By JoAnna Forshee, CEO, InsideLegal
About a year and a half ago, Matt Homann of LexThink and BlawgThink fame (an ‘un-conference’ InsideLegal produced for Matt and Dennis Kennedy in 2005) called me up starting the conversation with "JoAnna, I have an idea". Anyone who knows Matt, knows that he is full of them (ideas that is), especially ones that buck the trend and go against the grain when it comes to 'typical' lawyer events and conferences. Matt is the originator of the 'un-conference' and that is exactly the concept behind Ignite Law, a 2+ hour event featuring highly accomplished legal industry speakers and their ability (or inability) to deliver 'the future of law practice' within 6 minute (with slides auto-advancing every 18 seconds) presentations.
With this ‘highly flammable’ idea in mind, InsideLegal and LexThink produced Ignite Law 2010 last March coinciding with the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Annual TECHSHOW. Based on stellar feedback and overwhelming audience reaction and participation (all 150 available seats were quickly filled and we had a waitlist), we decided to launch Ignite Law 2.0 this year, again piggy-backing off ABA’s TECHSHOW, which was celebrating its 25th year anniversary of providing legal technology education and innovation to law firms.
What a difference a year makes...Ignite Law 2.0
As is customary with new product releases, introducing an updated version of anything assumes you have new 'stuff' (features, functions, benefits, content!) to offer. As evidenced last Sunday night at Ignite Law 2011 (2.0), the speakers and the 250+ audience members made sure our new product lived up to the hype of the original Ignite last March.
Below are some thoughts about what made 2011 so special:
ABA TECHSHOW support: As previously mentioned, 2011 marks the 25th year anniversary of TECHSHOW so it provided a perfect connection with this year's Ignite program. Not only did the ABA Law Practice Management (LPM) section provide the venue and all related meeting amenities (thanks Cindy Galvan), TECHSHOW's chair Paul Unger championed Ignite Law amongst conference attendees and was a willing participant in driving record attendance and pre-event buzz. Lending their financial support were Clio’s CEO Jack Newton, an Ignite 2010 speaker, and Rocket Lawyer’s Founder and Chairman, Charley Moore. The energy and flow of ideas and innovations shared during the 4,320 seconds of Ignite talks (not to mention ample networking pre and post), provided the ideal kick-off to the 3-day TECHSHOW technology agenda designed to educate and inspire attendees.
Speaker talent and talk/topic relevance: 25 topics were originally submitted for Ignite, with 12 being selected via online voting. 1,131 total votes were cast and the final agenda was announced. The 12 speakers represented a who's who of legal influencers including legal technology icon Dennis Kennedy, PMA-extraordinaire Jim Calloway, past TECHSHOW and incoming LPM chair Tom Mighell, small firm champion Carolyn Elefant, ‘Mac-loving Lawyer’ and founder of MILOfest, Victor Medina, law firm social media and blog exert, Kevin O’Keefe, and legal knowledge systems architect (and the smartest guy in the room most of the time!) Marc Lauritsen. The faculty, all multi-degreed JDs and seasoned speakers, combined for more than 245 presentations last year, so it was a bit of a surprise that many of them considered prepping for a 'mere’ 6 minute talk one of the toughest speaking challenges they had faced. Several other speakers were TECHSHOW first timers, but no strangers to the lime light including Jay Shepherd, a Boston-based small firm owner turned pricing consultant; Eric Cooperstein, a well respected ethics consultant and practitioner, and Daniel Schwartz, law firm litigation partner and legal blogger. Rounding out the speaker roster and returning to present from 2010, were legal vendor Kevin Chern and Will Hornsby, ABA’s guru of legal ethics and attorney marketing.
Ignite format: Giving speakers 6 minutes to share their vision of the future of law practice and technology can leave audiences wanting more or on the flip side jumping for joy since they only have to endure 6 minutes. Luckily, our speaker line-up and topic selection could not have been more appropriate and, as a result, all 12 speakers did a phenomenal job in delivering their talks. Not only were they driven by the trickiness of the 6 minute, 18 seconds per slide format, but the audience consisting of 250+ legal thought leaders, practitioners and media helped them step up their game. Speaking of the audience ...roughly 50% represented law firms, a majority of them solo/small firm attorneys; 20% included vendors, mostly senior management folks curious about this new program and format; 12% were consultants, respected technologists and law firm management consultants; and the remaining attendance included associations, media, and government legal.
The main course...the future of law practice
The Ignite speakers (including MC Matt Homann's Ignite intro that set the bar very high) spent a lot of time and energy delivering what they considered germane to the future of law practice. While videos and Ignite pictures will be posted to InsideLegal and the Ignite Law site within the next few weeks, we opted to provide a twitter-inspired summary (in 140 characters or thereabouts) of some of the Ignite Law talks:
Matt Homann (@MattHomann): Measure your investments in technology via metrics that matter to your clients. Your ROI depends on your clients' satisfaction with you.
Carolyn Elefant (@carolynelefant): Client-Attorney privilege is the purple cow of the legal profession. "It's our unique value proposition so honor it, enforce it, and leverage it".
Dennis Kennedy (@denniskennedy): When it comes to innovation, reverse your assumptions ... to change the game, you need to change the frame ... these are all basics of a functioning freemium model.
Eric Cooperstein (@ethics_maven): Leverage social media and online transparency to build client relationships. Get back to the 'small town lawyering' mentality of knowing everything about your clients and vice versa.
Jay Shepherd (@jayshep): Legal's problem ... we sell activities when we should be selling knowledge. We are selling and measuring the wrong thing.
Will Hornsby (@willhornsby): And the ABA Survey says ...over 46% of respondents who need a lawyer for personal legal matters rely on their social networks (friends, family and colleagues), not social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter). Also, only 34% mentioned they would contact a lawyer they knew or had used before, suggesting that client service has been a low priority for the profession.
Jim Calloway (@jimcalloway): "What would Grandma do" when it comes to modern communication etiquette. When in doubt, don't pick up the phone. When you do, remember you don’t automatically have a lawyer ‘cone of silence’ and people can hear you. Build systems to communicate with clients. Set expectations and apply common sense; go retro and occasionally include a hand-written thank you note.
Marc Lauritsen (@marclauritsen): The profession is endangered. Law schools are in trouble. New lawyers are unprepared for economic and technological reality. The solution ... help law students learn about code by learning to code - apps for justice that can help practitioners work smarter and empower self-helpers.
Tom Mighell (@tommighell): Imagine a post-PC law practice ... the iPad and other tablets are a lot like the microwave ... first we had no idea how to use it or why and now we can't live without it.
As of this writing, Ignite Law 2011 is a week behind us and ABA TECHSHOW, the 25th year edition, is also ‘in the books’. However, the energy, buzz and most importantly the ideas and inspiration ignited on Sunday will fuel our industry moving forward, at least we hope, until the next edition of Ignite.
JoAnna Forshee is the CEO of InsideLegal.com, an insider’s guide to doing business in legal technology, and has spent the last 12 years working with legal technologists, consultants, vendors and media - spanning roles as legal industry event producer, legal industry advisor, social media guru and PR/marketing agency founder (Envision Agency). She can be reached at jf@InsideLegal.com and on twitter at @InsideLegal.