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Legalweek 2017: Expanding the Conference Beyond Tech
Every industry needs a week dedicated to them. Fashion has Fashion Week, technology is celebrated at Tech Week, and there’s even a Social Media Week. For legal professionals, Legalweek is an opportunity to learn new skills, stay updated on the latest trends, and meet other legal professionals. In this episode of Law Technology Now, hosts Bob Ambrogi and Monica Bay chat with John Stuttard, Senior VP of Global Events at ALM Media, and Nick Bruch, Senior Analyst at ALM Legal Intelligence, about about Legalweek 2017 and their roles in putting the conference together. Originally, Legalweek was focused on technology but has since broadened its scope to include the whole legal industry. Guests John and Nick discuss this transition as well as other changes taking place at the conference, including the introduction of a fee for the expo hall. They conclude with the sentiment that, while there is a lot to be said about legal technology on its own, the new mission of the conference is to bring together all aspects of law.
John Stuttard has been Senior Vice President of Global Events at ALM Media Properties, LLC since April 2016. Mr. Stuttard joined ALM from Seven Point Equity Partners, where he served as an Operating Partner focused on investments in companies in the trade show industry.
Nicholas Bruch is a Senior Analyst at ALM Legal Intelligence. His experience includes advising law firms and law departments in developing and developed markets on issues related to strategy, business development, and market intelligence.View transcript
Law Technology Now
Legal Week 2017: Expanding the Conference Beyond Tech
Intro: You are listening to the Legal Talk Network.
Bob Ambrogi: Hello, I am Bob Ambrogi.
Monica Bay: And I am Monica Bay.
Bob Ambrogi: We have been writing about law and technology for more than 30 years.
Monica Bay: That’s right. During that time we have witnessed many changes and innovations.
Bob Ambrogi: Technology is improving the practice of law, helping lawyers deliver their services faster and cheaper.
Monica Bay: Which benefits not only lawyers and their clients, but everyone.
Bob Ambrogi: And moves us closer to the goal of access to justice for all.
Monica Bay: Tune in every month as we explore the new legal technology and the people behind the tech.
Bob Ambrogi: Here on ‘Law Technology Now’.
Monica Bay: Hi, I am Monica Bay and welcome to ‘Law Technology Now’ and I have a special guest today, which is fun, because he’s also with ‘Law Technology Now’, Bob Ambrogi. Bob, start this off a little bit by telling our listeners a little bit about yourself.
Bob Ambrogi: Oh, I think they know about me, if they listen to the show at all. Yeah, I’ve been co-hosting this show for a while with Monica, usually we do it separately, so it’s fun when we get to do it together, and I write the blog, lawsitesblog.com, I write for ‘Above the Law’, I write for ‘The ABA Journal’ and various other places covering legal technology.
Monica Bay: And I’m Monica Bay and I was the editor-in-chief of Law Technology News for 17 years. I retired right after Legaltech on 2015. I was with the company for 30 years the first part in San Francisco. I’m now a fellow at Stanford at the CodeX Group and I’m still doing work with ALM. I have a series called “Women of Legal Tech” that profiles women in legal tech.
So, we have two great guests today, our first one is John Stuttard, and John, I’m going to turn the mike to you for a little bit to tell our listeners a little bit about yourself.
John Stuttard: Sure, well, firstly, I say it’s a real pleasure to meet you all. My name is John Stuttard, I am the Senior Vice President of Global Events at ALM, and I joined the company in April last year with a view to really resetting the events business within ALM has one of the leading businesses that is a gross driver, driving the business forward. My background and working career has always been in events, I came from United Business Media, which is a multi-platform media company but with laterally with an event’s first strategy. They went through the whole process of moving from print to digital, as it is normal with event companies. They are usually born out of a publishing business. And before that I was with Reed Exhibitions, I think these two are the vie for position but they’re either the first or second in terms of largest event companies in the world.
So I worked for both of them running their event portfolios in different geographies, but with UBM you probably can tell by my accent which I can’t let this put — with UBM I ran their US business or North American business and I’ve been based here in the US for 15 years now.
