Three Conversations Overheard at ILTACON

ILTACONI’ve had a few weeks to reflect on ILTACON 2019 in Orlando. It was my first ILTACON so I knew little of what to expect outside of the scheduled content and vendor list. However, I knew for sure that it would be big and there would be a lot of conversations. And like most conferences, the conversations would generate valuable nuggets of information to bring home. It delivered!

Here are a few takeaway conversations I overheard during my days (and nights) at #ILTACON19.

“We Should Collaborate”

Our society is entrenched in crowdsourcing and group engagement. Therefore it’s no surprise that many firms talk to vendors in a modernized speak that’s focused on not just hiring them but collaborating with them. The client’s experience is well beyond that of just the lawyer-client relationship. Instead, a cross-disciplinary experience from multiple organizational sources formulates the impact on the client and the delivery of legal services.

The vision of proper collaboration – utilizing diverse practices and human capital – can get complicated quickly. Yet, the potential for larger revenues and superior client loyalty should make the team approach all worth it. Reliable project management and other tech tools can establish and track projects that boost productivity and optimize skillsets for the biggest payoff.

Attendees saw this potential. They tasted it and wanted more.

“Oh, You’re A Lawyer?”

It’s no surprise that IT leaders from diverse organizations dominated ILTACON. It was, however, encouraging to hear that ILTA board members hope to entice more lawyers to attend.

Many of the people who work with lawyers – from operations to C-suite executives – were there learning and exploring. In comparison, I only came across a handful of attorneys in private practice or corporate roles who were there to join their colleagues in the conversation.

The allied legal professionals I was fortunate to meet brought a wide range of experience and skills to their roles, often originating outside the legal-scape. This diversity of thought on topics like data analytics and innovative practices was refreshing and promising.

More lawyers need to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with their teammates in overcoming operational inefficiencies and driving innovation. Enticing lawyers to participate in these conversations is the first step.

“I Have Various Roles”

When asked “What do you do in your role?”, ILTACON attendees commonly paused then inquired as to whether you want the short or long answer. Or better said: would you like to hear about the title I have or the problems I solve?

These conversations tend to begin with the term “nonlawyer,” followed closely by a cringe from the other party. While it may be brushed off as just a simple descriptor, “nonlawyer” can have an unnecessary tone of arrogance. The legal profession is probably the only industry where people are defined by being a “non-something.” There aren’t marketing people and non-marketing people; there are just different people in different roles.

ILTACON attendees talked openly about struggling to generate the organizational buy-in needed to make real change happen. For example, whether to shift a process or onboard a new technology. The business-as-usual resistance from partners or general counsel was a common theme.

The broad components of the business of law – the delivery of legal services aside from just practicing law – are dependent on allied professionals having a seat at the table. To engage this evolving, data-driven, collaborative legal industry, they need to be part of the conversation. Right now they’re embracing whatever roles work to spark operational evolution and get this message across the lawyers’ desks (literally and figuratively). It would seem that getting counsel to ILTACON in the first place would make such convincing easier.

In Closing

I was an outlier at ILTACON. I’m a lawyer working for the Illinois Supreme Court with his eye on legal technology and other advances in the profession. Nevertheless, I had exchanges with fellow first timers and ILTACON veterans that demonstrated an energy and enthusiasm for what’s next in our legal industry.

Throughout the conference, a common theme kept resurfacing: it’s all about the people. Technology is not a threat and disruption is not about replacement. People at ILTACON and beyond are pursuing avenues to improve the delivery of legal services in an interdisciplinary, collaborative way. When thinking about innovation don’t think technology first, think people first. This best practice was clear at ILTACON.

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Mark C. Palmer
As Chief Counsel, Mark leads professionalism programming through the statewide mentoring program, collaborating with stakeholders from Galena to Cairo. Mark also supports the development and delivery of educational programming to lawyers and in law schools. When not in the office, you will likely find Mark and his wife busy raising their twin daughters, enjoying his passion of traveling and eating around the world, and training for his next half marathon.
Mark C. Palmer

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