After this February’s LegalTech in New York, I wrote a piece called Why no UK lawyers at LegalTech? in which I suggested that UK law firms – partners and/or their senior IT staff – would benefit enormously from a few days in a place where almost every e-disclosure supplier and expert, including a large contingent of experienced UK litigation support managers, gather every year. There they could see demos of every application worth seeing, talk to pretty well everyone with knowledge and experience – and have a good time as well.
Having just returned from ILTA‘s (the International Litigation Technology Association) annual conference, this year in Dallas, I make the same suggestion again. The first person I met there was Nigel Murray of UK-based litigation services provider Trilantic. The last person I spoke to as I wheeled my bag out to reception was Charles Christian of the authoritative UK Legal Technology Insider and the Orange Rag blog . Both of these are moving into the US, Trilantic with a New York office and Christian with an American edition.
In between, I came across precisely two representatives of UK law firms – Peter Attwood, Chief Technical Officer of Simmons & Simmons and Chris Bull, Chief Operating Officer at Osborne Clarke, both speakers at conference sessions. Wragges apparently sent a contingent of three, but I did not come across them.
Hmm. What do we know about these firms? Simmons & Simmons posted a 22% rise in profits per partner this year and has been investing heavily in its IT infrastructure and applications over the last two or three years. Osborne Clarke’s PPP was up 8%. Wragges reported its fourth consecutive year of double-digit growth in 2008 and an 11% increase in PPP. Both of these latter firms, like Simmons & Simmons, are known to be forward thinkers in IT investment (although, unlike Simmons, neither are – yet – well-known players in the electronic disclosure field).
Is there a connection between these good results and the IT spend? Browning Marean of DLA Piper LLP, ever a source of finely-tuned comment, said one evening at the bar that “If the rate of change outside the firm is greater than the rate of change within it, then you are in decline”. The significance of PPP as an indicator is that it takes account of investment – these firms are spending on IT and having money left over to distribute to partners.
Given the rate of change in IT for lawyers, there are three categories of firms – those which have invested recently, those planning to invest, and those which are on the way down. The former group may not need to get up to date with developments and the latter group perhaps can’t run to the air fares. That leaves a large number of good-sized firms with litigation and knowledge management needs who should be considering what is available to support their practices as they fight for market share and next year’s growth.
As at LegalTech, ILTA offers a vast floor of booths at which the creators of most applications for litigation, knowledge management and practice management can be seen. It is all less frenetic than LegalTech and there is time to talk to the suppliers, understand their products and (an important one in my book) see if you like and trust the people who are selling them. You can pick from a variety of conference sessions led by industry leaders – and this means people who get their hands dirty facing and dealing with the same problems as you face. Above all, you can sit and talk, not just to suppliers but a wide variety of others with an interest in the same things as you.
“Interest” is, I appreciate, a term which perhaps overstates the level of enthusiasm which many lawyers have for this subject. I can also see that being cooped up in a giant fantasy palace in Texas in August (see ILTA 2008 opens in Dallas) with 1,500 litigation and KM IT enthusiasts may lack all-round appeal to those who just want to bring their firms up to date. Nevertheless, consider the alternatives. You can invite a series of suppliers to come and see you, or you can go and see them in turn – each visit involving a sizeable chunk of time and perhaps expense, with gaps between demos just long enough to forget the last one. You can go to the timeless (that is, hasn’t changed forever) Legal IT 2009 in a gloomy concrete bunker in Islington, once more cunningly planned, so Charles Christian tells us, to overlap with LegalTech so that the salesmen on duty will either be jetlagged or the second-rankers not sent to New York. Or… how else will you do it?
All right, I have a professional interest and duty to be there, I like the people in this market, I like America and Americans, like staying in big hotels, and don’t mind sitting on aeroplanes. Even if none of that were true, and I was simply the person charged with keeping my firm’s or company’s litigation department up to speed with the applications and ideas needed to run 21st century litigation, I would reckon to cover enough ground in three or four days to warrant the air fare, the hotel bill and the time.
My meetings ranged from formal sessions with agendas, to long evenings in bars, to quick handshakes with passing acquaintances. I met people from Autonomy Zantaz, CaseLogistix by Anacomp, Clearwell Systems, Commonwealth Legal, the Cowen Group, CT Summation, eMAG Solutions, KCura, Guidance Systems, OutIndex, Recommind, Stratify, Tikit, Trilantic and Wave, most of whom I knew already. Other suppliers there with whom I have some connection or acquaintance in the UK included Discovery Mining, Epiq Systems, FTI Consulting, KPMG, Kroll OnTrack and LexisNexis. From law firms I spoke with people from DLA Piper, Osborne Clark, Shearman & Sterling, Simmons & Simmons and Sullivan & Cromwell. Other commentators with whom I spoke included Craig Ball of Law Technology News, Charles Christian of Legal Technology Insider, Patrick Oot of Verizon, John Tredennick of Catalyst and George Socha. Technology marketing businesses included Edge Legal Marketing and Puretech Marketing.
That is a pretty good way to spend four days for anyone with an interest in this market – which ought to mean anyone responsible for running litigation in a middle to large UK law firm or in-house legal department.
LegalTech opens in New York on 2 February 2009. Be there.