ILTACON Day One: Report From Las Vegas

ILTACON, normally the world’s largest legal tech conference, started in Las Vegas on Sunday. TJ Johnson, AVP, Legal Sector Strategist at Qualitest, has kindly offered to be an Artificial Lawyer Special Correspondent to cover the event. Here is her first report on what happened yesterday.

This is my 20th in-person ILTACON. There is a mystique around ILTACON that is hard to explain to anyone who hasn’t been. It’s the best place for IT leaders in law firms and law departments to share their stories, learn together and meet with technology and services suppliers who support the legal industry, all in one place. 

I have been to ILTACON as a law firm IT Director, also as one of the ILTACON planning committee, as co-chair of the conference, as ILTA staff overseeing the conference, and for the past few years as a business partner/exhibitor. In every role, I have found great value in attending.

I wasn’t sure if I would make it to ILTACON 2021, being from Canada in COVID times. I had to show my vaccinations and get a negative COVID test before I was allowed into the United States. It was more work and planning and anxiety about travelling but so far it’s worth it. Hopefully I will get a negative test on the way back so I don’t have to self-isolate.

ILTA has been a trendsetter for years, always finding ways to be relevant and provide value to the legal industry, no matter the environment. And the same is true this year.

ILTA took the risk to do a hybrid conference, with the main elements that make ILTACON in person so valuable, and added digital attendance for those who couldn’t attend in person, and it’s amazing so far. Yes, it’s a much smaller in-person audience, both in terms of ILTA Members and Business Partners attending, but those who are here are so happy to be able to have real conversations with their peers! Yes, we’re all vaccinated and wearing masks, but it’s what we’ve been craving.

The ILTACON education programme is developed by ILTA members (with ILTA staff support of course) based on topic areas of the most interest to ILTA members to help solve their organisation’s business challenges. I talked with the ILTACON co-chairs, Mike Viscito, Data Center & Systems Engineering Manager at Seyfarth Shaw, and Martha Breil, Legal Service Delivery Manager at Cooley about their experience over the past year leading the planning committee. 

They are so happy that ILTACON is able to be at least partly in-person and that an amazing educational programme has come together. They wish more people could be here to enjoy the experience in-person (as we all do!) and they are rolling with the punches.

The speakers at ILTACON are ILTA members, business partners and others in the ILTAverse, almost all of whom pay to attend the conference. That alone makes it stand out against other legal tech conferences. The energy level at ILTACON is palpable and attendees go back to their work with renewed purpose and many new connections who become friends and supporters through the rest of the year. 

It’s so much more than an educational conference and an exhibit hall.  ILTACON has also been traditionally where more business gets done and where many business partners make big announcements. There have of course been many big announcements lately and there are fewer business partners allowed to travel to ILTACON. 

So in true ILTA fashion, business partners are participating in myriad ways at ILTACON, many in-person, while others are participating in the digital components – with virtual booths and demo rooms, while chatting and holding discussions using Boomset (the event platform for ILTACON) and Zoom and Teams.

A word about the ILTA staff who manage all the logistics and support the ILTACON planning committee and the business partners and really make the whole thing possible. In a year where they had to change their plans every 5 minutes, it’s remarkable that they are pulling this off. Not only have they had to deal with the pandemic, but Hurricane Henri put a serious dent in plans for many speakers, ILTA members and business partners to get to ILTACON at all. 

Imagine putting on 60 educational sessions over four days with some sessions being live streamed with in-person speakers, some with remote speakers, and many with daily changes in the locations of speakers. I’m not sure how they are keeping track of it all. I’m sure there will be blips and not everything will be perfect, but it will be valuable and amazing and they made it happen.

If the Collaboration Kickoffs and the Opening Reception today are any indication, this ILTACON will have the same positive impact for participants as it always has. 

I sat in on the Collaboration Kickoff on Technology Adoption and Change Management. The group shared concerns and successes around getting ‘real’ adoption of technologies. Ideas shared were to get lawyers more engaged in projects early on instead of just at the pilot stage and leveraging client support for particular technologies to help get lawyers on-board for changes. It was a great, open discussion among IT leaders and lawyers from law firms and business partners.   

The Opening Reception started quietly with good food and conversation among old friends and new. There was some standing back and just being happy to talk with people at a good physical distance, along with a few hugs and lots of fist pumps and elbow taps. I saw handshakes, but those were definitely less common.

It didn’t take long for the energy and sound level to rise and the laughter to be evident. We took our masks off to eat, so we actually got to see people smiling and not just with their eyes. I think everyone will be more relaxed tomorrow, now that we’ve seen that this in-person thing can work and we can still be safe.

We’ll be joined by over 1,000 digital participants tomorrow for many of the 60 educational sessions and the Keynotes. I plan to attend everything I can, along with speaking in a session – ‘Business Relationship Management: Building Bridges Between IT and the Legal Business’ and hanging out at our booth to let people know about what we do and how we might help them. 

It’s going to be a busy four days and I intend to make the most of it.

Many thanks to TJ for the report. Artificial Lawyer will be bringing you updates throughout the week.

TJ Johnson, AVP, Legal Sector Strategist at Qualitest

[ Note: all pics except Las Vegas signpost courtesy of TJ. ]