Off the Beaten Track at a Trade Show

LegalTech New York is history. As I have already indicated, the show was a nice antidote to our economic malaise. It was a reminder for me that getting out of the office to learn something new is a good way to recharge. It was also fun to talk with professionals who are trying to figure out ways that legal services can be delivered faster, better and cheaper.

I’m still following up with the contacts I made and I am still processing the mountain of information that was presented to me. I am also trying to meet my commitment to blog about some of the sessions I attended. So here goes:

Most of the conference seemed to focus on using technology to manage large amounts of corporate data and to streamline discovery. I attended one session on data privacy issues that was eye opening (many EU countries are much stricter about keeping personal data secure). There was also a lot of buzz about the social networking site Twitter. In addition, I attended a number of very good sessions on how lawyers and law firms can use social networking more effectively (i.e. use tools like blogging, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. more effectively.)

But the best session I attended at the conference was a workshop on Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO) sponsored by the ClutchGroup. The panel featured two representatives from the ClutchGroup, two law firm attorneys who have used outside vendors to manage large document projects, corporate counsel from a large public company and a former GC who has a lot of experience in reigning in legal expenses.

For the most part, LPO was really a peripheral topic at the conference. LPO relies heavily on technology and there will continue to be technological developments that improve the effectiveness of LPO. But LPO itself is not technology.

Nonetheless, I’m glad I stumbled on the session because in many ways, LPO itself offers a more radical departure from the traditional practice of law than many of the solutions offered by technology vendors who were at the show.

My take away from this panel was that LPO is not going to replace domestic lawyering any time soon; rather it simply provides lawyers with a way to further leverage their time with a large supply of cheap well educated labor. But in order for it to work well, it is critical that LPO vendors provide outstanding project managers to serve as the link between the lawyers in the U.S. and the lawyers in India.

It was also interesting to hear what Lynee Gore of the ClutchGroup had to say about LPO jobs in India. According to Gore, because only a small percentage of Indian law school graduates have the opportunity to work in a private law firm, LPO jobs are considered very desirable. This is in sharp contrast to the way many American law school graduates feel about doing work as a contract lawyer.

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