The Innovate Conference this week is the first major legal CLE that I know of put on by lawyers just a few years out of law school, 30 years of age and under. There was no law school or law firm behind the scenes. No older Bar association where they were just the youth division. This was entirely their own non-profit group. They did not know it had never been done before. They did not know that such things were not supposed to be possible. I certainly was not going to tell them. It is, after all, part of the good hacker credo of Silicon Valley, and this blog, to be bold, impactful, fast, open, and build social value.
They went forward, worked hard, and, the good news is, they pulled it off. The first ever Innovate conference was not only well run, all of the seventy-five plus attorneys, judges, professors, and scientists in attendance could feel the buzz. They knew something important was going on, something new, open and public, not secretive, where the only rule was innovation, to do something new and better. It was an event for inclusivity of subjects, not balkanization. It not only worked, on time, and with great food, it rocked!
This was not just another e-discovery CLE, although that was its focus; it was about the larger, fast changing world of information technology law. IT-Lex’s first public event reminded me, and others, of a quote from Winston Churchill about his younger days:
“Here was a place where real things were going on. Here was a scene of vital action. Here was a place where anything might happen. Here was a place where something would certainly happen.”
― Winston Churchill, My Early Life, 1874-1904
We heard the usual hot e-discovery topics, but presented in new ways. We also heard many topics not normally included with e-discovery, such as data breaches and the FBI’s take on computer security and terrorism. We heard about privacy issues, phone sex, selfies, getting hit, and social media. Innovate was tweeted, blogged, and God know what else by many, including mainstream Law Technology News, where it was featured headlines, many times. Although people were asked not to take photos of the FBI special agent who spoke for security purposes, it was otherwise a wide-open, transparent event.
The rule at the conference was Innovate, not elevate. There was no platform for elevated speakers. We all had round tables. Interaction was not just encouraged, it happened, big time. For instance, in my panel, Predicting Predictive Coding, Jason R. Baron, Maura R. Grossman and I only got through the first two of the ten points on our outline. That’s what we were hoping for.
Yes, like most of the panels, Jason, Maura and I had fun, and the predictive coding questions came from all over. We covered our materials, but had the joy of doing so in response to what people really wanted to know. All the speakers, not just our panel, told me later that they had a really good time. And, oh yeah, after the reception and drinks for everyone at the amazing Alfond Hotel, my wife and I had all of the speakers and sponsors over to my house that night for a real Winter Park pool side home-made Barbecue. We smoked salmon and had a blast.
Although the 30 and unders were in charge and set the agenda, set the lawyers and hand-mowers tone (you had to have been there to understand that inside joke), the older heavy weights in the e-discovery world were there too, and so was I. Still, although we were the names, we all knew the real standouts were the next generation. That did not bother us. To the contrary, we relished in it, for it gives us hope for the future of our profession. As J.K. Rowling put it in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
“Age is foolish and forgetful when it underestimates youth.”
The speakers over 30 at Innovate were not foolish. Indeed, they came long distances to present at Innovate because they understood full well the importance of the next generation. They included the cream of the crop of IT savvy lawyers, such as Jack Halprin of Google, Judge John Facciola, Judge Nan Nolan, Judge Ron Hedges, Jason Baron, Maura Grossman, Tom O’Connor, William Hamilton, and Ken Withers, who made a very rare appearance outside of the Sedona Conference. Others wanted to come, but has last-minute set-backs, such as Judge Paul Grimm, Browning Marean, and the FCC’s Peter Miller. The success of Innovate, and blossoming of our 30 and under lawyers, gives the rest of us hope for a future. A future where most lawyers, not just a few specialists, are capable of finding the needles of truth needed for justice in the vast cloudy Big Data haystacks.
This is how we older lawyers started our practice, in a legal environment where most every lawyer understood documents and how to do discovery. It was simple then. Paper documents were our friend and we could affordably find the dozen or so needed for trial from out of the few thousand available. And trials we had, full of drama, truth-reckoning and justice. Now trials have all but disappeared entirely. Although we still only need a dozen or more documents for trials, they are often lost, buried in mountains of data, too difficult, or too expensive to unearth. As a result what passes for justice these days is often just based on unsubstantiated allegations, a business settlement where nobody wins.
Although settlement and mediation are good, we law-elders, those of us who have tried cases and remember the Perry Mason days, we want those days to return, we want the power of truth to return. Of course, it will be in new form. We recognize the many advances in the law, the new diversity and evolving policies. But we also know the great losses of the profession during the past few decades, primary of which is loss of easy discovery of the key documentary facts. Loss of affordable litigation where trials are common place, where truth triumphs, human drama is common, and justice is done, not just business.
As a result of Innovate, and the next generation’s stepping up, we elders now have hope for a new dawn. The dark days of e-discovery incompetence, and blah blah blah litigation instead of trials, may be coming to an end. We have hope for a future where once again most lawyers can be masters of documents, not just a rare few specialists. A future where most lawyers can find the dozen or so documents needed for a trial, but do so from out of a billion file haystack, not just a thousand.
We know that the way to get back home to the days of fact-based-justice is by going forward, not resisting change.
We know that the competence needed for this future day will come by embracing the qualities of youth, qualities not reserved exclusively for the young in age, but more easily found there.
As Robert F. Kennedy, one of the country’s youngest Attorney Generals, put it:
“This world demands the qualities of youth; not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the life of ease.”
Join this new youth movement, become of friend of IT-Lex today.