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Musings on Legaltech 2015 and the Future of Legal Cloud Computing

Nicole BlackAt the beginning of the month, I made my annual pilgrimage to New York City to cover Legaltech 2015. I’ve attended Legaltech since 2009 and every year I learn something new and meets lots of really interesting people in the legal technology space. In fact, I think that’s my favorite part about Legaltech—it’s a place where like-minded people from across the globe converge and enthusiastically discuss the intersection of technology with the practice of law. 

In that regard, this year was no different. I reconnected with old friends, met new ones, and had many wonderful conversations centered around the future of legal technology. But many of those who attended this year noticed that the conference seemed smaller than year’s past and lacked the same level of energy often associated with this conference. For some reason, the conference just fell a bit flat.

I’ve thought about this a lot and can’t put my finger on any one factor that was evidence of this or might have caused it. Certainly, Monica Bay’s retirement from ALM put a damper on things, since she’s been such a strong and vibrant presence in the legal technology space for many, many years now. Things just won’t be the same without her.

But it was more than that. As Bob Ambrogi noted at his blog, Lawsites, one thing lacking at Legaltech this year was the flurry of new product announcements from many of the well-established legal technology companies. In their place were announcements of feature enhancements and upgrades to existing products. This occurred in large part because many of the software platforms have matured and already offer a robust set of features, making large scale rollouts of new features unnecessary.

That being said, certainly the market isn’t stagnant. There are plenty of new legal technologies being released and while there, I met with the founders of many new legal cloud computing software companies to discuss their products, many of which revolved around some type of document management. 

But the marketplace for legal cloud computing tools is a competitive one. In the early days (aka just a few years ago), there were only a handful of legal cloud computing vendors who were pioneers in the space. The market was wide open. 

These days, however, things have changed and it’s a much more competitive and quickly evolving space. Entrepreneurs develop software for which there seems to be an unmet need only to find once they announce their new product that someone else had the exact same idea and is simultaneously launching a similar software program designed to address the very same problem. In other words, the legal cloud computing space is becoming crowded, which makes it difficult for newcomers to gain any traction. 

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So, because the sheer number of web-based offerings for lawyers has increased dramatically in the last two years or so, there’s a lot more “noise” as more people vying for attention and coverage at Legaltech. But, even with all that “noise”, from my perspective, the conference lacked the excitement and energy of prior years. 

Perhaps it was because this year’s conference was so incredibly dominated by tracks (and vendors) with a focus on the e-discovery and information governance. This seemingly singleminded focus by the conference organizers certainly didn’t help and arguably served to drown out discussions of more dynamic and evolving legal technology topics.

And last but not least, the weather didn’t exactly cooperate this year. Travel was difficult, many arrived later than expected and some flights were even canceled. No doubt the cold and travel woes likely contributed to the lower attendance (and energy) levels as well.

Whatever the cause, this year’s conference, while lacking the energy and variety of prior years’, was still an enjoyable and educational experience. Even so, I hope the conference organizers take heed of the collective constructive criticisms that have levied against this year’s conference and enact a few select changes next year. My hopes are high and I’m keeping my fingers crossed. I’m looking forward to seeing what Legaltech 2016 will bring and hope to see you there!

Nicole Black is the Legal technology Evangelist at MyCase, a cloud-based law practice management platform. She is an attorney in Rochester, New York, and is a GigaOM Pro analyst. She is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise. She speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .
 

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