I spent last week at ILTACON, the annual convention of the International Legal Technology Association. With nearly 3,000 attendees, it was the third largest ILTACON ever – a particularly significant stat given that we have yet to fully emerge from three years in the grips of the global pandemic.
ILTACON is an opportunity for legal technologists of all ilks – from users to developers to vendors to investors – to come together and learn, share and socialize. Masks were in the minority, after-parties were packed, and it all felt wonderfully normal.
Apart from the simple act of convening, ILTACON is the ideal venue to take the pulse of the legal tech community, to gauge the themes that are driving product development. From my conversations with vendors, presenters, and attendees, I kept hearing certain key themes repeated, in one form or another.
Here were the top five themes I heard at ILTACON:
1. Platform Fatigue
ILTACON attendees come mostly from medium or large law firms, and one fact seems resoundingly clear: The legal professionals who work at these firms are suffering from platform fatigue.
Platform fatigue is the symptom of having to continually switch from one app or window to another. TechRadar described the problem well:
“In order to get work done, accurately and punctually, you need to divide your time and attention between different windows, screens, data sources, files, alerts, monitors, programs, etc. There are just too many places to go and too many windows to check, a situation that practically guarantees you are going to miss something.”
Apart from missing something – a very real concern for lawyers and other legal professionals – there is simply the tedium and inefficiency of having to learn and switch among multiple apps, interrupting workflows and extending the time it takes to complete any given task.
Fortunately, ILTACON underscored the fact that vendors are increasingly aware of this problem and are responding in various ways.
If platform fatigue is the problem, then one answer is platformization. Think of platformization as an technology ecosystem, offering multiple applications within a single platform. Not only does it facilitate workflow integration and reduce platform fatigue, but it can also enhance security when the platform is an established provider.
I wrote about platformization in legal tech as far back as my 2018 post, The 20 Most Important Legal Technology Developments of 2018, where I cited CRM company Salesforce as the classic example, launching its AppExchange and opening its platform to third-party developers. At the time, I mentioned NetDocuments, with its app directory, and Clio, with its app directory, as examples in the legal industry.
At ILTACON, it was clear that many companies continue to embrace and expand on this approach. As recently reported here, NetDocuments launched PatternBuilder, a native version of a product it acquired last year, Afterpattern, a no-code toolkit for building apps and automating legal documents and workflows, and which will now be available as an add-on to the NetDocuments DELIVER product.
Also pursuing this platformization approach is Relativity. It, too, has its own App Hub, offering apps that integrate with the Relativity platform, developed either by Relativity directly or by third-party developers.
But the company is also taking a more direct approach to extending the capabilities of its platform beyond classic e-discovery. One example of this that Relativity was showing at ILTACON last week is Relativity Patents, an application designed to speed the process of conducting prior art searches.
Just today, Relativity took another step in this direction, acquiring the contract review company Heretik, a product already built on the Relativity platform by third-party developers, but which will now be directly integrated into the RelativityOne cloud platform as an add-on.
Another approach vendors are taking to solving the problem of platform fatigue is interoperability. Interoperability allows different products, apps or systems to communicate with each other, most typically to share data in a seamless manner. The most common way of achieving interoperability is through application programming interfaces, or APIs, which is software that allows one application to speak to another.
At ILTACON, one company making a big push toward API interoperability was LexisNexis. As I previously reported, last March, LexisNexis announced its new API Developer Portal, a self-service portal that enables law firms to access some 99% of LexisNexis content – both raw content and metadata – to incorporate it into their own workflows and applications and combine it with their own internal and third-party data.
Last week, LexisNexis announced API partnerships with two notable legal tech companies, as part of what Jeff Pfeifer, chief product officer for Canada, the U.K., and the U.S., described as a step towards “creating a connected world” for legal professionals.
The first of these, with the Courtroom Insight knowledge management product, will enable mutual customers to access Lexis+ and Lexis Context Analytics content about judges and expert witnesses from directly within the Courtroom Insight product, alongside the information that Courtroom Insight already provides.
The other API integration is with the TRG Screen product Quest, which is a request-management system for research and information teams. With the integration, when an attorney submits a request to pull a docket, it will present the attorney with options for cases that have that number and then, when the attorney selects one, retrieve that information from Lexis or Lexis+.
