Positioning Points: Considering Legaltech® New York 2018

Observations

Earlier this week I was asked by several people for my thoughts on last week’s Legaltech Conference and Exhibition in New York City. Below is one of the formal responses I shared with Doug Austin of the industry acknowledged eDiscovery Daily Blog.

“On the eDiscovery front, Legaltech continues to be a galvanizing and polarizing conference at the same time. Galvanizing in the fact of the idealistic yet tangible excitement generated during the event by the sharing and championing of new technologies and approaches to solving eDiscovery challenges. Polarizing in the fact that when viewed through the lens of event participation, the gap between the well-funded and well-connected companies and commentators and those not as well financed or connected appears to be increasing. This increasing gap prevents many great products and points of view from breaking through the noise of paid advertising, sponsorships, and relationships and may be one of the contributing factors to the perceived decrease in status and the actual decrease in provider participation in one of the most successful event franchises in the history of eDiscovery. The benefits of galvanization may continue to outweigh the detriments of polarization, but not by as much as in past years.”

In reflecting on this year’s Legaltech event, several things did stand out to me as positioning points of note.

Positioning Points of Note

+ Some eDiscovery vendors are beginning to position themselves as Alternative Legal Service Providers (ALSP). While these “marketing repositioned” firms are actually providing the exact same services as they have in the past, they are now using the term ALSP to represent their business. The representation may be accurate since Independent LPOs and eDiscovery and Document Review Providers may be considered as one of five categories of ALSPs, but when considering firms that have just recently coopted the ALSP moniker for their business, it is important to investigate the reason for the change in marketing positioning as it may provide indications to the health and capability of the business.

+ The Chinese wall between research analysts and research business development teams appears to be shrinking. This was the first year that I can remember where research experts actually mentioned the availability of paid research during vendor update discussions. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this type of mention, and in fact, it is helpful to remind providers of this capability. However, it was the first time I have heard the mention in a conference setting and it may be a sign of increased revenue generation pressure on industry research firms.

+ Regarding Legaltech provider participation, there really does appear to be a growing gap between the haves and have-nots in terms of the spending required to mass market company and offering messages. While it may be true that direct digital marketing has had a leveling effect on the ability of providers to create awareness, closing the last three feet with decision makers, decision influencers, and end users appears to still require a strong relational presence. And a provider’s financial resources may be more of an element of relational success than the ability of the provider’s technology or services to address the challenges faced by those in the eDiscovery ecosystem.

+ Many of the announcements and articles around the event also stood out, especially those with focus on terms and concepts including:

  • GDPR
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Machine Learning
  • Technology-Assisted Review
  • Predictive Coding
  • Automation
  • Emerging ESI Sources
  • Alternative Legal Service Providers
  • IoT

Given the depth and breadth of these terms and concepts, it is important for reader’s of the announcements and articles to delve deep into such mentions and assertions to truly understand how these areas of interest truly apply to practical data and legal discovery.

Considering the Future

After last year’s Legaltech event, I shared several sharp observations that included comments on:

  • Comparing Attendee Access Approaches
  • Considering the Narrative of eDiscovery
  • Contrasting eDiscovery Institute and Association Approaches
  • Considering Legaltech and eDiscovery

After rereading those comments after this year’s Legaltech NY 2018 event, I would suggest most of the comments are still relevant. Especially the following comment.

“Legaltech is an important event that annually impacts the fabric of eDiscovery. It helps to form and shape opinion. It helps to form and shape understanding. It also helps to form and shape relationships and partnerships. By focusing its considerable influence on the eDiscovery ecosystem by challenging itself, industry support organizations, and industry authors and reporters to refocus on the people and problems of eDiscovery instead of the promotion and profits of eDiscovery, Legaltech should not only be able to maintain its place as the a leading event in eDiscovery, but it might also be able to position itself as one of the leading influencers and educators in eDiscovery.”

It will be interesting to see the evolution of the Legaltech Conference and Exhibition over the next year. And I have no doubt it will continue to be a galvanizing and polarizing industry gathering.

Additional Reading: