For each of the past 19 years, Judges, attorneys, technologists, service providers and other “Legal Geeks” have met for the annual conference that traditionally sets the tone for legal technology for the year. Now sometimes called LegalWeek, LegalTech usually features significant product debuts, innovative updates to our favorite software and a strong predictor of the overall health of the legal industry for the year. After an exhausting four days of meetings, demonstrations, catching up with old friends and too many cocktail receptions with open bars, here are my top three takeaways from this year’s conference.
1. Security, security, security.
- With several high-profile hacks having been attributed to the loose cyber security at law firms, you can rest assured that the Fortune 500 and beyond will be demanding high standards of their law firms. This has a natural trickle-down effect and if you are a law firm, service provider or really any entity that handles the ESI of organizations, you should ensure you are ready. Servers that host databases are particularly attractive targets for hackers because they are almost always loaded with sensitive information from dozens, if not hundreds, of companies and they are also designed for hundreds of simultaneous users from all over the world that need access (and quickly).
2. More and more will be expected of the requesting party.
- After sitting in on several panel discussions and reading the tea leaves of conversations had at cocktail parties, I believe we will see a push to reward technology forward requesting parties and at the same time, punishment for requesting parties that aren’t specific and reasonable as defined by FRCP Rule 34. The Sedona Conference recently announced a brainstorming group to address this exact issue. In other words, the days of getting discovery request do-overs is possibly coming to an end and the burden will fall on the requesting party to ensure they have the education and understanding necessary to request more exactly what they want.
3. A hot market for deal making.
- New York was filled with investment bankers and M&A specialists looking to wheel and deal. My informal survey of dealmakers revealed the major causes of a continued hot market for deal making is largely driven by:
- GDPR and cross border discovery – the big players need a physical presence in several key global markets to adhere to evolving discovery laws in Europe, Asia and other countries around the globe.
- The intersection of where software can take us and what still needs human input (service) continues to shift rapidly. Many software providers are making acquisitions to enable them to sell and support their product to direct end users and many of the largest service providers continue to search for their own proprietary technology to differentiate themselves in the ultra-competitive services market.
- With an uncertain overall economic outlook for the next year, private equity groups and investors in general are attracted to the largely recession-resistant legal space.
- Forbes recently reported that the legal technology industry saw an investment growth percentage of 713% in 2018, so yes, there is interest.
All in all, our team had a great time reconnecting with old friends and clients in New York. My only wish for the 2020 event and beyond is to consider finding a better destination for a late January trip. If we’re going to be together for a week each year, why not mix in some sun with the rest of our fun?
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