I have been to a couple of legal technology conferences already this year (LawTech Futures 2012 and Lex2012) but the recent LawTech Camp London 2012 stood out from those as somewhat unique in its format and content.
The Conference was organised by and a collaboration between Michigan State University, University of Westminster Law School, The College of Law and MyLegalBriefCase.com.
LawTech Camp London 2012 adopted the BarCamp or UnConference style. Presenters submitted proposals to talk at the Conference and all who did managed, this time, to get into the programme. I assume if there was an overwhelming response the organisers would have to make a selection based on the proposals put forward.
Thus the Conference was shaped by those who wanted to talk at it and not by a programme designed solely by the organisers or influenced by sponsors. This was refreshing and produced some interesting talks that may not have seen the light of day at a conventional style conference.
Furthermore, many of the presentations were done in six minute Pecha Kucha style sessions. I had heard of these before but this was the first time I had experienced them. I was surprised by how long they seemed and how much valuable content was delivered in those six minutes. Our traditional legal conference organisers would do well to consider the introduction of Pecha Kucha at their events to spice things up a bit.
If I had any quibbles it would be the occasional presentation that had the feel of an advert break or message from a sponsor (and remember this conference, unlike the norm, had no sponsorship or suppliers with stalls selling products). The Thomson Reuters ‘Law + Tech meets Big Data’ session fell into this category although it seemed they were at times advertising Burger King (in a law case used as an example to showcase their database) more than themselves.
Another annoyance was the breakout sessions into two tracks. I am sure most of the delegates would have been equally interested in both tracks and it was a bit difficult to make a choice between the two: (1) Advances online, in the cloud and with the crowd; or (2) New media, new spaces, new places. Perhaps another year (I trust this will become an annual event) they could start the the conference earlier with no separate tracks thus fitting everything into one day (or perhaps two if required).
I had a sizeable breakfast courtesy of British Airways and ate an early lunch in a cafe opposite the venue before 12 noon. So, unlike some, I was not “starving” at the conference (many tweets attested to this starvation especially when Thomson Reuters, late in the afternoon, brought up Burger King on their PowerPoint). Starting a conference at 12noon and finishing after 6pm with no food available is perhaps not a good idea. The conference was free to attend but then many of the more conventional conferences on Legal Tech are also free to attend with them making a return via sponsorship and also providing a good lunch via that sponsorship. Perhaps next year a little bit of sponsorship could be introduced to at least cover lunch. Thomson Reuters perhaps? I won’t, in those circumstances, criticise their advert breaks next year 😉
One final point was highlighted by Jeffrey Brandt in this tweet:-
#LawTechCampLondon needs a shorter hashtag #waytoolong
Perhaps next year we will seee #LTCL13 or similar.
But those constructive criticisms are minor to what was, without doubt, an excellent conference.
In my previous posts on legal tech conferences this year (LawTech Futures 2012 and Lex2012) I highlighted the lack of law firm partner participation at such conferences. There was perhaps a slight improvement at this one but still by no means a turn around. The message that came across from many of the speakers was that there was still a high degree of reluctance amongst lawyers to embrace technology (“irrational rejectionism” as Richard Susskind called it). The video, shown at the Conference of Michael Bossone’s ‘PUSH: A Spoken Word Poem about Law, Technology, and Fear’ sums this up neatly (do watch – it was a conference highlight):-
This is a message that we continually hear but one that does not seem to reach the ears of the lawyers that it needs to. The speakers were preaching to the converted at LawTech Camp London 2012 and as Michael Bassone said we were the choir and needed to sing. I do sing here at The Time Blawg on a fairly regular basis but I fear that my readers are, on the whole, members of the same choir. I am not sure how we convert the Luddites or sometimes why we should be so concerned to do so. It is my task to run my law firm, Inksters, as best I can and whilst I am more than happy to share my experiences in so doing there is only so much one can do vis-à-vis those that remain the proverbial ostriches.
However, from time to time some of those ostriches may pop their beaks out of the sand. For when they do here are the seven guiding principles from Stephen Mayson’s talk at the Conference (with thanks to Legal Aware for managing to note them all down):-
- Strategise the difference and not the similarity (have that discipline which makes you stand out).
- Resource for efficiency not lawyering (not unbundling but rebuilding).
- Cost for value not time (if there happens to be a correlation it might be accidental).
- A model cannot be built on turnover.
- Govern for ethical integrity, strategic integrity and integrity in accommodation of risk.
- Reward for contributions rather than just turning up.
- Train lawyers for the future market and not the market of the past.
To add to that here are the three challenges facing the legal profession from Richard Susskind’s talk:-
- More for less
When it comes to technology the main message was perhaps that from Michael Bossone: It is time for lawyers to push the button… click.
N.B. I have not sought in this post to summarise the various talks that were given as others have already done so (e.g. Legal Aware: (1) Where law confronted innovation and (2) The impact of the cloud on law and legal education). The Legal Informatics Blog has a useful page of links of Resources about LawTech Camp London 2012. For some light relief do see CharonQC’s take on it: Lord Shagger reflects on #Lawtechcamplondon. I do, however, intend to follow up this post with one that highlights some of the many tweets from the Conference.
Update: The follow up post highlighting tweets from the Conference can now be found at LawTech Camp London 2012: In Tweets