Notes from Legal Tech NY

Each year the legal industry hot foots it to Legal Tech New York (LTNY), a three day event in February that brings together some of of the world's leading experts on ediscovery, compliance and information management. Michelle Mahoney, the Melbourne-based Director Applied Legal Technology for Mallesons Stephen Jaques, reports back from LTNY 2010.

LegalTech 2010 was a clear reflection of the impact of the global financial crisis (GFC) on the US legal technology market. The booths for LegalTech are booked 12 months in advance, and last year's difficulties were reflected in there being around 40 fewer vendors in the exhibition area.

However LegalTech New York remains the leading electronic discovery conference globally.This year the vibe was definitely more upbeat than 2009, with vendors looking to convert their capital into product sales. By many accounts 2009 had been a lean sales year. The organisers prepared 10,000 guides and associated bags for attendees for the three day event.

Some things do not change, LexisNexis still has the best carpet of the event and a haven for the sore feet after three days of non stop meeting, greeting, education and product demonstrations. There was a lot less waste this year, than in previous years, with less giveaways and a focus on brochureware. Most vendors went with a free iPod Touch give away as their major prize draw.

There were the usual vendors in attendance with a number of new entrants and unlike last year no last minute disappearing acts. Clearwell announced version 5.5 of its ediscovery software which focuses on scale and performance. To emphasize the point it had a huge processing counter showing their processing rate ticking over like the national debt. There was another processing counter showing the speed in which they were able to process Gigabytes per minute.

I have no idea where they gathered their data - none the less it was probably the biggest pure ediscovery setup at the show.

Most of the interesting new technology was focused in two very discrete areas. Automated collection or review, both to the trained eye are where the costs can flow down or can rack up very fast. On the collection side there were mostly entrants looking at using culling technology to help reduce downstream review costs with early, intelligent filtering and reporting. Examples are Incept, ClearWell and FTI Quick Cull to name a few.

On the review side there is money being invested in the automation of interpreting text especially for emails and attachments. With products advertising that they are able to provide targeted data extraction that automatically find key information within your documents both electronic and hard copy. These types of technologies tend to partner with the culling and have claims to fame like, improves search results and speeds the review process by narrowing the body of relevant data, while at the same time uncovering the evidence that other keyword searches might miss.

Mark Howitson, Deputy General Counsel from Facebook presented a great session on the possible implications of social media on electronic discovery. The session was well attended and fast paced. My stand out keynote was Malcolm Gladwell who had the audience spellbound. He has great storytelling ability and taught the audience a very clever and well paying party trick! He assisted the audience in coming to terms with the volume of information and the inherent difficulty us humans have with interpreting too many data points at any time. He provided a case in point which illustrated the issues for doctors in diagnosing accurately if you are having a heart attack. A compelling argument that less is more and the right data points are the ones to keep in focus.

LexisNexis and West continued to hold court on the first floor with sizable real estate holdings. This year there were a more vendors from Australia and Asia than in previous years.

The ediscovery education sessions were the most popular and well attended. The sessions without ediscovery content were attended however with softer attendance levels. Every education session had reserved bloggers tables, in most sessions these were empty with the bloggers remaining largely incognito with the audience. This conference again featured a number of members of the judiciary from both the US and UK presenting on panels.

In a repeating modern trend there were a number of individuals, after being made redundant pitching their CVs to vendors, looking for an opportunity. This recent increasing trend adding an additional dimension to this electronic discovery trade show of that of a job fair.