After 36(!) thought leaders provided their Legalweek 2023 observations, it’s my turn! So, here are five takeaways from Legalweek 2023 from me, and a bit more!
Takeaway #1: The Theme(s)
Craig Ball said it best when he stated: “This was the year Generative AI ate LegalWeek, much as e-discovery did years ago.” In general, AI was the key theme of this year’s conference (with or without the “generative” part) as it appeared 78 times on the agenda (as either “AI” or “artificial intelligence”). There was plenty of discussion about AI in and out of sessions, at happy hours, in elevators – you name it. Even the slogan of the primary sponsor of the conference is “all in on AI”.
Having said that, there were some lesser publicized themes I continued to hear from attendees, including interoperability with cloud and collaboration solutions, move to the left of the EDRM, addressing different data sources in discovery and automation. These themes don’t get as many headlines, but they’re equally as important to many eDiscovery professionals.
Takeaway #2: The Crowds
Without a doubt, this was the biggest conference I’ve attended since the pandemic. Not only that, but it was likely the biggest Legalweek since several years before the pandemic – when Legalweek was still known as “LegalTech” (as David Horrigan pointed out). I heard numbers ranging from 5,000 to 7,000 official attendees, so I decided to ask Gina Passarella from ALM last Wednesday afternoon for a more definitive number. Instead of simply stating a number, she reached out to a colleague to get an updated number, which turned out to be over 6,000 attendees! Believe it or not, registrations were still coming in on Wednesday for the last day.
And that’s just “official” attendees, there’s always a second group of people around the conference conducting meetings in hotels nearby, like the Conrad and the Warwick.
Why the surge in attendance? Several possible reasons were cited, including the time of year (late March, instead of the traditional late January/early February – sadly, it’s reverting back to tradition next year) and the desire to return to in-person conferences. For some attendees, this was their first in-person conference since the pandemic and it was a great opportunity for many of us to finally meet in person people we’ve been “zooming”. Will that desire be satisfied by a single conference, or will this be the start of a trend? We’ll see, but some people suggested that, with fewer in-person opportunities generally, in-person conferences may become more important than ever.
Takeaway #3: The Floor
More crowds mean happier exhibitors! The exhibit hall was more consistently busy than I had seen at a conference in a long time – probably since ALM started charging for exhibit hall passes – and all three floors of the exhibit hall seemed consistently full. Not only that, but there also seemed to be more exhibitors than in a long time as well. From what I understand after talking to a few of them, ALM dropped the rate for (at least) the smallest booths this year, which meant that more providers decided to be exhibitors this year.
Here’s hoping that this year’s success doesn’t cause ALM to revert back to higher prices next year, especially since Legalweek is moving back to the middle of winter. More (exhibitors) is a good thing for the conference.
Takeaway #4: The Keynote
Last year’s keynote speaker was a disappointment. He was a well-known legal analyst on TV who gave awkward responses and didn’t even know what the Metaverse is (‘nuff said).
This year’s keynote speaker was Levar Burton (aka, Geordi La Forge, Kunta Kinte and many other roles over an amazing career). Even though he wasn’t a lawyer or legal industry person, we all hoped he would be great.
He was phenomenal. His keynote – part presentation, part Q&A with Gina Passarella of ALM – was about storytelling and how it applies to everything we do. And he talked about his life, about how he wanted the Jeopardy hosting job that he didn’t get (because the executive producer also wanted it and got it, until he was forced to resign), but that things happen for a reason, and he ultimately got a better gig (and a piece of the company) with Hasbro. My favorite part was when he was asked what he thought success was. His response (quoted as accurately as my note taking abilities allow) was:
Success is doing what you want, when you want, where you want, with whom you want, for as long as you want.
Best definition I think I’ve ever heard.
Takeaway #5: The Delorean
My final takeaway of five takeaways from Legalweek 2023 goes back to the Exhibit hall and new exhibitor Altumatim, who actually rented a Delorean for their booth. And by “Delorean”, I mean one that is completely decked out just like the one in the movie Back to the Future:
There’s a guy in Jersey who found a Delorean in a junk yard, rebuilt it and decked it out – just like the movie! Nicely done!
Thanks to the companies who met with me, including:
- Trustpoint.One: Where I met with members of the team at the outset of the conference and had a terrific discussion with the Trustpoint.One team about eDiscovery and cyber trends.
- Hanzo: Where I met with members of the team, including the new CRO, Don Terry. Hanzo had no less than three(!) announcements leading up to Legalweek (here are the other two).
- Everlaw: Who had an announcement of their own about new features to quickly locate hidden stories in emails, video depositions and Zoom videos (with available video) and provided a link to a Q&A with CEO AJ Shankar about ChatGPT.
- Casepoint: Who had an announcement about enhancements to their Legal Hold Solution and new automation features where we had a spirited discussion about…automation!
- Level Legal: Where I met with CEO Joey Seeber who said this about Level Legal: “With the thrash of consolidation and all the difficulties that go along with it, we’re finding resonance with our deliverable, which is delight. It’s been our purpose to deliver delight. And when that is the aspiration in our space, we’re able to find people that are good fits for us.”
And a special thanks to Cat Casey of Reveal for including me in her Technocat interview series for Legalweek where we discussed our in-show observations! Here’s the interview!
So, what do you think? Were you at Legalweek last week? If so, what were your Legalweek 2023 observations? Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.
Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by my employer, my partners or my clients. eDiscovery Today is made available solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Today should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.
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