By Tim Rollins
Day two of Legaltech started off with a different sort of keynote. Instead of a single speaker laying out overarching themes for the day (and the conference as a whole), four judges familiar to the world of e-discovery (and our blog visitors) sat on a panel with moderator Patrick Oot of Shook, Hardy & Bacon. He facilitated a discussion of hypothetical e-discovery cases with Judges Andrew Peck, Joy Flowers Conti, Xavier Rodriguez, and William Matthewman.
The panel used hypotheticals to offer their opinions on issues related to e-discovery, including accidental disclosure of privileged documents, non-cooperation during e-discovery, and the intersection of BYOD policies and discoverable data. On these topics, the judges sounded some familiar themes:
- The benefits of FRE 502(d) agreements
- The power of cooperation
- The importance of attorneys “knowing the court”
Despite the conference being overtly focused on legal technology, this session sent an important reminder to the legal community: technology can augment your skills or efficiency, but it cannot replace fundamental legal skills like understanding the law and case rulings, knowing the judges before whom you’re trying a case, and negotiating effectively.
The judges finished with a brief Q&A. Their most animated responses, unsurprisingly, came to a question which asked, “How can judges tell the difference between ‘a truly uncooperative lawyer vs one that is zealously defending their client?’” The judges unanimously responded that they could; the reasoning, Judge Conti explained, comes down to having legitimate, detailed reasons for their objections. “Don't just use buzzwords,” continued Judge Peck. “Have data or alternative approaches to back up your objections.”
Along with the operations/legal project management themes of this year’s Legaltech, artificial intelligence (AI) and its use cases have been a popular topic—and we attended a session on the role of AI in legal and business processes. We often address AI’s impact at a theoretical level (e.g., replacing lawyers) without paying much attention to the ways it already affects the legal business—by replacing, automating, or improving improving existing processes or skills. Although discussed in another session, one great future use of AI may be to increase individuals’ access to legal services that are becoming commoditized, like simple wills and divorces. To achieve real gains from AI, we need to view it more as a tool, the panelists said, than as a solution to an intractable problem. To learn more about AI and more practical uses for it, register for Exterro's upcoming webcast on practical use cases for AI and machine learning on March 7th!
The next big panel we attended featured several law school professors and educators focusing on the current state and future of legal education. The panelists, listed below, held a spirited conversation about the tension between teaching law students the theory and the practice of the law.
- Honorable Xavier Rodriguez, US District Judge (W.D. Tex.) and Adjunct Professor of Law, St. Mary’s University School of Law
- Mary Mack, Executive Director, Association of Certified E-Discovery Specialists (ACEDS)
- Daniel Martin Katz, JD, PhD, Associate Professor of Law and Director, The Law Lab, IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law
- William Hamilton, Legal Skills Professor and E-Discovery Project Executive Director, University of Florida Levin College of Law
- Laura Norris, Assistant Clinical Professor, Santa Clara University School of Law and Director, Entrepreneurs’ Law Clinic
Schools struggle to find the right balance, but often err farther on the side of theory of the law, although over the past five or so years, there’s been a gradual push to include more practical skills at law schools where panelists Hon. Xavier Rodriguez and Prof. William Hamilton serve on the faculty. Prof. Norris explained that students need to be able to jump into positions immediately upon graduation. With around 20% of law students taking positions on in-house legal teams, the traditional “apprenticeship” model from law firms is losing ground. And that’s where organizations like ACEDS can help take up the slack. However, given that the panelists uniformly agreed that law school graduates do not have the skills they need to practice law upon graduation, it’s apparent that legal education still has significant room for improvement.
We hope you've enjoyed our coverage of day two of Legaltech 2018 and that you'll join us for tomorrow, the final day of the conference and the final day of our live blog.