Monica Bay: And Nicholas Bruch, I hope I pronounced that right, tell us a little bit about you?
Nicholas Bruch: Sure, I’m also happy to join you today. I’m a senior analyst at ALM Intelligence. I cover areas related to law firm competition. Before coming to ALM I was a consultant, mostly for law firms, although sometimes for law departments. I worked for Huron Consulting first in London and then in New York, and now I have the pleasure to work at ALM and work with John on Legalweek.
Monica Bay: Terrific. John, can you tell us a little bit about Legalweek, the experience, how it was created and what it’s hoping to be in about two weeks now?
John Stuttard: Sure. Yeah, it’s coming out fast. We’ve got a little counter on our website that unnerves me because it counts down the seconds to the event.
Monica Bay: Yeah, and by the time this event goes on air it’ll probably be a week.
John Stuttard: Right.
Monica Bay: So, anyway, I interrupted you. Go ahead.
John Stuttard: But yeah, as I said, I come from an events background and I don’t profess to be an expert in all things legal and you have me at somewhat of a disadvantage in that. I think, Monica, you’ve been to every single legal tech.
Monica Bay: Not all of them, but I think most of the — I think it’s 36 now.
John Stuttard: Yeah.
Bob Ambrogi: I think I’ve been to a good number of them myself, if not going back quite a way as you.
John Stuttard: Well, Legaltech is a fabulous product and it’s a fabulous event, but all products have their life-cycles, and when I joined I was looking at the trends in terms of participation and attendee numbers and sponsor activity and that kind of stuff and I noticed that the legal text sort of format which is predicated on eDiscovery, has reached a plateau where eDiscovery has become so mainstream that I think it’s well understood by the legal community and it’s fairly recent, if you go back 10 years it was a very new and interesting and important technology driving a lot of development in the industry, but in the meantime what ALM built was the single largest collection of individuals from the legal sector at any one event, which is very interesting to me because it’s only based on really the technology elements of the legal industry.
And where I come from, if you have a large enough position in an industry, like ALM does with its leading brands and its leading publications and hundreds, thousands of subscribers, I wondered why we had largest event but only focused on really sort of predicated on the technology side of things and I looked to see whether there is an event that expands more broadly to include other job titles and other professionals from the legal industry. There are other events in the US but there isn’t a week that the legal industry can claim as its own, which I found very interesting and I have been involved in other industries like Fashion Week or other industries, Marketing Week, where the industry puts the spotlight on itself and whoever you are in that industry, you know that is your week, that’s the week in which your industry gathers. The spotlights on the issues that are discussed are the sort of the hot topics and the current issues, across the whole industry not just in one sector.
So that’s really what I started with and then started to ask customers, subscribers, participants, sponsors, attendees and delegates, what their needs were and it wasn’t just those that do participate, it’s others that do not participate, and very resoundingly what I got was the answer that Legaltech is very interesting and very well-known, and for those that are focused on technology it’s a fantastic event.
However, we would like something more broad that actually talk to us in our own job titles, which is why we then looked at other events and we were actually doing other events outside of Legal Tech for other job titles, another job sectors, and we realized that there’s an opportunity to actually combine them, because professionals these days are, I hate to say — but they are time poor. We’re all busier than we’ve ever been before with more on our calendars than we have ever had before. So if we’re going to spend time at a conference or at an event, we want it to be as valuable as it can possibly be, so that’s why we decided to broaden out Legal Tech.
Legal Tech is still the most significant single activity during Legalweek as we build the other activities, and it’s a great event, so I don’t want to downplay it’s important at all. But, it’s just perfect to build more activity, and more conferencing and more people around it, so that we can then create this week in which the legal industry gathers and then people from the legal industry will know that’s my week, I should be there.
Bob Ambrogi: John, I am just curious, I’m not even sure listeners would know the full range of what we’re talking about here but you’ve got a conference that will include legal executives, the legal women’s forum, legal pros which would be knowledge managers, law librarians, other types, legal marketing, legal CIO, there’s a small firm component to this.
John Stuttard: Yes.
Bob Ambrogi: Do you at all worry that you risk kind of the opposite of — maybe it was too focused before but could it be too broad now that it just kind of loses its identity and people don’t know what to make of it?
