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LegalTech 2019 – a New Zealand Perspective

February 2nd, 2019

This week I joined an estimated 8,000 others in the legal technology community who converged on the New York Hilton Midtown for LegalTech.

This was the 38th edition of LegalTech, which for the past three years has been part of the larger Legalweek. The format includes concurrent events with LegalCIO, LegalMarketing, Business of Law Forum, and LegalDiversity & Talent Management, all in addition to the traditional LegalTech.

It is a hectic three days – and 2019 was no different !  


Each year there are usually trends that dominate the event. In the past we have seen the dominance of Big Data, Cloud, Cyber to Predictive Coding, with eDiscovery still being a key focus.

To highlight the trends, Jobst Elster / produced a word cloud based on the event agenda. It is fascinating to see the evolution of themes over the years as the article also provides word clouds from previous events.  

The biggest takeaway for me is how much is changing, and quickly.

Even though everything from the US may be on a much larger scale, many of the insights presented are common challenges and opportunities that could be applied to the delivery of legal services the world over. Many speakers highlighted the opportunities and necessity to innovate and embrace technology for today and the future.

We heard how law departments are using law firms less as they are insourcing more, whilst law firm profits continue to increase. This is coupled with the greater automation of lower value administrative tasks, allowing law firms to focus on more higher value work.

There was considerable discussion around the importance of and emergence of greater collaboration. There are now more opportunities for collaboration between – legal departments, law firms, alternative legal service providers (ALSPs) and legaltech companies. 

There was plenty of talk around AI, together of what is true AI and not simply automation.

As far as individual sessions, there was the fascinating ‘fireside chat’ with Alberto Gonzales, 80th Attorney General of the United States (2005-2007) and Loretta Lynch, 83rd Attorney General of the United States (2015-2017), as they explored Leadership in the Profession of Law and How It is Changing. They provided some great insights of their journey, together with the trends and evolution of the legal industry. They both reinforced the importance of technology in practicing law today with AG Lynch reinforcing “you don’t want every lawyer to be the IT guy, but it is important for firms to make lawyers comfortable with technology”.

One of the other excellent sessions was the keynote by Brian Kuhn, the Founder and Global Leader of IBM Watson Legal. Brian explored Legal Innovation at Work: Demystifying AI for the Business and Practice of Law, with some great learnings about how the profession can adapt and thrive in a changing market. He reinforced how technological progress is exponential and probably provided one of the best takeaways from the event –

The world has never changed so fast


It will never be this slow again

Seeing the tech !

The exhibit floor is still a must, even though it still can be overwhelming!

Again, I got to see some exciting new technologies and new releases. It is not solely about what is happening now, but more importantly what is on the road-maps. Fortunately, I was able to arrive a couple of days before the event, which gave me the chance to have a few meetings before the mad rush of the 3 days of LegalTech. 

They were significantly less exhibitors than in past years. This is hardly surprising as the legal innovation and technology market is a very competitive with many excellent events these days, together with evolving ways to gather information, than simply attending in person.

Still, if you provide legal tech you are at Legal tech – in some form or another !

There continues to be an increasing number of non-exhibiting tech companies taking suites in neighbouring hotels. This year was probably the most I have seen in the years I have attended LegalTech. 

Networking opportunities

For me the greatest value continues to be the networking opportunities.

Everyone is in the one place, all the leading experts, together with technology providers. Many are from all over the world, who all have perspectives of how legaltech is (or isn’t) impacting the delivery of legal services. The event is a great platform to share experiences and discuss issues, whilst still catching up with the latest technologies and trends.

There are great opportunities to meet new people, but also catch up with old friends.

So much can change in as little as 12 months ! LegalTech continues to be three of the most well spent days of my year.

Now for the long flight(s) home !


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