This post is a joint submission with BakerHostetler Discovery Advocate blog.

On a snowy Sixth Avenue this week, thousands of people packed the New York Hilton Midtown for the sensory overload that is LegalTech New York (#LTNY), the annual E-Discovery, privacy, and information governance bash.

And today, just hours after the massive conference closed, the E-Discovery conversation moves to Dallas for the third (and last) Advisory Committee for the Civil Rules hearing, at which the discussion will focus on whether to reinforce the proportionality provisions adopted eight years ago, and whether and how to clarify preservation obligations and the sanctions that attach to imperfect preservation.

But more on what happens in Dallas next week.

As a conference, LegalTech focused on many different aspects of technology’s intersection with the practice of law, but overarching it all was the specter of digital information—particularly, the safe management of client information (whether it be at the client, at the law firm, or in the “cloud”) and the provision and subsequent use of that information in the practice of law generally and in the context of litigation and related E-Discovery specifically.

Five-by-Five and our Subjective Impressions

An unscientific survey of the booths and the discussions in the halls found five categories of services that really attracted attention:

  • The first was the clear specialty service, such as Adobe’s booth which focused primarily on its EchoSign application, providing parties an opportunity to collaborate on drafting and executing contracts in the cloud.  Other specialty service vendors included software supporting law firm finances, DriveSavers’ forensic collection from specific types of devices or services, project management (again, in the cloud), and foreign-language document services, such as Ji2’s offerings.
  • The second set of providers grew out of one of those specialties into self-proclaimed “full service” vendors that seemed to retain specific expertise while indicating that they could, with little problem, run the entire show—DISCO’s Kiwi Camara stood out as an example, while Driven’s Ozzy Jimenez is actively building up his practice team.
  • The third was emerging analytics, like RedOwl’s tool that analyzes emails and other data to provide “the ultimate in digital situational awareness” – a demo that garnered a lot of talk and tweets.
  • The fourth demonstrated law firms’ commitment to information governance needs and cyber security threats, including a panel featuring Ted Kobus, national co-leader of BakerHostetler’s Privacy and Data Protection team, who spoke on a Risk-based Approach to Cyber Security Threats.
  • Finally, the traditional vendors, such as Recommind, Ernst & Young, Symantec, Kroll, and Huron, all offered big data, soup-to-nuts services with their own developed in-house tools, post-modern furniture and plush rugs, armies of sales/service professionals, and good swag, (including a refreshing oxygen bar).

Promoting the Business of Doing Business

This year was no exception in that a stroll through the vendor displays or a pass through the parties makes it clear that this is a multi-billion dollar industry.  In contrast to past years, however, the impression left was one of maturity. Rather than selling to horror stories of E-Discovery sanctions or the specter of astronomical costs and myriad attorney reviewers, service providers were focused on solutions.  OrcaTec’s  Quin Gregor passionately demonstrated his technology by walking through the entirety of a case.   Kiersted’s Beth Finkle talked about strategic discovery solutions without even referencing relatively new case law.  And Control Risks’ engaging presentation by Bob Sullivan discussed pragmatism in dealing with data breaches and organizational response and avoided any mention of scare tactics.  In this sense, the industry seems to have developed into one where the players know their business, and could directly discuss solutions instead of rehashing well-publicized mistakes.

A Great Segue to the South

The culture change for those who are attending both LegalTech and the Civil Rules Hearings, therefore, shouldn’t be too drastic (and, strangely enough, it was snowing in Dallas, too, when E-Discovery Advocacy and Management Team Co-Chair Gil Keteltas arrived to testify at the hearing.)

While the proposed rules changes were never mentioned to us on the vendor floor, their adoption and implementation would impact many of those industries represented at LegalTech.  However, these changes would play out in a more mature market, filled with professionals and organizations dedicated to and better equipped to handle those modifications—but with one year of additional experience.