ILTACON Day Two: Things Really Get Going

ILTACON in Las Vegas has just completed its second day, the real beginning of the landmark conference, which included the keynote by former NASA astronaut, Dr. Mae Jemison. TJ Johnson, AVP, Legal Sector Strategist at Qualitest, and Artificial Lawyer Special Correspondent, tells us about what happened.

Day Two got down to serious business with the Introductions, a Joybot, Dr. Mae Jemison as the keynote, the Exhibit Hall opened, and there were 15 educational sessions.

Dr. Mae Jemison, during her NASA career.

The Keynote – Dr. Mae Jemison, Engineer, Physician, Entrepreneur, and Former NASA Astronaut. 

The keynote sponsor was Disco, who did a quick intro on how their company is using tech to support the transformation of law. They talked about the buzz around their recent IPO news, and about the problem they are solving: lawyers spend too much time on things that aren’t valuable for the firm. Disco also announced the new Disco University Curriculums, which are on-demand client certifications, where they can learn best practices with Disco products.

Disco also intro-ed Dr. Mae Jemison, who has dedicated her life to scientific, technological, and medical advancements. She is quite a personality and held the majority of the room in the palm of her hand. 

Dr. Jemison spoke eloquently about science and technology being at the forefront of the world’s attention, but that we shouldn’t take away from the importance of social-cultural aspirations. She believes that to be successful, not only do we have to take the Arts, Sciences and Humanities into consideration, but also teams should be inclusive across gender and race. 

She said there is a wicked truth about science and technology, that if we don’t have the ‘people things’ figured out, it won’t matter anyway. And at this point in time, we know humanity’s survival is all about thinking beyond our current lens.

In the Q&A, Dr. Jemison talked about focusing on being excellent, but not always comparing yourself to others, not trying to be Number One. 

Dr. Jemison was asked about the 100 year starship project. She said you can’t do a technology roadmap for a 100 year project because you don’t know what the technology will be. Instead, do a capabilities roadmap. Don’t settle on a particular methodology right away. People might be working on a peripheral technology that might have a bigger impact, so be open to that. 

For difficult projects, identify the components and look at the timeline: consider what’s the best thing to do first, she said. Use critical thinking, predict what you can, break the project into pieces, and don’t come up with a final answer right away. 

I think her biggest takeaway was to say we should ask enough questions before trying to answer anything: Categorise the questions, ask more and live with a tolerance of a bit of ambiguity until you start to ascertain what is really happening.  

Dr. Jemison also reminded us that the really cool tech stuff that appears in our lives is always built on years of research. She also likes to do her own research. 

She was then asked what she would advise a young girl to do if they wanted to make a difference in the world? She replied: ‘Just leave the phones and computers at home and be observant of the world around you, what other people are doing. Observe yourself in that world.’

Joy Heath Rush, CEO of ILTA, is on the robot iPad screen, AKA the ‘Joybot’, connecting and chatting with the audience during the Intro. with ILTA President, Jim McKenna.

I also attended ‘Artificial Intelligence in the Law Department’, a hybrid session with speakers in-person and remote.

Speakers were Cat Casey, Chief Growth Officer at Reveal Data; Chris Austin, Director of Information Governance at Bowman and Brooke; Justin Hectus, CIO at Keesal, Young & Logan; Kiran Mallavarapu, Head of Legal Operations at Liberty Mutual Insurance Company; and Scott Milner, Partner at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius.

The panel talked about how AI is being used by law departments to increase efficiency, reduce cost, minimise risk, develop new strategies, and provide better service. They discussed the real world uses of AI in document review, document automation, and due diligence platforms.

There was consensus in the group that Al (i.e. NLP) technology is an extension of other technology, that it supports or expands what the original software could do. AI should be used to add scale to existing software, adding efficiency and/or speed to transactions. There was an interesting point made around the need to focus on training the muscles of the people and processes around the tools, much more so than just focus on the tools themselves. 

Things really get started. (See inset above).

The panel talked about the choice to build vs buy. The perspective given was that more often in a law firm a quick fix is needed to solve a particular client problem, with the law firm looking for ‘value now’, ‘efficiency right now’.  In corporates, they often make investments that eventually have value. The view is longer term.

This afternoon it was also my pleasure to share the stage with Isodore Okoro at one of the ‘In-person only’ sessions: ‘Business Relationship Management: Building Bridges Between IT and the Legal Business‘. 

We had obtained video snippets from Karina Grunbaum and Mark Andrews of the Global IT Service Delivery team at Baker McKenzie, whose mission is to be ‘the voice of the customer and the face of IT’. Both are passionate about building relationships between IT and the business. We had a video from Skip Lohmeyer, Parker Poe’s CIO, who has more than two decades of executive experience with law firm information technology, and has lots of info to share on this topic. 

Our final video snippets were from Dan Safran, president and CEO of Unbiased Consulting, an independent consulting firm that focuses on productivity and efficiency in law firms and law departments. 

Isidore and I wove the videos into the content we prepared on topics ranging from ‘Build Relationships / Be a Trusted Partner’, to ‘IT connections with Practice Groups & Admin Depts’. 

My mantra is ‘everyone is a business relationship manager‘. We showed how successful communication can help build bridges, through showing integrity, taking ownership, having a sense of urgency, lots of listening, accepting the challenge and continuously improving. The final takeaways for the session will be shared by ILTA after the event.

The famous ILTACON Exhibit Hall.

The rest of my time today was spent in client meetings and visiting with ILTA members in the Exhibit Hall. At ILTACON, the more you put into the conference, the more you get out. We are putting in as much as we can, and definitely seeing the dividends. I have interviews with attendees and business partners lined up tomorrow, along with more AI sessions, another keynote, and I believe there is a comedian at the end of the day. Can’t wait!

TJ with her colleague, Scott Christensen, at Qualitest.

Thanks again to TJ for her reporting and photos from ILTACON.