John Stuttard: Well, I can see why you asked that, but I don’t think so, because, for instance, for legal pros which you’re quite right, for those involved in low librarianship and the administration of legal departments, we ask that community specifically do you come to Legaltech?
And they said, no, not particularly, but we would like an event in the New York area that focuses on us and gives us what we need, and then it would be valuable to us to also see the exhibits, understand what is going on in technology in the legal industry as it relates to us in our job, but there wasn’t quite enough for them if it was only technology, and the same with the other groups.
Monica Bay: To play devil’s advocate for a moment though, that community that you just mentioned has a very, very robust annual meeting, that I have been to some of theirs and when you have added so many blocks, and I am not saying they are bad or good, but that venue when it was Legaltech only, the volume of folks that historically go there is so overwhelming to begin with, do you run the risk of having something for everyone in a venue that already has been a mob scene, is it going to overwhelm people or what’s your goal on that?
John Stuttard: Well, I think you are right, it’s busy, it’s a hotel-based event, and there comes a time in event’s lifecycles when they perhaps need to have a look at whether the hotel venue is right longer-term. I think for the next couple of years, yes, it should be a hotel-based venue, because we are talking about 8,000-10,000 participants across three days of the event and we can accommodate that.
As it builds, we may have to look at larger venues, and we have got to be careful with that, because you want to maintain the networking feel and the opportunity to meet people, bump into them in corridors, and have your sort of impromptu networking activity as you do in a hotel, but in a larger venue, so we have got to be careful with that.
Monica Bay: That’s a really good point, because I saw that happen in the last couple of years when the eDiscovery stuff was sort of slowing down and so many people told me, we have to come here for one reason which is, it’s the only time every year that we can all get together and do deals, so I mean, I get that, I think you are right. But I also agree with you that that hotel, I think it’s one of the biggest ones in Manhattan, and the options to go elsewhere are the big massive ones that are in not comfortable environments, the big, big huge ones.
One of my friends always said it’s better to have too many people in a smaller room than a big room where it looks like there’s only a handful of people. So I really understand your challenge on that.
But some of the folks I have talked to are really concerned. One of the funniest things was though, everybody is saying they are making it a week, and I thought it was a whole week, and at least 10 people I talked to said, I have to be there for a full week. I said no, no, no, it’s still three, it’s still three.
Bob Ambrogi: Everybody is exhausted after three days of Legaltech, that will be enough.
I wonder if I could ask Nick a question. Nick, you are going to be kind of opening this whole thing off with a panel the morning of the first day on the state of the industry and the opening address is going to be the four challenges and opportunities we should all be watching.
So I am wondering from your perspective as an industry analyst, what are the themes that unite all these different kinds of interest groups that are going to be at this conference, from marketers, to law librarians, to legal technologists, to small firm lawyers, are there themes common to all of them?
Nicholas Bruch: Yeah, I think there are. Legaltech to me has historically been about sort of innovation on the one hand and disruption on the other. I think you see that sort of everywhere in the legal industry these days. I think it’s not just on the technology side, it’s on the process side, it’s on the management side, it’s everywhere, and what we are going to be talking about in that opening session is sort of some of those mega trends that are driving all the conversations that will be happening throughout Legalweek, what the CMO’s are going to be talking about, what the CIOs are going to be talking about, what underpins all of that.
And I think what those things are fundamentally are, one, just a general increase in competition. I mean, we are seeing new players come into the legal industry, the eDiscovery players have been there and they are expanding their role. But also we see — in the UK we see people like KPMG and PwC move again. We see people coming in on the funding side, the litigation funding side. All these people are vying for revenue, for process, for some piece that has historically been part of the law firm sort of empire. So that’s one of the areas we will be sort of looking at.
We are going to look at the law department side. I think we all know there’s sort of a revolution happening inside law departments. They are now competing directly with law firms. We have thousands lawyer law departments right now that are essentially sort of boutique law firms.
