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Liberte, Egalite, Technology! Another LegalTech 2015 Takeaway

I will keep the takeaways understated and call LTNY 2015 a revolution on par with the French Revolution. Liberte and egalite through strategic deployment of technology; broader and better access to legal services for all. From the Changing of the Guard, the rise of the user rebellion at LegalTech 2015 gave conference goers a glimpse into what a post-revolution world might look like for the legal industry.

The Changing of the Guard

The venerable Monica Bay, who helmed legal technology’s most important publication and made it so, bid farewell to ALM after 30-plus years.

The conference was then formally introduced to Monica’s successor, Erin Harrison, during LegalTech’s keynote, “Cybersecurity, Privacy and Data Protection Legal Challenges in the Digital Age.”

Remarking on her first LegalTech event, “I was truly blown away to be a part of such amazing energy and such a high caliber of people from the industry. Being immersed in the community was an incredible way for me to start in this role and I am really excited for LegalTech West this summer.”

Harrison’s onboarding comes with a rebrand of the magazine: Law Technology News is now LegalTech News, more strongly aligning it with the conference. “We wanted to really leverage the strengths of the publication and the events and make them even better. Not only do we want to give this community a voice, but ultimately, we want to provide the platform to bring all of those voices together,” Harrison said.

The legal technology revolution is expected to march on, with Erin envisioning an innovative and symbiotic future for the industry:

“Over the next five years, we will be focusing on what innovation truly means in the legal space and what role technology plays there as well as the increasingly important topic of privacy and data security as it relates to the legal space. One of my main aspirations is to help build a strong community overall, a network of incredible legal and technological minds, by bringing them together to create more innovative, efficient legal departments and firms by sharing ideas.”

User Revolution

It was just only a few years ago that I recall sitting in on CIO panels where the overwhelming majority of CIOs banned BYOD policies. File-hosting services like Dropbox were also on the banned list and iPads and other tablets were nowhere to be found. It was a world where Blackberry was still the standard-issue firm phone of choice. Fast-forward to today, and so much has changed. The users have, for the most part, won the revolution. The roles have reversed and CIOs are looking to support and shore up security around the workflows of their attorneys.

I spoke with one of the movers and “shakers” in the legal tech world, Abe Geiger, who is the Founder and CEO of Shake, a platform that allows users to create, sign, and send legally binding agreements from their smartphones. He best summed up the user-revolution:

“It used to be that the most powerful software was expensive and something you could only access at work. Today, there are so many alternatives that are free, user-friendly, and accessible to consumers. Now the same people go to work and expect the same experience with technology that they are used to at home. It is cheaper and easier to build better technology. This has created a new business model that no longer needs five years to get off the ground. It’s not necessarily proven yet, but a lot of us (companies) are now taking the consumer-first, bottom-up approach to law.”

The match to this revolution’s gunpowder is, of course, CodeX; the Stanford Center for Legal Informatics where researchers and entrepreneurs have a broad mission to “create legal technologies that empower all parties in our legal system and not solely the legal profession.” Monica Bay is in full support of their work, and in fact, will be continuing her work in the field as a Fellow:

“So I am not completely unbiased,” said Monica. “But I am a total fan of what they’re doing. We started watching (“we” as in LTN) [what] Roland Vogl was up to almost about three years ago now and we followed up with a cover story 2012. It’s really very very intriguing,” said Bay.

The strongest message for support of the user-revolution this year at LegalTech was the formalization of the relationship between LegalTech and CodeX.  In a move to capitalize on the partnership, it was recently announced LegalTech West Coast is being moved from L.A. to San Francisco.

Post-Revolution: Winners, Survivors, and Those Left Behind

What will the post-revolution world of legal technology look like? According to Bay, it’s one that is worth looking forward to, where “legal services will be made available to everybody, not just the elite. I believe this is a paradigm shift and it is very exciting.”

Bay noted not all is rosy with the legal industry, with many firms having to change antiquated practices or risk being kicked out of the game.

“It takes a team to win a ball game. One of the things that I think will have to change dramatically is if firms treat their IT and Marketing Directors, and the CFO and C-suite like second class citizens, they’re not going to get their team that wins the World Series. The smart firms are recognizing the value of teams and diversity,” said Bay.

Of course the importance of listening and the adopting of technology also comes into play, she said: “They are also going to have more success if they incorporate technology and involve their clients and listen to them. They are the ones that will thrive. The ones that don’t, good luck.”

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