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Legaltech New York: More (And Less) Of The Same

Nicole BlackLast week I made my annual pilgrimage to Manhattan to attend and cover Legaltech New York. The conference was exactly what I had expected and I walked away with the phrase “the more things change, the more they stay the same” running through my mind—both in terms of the conference itself and in terms of the legal professions’ collective attitude toward technology.

My expectations for this conference are always set by Inside Legal’s word cloud, which they obtained by running creating a word cloud from all of the session titles and agendas. In past years, social media, cloud computing, and mobile computing took center stage in this word cloud. But as those concepts became “old news” the front and center topics have become increasingly narrow and decidedly unexciting, in my humble opinion. 

This year’s most-used words were: discussion, sponsored, data, risk, ediscovery, legal, technology and information. In other words, the primary topics covered were those that have been prevalent at Legaltech for more than a decade in some cases and for a few decades in others.

The Exhibit Hall had a similar feel. It was dominated by discovery vendors, with a surprisingly large assortment of copier vendors as well. But I suppose the copier vendors go hand in hand with the movement toward paperless (or paper-less) offices, digitizing data, and ediscovery, so their presence was to be expected. The main exception to the overall predictability of the exhibit floor was the Stanford CodeX Pavilion, which featured ten innovative legal technology startups: ArbiClaims, CaseText, ClearstoneIP, LLC, Concord, legal.io, Legal Robot, Lit IQ, SmartContract, and 123recht.net.

Another predictable aspect of my Exhibit Hall tour was my apparent invisibility. After my  experience at ILTA last year, where only 14 vendors (out of nearly 200) acknowledged my presence, I decided to re-create the experiment at Legaltech. This time I wore a more professional outfit and walked through all sections of the Exhibit Hall (three sections located on two different levels of the Hilton) at least three times. As I did at ILTA, I walked slowly and smiled and tried to make eye contact with each person in each booth. It took me about 1.5 hours to make all three rounds.

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After my three walk throughs, I tallied up the results. It didn't take long. Only 6 people manning booths acknowledged me.*

Here are the six companies (out of more 160) that made the cut and actually acknowledged me:

Now, when I previously posted about my ILTA experience, a number of commenters suggested that for my experiment have more validity I should have someone else walk through the Exhibit Hall as well to act as a control. So this time I had two men that I know walk through a small section of the exhibit floor as a non-scientific “control” of sorts. Tim Baran of Rocket Matter and Jack Grow of LawToolBox each participated. Tim walked by approximately 20 booths one time. Jack walked by approximately 30 booths one time.

Tim was greeted by four people as was Jack. For those sections of the Exhibit Hall floor, I was greeted by only one person after three walk throughs.

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Granted my experiment was an unscientific one, but I would suggest it’s further evidence that legal technology vendors need to step up their game and engage in less stereotyping on the Exhibit Hall floor. 

I received emails—multiple emails in some cases—from the PR arms of many legal technology vendors exhibiting at Legaltech. Not one of their representatives acknowledged me on the floor. Their loss. Better luck next time, folks.

*Two companies are exempt from this experiment since I personally knew someone manning their booths when I walked by: Law Toolbox and The Payne Group.
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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