LegalTech NY 2011 Part 1 – New legal market trends and technical solutions

VQ has spent three exciting and inspiring days at LegalTech New York acquiring a lot of new insights and ideas as well as an overview of new legal market trends and technical solutions. Here are some of our thoughts from the conference that is said to be “the most important legal technology event of the year”.

The conference started with a down-to-earth practical problem on how the legal vs. IT departments relationship could be turned from a battle into a solution to meet compliance, with mutual understanding between the attorneys and the technicians then went on to discussions on how technology should be used to leverage firm efficiencies to create the firm of the future, and then ended with an absolutely fantastic, thought-provoking and inspiring speech by Michael Rogers, New York Times Futurist, who provided a radical perspective on how technology will shape the legal industry in 2020.

Michael Rogers speech left us all a bit shaken, upraised, energetic and exciting for what to come when the virtualisation trend of the world will provide the next giant step of human culture and civilization after the urbanisation trend.

The futuristic approach and the discussions on the firm of the future was one of the main trends for the event and many sessions dealt with predictions on what the law firm of the future will look like. Most predictions touched on alternative fee arrangements, value adding, the need for lawyers to become skilled project managers and the need use technology to achieve quality and competitive excellence. It is clear that technology and processes will be the key words for firms to differentiate value and expanding revenue and margin. However, the words repeating processes and project standards should wisely be avoided as far as possible when wanting to persuade attorneys to follow this development.

Some of the interesting law firm management developments revealed at the event were that in some law firms specific experts had been appointed to help the attorneys to come up with a good pricing model when doing pitches and that all flat fee arrangements needed an approved firm budget to be allowed.

The other main trend discussed at the event was e-Discovery and case management, analysis and search solutions. From a European perspective it will be interesting to see when this e-Discovery trend will hit continental Europe to the same extent, or if the judicial systems will diminish the e-discovery force a bit. (For our European readers not yet all familiar with this trend, the specific term e-Discovery refers to a defined process of actively managing and organizing electronically stored information and making it available for legal, regulatory or compliance reasons, typically in litigation.)

A large part of LegalTech was also the launch and display of new technical products for the legal market. A more indepth description of these new products has been made in the Law Technolog News Letter by Sean Doherty below. Apart from all e-Discovery related products there was a huge focus on SharePoint and solutions and products for using SharePoint as a document management system, which is a really interesting development to follow closely.

Another focus was on document assembly solutions with several new exciting product launches. Additionally, there were lots and lots of interesting solutions for virtual offices, telepresence, case management specifically for legal departments, new online case management systems that looked like Facebook, new document collaboration tools and, naturally. lots of legal and law firm business apps for iPads.

As Sean Doherty puts it “Someone asked me how I cover LegalTech shows. I don’t, really. The shows cover me.” Now we have to further analyse the trends revealed here and evaluate all promising solutions and products in practice, which will be an exciting task to take with us back home from New York.

Here are some articles and posts from LegalTech NY 2011 that are worth reading: