As an experiment, go to Google Maps and find Prague. Then press the minus sign to move out from there. Czech Republic borders Germany, Poland, Slovakia and Austria; it is close to Hungary, Romania, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Moldova, Serbia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia. In purely geographic terms, Czech Republic sits at the centre of a vast region which, if you leave out Germany and Austria, consists of countries which (accepting that most of them are as different from each other as they are from us), may be described as “aspirational”. Their nascent economies were badly hit by the recession; not all of them define “democracy” in quite the same way as we do; the business practices in some of these countries would keep a compliance officer awake for ever; their systems of law owe very little either to the common law or to Western Europe’s civil law.
That may not, yet, add up to a bustling marketplace for eDiscovery as it is understood in the US, but it makes Prague a promising venue for those providing tools and services for electronic evidence, computer forensics, cyber security and the broader legal technology market. These are the subjects which topped the bill at the third LawTech Europe Congress which took place in Prague last week.
Discovery has its place of course. There may not (yet) be a big demand for eDiscovery tools for purely local purposes, but the countries of the wider region do business with the US and with other jurisdictions which require discovery and which attract the attention of regulators. The big players – EY, KPMG, Deloitte et al – have their feet under local tables for other reasons and it makes sense for providers without a local presence to look in from time to time and sniff the air. The LawTech Europe Congress provides a good context for that.
Besides all that, there is some merit in holding a conference in a region which does not have a typical jurisdictional context. Such events inevitably, and rightly, bias their programmes towards local concerns such as rule changes, new laws and the consequences of court judgments. There is something to be said for getting away from that and thinking through the things which have no frontiers, where the same technology and skills are relevant whatever the local context.
As if all that were not enough reason for holding a conference in Prague, it is very beautiful city, one where you can feast your eyes and (if you choose carefully) your stomach, at an acceptable cost. It is under 90 minutes flying time from London.