Legalweek 2019 Recap

Didn’t make it to Legalweek 2019? Our experts share everything you need to know.

Last week, John Pilznienski, FORTÉ practice solutions adviser, and Phillip Hampton, founder and chairman of LOGICFORCE, a leading legal IT consulting firm and FORTÉ strategic partner, attended Legalweek 2019, also known as Legaltech – one of the largest and most important legal technology events of the year.

Here are John’s and Phillip’s insights – along with what they consider the most important takeaways and highlights – from the big event.

Innovation in legal tech has never been more important

Hampton: Legalweek has always been targeted to “Big Law” but has had relevant content for firms of all sizes. This year, however, there was a bigger divide between “Big Law” and the rest of the legal industry. Big Law is looking to emerging tech like analytics and artificial intelligence to innovate service offerings in an environment where corporate insourcing and alternative service providers (ASP) make the landscape more competitive for revenue share. Meanwhile, smaller and mid-size firms are still grappling with issues such as full-on cloud adoption, IT outsourcing, and e-discovery management (a perennial Legalweek favorite). As a result, Legalweek included a heavy dose of warnings to Big Law to innovate or die. But the mid-market remains ripe for more adoption of existing technology.

Pilznienski: Innovation was again a buzzword with respect to the provision of legal services. While general counsels are eager to pull work away from outside counsel to control costs, they are more likely to steer work to firms that demonstrate a penchant for innovation. Likewise, startups and newer organizations are often breaking ground, not just in terms of the application of technologies, but by re-thinking traditional legal services models.

AI will impact routine legal work but won’t be replacing lawyers anytime soon

Hampton: AI continues to be a favorite Legalweek buzzword as vendors touted the “intelligent” features in their various products. The focus of legal tech products is not simply to make you more efficient but to provide intelligent input into a legal professional’s workflow. I do not believe that automation and AI will destroy jobs in the legal profession; but I do believe that the nature of the work that legal professionals do is fundamentally changing. Routine legal work by humans is going the way of the video store operator; but knowing how to leverage technology to gain greater insight into a client’s problem and solution is the new “cool.”

Pilznienski: One noticeable shift in the discussion surrounding AI was away from its prior focus of how AI works to brainstorm creative use cases. It is becoming clearer what the technology can do but how it will be utilized remains unclear. One interesting perspective from the conference was that firms should assess their high-volume tasks that are repetitive and require less legal analysis. Many within the firm may see shifting such tasks to machines as a “loss,” but proponents of moving these tasks to AI argue that it will allow attorneys to spend time on higher value work.

Outsourcing IT gains popularity among mid-sized firms

Hampton: One session that specifically addressed technology trends in the mid-sized law firm market was illuminating. The concern expressed by some in this discussion was how to compete with Big Law with limited technology resources. The mid-market trend of outsourcing technology to IT experts was seen as an effective response to this threat. There has been so much consolidation in the market for software and tools used in the legal industry that many mid-sized firms find themselves using the same tools as large firms. The problem is that many of these solutions are cost-prohibitive for smaller firms. Outsourcing provides a way to use the most advanced technologies without burdensome capital costs.

E-discovery’s evolution demands nimbleness and collaboration from legal tech pros

Pilznienski: E-discovery professionals continue to gain familiarity with the type of information contained on our phones and why it is essential to the discovery process. During a session on mobile data, panelists noted that internal chat systems and other forms of collaboration tools are gaining in popularity. While organizations adopt more innovative tools to facilitate their business objectives, the need for e-discovery experts to understand these systems and how to gather the data is growing.

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