1. […] Tom O’Connor has published his initial report on LegalTech on his blog, with the title The Big Takeaway from LegalTech New York. His patch in the US e-discovery scene roughly parallels mine in the UK. We did a panel together at […]

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