On the law firm side I think what we will be looking at is how law firms are changing to address this environment. One, they are getting a lot larger, we know that, but fundamentally that’s not about sort of more seats and chairs, it’s really a new business model and it’s affecting how law firms invest in technology, how they think about technology, how they think about process, how they think about their business models, that’s going to be really what that opening session is about is exploring that whole space and talking about how those changes are impacting all the conversations that will be happening throughout Legalweek in all the different streams and in all the different sessions.
Monica Bay: I want to before we lose time to really applaud what you have done with the Legal Women Forum. I think the agenda is excellent and the speakers are really good, and I like the fact that it seems to have picked topics that will be relevant to, not just the newbies, but some of the middle and later folks, so I just wanted to give a shout out on that.
Nicholas Bruch: Thank you.
Monica Bay: I do want to get into some finance questions for you, because a lot of people have been whining to me about what they have always had in this show, which was, if you could go into the exhibit hall, you could go to the keynotes and you just had to get your ticket prior to, I think it was a couple of days before the show started, and that brought in a lot of people into the Exhibit Hall.
Why did you decide to make even that be — you have to pay for, I think it was $45 or something like that. With the Exhibit Hall there’s been so much crankiness from the vendors for not having enough people in the room for the last couple of years and now you are making it where everybody has to pay to get in. Is that a risk that you are taking because it could really alienate the Exhibit Hall? And I also noticed there was very little stuff in the propaganda about it.
Are you trying to phase out the Exhibit Hall, what’s going on with that and why did you make that decision, not you personally but the group?
John Stuttard: Well, it is a sad question and the background to it is there are a couple of things going on. First of all, despite the fact that you are saying that some exhibitors are saying they are not seeing enough people, that I think marks a different issue, though as you said earlier, the hotel is very full. Some of the feedback that we have been getting from sponsors and exhibitors in the Exhibit Hall is that they are seeing an awful lot of, not the right type of people, and sometimes — this may sound somewhat odd, but without any fees at all you cannot really control who is coming, anybody could come.
So what we brought in was, and I am from the exhibition industry, this is a fairly sort of tried and tested technique is just a small charge to act as a sort of filter and a guarantee that the people that are going to come are actually coming, they are making a small investment in it financially, which qualifies them as being relevant.
Now, it was very small, in fact, it was $15 up to a certain date, I forget when the cutoff point was, and then it went up to $45, so it’s not — this isn’t sort of a prohibitive amount of money, it’s really a qualifier to try and improve the quality of the people.
Monica Bay: So you didn’t want to get the people that just come for the tchotchkes.
John Stuttard: Right, right, exactly.
Bob Ambrogi: Isn’t that the only reason we all go?
John Stuttard: Well, that was one reason; another is offering CLE credits and access to all the keynotes and super sessions that we do is sort of — we are putting on a lot, and I know it’s difficult when you are making a change like this, when you have been used to it, but we wanted to make the keynotes even better. We wanted to sort of put on more in terms of the state of the industry address. We wanted to offer CLE credits in all sessions, but we had this discrepancy of saying, well, you won’t get CLE credits in certain things or you won’t be able to go to certain things. So with the charge we were able to offer even more in terms of keynotes.
Bob Ambrogi: John, will the Exhibit Hall have exhibitors to appeal to all these different segments of this show and will the Exhibit Hall be segmented in some way to reflect that?
John Stuttard: Not initially, no, but it’s a good question. It will be predominantly technology in the Exhibit Hall. There are some new things that weren’t there before. We have had sort of a reputation before for serving the larger law firms and the interests of larger law firms; there are far more small to medium-sized law firm numerically than there are large law firms and there are an awful lot of lawyers and attorneys involved in those firms. So we wanted to put more on for the small law firms, so there’s a conference for small law and there’s also a pavilion for small law, particularly for providers of services to the smaller law firms.
Bob Ambrogi: I am going to be on a panel at the Small Law Program, two panels.
John Stuttard: Exactly, you are. I know you are. So we have put into the Exhibit Hall a couple of other things which are new. There’s a Future Tech Demonstrations theatre and there’s quite a few companies, a dozen or so companies presenting in that theatre. So IBM and i-manager are a couple of them, but that’s new.
