As always, it was a long week, and there are many things to think about. I went back through my own Twitter timeline for what I had to say live about the ILTA conference last week, and I’m struck by the number of risk factors at play for law firms, obviously, but by a couple of other things as well.
One comment made by Alonzo Barber of Microsoft’s legal department on the last day of sessions has stuck with me.
— Mike McBride (@mikemac29) August 23, 2018
Now Louisiana is not one of the states that has adopted the ethical rule of attorney tech competence, though I am assured by none other than Tom O’Connor that it soon will, but this seems like an important statement to me.
The reason is that we typically don’t think of tech competence in these terms. We usually pull out this ethical duty when it comes to the efficient use of technology, but the duty of competence when it comes to security and compliance might actually be more important in the eDiscovery space. When a client sends us data as part of this process, it’s being entrusted to us. The reason they send us all those audits and RFPs about our infrastructure is because they are doing their due diligence when it comes to security and compliance. Law firms who don’t take that seriously are going to find themselves on the outside looking in, and that’s not just having a few things to tick that box on the RFP. As firms start to become victims of data breaches, this is going to become problematic. It’s embarrassing for consumer facing companies when they suffer a breach and customer data gets exposed. It’s going to be devastating for a firm that lets confidential client information be exposed.
So, the risk of being hacked is real, as I mentioned before. But, leaving ILTA after hearing about all of these risks has also left me with some hope. The blog posts thus far might not make it seem like I’m full of hope for this industry, but I am, cautiously.
I do believe that there will be some firms who recognize the risks and react accordingly. They will be the ones who see beyond the practice of law and into the bigger picture. They’ll see the value of collaboration with clients and their own staff. They’ll understand that routine legal work is going to be fairly well automated and brought in house, so they’ll position themselves as subject matter experts and consultants to their clients. Instead of simply sitting around waiting for the next time the client has “a matter” that requires outside counsel, they’ll be involved with helping the client avoid legal matters in the first place, advising on potential legal risks and ways to grow their business on an ongoing basis. They’ll also be aware of the technological risks, and fully engaged with their own technical staff to ensure the firms ability to keep data secure and well-managed. They’ll practice good information governance on behalf of their clients, and bring in the expertise to help in this area. After all, the duty of competence falls on the attorney, but the easiest way to fulfill that is to have the competence built in to a firm’s staff.
They’ll also understand that their Litigation Support staff isn’t there just to process and export data. Technology is making that easier and easier, but the experience and expertise of that staff should be put to more relevant use in helping with this duty of competence. The Lit Support world will continue to be more and more about consulting, getting involved in cases much earlier in the process to avoid problems down the line. That’s also part of being competent, and it’s exciting to consider the ways in which our own jobs and our place in a firm may grow and evolve.
This is an opportunity for firms to tweak the way they’ve been practicing law, and bring everyone to the table for a new, and better, way. (Very similar to where ILTA finds itself as an organization too) Those that do, will win. Those that don’t, will probably be fine for awhile, but eventually the changes being brought by technology will change client expectations. What we’re hearing now from mostly very large legal departments will start to filter down to even the smallest of clients. They are all being affected by technology and compliance issues. Firms that can partner with them in those causes will be better positioned to get their work.
Finally, a legal conference would not be complete without mentioning social media and blogs. I can’t begin to tell you the importance of those things for me at an event like ILTA. I’m an introvert. I’m basically a shy person. Over the years I’ve managed to develop some decent social skills when it comes to chatting with people I happen to be in the same location as, but I would never really seek out to introduce myself to anyone. It’s just not in my DNA to do so. At this year’s conference, I was able to meet and chat with a number of folks who I’ve interacted with online well before this conference. People in the industry, thought leaders, fellow training professionals, etc. People who had simply seen my blog previously and were vaguely familiar with me actually sought me out to grab coffee, chat or just say hello.
Trust me when I say, those connections don’t happen if I’m not involved in the online community. Again, it’s just not in my DNA to be that social, but by having an online presence, suddenly I am that social, and I’m making connections all across the industry in which I work.
That’s never a bad thing.
So to everyone I had the chance to meet and chat with at ILTA, thanks for making the week as awesome as you did, and I’m looking forward to continuing the conversations online, at least until next year.