The International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) will kick off its annual in-person Conference on August 22nd in Las Vegas. But it will be without the presence of many of the world’s leading legal tech journalists. ILTA has invited and waived registration fees for a select number of legal tech journalists to attend in person. The rest must attend virtually.
The International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) will kick off its annual in-person and hybrid Conference on August 22nd in Las Vegas. But it will be without the presence of many of the world’s leading and most influential legal tech journalists. Why? ILTA, its infinite wisdom, has chosen only to invite and waive registration fees for a select number of legal tech journalists to attend in person. The rest? ILTA says it was “thrilled” to allow the rest to attend only virtually.
(Most legal tech organizations, like other industry groups, waive conference registration fees to journalists).
But of course, for journalists, virtual attendance is of limited value. We don’t attend conferences for the presentations. We attend to see and talk to the vendors. To see and hear what’s new and what may be coming down the pike. To get a sense of the vibe in the industry. You can’t get this by sitting at home staring at a computer screen view of some virtual exhibit hall.
The more coverage of conferences like that of ILTA and the vendors who attend, the better. The better both for the organization and the vendors and, for that matter, the entire legal tech ecosystem.
It’s unclear what ILTA’s motivations are in only inviting a few select journalists to attend in person. It’s even more strange given who was not invited. Above the Law. Some of the most well-known writers and organizations in the legal tech community. Less than half of the panelists on Bob Ambrogi’s weekly Legaltech Week roundtable of well-known legal tech journalists got in-person invites. WTF???
The truth is the more coverage of conferences like that of ILTA and the vendors who attend, the better. The better both for the organization and the vendors and, for that matter, the entire legal tech ecosystem.
The more the merrier obviously doesn’t apply to media.
So why the snub? At first, ILTA seemed to suggest that the limited invitations stemmed from in-person limits at the hotel and were for safety purposes. But that seemed to go by the boards once Las Vegas opened by back up. But as late as June 4, in response to my inquiry, ILTA suggested that the limited invitation was based on safety: “We are striving for a safe, in-person event, and have not altered our planning for Press at this time.”
At the same time, ILTA’s website seemed to recognize that limits were no longer an issue:
“Will there be any in-person attendance limits?
No! The more, the merrier! We welcome in-person registrants who are members or non-members and there is no capacity limit at this time.”
The more the merrier obviously doesn’t apply to media.
So it’s not necessarily safety. And the number of legal tech journalists who generally attend conferences like this isn’t large enough to cause safety concerns or, for that matter, break the ILTA bank. At least I would hope not.
So it remains a mystery.
Certainly, ILTA has had its share of controversies that surfaced at and around the time of its yearly Conference. In 2016, ILTA lost its Executive Director to retirement right before its annual Conference. In 2017, as I reported, ILTA fired Peggy Wechsler, the Director of Programs and Strategic Relationships, on the eve of the Conference. Wechsler had been the primary organizer of the annual conferences since 1998 and, to many, was the organization’s face. And in 2018, Dan Liutikas, the then ILTA CEO, announced he was leaving the organization just a few days before the start of the Conference.
Given that history, perhaps ILTA is worried about a gaggle of press poking around the Conference and asking questions. Indeed, ILTA apparently tried to limit media coverage of the event before. As previously reported, in 2018 ILTA pulled the rug out of many in the legal tech community by refusing to invite a good number of bloggers. (Bloggers actually provide a substantial portion of legal tech reporting and coverage).
Or maybe the present snub is because the powers that be at ILTA think legal tech journalists aren’t all that important.
But every other legal tech group invites the press without demanding payment of registration fees. (It amazes me that some of us can get a press invite to a non-legal tech events like the Consumer Electronics Show. But can’t get one to attend a show in the industry upon which we report).
Indeed, ILTA’s own press policy seems to recognize the need for full press participation. According to the Policy, ILTA seeks to “create an equitable environment for media professionals from a variety of media outlets, as well as industry experts, industry bloggers, and legal technology authors to participate in, engage with, and report on the content and activities of ILTA conferences.” And it endeavors to “foster inclusion across legal technology media and author communities, including traditional press, industry thought leaders and specialized authors/bloggers within ILTA’s constituent space.”
Hard to see how excluding a good portion of the press from in-person attendance while favoring a select few creates an equitable environment and fosters inclusion.
Hard to see how excluding a good portion of the press from one of the first in-person conferences since the pandemic while favoring a select few creates an equitable environment and fosters inclusion.
I assume ILTA would say, oh, you can attend press members, just pay the whopping registration fee. But this misses the point. ILTA seems to think that inviting journalists is doing the journalists a favor. Instead, the media are invited to events to enhance the influence and breadth of the show itself. It’s to benefit the vendors by reporting what they are offering or intend to offer. Our reporting helps the entire legal tech community and, for that matter, the legal ecosystem. The more coverage of conferences like this one and the vendors who attend, the better both for the organization, the vendors and the purchasers of products.
And unlike many of those who pay the registration fees, media representatives don’t buy the products being displayed. And certainty, we aren’t necessarily there for the presentations. We are there to report, not buy.
(Yes, ILTA’s alleged concern about safety and limiting numbers might be seen as farsighted given the recent delta surge. But the number of legal journalists is so few, its hard to see how excluding them would make much of a difference. And ILTA is still trumpeting “the more the merrier” and encouraging attendance in general. In any event, ILTA’s position with respect to limited media invitations was made before the new variant surge.)
Limiting the flow of information, particularly in an industry that gets scant attention already does no one any good, including ILTA.
Where There’s a Will There’s a Way
But despite ILTA’s efforts to exclude those who report and write about legal tech from the Conference proper, several legal tech journalists will still be there to report what they can. They are setting up interviews with vendors in the headquarter hotel apart from the conference itself to give vendors the opportunity to talk about what they are doing. Above the Law is sponsoring a suite at the Mandalay Bay so that vendors and others can visit and be interviewed by several of them all at once. (If you are interested, contact Joe Patrice at firstname.lastname@example.org). Yes, the group will miss access to the Exhibit Hall (ILTA won’t even provide the #NotInvited that perk). That’s unfortunate since it’s where a lot of stories come from. But rest assured the group will do the best it can to bring you what it can.
ILTA’s stance is disappointing. It’s disappointing to those who aren’t invited in person. But it should be disappointing to everyone in the legal ecosystem, from vendors to purchasers of legal tech products and even venture capitalists. Limiting the flow of information, particularly in an industry that gets scant attention already does no one any good, including ILTA.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am the Chair Elect of the Law Practice Division of the American Bar Association. The Division, which currently has almost 22,000 members, annually puts on the ABA TechShow in the early spring. ABA Media Policy provides that ABA programs be open to the media.