7 Key Takeaways from Legalweek2020

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“I am looking forward to traveling to New York in February” —  said no one, ever. Yet, attendees brave rain, blizzards, airport closings, and the crowded hallways of the New York Hilton Midtown to discuss cutting-edge legal technology and services with peers, clients, business partners, and legal professionals looking for meaningful change. 

This year, attendees were blessed with mild weather and informative sessions (though DISCO made legal professionals face their fears upon entering the venue). While there was a lot to process at the conference, here are a few of the key observations from the sessions, keynotes, and our conversations.

The calm before the storm at the DISCO booth at Legalweek 2020

1. The way we communicate is changing

This should come as no surprise for anyone who follows our blog (or, you know, communicates in the world), but there has been a revolution happening faster than most providers can deal with. As one panelist put it, “We have to stop thinking about communication in an email-centric view” — in fact, the most valuable data may be hiding in more informal conversations on messaging apps and other atypical data sources. 

The general agreement seemed to be that attempting to shut down communication outside of IT-approved channels is fruitless and can actually be more risky. The panelist added, “The wrong answer is not talking about it and saying ‘We’ll figure it out on the back end.’” Rather, the solution is to work collaboratively with IT, the legal department, business users, and sometimes HR to build a communications map that captures how people actually work.

2. The legal department is experiencing a renaissance...

One panelist relayed this advice to legal ops teams: “Define who you are and what you’re doing before someone does it for you.”

Heather Nevitt, the editor-in-chief of Corporate Counsel and others, shared that when she started practicing, her team was referred to as the “business killers.” Now, 100% of heads of legal operations say their influence in a company has grown, according to a survey from Opentext. 

However, with great power comes great responsibility. As one panelist put it, “The lawyer of the future is a well-rounded legal athlete, not just knowledgeable in the process of law.” The judge’s panel pointed out, “If you don’t have the skill or diligence to meet your technology obligation, it’s your obligation to bring in the right people.” Because of the mounds of data present in ediscovery, the practitioners have had to become data- and strategy-savvy to find the silver bullets. ECA/culling excess data, data standardization, and consolidating platforms (i.e. no more Frankenstack) were consistently named as factors that have become critically important for successful cases. 

3. ...but firms are in desperate need of solutions that work

Several panelists put out direct calls to the legaltech vendors in the audience for help. Nevitt shared research that 67% of firms tap into their credit lines to implement technology, adding that, “To the delight of many of you vendors in the room, in-house counsel wants technology, they need technology.” Legal ops panelists also added, “If you’re lucky, tech will help.” 

4. Diversity matters

Nevitt expanded on the recent news that the Law Review editors-in-chief at the top 16 law schools are all women by sharing new research about the effects of women in leadership roles at Am Law 200 firms. Their research found that firms who increased their ranking promoted women at three times the rate of those who decreased their ranking. 

The Judge's Panel at Legalweek 2020

5. Success takes collaboration

This may be stating the obvious, but the importance of open communication was a recurring theme on panels. Whether this means software providers talking to users, legal ops heads talking to their team, or engaging with outside counsel for ECA or managed review, clearly defining priorities and KPIs is critical to having one definition of success to strive toward.

In particular, the idea of “co-innovation” was buzzing: the idea that there is a virtuous cycle between a solution provider and users to tackle challenges head-on and come up with a custom solution that works. Think of it as moving beyond the buyer/vendor concept to a model of mutually invested partners.

6. DISCO throws the best parties

It’s true. Bob Ambrogi agrees

7. Tech is finally evolving and the time to make the leap is now 

From true case management with DISCO Case Builder to starting each matter with tribal knowledge from cross-matter AI, there was exciting tech on display. Want to learn more about how these developments? Get in touch.

See you next year!

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Erin Russell, Keith Schrodt, and Cat Casey