No matter your practice area, there are legal conferences throughout the year that can help you stay up to date on developments impacting your career. In 2018, we highlighted conferences for young lawyers. This year we’re highlighting future law conferences.
What is a future law conference?
It wasn’t long ago that “future law” referred to any conference or continuing legal education (CLE) program that mentioned technology. After all, law school traditionally didn’t provide technology training and CLE addressed only substantive law.
For many decades, lawyers focused their CLE on staying current on case law, statutes, or regulations that impacted their practice areas. And most changes in substantive law didn’t occur rapidly.
However, in the last decade or so, lawyers realized their education should include more than substantive law. With the advent of computers, word processing, the internet, software, apps, platforms, portals, etc., lawyers’ attention has been pulled from law books. Lawyers recognize the need to educate themselves on innovative ways to efficiently, ethically, and effectively deliver legal services.
Over time, the number of conferences devoted to legal technology, legal operations, cyber security, etc., has burgeoned. But few practicing lawyers have the time to attend each and evaluate every platform as soon as it’s released. They need a strategy to identify what’s most relevant for their practice area.
To determine which conferences are most valuable, consider two factors. First, what do I need to know now to meet my ethical obligation of competence. Second, what will impact my practice in the near (or long) term.
Lawyers’ ethical obligation to technology
It’s (finally) well established that for a lawyer to be competent, he or she needs some familiarity with technology. A stake was placed in this hill in 2012 when the American Bar Association passed an amendment to a comment to the rule requiring a lawyer to be competent. This refers to the very first ethical rule in the Model Rules. Rule 1.1 provides:
A lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.
Comment 8 explains what’s necessary to maintain competence. The 2012 amendment explicitly added the underlined language:
To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology, engage in continuing study and education and comply with all continuing legal education requirements to which the lawyer is subject.
Illinois was the 15th state to adopt this language in its ethical rules. The change became effective in 2016. Thirty-five states have adopted a similar requirement.
How does a lawyer keep abreast with the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology? He or she needs to know enough to determine if the technology is relevant, as well as its benefits and risks. Lawyers can hire someone with expertise in this area, but still must be knowledgeable enough to supervise and provide oversight of their decisions. Think of it as knowing how to drive, but not the mechanics of the car’s combustion engine.
Conferences on the fundamentals of technology
If you’re a solo or small-firm practitioner, bar associations offer conferences geared toward helping you discern the relevancy of technology to your practice. The ABA’s General, Small Firm and General Practice Division will provide robust programming as part of its Innovate Your Practice for Success CLE Sessions at the ABA 2019 Midyear Meeting later this month in Las Vegas. The Illinois State Bar Association’s Solo and Small Firm Series in March also offers sessions on the nuts and bolts of practicing law while leveraging technology.
The 13th Annual Sedona Conference on e-Discovery in March presents cutting edge yet practical training on eDiscovery. This year’s focus is how privacy and data security are influencing eDiscovery. The conference will cover obligations to protect the legitimate privacy, confidentiality, and privilege interests of clients, opposing parties, and third parties.
In October, the Clio Cloud Conference offers an opportunity to learn best practices tailored to solo and small-firm practitioners. Whether you’re a Clio user or not, attendees gain insight on how to use technology to accomplish their goals.
Conferences on the logic behind technology
These conferences address applications of new technology that may not (yet) be ripe for your practice. They often focus on the logic or systems behind technology and its use in the legal profession. Think of it as explaining how a car works.
For example, there are myriad conferences exploring artificial intelligence (AI) and its potential applications in law. For a heady discussion on AI, travel to Montreal in June for the 17th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Law.
Blockchain and bitcoin have wide-reaching implications for the legal profession. Bitcoin Market Journal compiled a list of blockchain and cryptocurrency conferences around the world. The conferences are rated by sponsor, number of attendees, and other factors to help assess the most worthwhile.
The Commission on Professionalism is hosting our annual The Future is Now: Legal Services conference on May 16, 2019, in Chicago. The theme is The Rule of Law Amid Change. The Future Is Now is a combination of the practical and the more theoretical and inspirational. Speakers will discuss innovations in the legal landscape that can be leveraged in daily practice. They’ll also delve into big ideas that may take longer to marinate.
The winning combination of short TED-like talks and moderated town hall discussions is aimed at spurring thought into action. Interactions with speakers and other participants will provide insight on improving the delivery of legal services today, and what’s in store for tomorrow. Mark your calendars. Registration will open soon.
Whether you’re brushing up on the fundamentals of legal technology or staying ahead of what’s next, there’s a future law conference that can help you achieve your goals. Happy conferencing!
What events are you planning to attend in 2019?