On February 9-12, 2019, ALT, the Association of Legal Technologists (ALT), held its second annual ctrl ALT del conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, bringing together nearly 100 legal tech vendors, consultants, and law firm IT and KM specialists to discuss current developments in design thinking. The goal of the gathering was to foster collaboration among professionals in the legal technology field and build on the momentum of the new organization’s first conference a year ago.

The two main days of the conference offered four excellent keynote speeches, followed by in-depth panel discussion from a variety of perspectives. Zach Abramowitz, CEO of Reply All, spoke about new legal service delivery and the technology underlying today’s new legal service offerings. Shawnna Hoffman, Cognitive Legal Co-Leader of IBM Global, addressed artificial intelligence and ways for attendees to better leverage AI tools to their benefit.

Dennis Garcia, Assistant General Counsel of Microsoft Corporation, addressed security and privacy, with a specific focus on developing security strategies and leveraging technology to execute those strategies. Finally, David Cambria, Global Director of Operations for Baker McKenzie, spoke on adoption and change management, outlining ways legal technologists can maximize their impact and user adoption by identifying the right tools and leveraging change management techniques.

Following each of the keynote speeches, Andy Peterson, co-founder of the consulting firm Design Build Legal, led panel discussions that probed deeper into the ideas presented at the conference. These sessions were also a valuable opportunity for attendees to collaborate on design thinking principles through small group exercises.

The Highlights

While many interesting and thought-provoking ideas were presented and discussed over the course of the four days, a few things stood out as real highlights of this year’s conference. The first was an overarching call for legal technology professionals to adopt new ways of thinking about technology and innovation. Lawyers and law firms were tasked with engaging in collaboration and considering different viewpoints in order to start thinking differently about the various technology possibilities offered in the marketplace.

To that end, Zach Abramowitz used his session on new legal service delivery to address how law firms can strategically position themselves to capitalize on new potential markets that might not have previously been on their radars. In encouraging this shift in mindset, he likened law firms to killer whales who have learned to adapt and beach themselves in order to catch prey. The panel discussion that followed highlighted the need for firms to analyze their own internal structures and processes, not just the available technology options, recognizing that sometimes that means developing internal innovations in order to remain competitive.

Change was also a central theme of Shawnna Hoffman’s speech on AI. Rather than simply discussing the benefits that AI can bring to legal practice, she also focused on some of the biggest risks and struggles lawyers face when it comes to implementing and using AI tools. Among the highlights were having enough good, clean data, taking the time to understand new technology and how it works, being proactive in thinking about regulations that will impact new technologies, and developing a clear idea of the benefits you plan to gain by implementing new tools.

Finally, on the privacy and security front, Dennis Garcia laid out a compelling list of 20 considerations that legal technologists and attorneys should always keep in mind as new technologies continue to emerge in today’s data-driven world. Among them were understanding the data you have, developing detailed security policies, investing in training, being aware of potential threats, implementing an incident response plan, and working with specialists both internally and for external security audits. Ultimately, the goal is to gain your clients’ trust when it comes to handling and securing their data.

Looking to the future, ALT is pursuing a plan to increase membership in 2019, with a goal of hitting 500 members by the end of the year. As part of that initiative, ALT has added a young leaders committee in the hopes of reaching out to younger technology professionals and encouraging them to join ALT’s ranks. Given the building momentum and the high quality of this year’s speakers, we should expect to see great things from the next ctrl ALT del conference in 2020.

Special note: I would like to personally thank Dave Umlah and the ctrl ALT del conference team for making this event happen. It is a unique environment and I can see the value of continuing down this path for legal IT leaders.