Also on the topic of interoperability, there was a good deal of talk about the SALI Alliance – short for Standards Advancement for the Legal Industry – and its recently released version 2.0 of its Legal Matter Standard Specification, an attempt to create a common set of data standards for the legal industry in order to facilitate interoperability among clients, legal services providers, and technologies.
On my LawNext podcast, I recently interviewed one of the principal developers of these standards Damien Riehl, and at ILTACON, Riehl was part of a fascinating panel, SALI Standards Enable Data Insights, that talked about the development of these standards and their potential applications for the legal industry.
Others on the panel were James Hannigan, director of legal project management at Coblentz, Patch, Duffy & Bass; Kelly Harbour, chief business development officer at Goulston & Storrs; and Toby Brown, chief practice management officer at Perkins Coie.
Another example of interoperability at ILTACON was Infodash, a product I first wrote about last January that uses APIs to create a highly customizable “cloud first” intranet and extranet platform for law firms, providing a centralized hub that can pull together data and information from a firm’s other systems and platforms, including financial data, firm directories, calendars, news, client and matter data, and more.
One word that came up in virtually every product conversation I had last week was automation. Legal professionals want tech products that free them from rote and repetitive tasks so that they can focus on the higher-level analytical and intellectual work of serving their clients.
One straightforward example of this that I saw at ILTACON last week is Bundledocs, a product that, as the name suggests, does one thing and does it well – bundling and organizing sets of documents into numbered, indexed and sectioned booklets – and thereby eliminating the tedium of doing it manually.
In business in the U.K. and Asia-Pacific regions since 2019, Bundledocs is now making a push into the North American market, bringing on former Tikit executive Peter Zver to lead the push as VP of revenue and operations in North America.
The product automates any kind of document bundling, whether for litigation, commercial transactions, family law matters, real estate deals or whatever.
5. Pricing Simplification
Another theme I heard repeatedly last week involved pricing simplification. While several panels involved the issue of pricing legal services, what I am referring to is the pricing of legal technology products. Customers of these products are tired of product pricing schemes that are opaque, nebulous, complicated and confusing.
Some vendors are hearing this and responding. To mention Relativity again, last week it announced its new subscription plan for RelativityOne that bundles all user fees into a single data fee. Relativity said that it made the change because many of its customers are tackling a broader range of use cases – such as cyber breach response, data subject access requests, third-party subpoenas and internal investigations – but that the separate user fee was a barrier to them using RelativityOne across those use cases.
One vendor that seeks to be entirely upfront about is pricing is Zuva, the contracts AI company that spun out from Kira after Kira was acquired by Litera last year. Zuva’s pricing is clearly described right on its website, where buyers can directly sign up to purchase it.
CEO Noah Waisberg, formerly CEO of Kira, told me last week that Zuva wanted from the start to simplify the buying process for potential customers. Not only is the pricing on the website, but anyone can try it out for free and then buy it without ever having to talk to a sales representative.
And, by the way, speaking of interoperability, Zuva is an API-only interface, designed to enable other application developers to easily embed contracts AI – the same AI that underlies Kira – into their applications. That means that Zuva’s customers are not end users, but rather software vendors, system integrators, and other companies developing applications themselves.
By no means were these the only themes permeating ILTACON. Ahead of ILTACON, Doug Austin at eDiscovery Today compiled a word cloud of ILTACON session titles and descriptions that offers a visualization of key themes. Not surprisingly, e-discovery, AI, security, litigation and governance make frequent appearances.
One other word I heard a lot was partnerships. Consistent with the themes of platformization and interoperability I discussed above, many vendors are extending their network of partners – other providers of technology and services that complement or enhance their own products.
One example I spoke to last week was QuisLex, which, as an alternative legal services provider, regularly uses an array of software products related to e-discovery, contract review and other services, and which last year made a major push to build partnerships around those products.
Mark Wilcox, global vice president, business development, told me that, as an ALSP, QuisLex is tech agnostic. But through partnerships, it can show its customers how connected it can be to all these providers, and it can help the providers with their go-to-market sales and marketing.