It’s been a week since Legalweek: The Experience (#legalweek17), and we’ve had time to process the experience, review our notes, and think a bit about what we saw and learned.

As we noted in our day-one reaction post, we’ll forgo attempts to report on all the happenings (if you’re interested in more in-the-weeds recaps, check the interwebs, including @bobambrogi’s pieces on Above the Law and LawSites) and instead try share our thinking on a few of the trends, products, and themes that caught our eye and interest.  Given our background (and also the fact that the focus of the event and others’ coverage tends to skew toward eDiscovery and other litigation-related tools), our contributions might be most useful if directed (though not exclusively) towards those things that relate to the transactional side of large law firm practice.

 Panels Galore!

To set the stage, it’s worth noting how we spent our time last week.  We spent days one and two (Tuesday and Wednesday) almost entirely in panels, which covered ground ranging form data security to artificial intelligence to successful software deployment in the enterprise.  We were generally very impressed with the quality of the speakers and the content.  In particular, we spent a number of hours on day two attending the LegalCIO educational track exploring the needs and perspective of the chief information officers within firms that did a great job speaking to the intersection of evolving legal technologies and the on-the-ground needs of today’s firms.

We spent day three interviewing founders, demoing products, and exploring the exhibit hall to see what new and exciting products are at the cutting edge of legal tech today, and we also caught the tail end of the LegalWomensForum programming (which constituted, in the words of the ALM press release: “An interactive caucus of women working in the legal field, this area of focus will offer innovative ideas and solutions that lead to the retention and advancement of experienced women in law firms and corporations.”).

Themes

In our initial day one reaction post, we noted some recurring themes that surfaced throughout the day.  Looking back at the whole week, we’d like to add a few more thoughts to the list (in blue):

  • Clients are worried about regulatory uncertainty, and that concern reverberates around the universe of legal services.
  • There are new (and non-traditional) competitors in the legal services market, which are responding to and driving changing client demands.
  • Those changing demands are affecting different firms in a variety of ways, depending on their flexibility, positioning, and business model; however, those demands incentivize all firms to enter a new era of employing business-intelligence strategies (built, in many cases, upon rigorous data analytics), the success of which will likely determine the winners and losers in much of the legal market over time.
    • Those changing demands will continue to increase the percentage of matters billed under an alternative fee arrangements (AFA).
  • The data-protection arms race continues a full speed, and the quality of the products and services, as well as the platform investments made by key vendors, will herd enterprise services into cloud-based platforms just like consumer products.
  • Legal technology has achieved (in some cases, very recently) some critical form and functionality milestones that will accelerate the impact of legal tech on the practice of law.
    • That innovation has begun to affect, and will continue to affect increasingly, the ways in which lawyers do their work (e.g., to improve efficiency, test hypotheses and hunches with data, increase collaboration, work from different devices) and lead to an enormous focus on process in legal workstreams (to ensure the best results, as well as to maximize standardized data collection).
    • That innovation will also result in the depression/elimination of certain rote workstreams, driving firms to capitalize on those workstreams and services that are insulated from technological change because they rely on uniquely human capacities, such as persuasion, emotional intelligence, and choices where data sets are too limited (i.e., situations too idiosyncratic) to generate useful guidance.
  • Relatedly, workflow automation has come of age and will begin playing a key role in legal efficiency.
  • Also relatedly, the promise of certain non-general AI (machine learning, neural networks, deep learning, etc.) is finally being fulfilled and directed towards the enterprise, including in law.

A Look Forward

Having reflected on the week, and given our comments above about where we think we can add value, our plan moving forward in the coming weeks is to (a) draft a series of think pieces addressing certain themes on or related to the above list (b) compare some of the competing products in the market meeting, or attempting to meet, core functions for large firms and (c) to highlight a few products we saw that seemed to be meeting important and otherwise unfilled needs for transactional practices at large law firms.

Our think pieces may involve:

  • the impact legal technology on firm practice (including the types of work that new tech might favor/disfavor within the firms and how it might alter existing workflows) as well as the practice of law more generally (including making it more democratized, crowdsourced, and data-driven, as well as cheaper and more efficient);
  • the changes in the market for legal services (on the supply side, including the rise of the in-house legal department and non-traditional service providers; on the demand side, including the unbundling of legal services by corporate clients and the resulting impact on the business of law for firms and the role of outside counsel, as well as the increasing role of AFAs);
  • automation and AI technologies and how they’ll affect the shape and structure of the legal services model; and
  • security-related themes, particularly as they relate to the migration of firms’ tech infrastructure to the cloud.

Our product comparisons may involve:

  • document-management systems;
  • contract review/analysis tools; and
  • contract-drafting automation technologies.

Our product highlights:

And we’re still working though our analysis of which products address unique pain points, so stay tuned.

We’d love your input on what we should be addressing when, so—as always—leave a comment below (or tell us what you think by email).

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