Legalweek

Legalweek NYC 2019 is in full swing and the various segments of the industry are coming together to hash out how they can better work together to move the industry forward. As we dive into more discussion today, our editors offer up some of the findings that stood out to them the most.

  1. A Corporate Focus: Historically, the Legaltech conference has been a gathering spot for scores of Am Law 200 counsel and IT staff, and with good reason—many of the show’s tech providers catered primarily to that audience. But this year in particular, we’re starting to see a noticeable shift to catering directly to the corporate audience as well. More and more of our conversations have noted how a given solution caters not only to law firms, but to corporate legal departments, and how technology is meeting their specific needs. Whether it’s increased transparency within an organization’s finances, or better communication with outside counsel, or heightened information governance needed for regulated industries, the corporate legal tech market is only continuing to grow.
  2. Plugged In: For law firms themselves, though, I’m starting to see more and more take on an entrepreneurial mindset and even act like tech providers themselves. Of course, this is something that’s been happening for a few years as law firms like Dentons and Reed Smith have created incubators and technology spin-offs, but the diversification to even managed legal services and back-office processes has shown how they need to innovate to continue to grow. Both from a Legaltech session focused on ALSPs and from ALM Intelligence’s opening speech yesterday, the idea that law firms should partner with ALSPs rather than try to beat them intrigued us, and shows how a change in mindset to act more like a flexible tech business might be necessary for today’s law firm leaders.
  3. Data, Where is it?!: Clients want data. Law firms are not providing it. There are so many use cases for data. Law firms should use it to better analyze pricing. They should use it to better analyze and predict matter outcomes. Mark Smolik, general counsel of DHL Supply Chain Americas, threw out one example. He pondered why no law firm has ever analyzed, say, all of the employment cases his company had in California. Maybe they’d find one warehouse was the cause of 50 percent of the cases across the state, providing him an actionable item and making him look smart to his business clients.
  4. Big Four: The threat of the Big Four was downplayed a bit. TPG Global general counsel Brad Berenson said he didn’t see the Big Four pitching for the same type of work law firms were going after. He said the Big Four are afraid to appear to be in competition with law firms because they get work from law firms. And a Big Four representative privately joked they weren’t looking to “eat law firms lunches.” We are curious to see what other Big Four representatives say today at the Business of Law Forum’s panel discussion on their strategy.
  5. The Recession: The next economic downturn will be make or break for a lot of firms, speakers said. Aside from the firms with the largest geographic footprint or the most specialized practices, there are dozens of firms in the middle that might find themselves losing business as clients move work in-house. Those that utilize partnerships with alternative legal service providers and other disruptors will pull ahead and thrive, while those too stubborn to reform their business models will feel the most pressure.
  6. Diversity: The Diversity and Talent Management track at Legalweek hadn’t even started yet Tuesday, but conversations of diversity were floating through the halls. From stories on the diversity of partner promotions to an open letter from 170 general counsel pushing law firms for change, to discussions of whether that push will make a difference, the topic of diversity is dominating conversations on the business of law right now.

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