And there’s also a theatre for exhibits to make presentations off their own booth. Sometimes people feel uncomfortable wandering on to a booth and then getting the pitch; they would rather go to a more neutral environment and listen to exhibitors presenting to a more neutral space.
So there won’t be on the expo floor, there won’t be a full range of exhibits that cover the same aspects of the conference, all the different conferences in year one, we will move to that, but this is really the first step and we have got a very strong core of exhibitors who are technology-based and that will continue, but I think over time that will begin to expand.
Monica Bay: And I want to ask another question regarding the money. I noticed something that I thought was kind of interesting, because you have added some things, and particularly the Legal Women Forum one sort of surprised me, and I looked at it today, so I am glad to hear that you had the $15 one because I think that will help the younger folks. But in this one everything is $16.95. I think the only one that was less was a small firm one for $8.75, so that if I wanted to come — not me personally, but if a person wanted to come for the Legal Women Forum Track they would have to pay the same exact amount and the other ones for the whole show. So that seems counterintuitive. What’s the background on that, why did you decide to go that way?
John Stuttard: Well, it was really — we kept the pricing the same as last year’s pricing overall for the Master Pass, but we added an awful lot more to a Master Pass. So last year you would have paid $16.95 to get a full pass, a 3 day pass for Legaltech; now you are playing the same price to get a full pass to everything.
So we haven’t actually put the price up, we just put a lot more into it. I see where you are coming from, because you are only interested in picking a couple of sessions or a couple of tracks, we haven’t got a price for that, although we do have the exhibits only.
Monica Bay: Yeah. I mean, I was surprised because the Legal Women Forum, I could see a lot of people who — and I am using this as an example, it probably would be the case for any of the ones; I did acknowledge that the small firm one was much less money, but maybe this is on purpose, maybe you don’t want someone coming who just wants to go to that Legal Women or another one of the channels that you have added. So it just sort of surprised me. I thought you would have had a, okay, if you are only going to this, it’s this amount, but to have the same amount I sort of went, huh.
John Stuttard: Yeah. We have got to be flexible and we have got to kind of listen to the responses from the market; we may not have got that right first time out, but I think the issue that we were looking at here was in the other areas of focus we are calling them, CIO or Marketing or Legal Pros or even Small Firm, you are there in your capacity for your role. Now, the Legal Women’s Forum, you are there in sort of a very supportive environment with other women helping each other, giving each other career advice, discussing issues that women specifically as a gender issue face. So that is really in addition to whatever their specific capacity may be.
So we were really anticipating that participants of the Legal Women’s Forum would do that, but also would want to do something else and make sure that they get access. When they buy their pass, they are getting access to everything. You can’t actually go to the Legal Women’s Forum, not surprisingly, if you are not a woman, so access to that is restricted, but if you are a participant, your access to everything else is not restricted.
Bob Ambrogi: John, I want to ask you, the longtime stalwarts of attending Legaltech, like Monica and me, know that last year the man who ran it since 1999, Henry Dicker left ALM, and then you came in shortly after that. You mentioned in your opening today that part of your mission is to reset the event business at ALM.
So is this year kind of the beginning of a series of changes to this Legaltech show. Are we going to be seeing more, are we going to be seeing similar changes to Legaltech West Coast, will there be other Legaltechs or other similar conferences to this coming down the pike in other locations?
John Stuttard: Yes, there are. My kind of perspective on the events industry as I said earlier is, you can’t ask an industry and professionals in the industry to keep coming out to a multitude of different events. You want to make the times that people do come out. So the industry kind of norms on this are that, and it varies, but the averages are that professionals that go to events will go to two, possibly three, maximum per year.
Now, when I joined ALM, we were doing very many events. I think we had something in the order of 300. Now we want to simmer down that portfolio to a more manageable number, where we are putting larger events on and putting more into them so that the communities that we are trying to build these events for understand they have choices which are not asking them to come out every month to a different event.
But if they are going to come out, once, twice or three times a year, they are going to get a lot more in those events. We serve more than the legal industry, but that’s generally what I am sort of trying to spearhead as a strategy.
