As 2015 draws to a close, I thought I’d take a look back at all of my columns from the past year. It’s been an interesting year for legal technology and there are insights to be gleaned from 2015’s events and trends.
First, there were the legal technology conferences. I attended quite a few of them and each left me with a different perspective as to where the legal technology space was headed.
In February, I covered Legaltech New York and one of the most notable things about this year’s conference was the surprisingly small number of new product feature announcements. More evident was news of smaller product enhancements and upgrades, representing a possible maturity in the space, as legal technology startups—and their products—matured and became more robust in their own right.
In April, I focused on the increasing number of legal conferences centered on the future of law, including the LegalLean conference in Toronto, the Converge conference in New York City, and the FutureLaw conference hosted by Stanford Law. These conferences are part of a growing trend, where experts and technology innovators in the legal space explore new ways to improve the delivery of legal services to better meet the needs and expectations of 21st century legal consumers.
Next up was ABA Techshow, where I noticed a much greater interest in wearables compared to prior years. Of course, that no doubt had a lot to do with the release of the Apple Watch, but it was evident that wearables were here and were here to stay. I expect that future conferences will follow this trend and wearables will soon have their own track—or at least wearables will represent a significant portion of the seminars included in the mobile computing track—at some of them.
Wearables were also the focus of my column about Legaltech West Coast in July, but that had a lot to do with the fact that I spoke on a panel addressing that very topic while I was there. Even so, the interest in wearables was evident at this conference as well, indicating a trend that I expect we’ll see for some time to come.
Speaking of conferences, I had plenty of advice for legal technology vendors in 2015. First, early on in the year, I called out legal vendors for their less than ideal PR tactics. Since I often obtain a press pass when I attend legal technology conferences, I’m typically inundated with generic PR emails that appear to have been blindly sent to everyone who appears on press list, regardless of whether a given journalist has any interest in covering the particular type of legal technology that a company provides. As I suggested in my column, that’s simply a bad business practice and is completely ineffective. And yet, despite my admonitions, most companies have continued to stick to this plan of action.
I later took legal vendors to task for their behavior on the floor at ILTACON, after having been virtually ignored during my multiple excursions through the exhibit hall. As I explained in my column, while at ILTACON, I decided to conduct an experiment and leisurely strolled up and down each row of the Exhibit Hall, making it a point to try to catch the eye of at least one person in each booth and smile. My goal was to see how many people would greet me verbally. Of the nearly 200 exhibitors, only 14 made the cut. 14! As far as I’m concerned that was an abysmal outcome, although there was some spirited discussion in the comments wherein some people disputed my conclusion.
My other columns focused on the rapidly changing legal technology landscape and the fact that many lawyers and law firms are simply unwilling to acknowledge—or adapt to—the new reality of practicing law in the 21st century. Whether it was law firms continuing to use email for confidential client communications even though there are now more secure alternatives, an insistence on clinging to old technology out of fear of the unknown, an acknowledgment that everything is changing but nevertheless refusing to change, or a refusal to acknowledge new legal service paradigms, the steadfast denial by many was clear. It’s a theme I often return to and one that I expect will pop up again a few times next year, as well.
Of course, I could be wrong about that. Perhaps 2016 will be the year that lawyers see the light and that law firms begin to institute unheard of change. Also, pigs could fly. Who knows? So be sure to tune in next year and see what happens!
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