I am back from the annual conference of ILTA, the International Litigation Technology Association, in Nashville, Tennessee. The original draft of this post said that I was “just back” but (as more than one correspondent has reminded me) time has gone by without any post from me about it or about anything else. Catching up after two back-to-back conferences in opposite corners of the world plus an ever-busier Twitter stream and a few other things have kept me amused. I will in due course do a couple of posts about the serious stuff at ILTA and I will point you to summaries by others of the product and company news which, however interesting and important, can be dealt with from my desk if it still seems interesting or important by the time I get to it.
Despite the best efforts of the PR people, I don’t cross the world to shut myself up in dark demo rooms or to hit the social scene. The breathless prose of the press releases offers little incentive; I don’t drink much, don’t party more than formal politeness requires, don’t really appreciate most corporate nights out unless they involve a table and a decent menu, and can’t stand shouting above noise. Why do I go each year?, someone asked.
As I have said in an earlier article, I had some formal reasons for going – I sat on a panel for Thomson Reuters and moderated a video session for Digital Reef. The real value, however, lies in ad hoc and informal conversations. Within a few hours of arriving, for example, I had lunch with Amir Milo and Warwick Sharp of Equivio, a conversation with Herb Roitblat of OrcaTec, and an extended early-morning coffee with Howard Sklar of Recommind; those who followed the predictive coding furore of a few weeks ago will note that these companies were in the front line trenches of that energetic debate. I could, in theory at least, ring up any of them for a chat at any time but it is only at ILTA that there is an opportunity for these impromptu discussions.
So what?, you say. You bumped into all your mates and had a nice chat. How pleasant to be able to do that in a grand hotel somewhere hot and call it “work”. Well, it is enjoyable, but it has a serious purpose as well. This post is largely anecdotal and aimed at giving the flavour of the event in the hope of encouraging you to go next year.
The advertised pitch for the eDisclosure Information Project is that I carry news and views about eDisclosure / eDiscovery between judges, lawyers, clients and those who supply into the market. Some of that is done by sitting on panels, taking part in webinars and other one-to-many exercises; sometimes it involves reporting things which deserve a wider audience such as Judge Peck’s speech at Carmel and those of Singapore’s Chief Justice, of Lord Justice Jackson, and of Senior Master Whitaker at the recent conference in Singapore. Sometimes, however, it lies in one-to-one conversations which you can’t have if you just sit at home writing blog posts.
Talking to Equivio’s Warwick Sharp is like standing beside an expert at a pheasant shoot. Up go the arguments, bang goes the gun, and down they come lifeless to the ground. My role is to be the labrador who retrieves them. Our lunch discussion on that first day was about the arguments advanced against using sophisticated technology like predictive coding – not specifically Equivio’s product but any of the high-end software applications which take input from senior lawyers on a subset of documents and use it to make relevance and other decisions about the rest. The only plausible argument against the use of such applications, if you discount the self-interest of lawyers who make their money from setting large teams to read all the documents, is that there is as yet no court decision which expressly approves of the use of such technology.
As Judge Peck noted at Carmel, there is no decision approving the use of keywords either, and both he and Master Whitaker in Singapore addressed this primary objection. Warwick Sharp instead rattled off a list of uses for predictive coding which needed no judicial approval – QA of your own results and a quick assessment of your opponents’ discovery were amongst them. I did not need to go to Nashville to hear this, but there were many who had gone there for just that purpose. Later that day, I met in quick succession two people whose role within their firms required them to marshal just these kinds of arguments for the benefit of their lawyers, and I passed on what Warwick had said more or less verbatim. That alone justified being there, and you only really get that kind of opportunity at ILTA, where the mix of educational and social events, coupled with the informality and relative leisure which differentiates ILTA from the frantic pace of LegalTech, encourages this kind of discourse.
The Gaylord Opryland Resort covers 56 acres; it has 2881 guest rooms, 220 suites, an atrium 150 foot high and 4.5 acres in extent plus a second atrium of an acre which comfortably swallows two waterfalls, tropical gardens, a restaurant and a bar; the resort has 15 restaurants in all, a river, and several hundred thousand square feet of exhibit hall and conference facilities. There were people whom I knew to be there amongst the 1200 registered delegates at ILTA whom I did not see at all.
You wouldn’t find me checking in here for a holiday, but the Gaylord resorts are perfect for an event like this, provided that you don’t mind a 20 minute round trip between the conference centre and your room, as I had. The big events – the opening party, the big sessions and the final dinner – fitted comfortably into the cavernous rooms but there are plenty of quiet corners for conversation. Read the rest of this entry »