Bob Ambrogi: So more broad ranging, fewer, but broader in their coverage I guess of events over the course of the year.
John Stuttard: Yeah.
Bob Ambrogi: Interesting.
Monica Bay: We are running out of time so I would love to have both of you have a chance to give us anything that we didn’t ask you that you wanted to tell us, and let’s start with John.
John Stuttard: Well, that’s a nice question, thank you. I think probably what I would like to say is that I think that politically and internationally that there’s a whole mood at the moment of somewhat of revolution and change, and it’s not just in the legal industry, but I think the disruption, the innovation, the revolution is somewhat fortuitous to us at the moment, but it just ties in so neatly with what we are trying to build in Legalweek and Legaltech.
We are trying to build that conversation, where as Nick was portraying, we are trying to cover what is it that the industry is most concerned about, and if you come, you will get a good environment and a good opportunity to network with people who have the same opportunities and concerns and really discover what’s hot and what’s important in the legal industry at the moment. That’s what we are trying to build.
Bob Ambrogi: I just wondered if Nick had anything to say in closing on his part.
Nicholas Bruch: I would echo what John just said. I mean, I think in many ways what Legalweek is trying to accomplish is bringing all the sort of disparate sort of aspects of the revolution that’s happening in law. When we think about the law today, I think you see revolutions in shared service centers, law firms are really rethinking that business model. Those shared service centers, if you talk to firms, they tell you that their CMO is highly involved, their CIO is highly involved, the COO is highly involved.
I think what Legalweek is trying to do is bring all those people together. I think it makes less and less sense to talk about technology in isolation, technology is weaved into the law, the practice of the law, the business of law in ways that it wasn’t 10 or 15 or certainly 30 years ago.
Today, Legaltech only makes sense I think in a broader context, and I for one, I am really looking forward to the week for that reason. I talk to law firm leaders every day and I am sometimes talking to a CMO who has just made a $10 million investment in a technology piece, or a CIO who is desperately telling me how they are trying to convince their lawyers to work differently. We are not having a technology conversation; we are having a process conversation. All these people are now sitting at the same table and they are all having multifaceted conversations.
Bob Ambrogi: That’s really interesting. I think when Legaltech started, certainly technology was sort of a thing off on the side, it wasn’t integral to the practice of law, and as you say, now law practice, law business, and technology are all intertwined and it makes a lot of sense to bring them altogether.
Nicholas Bruch: I mean, I completely agree, and I would say it’s not just the eDiscovery space either; it’s contract management, it’s IP management, practice management systems, that’s one of the things I am really looking forward to seeing at Legalweek is the new practice management systems that some of the bigger firms are embracing.
Firms are trying to rethink how they even manage their businesses and simple things like that are really driving a revolution in firms being able to control a complex business that in many cases spans countries and practices and industries, I think all that is very exciting.
Monica Bay: And Nick, can you please tell us how our listeners could reach out to you?
Nicholas Bruch: Sure. They can reach me at my email address, HYPERLINK “mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org” email@example.com. They can also read articles I have written on HYPERLINK “http://www.” law.com Legal Intelligence Blog; either of those are pretty good ways to find me or what I think about what is happening in the legal industry.
Monica Bay: Well, thank you so much for your time. And John, for you, how can someone reach you?
John Stuttard: Sure. My email address is HYPERLINK “firstname.lastname@example.org” email@example.com, and I would be delighted to get any questions or an email from anybody. And of course, I will be at the event at the Hilton in a couple of weeks’ time, making myself as available as I possibly can.
Monica Bay: And, Bob how about you?
Bob Ambrogi: Anybody can find me at my blog, HYPERLINK “lawsitesblog.com” lawsitesblog.com. I am on Twitter @bobambrogi. Did we ever say the dates of this event anywhere in the show? John, what are the dates of this event, remind our listeners?
John Stuttard: We start on the 31st of January and we end on the 2nd of February.
Bob Ambrogi: Very good. I look forward to seeing you all in New York.
John Stuttard: Fantastic.
Monica Bay: And I am Monica Bay and you can reach me at HYPERLINK “mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org” email@example.com. And we thank all of you for listening today. We will see you in the next edition.
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