This is the second of five posts about ILTA 2012. In other posts I talk generally about the benefits of going to ILTA’s big conference, about some of the themes which emerged and about the ILTA Peer awards. This one is largely about my own time there.
I arrived on Saturday, partly because the air fares are lower then and partly to play myself in gently. I like watching conferences come to life, venues gradually filling up and empty spaces turning into a stage set with a big cast. The putative UK ILTA virgin to whom this post is directed would similarly appreciate a gentle start to an event which, once under way, proceeds at an unrelenting pace.
I went to only two sessions. One involved eDiscovery/eDisclosure experts from the US, the UK (Vince Neicho from Allen & Overy), Australia and Canada, which set out succinctly the developments in each jurisdiction. I hope to write about this separately.
The other was billed as The ESI debate is on! and was a free-form discussion whose participants were described as “passionate and cantankerous”. That sounded about right, for I was one of them. The others were George Socha and Patrick Oot, moderated by Browning Marean of DLA Piper US. You catch the flavour of it from the fact that the first question was framed as a debating motion, that “US discovery is much better than UK eDisclosure”. I felt it necessary to preface my opposition to this motion by making it clear that, notwithstanding anything I was about to say, I was in favour of most things American except its eDiscovery and its coffee.
The organisers had hoped, I think, that we would start a fight, violently disagreeing on some fundamental point of principle. I am not above playing devil’s advocate, but not when being filmed in the company of a respected eDiscovery consultant, a government officer and a senior lawyer. We did not play it wholly seriously, but there were nevertheless important things to say about rules, about technology and about certification, on which we all had broadly similar views. Browning involved the audience, which ensured that, even if we had had an agenda, we would have been taken down any path chosen for us by the audience. It was fun to do and, I hope, walked the line between entertainment and usefulness.
Keeping in touch with the UK via Twitter
As a side-note to that last section, one of the few tweets which I sent out during the week reported that we had been described as “cantankerous”. A London litigation partner replied immediately saying:
I would like to make enough of an impression on my field to one day be introduced everywhere as “cantankerous”.
Then somebody hailed me as “Charles”, presumably mistaking me for Charles Christian – British, of a certain age, legal / IT publishing, not known for suffering fools gladly. I tweeted that I was:
At #ILTA12 being part of that composite legal/IT person Chris Charleston or Charles Dalestian or Dale Christian
Charles joined in. Were we a writing team called Curmudgeon and Cantankerous, or were we Waldorf and Statler, the crusty old men from the Muppets?
Technology conferences always throw up technology difficulties. One of my tweets read:
Technical challenges at #ILTA12: a) folding the ironing board b) keeping the badge name side out c) serving runny honey with a butter knife
The last of these, I think, was set as a breakfast challenge to test reactions after the previous night’s excesses. It is possible with some effort, unlike the first two, both of which defeated me.
You can’t spend whole five days just talking to people? You can, you know. I wrote almost nothing, went off-site only to find coffee (the ice-cream shop by the water does acceptable espresso, if you ever find yourself in National Harbor), hardly saw my room and, with one exception, barely spent more than ten minutes alone. The exception was an evening in the middle of the week when, having missed the bus for the party for which I had declined all other invitations, I found myself more or less alone. The one good restaurant in the place offered sunset views over the Potomac, a decent steak, and the opportunity to read the iPad Times in peace.
Then it was off to a noisy party on the top floor. Someone offered the view that noise at parties is designed to encourage intimacy as heads get close enough to touch. Instead, I landed a drunk who shouted his views of Federal judges and Rule 502 at me until I made my excuses and left. You can’t win ’em all.
For the most part, though, the conversation was all useful and interesting, whether in pre-arranged meetings, in demos or in the many impromptu conversations which serendipity brought my way. If we go back to the notional UK legal IT person to whom these posts are notionally addressed, he or she (and his or her employer) would have benefitted as much from the exchange of ideas in such conversations as from the formal sessions.
In addition to the photographs scattered through these articles, I have put up three sets of photographs showing this year’s venue, some scenes from the exhibition hall and the Peer Awards dinner. These do not aspire to be works of art, but merely aim to give some idea of what it is likely to be at an ILTA conference.