The 35th Annual International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) Conference wrapped up on August 30th in National Harbor, MD, and as usual, it did not disappoint. We attend many legal/technology shows and ILTA is by far one of the best run and organized events of the bunch. To begin with, what other show has member greeters at the doors to the hotel and throughout the lobby welcoming you and handing you a brochure with an overview of all the activities and most importantly, the free internet code? I'll have to answer that and say none that I know of. Actually, most shows don't even have free internet to give you the code for! ILTA has all the normal components of legal events - networking, partnership meetings, a full exhibit program with many product launches, industry parties and peer awards - but the primary focus of ILTA is, and has always been, education.
Taking the guesswork out of tech purchasing: Each year at the conference, ILTA and InsideLegal release the annual ILTA/InsideLegal Technology Purchasing Survey. The 2012 Survey, focused on feedback from ILTA member law firms with 50 or more attorneys, includes detailed technology budget data; updated information on firms’ social media and publication preferences; an in-depth analysis of cloud computing and mobile trends; and expansive sections on current and future legal technology purchases. The 37 question surveys always yields an abundance of invaluable legal tech budgeting and purchasing data and insight and 2012 was no different. While you can download the 16 page findings report here or check out our post on key findings, we feel the real value comes from an increasing number of ILTA members using this tool to help budget technology spending and better understand the many influences, ranging from ILTA e-groups to external consultants, that shape tech purchases. In addition, there’s real value in comparing tech budgets and purchasing over an extended timeframe, so we will soon provide detailed trend reports on 10 years of this survey.
ILTA Conference App: It's no secret that we are big fans of the ILTA Conference App. The app was offered for Apple iPhone/iPad, Android, BlackBerry and a mobile web version and provided access to the conference agenda, speaker details, the attendee list, conference Twitter feed, Gaylord Resort info and maps, new product announcements, latest ILTA news, online session evaluations and more. As in past years, the app was widely used with more than 3,200 installations - 81% Apple devices; 14% Android devices; and 5% BlackBerry devices. The app was open more than 91,000 times and 3,100 online session evaluations were submitted.
Some ILTA Conference Themes
Lean & mean: While it’s not household jargon just yet, Lean Six Sigma (aka, doing more with less via legal project management; process-focused business and operations management principles; black belts that karate chop law firm inefficiencies with process maps) might just be the next cloud computing and ‘BYOD’ buzz to hit the legal (tech) circuit. Based on what we saw and heard at conference as well as ILTA’s recent SharePoint Symposium, the legal trailblazer in all things lean and Six Sigma is Seyfarth Shaw with other firms, consultants and the legal cosmos looking on with interest. What does not sound like an ‘all-or-nothing’ proposition, firms already looking to LPM are bound to adapt some lean concepts in how they manage projects, people and processes. We spoke with Affinity Consultant Group’s Debbie Foster whose consultancy just launched the YourExecutive operations and business management program based on Lean Six Sigma (LSS) core methods. “While law firms are slow to adopt LSS on its own and unlikely to make a huge investment in it, we are seeing a lot more C-Levels ask about it and pay attention to what other firms are doing." 'Early adopters' include Seyfarth, Reed Smith (with certified LSS staff) and Bradford & Barthel (who setup their cloud-based LPM structure based on core LSS principals).
Keep it simple stupid: There's so much more to an ILTA conference than 'just' technology but obviously sharing tech best practices, lessons learned, favorite gadgets, tech 'gotchas' and the like is still the basis of most conversations. Something that we really have not heard much before, but resonated throughout the conference week (culminating in Thursday's CIO 'issues' session) was simplicity. Whether it was comedic keynote Don McMillan reminding us how our legal acronym salad can confuse anyone without even trying (his fave session title "No more FUD around BYOD"), or the wave of tablet adoption paving the way for simplistic computing, complex, hard and difficult to integrate was (at least in theory) replaced by straightforward & simple, easy to use and adopt, and seamless to share. Of course, listening to several CIOs discuss large firm user security concerns did not help matters, but the idea that advances in technology coupled with the consumerization of IT can eventually lead to a simplified view and presentation of technology in the law firm makes sense.
