Each spring, law firm CIOs and IT directors flock to Chicago for the ABA’s tech show to see the latest solutions aimed at the legal industry. We caught up with Fenwick & West CIO Matt Kesner on Friday, halfway through the three-day event, to get his take on TECHSHOW 2014.
Q: You’ve attended the conference over half-a-dozen times. How does this year’s event stack up compared to those of years past?
A: The biggest thing that the organizers have done is that they have refocused the event around the technologies that can help lawyers better serve their clients. This year, they’ve included talks about issues that involve process management with a big emphasis on cloud services which lawyers can use to better serve clients. In the past, it was more focused on what you could do with some planning over the years, and this year, it’s more focused on technologies that have an immediate impact. And a lot of years in the past, they talked about back-office technologies, and this year, it’s more about client-directed technology. Lawyers are being shown how to use consumer technology in a way that’s very powerful for the practice and offers better efficiency and at a better cost to clients.
I think this is one of the best years ever.
Q: Did you attend the keynote address by Rick Klau, partner at Google Ventures, today? What was his primary message?
A: Yes, he talked about how you can use Google today as a lawyer to share documents, share information and create databases that can help you track your cases, clients and work. A little further out, he talked about using the techniques that have come from Big Data analytics and actually working on cases for clients and ways to collect information about big litigation, for example, or ways to understand and use data to better advise corporate clients and deals.
Q: You spent 13 years as a litigator—has there been any buzz about how litigation, specifically, is going to change with the application of Big Data?
A: There’s been a lot of discussion about it. I think Big Data can be applied to litigation, particularly in class action, and it can also be applied when helping out large members of large corporations in doing some kinds of corporate M&A. But, overall, I’m skeptical that lawyers or their cases live in the world of Big Data. The kinds and amounts of data that lawyers deal with in their matters are almost always a tiny fraction of what Big Data means to a Google or an Apple or even a Proctor & Gamble.
Q: Anything revolutionary on the privacy and data security front?
A: There’s an entire track on privacy and data security. John Simek [principal of Sensei Enterprises, a Virginia-based information security and consulting company] has been one of the primary presenters there, and he’s talked a lot about how you can better secure your systems, the tradeoffs between convenience and security, so you can make better choices as a lawyer and how to conduct yourself.
Most every vendor is taking security more seriously, and talking about the security features and the encryption features that they offer in a way that wouldn’t have occurred a year ago. It seems to be a big part of almost every pitch here.
Q: What has been your favorite presentation thus far?
A: Rick’s keynote—and then there was a session on practice management on the first day, which was very pithy and covered a range of tools that, if used, can really provide better value to clients. I’m from a big law firm, and we’ve had these tools for the last couple of years, but being that part of the [event's] focus is on smaller and midsized firms, I was really impressed with how much they can now do inexpensively using cloud tools, tablets and inexpensive software. There’s a big move to adapt consumer technologies to law, which is a change. I don’t think lawyers saw those tools, technologies as really available a few years ago.
Q: Are there any legal-research or legal process management startups or applications you’re particularly excited about?
A: We represent quite a few of the companies that are here at the show, so I’d rather not comment on that. There are a lot of new technologies coming out, and they are very well represented here at the show.
Q: Are there any technology trends that are on your radar for the coming year?
A: Exploiting the cloud to a greater degree, exploiting tablets and consumer technologies and third, and maybe the most important of all, concentrating on security and privacy and governance.
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