December 2017: A Late ILTA Recap and the Re-Flourishing of the Document Management System

In August I attended ILTACON, which bills itself as “the premier educational and networking event for the legal sector…ILTACON is the best place to learn what works, what doesn’t and what’s next in legal technology.” This conference is always highly anticipated and always delivers. It’s run and organized well, with excellent panels and a fantastic vendor hall. It’s a four and a half day whirlwind event, leaving everyone exhausted.

I really loved the conference app– a wonderfully built-out tool with session descriptions, tags, ability to choose sessions and add photos. It was a great help in deciding which sessions to attend, especially at the last minute.

This big takeaway was that 2017 will be the year we remember as the re-flourishing or re-invigoration of the contemporary law firm DM. Before I get into details, let me set the stage for how to think about our legal technology.

The Day 1 keynote by hacker Pablos Holman called “Innovate or Die Trying: From the Mind of a World-Renowned Hacker” was fantastic. For me, the lesson was “Don’t ask what your device[/software/tool/platform] can do; ask what you can make it do.”

Pablos encouraged (if not demanded and even shamed) us to look at important problems and tie together our tools, knowledge, and ingenuity to solve them. Example: his lab has built a system to identify female Anopheles mosquito – a carrier of malaria – as it’s flying by. How? The female has a different wingbeat rate than the male. And then – zap! A laser takes aim and blasts Mrs. Anopheles dead. Pablo’s lab didn’t invent anything new, but it did knit tools, knowledge, and ingenuity to start solving a problem that kills over a million people a year.

This keynote idea reset my thinking on technology planning and implementation over the course of the conference. While we all want to buy the best solution, we shouldn’t be driven only by better and faster. Our lawyers and their clients need us to solve their problems, even ones they haven’t anticipated.

Where better to start than the legal DM space, considering our DMs are the biggest legal technology investments we make. The big players, iManage, OpenText, and NetDocuments all had new functionality and developments to talk about, and we are continuing to see more platforms for smaller-scale document management and collaboration.

The biggest splash at ILTACON was iManage/RAVN acquisition and further developments, which had already been announced (see some write-ups here and here), but ILTACON was a chance to see and hear more. The RAVN demo was presented to a jam-packed room, indicating huge interest in next-generation legal search functionality. The iManage courtesy rooms were endlessly busy, and I was lucky to score a private demo with them. I was blown away by the data analytics and their potential use cases. Most importantly, from a user perspective, the ability to use iManage “from anywhere” – within any MS application – will be a true gamechanger. The iManage team has clearly put a lot of time and thought into figuring out how lawyers actually interact with their tools day in and day out.

NetDocuments – what I loved here was the flexibility of the user interface. Also, because this company has been cloud-focussed since day 1, it’s ready, willing, and able to smoothly connect with other cloud systems. I saw a SalesForce view – truly, another gamechanger. Having both client data and matter artefacts essentially in one place will make a lawyer’s day infinitely more manageable.

Finally, OpenText remains among the most common DMs. They’re also ready for cloud service (though not 100%), and are offering and developing new functionality. Upgrades to version 16 will include better searching, but to sweeten the deal, the Decisiv search platform will be offered as part of the platform rather than an add-on. One of the interesting things that’s coming is the ability to save an url into an eDocs folder.

All three DMs are also offering or developing client collaboration tools with built-in document versioning and management.

It’s worth noting that the HighQ team and vendor hall presentation was a highlight for me, and though not a full DM solution, it offers a close approximation for many issues. This experience was a true glimpse into what is not just possible, but doable, right now. I use a simple HighQ platform to communicate with other legal KMers, but we haven’t built it out or used it to any of its real power (we probably have a free license with limited functions and/or the shoemaker’s children go barefoot). What I saw at ILTACON forced me to think of all the ways firms can collaborate and with clients. You can put all kinds of tools into your white-label HighQ portal (document assembly, document management, email threading…I couldn’t come up with a function the team said “no” to). HighQ is a medium to provide slick and seamless service, and there is no end to what can be dreamt up and developed. Get your demo now!

As firms move into evaluating the existing DM offerings and upgrading or switching, we need to keep Pablos’s exhortations in mind. What can we make our solutions do?


  1. Luciano Duranti, professor and researcher provided a terrific 2016 conference presentation on serious considerations for long term use of cloud solution when…the cloud (by the way, it’s vendor’s server, not your organization) is not your firm’s server.

    Presented at the Canadian Association of Law Libraries conference.

    Of course Opentext is pushing their cloud solution to big organizations on their server(s).

    It is suggested one contact her at University of B.C. to obtain a copy of her presentation.