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What Was Important at Legaltech This Year?

Monday, February 12, 2018

What Was Important at Legaltech This Year?

We’ve just wrapped the 2018 version of Legaltech New York. With a mix of formal presentations interspersed with informal discussions among peers and colleagues, and punctuated by indulgence (overindulgence?) in all that New York has to offer, this year’s meeting lived up to its reputation as a frenetic and informative week devoted to understanding the interplay between today’s technology and legal environments.

There are things to be learned just from the topics covered in the various sessions. And there are interesting parallels with the technology discussions going on more broadly outside of our industry.  We’ll explore some of these insights in this post and will offer some additional observations gleaned from the more informal “between session” conversations.

Cybersecurity and Privacy

Twenty percent of this year’s sessions focused on cybersecurity and privacy issues, including the keynote address by former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson who proclaimed cyber attacks as “the greatest threat facing our country today.” Recent hacking incidents have caught the public eye, the risk is real, and most organizations are underprepared.

The formal sessions focused on understanding the threats and on developing a proactive plan for mitigating these risks – both technologically and with clear and relevant policies and procedures. There were presentations on the evolving role of the legal team in working with the rest of the organization to ensure operational readiness both internally and with service providers.

The informal conversations, while echoing these themes, also focused more directly on the practical steps to take in protecting sensitive data, and on the immediate response when faced with a cyber incident.

A significant subset of the formal sessions – approximately a third of the cybersecurity and privacy presentations – dealt specifically with EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”). Sessions gave overviews on GDPR requirements and how companies can identify protected data and implement systems to manage it. In the informal conversations, there was no clear consensus on what will happen, but there were certainly many people concerned with how this important issue will play out over the coming months.

Click here to see more information on our cybersecurity capabilities.

Artificial Intelligence

In recent years, much of the discussion at Legaltech focused on the use of technology and analytics to improve speed and accuracy in review. TAR, predictive coding and machine learning have all been important topics. But this year’s buzzword term was “Artificial Intelligence,” with approximately 15% of the formal presentations dealing with AI.

AI has captured the interest of the legal community perhaps because of concern over the concept of the “robot lawyer.” Several of the formal presentations dealt specifically with this – can AI lead to a computer becoming the best litigator. The clear consensus is that while AI is an important tool in helping the legal team deal with automation of specific discrete tasks – particularly in the context of organizing vast and complex sources of ESI –we are far from AI being able to adequately respond to the varying circumstances of litigation. Interestingly though, several of the sessions dealt with applying AI within a practice to identify and optimize practice trends for client service, productivity, and profitability or by in-house teams to compare costs for legal services across outside firms.

Our informal discussions again focused more on the practical realities of using AI technologies. As data sets become too large for manual review to be practical, it becomes unavoidable to use AI tools to assess the information, which only underscores the need to have good, strong data sets to use in training systems. We also had many conversations about the use of technology and example datasets and taxonomies for early stage investigations into harassment, discrimination or financial misconduct to determine whether there is possible inappropriate or non-compliant behavior before full scale eDiscovery efforts are needed.  Click here to see more information on Riskcovery®, our early warning system for risk mitigation.

Data Sources

It’s no secret that one of the greatest challenges we see in eDiscovery is the ever-growing and ever-expanding sources of information. Twelve percent of the formal presentations at Legaltech focused on data sources – from the cloud to Blockchain to alternative messaging apps to mobile devices. Specific sessions focused on the technology issues of adequately identifying and collecting information from these sources. Other sessions dealt with the realities of broad and vast data collection in the context of proportionality and privacy – and the question of just because it can be collected, should it be collected.

The informal conversations again focused on the practical realities of collecting and reviewing information from the myriad data available. We were asked about the cutting edge forensic techniques and best practices for finding and defensibly collecting these emerging data sources. And once collected, we heard many complaints about how to organize and present the data, in context for effective and efficient review. Click here to learn about Advanced Message ReviewSM, our patent-pending tool that normalizes mobile communications into relevant threaded conversations across mobile apps and presents these in review tools in a format that reflects the familiar mobile phone interface.

Final Observations

Without metrics to confirm, qualitatively attendance felt significantly down across all dimensions – service providers, firms and corporations. Perhaps that’s due to continued consolidation in the legal world, or perhaps because of the ever-increasing avenues for sharing information. However, it did seem that more international organizations were represented than in recent years.

Overall, Legaltech delivered useful information. Much of the focus this year was on rapidly evolving issues and developing technology trends rather than incremental improvements and slow change. The panels comprised knowledgeable and respected participants. The hallway discussions and conversations were as lively as ever and were the real hidden value of the conference.

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