The advance publicity for Lawtech Camp London 2012 was perhaps not calculated to draw in lawyers of the conventional kind, even without the fact that the none of the possible meanings of “Camp” are exactly redolent of commercial activity.
“What do we have here?”, they would say. Some geeky-looking academics and wild-eyed futurists (and what do they know about commercial life?); unconventional presentation modes lasting for only 6 minutes (how can you make serious points in only 6 minutes?); a token speaker from the public services (that’s a joke, right?); probably just some healthy biscuits to eat all day (no wonder these academics look undernourished); and Richard Susskind (that chap who likes to tell millionaires that they have got their business models wrong). I’ll give it a miss, thanks, they would say, I have a business to run.
Well, they would have been right about the wholesome biscuits, but since the entire day was both unsponsored and free, that gives rise only to the minor complaint that we might have been warned to bring our own lunch. Everything else about Lawtech Camp London was excellent and inspiring, and (apart from the fact that my early departure gave me the opportunity to supplement the biscuits) I was sorry to have to leave early – in order , as it happens, to deliver an entirely conventional talk to a law firm.
The event has generated more writing than any other which I have attended. The Legal Informatics Blog has helpfully collected together the best of the presentations, resources and write-ups and I will refer you specifically to only four of them:
Jon Harman, Learning Design and Media Director at the College of Law was one of the progenitors of the event, and his article Reflections, Pushing and #LawTechcampLondon describes the ambitions and the planning process.
Neil Rose, on the LegalFutures site, has written specifically about Richard Susskind’s talk in his article “More for Less”, Liberalisation and Technology: Susskind lays out a vision of the future.
The title of Joanna Goodman’s post Conference! Beat poetry and quantitative analysis –we are all futurists now! belies its straight-up-and-down and succinct summary both of the background and of some of the sessions. This is the one to read if you want to know in short form what the main messages were.
Brian Inkster’s The Time Blawg has a list of the more interesting tweets from the day.
I will pick out just three aspects of the day, the six minute Pecha Kucha presentations (no, do stay, this is more important than the arty name might suggest), the public services presentation which really ought to make lawyers examine their allegedly commercial approach) and that part of Richard Susskind’s excellent presentation which has some bearing on the conduct of litigation. As with other strands which I have running at the moment, I will do this in more than one post.
The Pecha Kucha Presentations
You can read about Pecha Kucha here. I was invited to take part in this sequence of short talks and readily agreed. When I came to sign up, however, I found that they were to be delivered in one of two named styles (not Pecha Kucha at that stage). I did not know what they meant, had no time to find out, and was in any event slightly nervous of signing up to a delivery method with which I was not familiar, however keen I am to find new ways of getting messages across. Having now seen the Pecha Kucha approach I am a) glad that I did not commit to doing one without seeing it first and b) keen to explore the possibility of importing the idea into an eDiscovery / eDisclosure conference.
The format provides for successive presentations (if “presentations” has not by now become a compromised term) of exactly 6 minutes each. The timing is driven by the slides which automatically change at fixed intervals so that number of slides times length of interval equals 6 minutes. This is a tight discipline. It is one thing to pace your way through a set of slides over an hour, speeding up or slowing down as necessary to get through the last one at the right time; having to be precise about the timing of each one is a different game altogether, requiring much practice with a stopwatch. Shortness need not imply speed – it is possible, and can be effective, to adopt a fast rap style, as one presenter did, but it would be equally effective to take it at a conversational pace.
It works though, at least for an audience such as the one at Lawtech Camp London. It does not replace the traditional podium speech or panel presentation, and a full day of it would be rather wearing for all concerned, but it would be good to introduce this style for variety. It is important to keep thinking about how information is conveyed at conferences at a time when it is rumoured that UK legal IT suppliers are meeting to plot the overthrow of conventional conferences.