What is the right format for discovery and legal technology conferences? The fashion is to criticise them, with their purpose, speakers, agendas, venue, room layout, and food all sneeringly dismissed because they don’t match some notional ideal – an ideal which none of the critics ever quite manages to define.
Leaving aside those for whom sneering is the purpose of being, there are some things we are stuck with. You can’t knock something for being “too commercial” without offering some other basis on which they are funded. In any event, “commercial” seems an odd swear word in an industry which generates billions of £ and $ worldwide and helps support a much larger activity of law, regulation, security and the rest which are not only major businesses themselves but are vital to the wider commercial world.
We are stuck with the venues on offer. Agendas are driven by what the delegates want to hear. The speaker pool always needs widening, as well as diversifying. Organisers have to walk a line between bringing on new voices and ensuring that the content quality remains high – these aims do not exclude each other, and those who simply sneer should be required to append the name of at least one new speaker to their sneers.
Recent years have seen the decline of the general-purpose eDiscovery conference, in the UK at least. They have been replaced by ideas-led events driven by forward-looking legal technologists, by events based around specific problems (such as the new disclosure rule or the GDPR), and by product-specific events organised (usually) by a software provider and designed to appeal to their existing and hoped-for users and partners.
The Nuix Insider Conference has done well to combine these categories. It is, obviously, intended to promote Nuix and its products. Given the latter’s broad coverage ( all aspects of working with data, including forensic investigations, eDiscovery, incident response, and governance) it must inevitably be forward-looking in its technology across a wide range. It must also focus on the issues which the users have to face, and so makes room for the context as well as the technology. It achieves two other things which the old-style general discovery events did not – it can dedicate rooms and time to its products, both as they stand and where they are going, and everyone in the room has a common interest, which leads to focused and useful discussions beyond the discussion platforms.
The acquisition of Ringtail has emphasised Nuix’s focus on eDiscovery, and it was that which had my attention at this year’s Insider Conference. The best session was on the use of technology (both generally for UK litigation, and specifically for Ringtail) in the BCA Trading case. Ringtail’s JR Jenkins led a discussion with Rebecca Wardle and Jason Alvares from Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, the firm which successfully fought for the right to use technology-assisted review (or predictive coding if you will) and then went on to win at trial in large part because of their use of Ringtail (BCLP’s article about the contested application, and the role of technology in it, is here, and their post about their success at trial is here)
Since BCA Trading we have had a new disclosure rule in England and Wales which makes specific reference to the use of technology, including technology-assisted review. We have also seen judicial pronouncements at conferences which indicate that judges will take that seriously. In UK terms, this is a good time for Nuix to emphasise its place in eDiscovery with the dedicated technology which they acquired with the Ringtail acquisition.
That is not just litigation discovery. The demands of investigations, both those driven by regulators and internal ones, require the type of tools which Nuix has – not just Ringtail but the investigations tools it has always had. The GDPR, that other subject which is racing up the agenda 12 months after its implementation, brings with it not just a general need to know your data (a Nuix speciality), but the rigours of Data Subject Access Requests.
There was a mood of cheery optimism at the Nuix User Exchange, which went beyond London and beyond the US. As Gartner and others have long predicted, the Asia Pacific market is going to see accelerated growth, and my discussions in the coffee breaks kept coming back to the opportunities opening for Nuix in Singapore and elsewhere, for incident response and information governance as well as for investigations and litigation.
The other recurring theme at the Nuix Insider Conference was of close integration across corporate divisions, with development teams working together with each other and with the other components of Nuix’s business. Sales, marketing and legal teams cross-fertilise each other, with the developers in touch with what the feet-on-the-ground teams are hearing.
Events like the Insider Conference are part of that, with all parts of the Nuix empire represented, and mixing with each other and with the users and partners. What is more, it was actually enjoyable, in a venue overlooking the Thames at Westminster, and with time to chat to people.
Coming back to Ringtail, I can take this opportunity to re-share my recent interview with JR Jenkins, in which he emphasises both the growing demand for advanced discovery technology and the point made above about cross-departmental support for Ringtail.
I gather that the number of registrations for the Nuix Insider Conference now matches those for the Nuix User Exchange, which takes place this year at Huntington Beach, California on 15-17 September 2019. That always has the same spirit and the same opportunities to learn and to mix with people who face the same issues as you do. It is also a very pleasant place in which to do it.