This is just a short note to close out the week, as I am back from my first in-person conference in two years – Legal Week in New York. First impressions, the place was packed out, and it’s a big place. Quite disturbing at times after two years of distancing but good to see.
We are working on a more comprehensive, more nuanced report on the state of the Legal Tech sector, but I can say right now it’s vibrant to a level I have not seen in decades. Multiple factors are in play, not least a generational shift in legal decision-makers, but what caught my eye as I looked around the exhibition floors (multiple) between meetings was the preponderance of AI. In the past few years, it seems that every legal tech product is now ‘Powered by AI.’ Except many of them were not. To a tech expert’s eye, there was one heck of a lot of ‘AI Washing’ going on. For example, many fancy-looking dashboards with business intelligence at the back end are now magically labeled AI. Plus, many tools used basic NLP (natural language processing) labeled as AI. There is a thin line here; some of it technically, at a stretch, is ML (machine learning) but indeed not the advanced AI promised. Legal Week’s other thing that stood out was the subtle but clear distinction between the speaker sessions and the exhibition floor. There was a lot of emphasis on information governance, practice management, data privacy, and records management in the speaker sessions. Yet the focus was much more on AI-driven document analysis and processing on the exhibition floor.
But please don’t read this as a criticism of Legal Week; far from it, the conference was excellent, exceptionally well attended by highly engaged buyers and vendors alike.
Legal tech appears to be ‘crossing the chasm’ to use a somewhat tired cliche. All in all, that is a good thing, but with that shift comes as many challenges as it does opportunities. We will be exploring many of these over the coming months, and we very much welcome any feedback. For now, it was a welcome change to have the opportunity to meet in person and I will also remember the savvy marketing of groan-inducing (but quite funny) Legal Dad jokes posted around the event site. One of my favorites is “What do you call a priest that becomes a lawyer?”…” Father in Law!”.