Legalweek 2018 is in the books, and this year was an interesting one. The once dominance of this show in our space continued to diminish this year in size of attendance, hoopla, and the number of providers on the exhibit floor. But the truth is that changes in the conference aside, Legaltech is still the place to be the last week of January to see the latest in what’s new, engage with some of the best experts from across the country on the latest developments in the law, and be invited to multiple parties in one night.
Legaltech can be an exhausting pace, and one that takes days to recover from. After 10 years of attending, my one wish is that the venue could be moved to a better location in the glorious NYC where places to sit and better food choices abound. My Tuesday morning meeting in the lobby of the Hilton was saved by Christy Burke, PR rep for my meeting, who had gotten to the lobby at 6 a.m. to have a table for her clients in a space that has roughly 10-12 tables. (thanks, Christy!) That shouldn’t be necessary — the whole goal is engagement, and to engage, we need to be able to sit and have conversations.
Legaltech also needs to do a better job of embracing and working with startups. The booth cost this year (and every year) made exhibiting in the hall virtually impossible for most startups. And if you don’t exhibit, you don’t get the list of attendees, which means you are on your own to try and set up meetings with folks who may be attending. And most of the startups I found that are still looking for traction were either off of the floor or stuck in a corner or area of the hall that was off the beaten path.
But onto the technology and why I think this will be a breakout year. As I roamed the exhibit hall this year, the consolidation in the eDiscovery service provider market was very visible in the lack of large booths (and frankly the lack of booths, as the hall was 1/3 the size it used to be). But I found some gems in and out of the exhibit hall that I want to share with you, and ones you’ll want to check out. Some of the themes I saw other than eDiscovery were automated contract review, lots and lots of AI being leveraged for various tasks, and niche case management tools for plaintiffs’ firms.
When I stop by a booth or go to a meeting, I issue the following challenge — tell me what your product will do for me as an attorney without any marketing speak. I’ll be honest, if after five minutes they still can’t get there, I have to move on for sanity’s sake. If I had a second wish at Legaltech, it would be that all the folks manning the booths could talk to lawyers effectively. Tell me how your technology will make my life better. Now, on to my favorites:
VTestify. The VTestify platform is for depositions just as the name suggests, but this is far more than your grandfather’s video deposition capture. VTestify includes remote video recording, ScriptSync, which creates a live running transcript using voice to text technology, exhibit sharing, a scheduling manager, and formal transcripts.
I found VTestify stuck in a back corner across from my friends at Cloud Nine and next to a door out of the exhibit hall. They had a screen up showing the platform, and it is really cool. The screen shows the video of the deponent, the running transcript, and the exhibit all in one shot, making it easy to stay focused on what you are asking.
The platform can save thousands of dollars for one deposition by eliminating travel, and according to the website, creating better evidence. The elimination of travel alone is worth thousands — think about how much time you spend getting ready to travel with your exhibits, etc., the arrangements, getting set up when you get there only to realize you’ve forgotten something, needing a paralegal to come with you, and the time you lose traveling and being out of the office for a day or multiple days. Conducting a deposition in the comfort of your own office? Priceless. And from what I learned, the cost is about the same as a court reporter and an official transcript, but the value is so much greater. If you do depositions, you’ll want to check out VTestify.
Esquify. Esquify is an AI-driven workforce management platform for contract review. It is essentially a dashboard that connects to whatever review platform you use and allows you to manage your reviewers and see real time statistics about what’s happening. Esquify generates far greater information about your review than a standard dashboard and includes communications, supervision to eliminate the need for an extra PM or team lead and lets you QC on the fly.
According to Drew Stern, founder and co-CEO of Esquify, clients have seen an average of 20-40% increase in their review teams’ performance using the platform. Esquify holds a space near and dear to my heart because it does what I want technology to do — give me better control over a process and give me data to use to budget better, save money, and get a job done more efficiently. Esquify has their own review teams you can leverage, or you can license the platform to use with your own reviewers. The pricing is very affordable on a monthly subscription so you use it as long as you need it and the interface is very user friendly. Here’s a screenshot:
Based on my experience managing contract reviews and being the one to report to the client on the cost, Esquify will save tens of thousands of dollars on each review. I’m planning to use it on my next project. Thomson Reuters and Integreon are just two of many already using Esquify to manage their review teams.
LawGeex. LawGeex is a platform for in-house legal departments to automatically review and approve everyday business contracts, including NDAs, service agreements, and purchase orders. The ideal client has 500+ contracts or more a year, and the software allows a user to cut the contract turn around time from 7-10 days to 2-3 minutes AND give you absolute consistency across contracts.
The system lets the client set up preferences in terms of clauses it’s willing to accept, and LawGeex uses AI to identify provisions that don’t meet the established specs. A choice of law provision is an example. If my preferences are set to have choice of law be New York and the draft contract I upload says Michigan, the system will flag it and allow the user to make the change. I loved the interface — clean and easy to use and demo, even in the horrid environment of a booth on a trade show floor.
LawGeex is solving the problem of too many contracts and not enough people, and Shmuli Goldberg, VP of Marketing, was clear on their niche. It’s not a platform for automating and changing multiple contracts (e.g., I need to change a provision across all my supplier agreements and send them out and manage their signing); it is simply to make reviewing and signing standardized contracts faster. I envision it allowing a paralegal or non-lawyer to make decisions that would otherwise require lawyer time. LawGeex is clearly much further along on the startup path, likely more of a growth company than early stage like VTestify and Esquify, but a technology that is clean, knows exactly what it does and doesn’t do, and has a team behind it of knowledgeable and frankly, fun, professionals behind it.
Those are my finds for you from this year’s Legaltech. There was so much more to report on and folks that I met with, so you’ll see more of those in the coming weeks. I want to issue a big shoutout to ALM for hosting the conference, and ACEDS and Mary Mack and Kaylee Walstad for all the value they brought in hosting the Bloggers luncheon with Relativity, the Thought Leaders dinner with Ricoh, and the Judges event with Thomson Reuters. The value ACEDS is adding to our community is amazing and I appreciate all of their efforts.