ILTA, the International Legal Technology Association, and ALM, the owners of the Legaltech conference brand, have for some years run a one-day event in Hong Kong called Legaltech Asia. I was there this year, as I have been since the series began
So far as ILTA is concerned, the Hong Kong event is part of a move to bring the benefits of ILTA – and not just its conferences – to an audience beyond North America. ILTA organises a London event every November, called ILTA Insight, and its particular skill is to bring to each jurisdiction a localised version of the very strong educational messages which it has developed over many years in the US.
This is not as easy as it may sound. Americans are notorious (sorry about this, chaps) for assuming that they are the sole repository of knowledge and sophistication in technology matters, and it is hard to separate those parts of the message which are actually forward-thinking and useful from those which derive from the slightly patronising impression that the US is sending missionaries to a backward world. This is particularly true in my own area, eDiscovery, where you still hear that vain idea that “America is two years ahead of the rest of the world”. In rejecting that message, there is a danger of rejecting also the very good technology which goes with it and the skills which, with some adaptation, are actually transferable. ILTA manages that separation very well.
Another message which annoys lawyers everywhere is the one which says that their profession is dying and that only the adoption of technology and new ways of working with it will save them. There are some respects in which this is perhaps true, but they need to be picked out from a generalised message that we are all doomed.
These messages need practical examples to which the audience can relate. Daniel Martin Katz, Associate Professor of Law, Illinois Tech – Chicago Kent Law, pulled this off with his examination of the parallels between finance and the law in a keynote speech called Fin(Legal)Tech – Law’s Future from Finance’s Past. fin(tech), as he calls it, is a commercial field where huge advances have been made in the science of prediction. fin(legal)tech is at last showing interest in predictive analytics, both in the delivery of services to clients (easing the path to eDiscovery, for example) and in the management of legal practices themselves. Prediction, Daniel Katz said, derives from experts, crowds and algorithms; the problem is how to combine technology with human skill and intelligence to take the best from individual human experts and magnify that at a higher speed, with more accuracy and without diluting quality.
Daniel Katz amplified on this message in a later panel called Artificial Intelligence – the impact of AI and real business applications in legal.
Unlike many of the events which I attend, ILTA is not just an eDiscovery show, but eDiscovery obviously has its place in the agenda. I moderated this year’s eDiscovery-related panel called Its a new age in data privacy – safe harbour with the help of Dmitri Hubbard, Regional Vice President of Xerox, and Xiaoyan Zhang of Mayer Brown JSM. In her earlier life, Xiaoyan Zhang was was a Certified Information Security Systems Professional (“CISSP”), computer security engineer/ethical hacker and a chemical engineer, using technical skills to challenge a corporation’s defences to find its weaknesses and make recommendations for future protection. That set of skills, allied with her legal and compliance knowledge, made for a formidable message.
Dmitri Hubbard has been dealing with the conflict between eDiscovery demands and data privacy in the Asia Pacific region for a long time. Between them these two panellists covered an area in which knowledge of worldwide trends is helpful in dealing with the rather different problems faced in the Asia-Pacific region.
Adi Elliott, Vice President of Market Planning at Epiq, Sebastian Ko, Director, Document Review Services for Epiq in Hong Kong, and Conor Crowley did a session called Intersection to Interchange – The Crossroad of Technology, Data and the Regulatory Landscape. There is more to data than increasing volumes – it turns up in multiple forms on multiple devices, and poses practical discovery challenges even before the overlay of privacy and the changing demands of regulators. You need both developing skills and technology to meet this.
The LegalTech program was run in parallel with the US China Legal Summit; the two events shared sessions at the beginning and end of the day and delegates could move between sessions at both events. This helped emphasise that the technology developments are not a rarefied pool of their own, but an increasingly important (and difficult) area of business management and development.
From the people I spoke to, ILTA and ALM had successfully struck the right balance between local interests and imported ideas, delivering the best of US thinking without appearing to insist that the only way is the American way. This has always been an excellent event and this year’s moved the thinking forward yet further.