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Are We Ready for In-Person Legal Tech Conferences? Or Are We Jumping the Gun?

Written by Doug Austin, Editor of eDiscovery Today

Normally, I write about eDiscovery or information governance best practices or trends on the IPRO blog. But this post goes beyond that – it’s a health and safety societal trend that happens to impact the eDiscovery and InfoGov worlds (among many others). 

And, while it’s August 2021, it’s starting to feel to many like March 2020 all over again, which is causing many to rethink participation in the planned in-person legal tech conferences not only next week, but in the next few months as well.

ILTACON 2021

Next week is ILTACON 2021, which will return as a hybrid conference this year after being conducted completely virtually last year, like just about all conferences after mid-March 2020. The conference will include an in-person component (at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas), as well as livestreaming of several of the sessions to a virtual audience.

As I discussed last week on eDiscovery Today, ILTA is taking plenty of precautions for the in-person portion of the conference next week. They are requiring in-person attendees to be vaccinated (with a rigorous process to confirm vaccination status), masks are required (per the state of Nevada), and they have limited in-person attendees to provide social distancing space at sessions and events, while also curtailing some of the official events that they have hosted in year’s past (e.g., no exhibit hall major shindig on Monday night). 

And, by making it a hybrid event, ILTA has given people the option to still attend virtually if they either don’t feel comfortable attending in-person, or are simply logistically challenged to attend (i.e., international attendees). ILTA has taken just about every precaution it can to conduct a safe conference.

But, as Bob Ambrogi points out in this post on his LawSites blog where he announces he plans to now attend virtually instead of in-person, Las Vegas is “a major tourist destination that will be teeming with non-ILTA visitors, some percentage of whom will most certainly be unvaccinated. It can do nothing about the fact that bars, restaurants and coffee shops will be crowded with maskless patrons eating and drinking.” 

Bob also reported last Friday that one major vendor has decided not to send staff to ILTACON as a result of a travel ban at that company but will continue to support it virtually. That’s ironic, because that vendor is supposed to provide green, yellow and red wrist bands for attendees to express comfort level for hugs and handshakes. What color do you give people who don’t want to attend in-person at all?  Burgundy?

For the record, I am still planning to attend as I’m covering the event as press and moderating the session Better Together? E-discovery with Teams and Other Collaboration Platforms next Thursday at 11 AM PT with a terrific panel (more about that here). I’m not worried about the conference itself – it’s the rest of the Las Vegas environment that convinces me I need to be careful.

Conferences Coming Up

But ILTACON is not the only conference coming up in the next few months with an in-person component – other legal tech, eDiscovery and InfoGov conferences are scheduled soon that are planned to be either hybrid or completely in-person.  Here are some of them:

And, of course, Legalweek plans to return to an in-person conference next year (1/31-2/3) at the New York Hilton Midtown in NYC. Registration has already begun!

Conclusion

But proceeding with all those events in-person will depend on what happens in the US and the world over the next few weeks and months with the Delta variant (and possibly other variants) of the coronavirus.

Planning in-person events takes a lot of time and coordination (for example, ILTA already has ILTACON venues planned for five of the next six years!) and you can’t easily “turn on a dime” when changing plans – it’s more like trying to turn the Titanic when trying to avoid the iceberg. 

I hope that, for many who spend inordinate amounts of time preparing for these events that may be battling for survival, that last analogy doesn’t hit too close to home. I am optimistic for a future where we’ll see many of these events back in-person at full strength. I hope you’re optimistic too.

IPRO is supporting many events in the coming months and also is taking precautions to ensure the safety of employees and clients during them.

And for more educational topics from me related to eDiscovery, cybersecurity and data privacy, feel free to follow my blog, eDiscovery Today!