Tablets, “it's what's for dinner”: As mentioned in a mobile lawyering session, all the former complexity required to accommodate 'difficult' lawyers goes out the window with the advent of the iPad. Let's call it iPad amnesia - euphoric legal users are so thrilled by the coolness factor and simplicity of their iPad that they forget about the countless open helpdesk tickets they initiated for complex macros, remote working upgrades, etc. While the novelty will eventually wear off, the sheer number of legal-specific applications and tools will increase at an accelerated, demand-driven rate so our bet is that tablets are here to stay a while. Hard numbers also back-up this water cooler talk. According to the 2012 ILTA/InsideLegal Technology Purchasing Survey, 66% of all law firm respondents indicated purchasing Apple iPads. 74% of law firm IT departments provide support for employees’ tablet use whether purchased by the firm or via ‘BYOD’ policy. And, 35% of firms have a formal tablet security policy in place with 42% currently establishing one.
Turbo charge your careers: As we mentioned, ILTA is much more than 'just' technology. Another topic that was covered this year in several sessions was career/talent. One session, "ReAssess Your Calling to ReDesign Your Career" (audio file - must have login) featured a 'star-studded' panel of legal IT thought leaders including Judith Flournoy, Doug Caddell, Dave Hambourger, Andy Adkins, David Cunningham, Sally Gonzalez and ILTA president Michele Gossmeyer and was moderated by Monica Bay. The panelists offered up career advice, tips for coping with change within the law firm in particular legal IT, and the best ways to jump start your career with actionable interview and job hunting tips. Sally Gonzalez, SNR Denton's global CIO, suggested serious job seekers should start by simply reaching out to the likes of the panel and asking for 10 minutes of their time to pick their brain. "Before you know it, you'll have a network of influencers and advisers, all pulling for you." [A follow-up post will feature another career session, "Cultivating Talent in a Recovering Economy" that was moderated by ILTA member Joy Heath Rush and featured the Year Up program.]
Saving the best for last ..Thursday sessions: For the last three years, we have participated in 'last day' ILTA education tracks and sessions, and to our surprise have discovered that 'saving the best for last' definitely applies to ILTA content. Contrary to other conferences, where final day sessions are often added as fluffy filler, Thursday's ILTA content once again left us buzzing and provided lots of 'food for thought' for our trip home. The Thursday comedic keynote was definitely our favorite of the week primarily because it was truly funny and the standing room only crowd thoroughly enjoyed laughing at themselves and their 'techy and nerdy' legal tech personas. "Anyone remember when Blackberry was a fruit?" Other noteworthy sessions included 'Attorneys Unplugged: Bulding a Mobile Office' focused on how to best cater to your mobile workforce with simple, yet secure technology solutions ranging from loaner laptops to the most effective remote connectivity options. Our two favorite sessions of the conference (we'll cover later) were also Thursday afternoon - Jobst's was "Should we build an app for that?" (audio file - must have login) moderated by Ayelette Robinson and JoAnna's was "Overcoming Irrationality: Improve Decision-Making and Client Service with Strategic Uses of Data" (audio file - must have login) moderated by Mary Abraham.
The final verdict on creative marketing ideas, including room-drops: A week or so before conference we posted a summary of creative vendor approaches to ILTA involvement ranging from Workshare’s scholarship contest to Aderant’s comprehensive ‘Aderant at ILTA' landing page. Onsite the marketing push got a bit more intense with collateral room drops followed by sponsored ‘everything’ and the fairly standard offering of booth freebies. What stood out? IntApp continued its annual hotel room full-court press with no less than four booklet drops and a remote control wrap followed by two dedicated channels of IntApp programming. We hope no one made a night of in-room technology tutorials but ‘A for effort’ on the comprehensive branding front. In terms of sponsorships, a couple stood out … EncoreTech’s awesome wireless internet sponsorship and Digomé Legal’s printer station (best place to print out presentations, schedules, etc.) endorsement. This year, in addition to ILTA TV sponsored by ii3, there were other vendors offering thought leader video shoots. Our most creative and professional favorite was Copper Legal who produced a Legal Technology Documentary based on an aggregation of short influencer videos. Stay tuned to their site and InsideLegal for the final ILTA documentary. Finally, in terms of room drops, our winner for most noticed item was Workshare and their invitation to partake in cloudtinis and hors d’oeuvres on Wednesday night.
We respect attention span limits, so have prepared a 'part two' ILTA 2012 post - covering emerging technologies session; build an app session; strategic uses of data session; vendor education program; industry statistics; and vendor announcements - you can check out early next week.