ILTACon came alive last week in DC for legal tech startups and emerging growth companies – and for folks like me who find these companies interesting.

ILTACon (Internal Legal Technology Association), an annual conference for legal technology folks from around the world and ALM’s Legaltech Conference have historically been dominated by large company legal tech.

The empahsis being, as it appeared to me, large companies selling to large law firms and corporations.

Guys like me who I practiced in a small law firm and started legal tech companies can be overwhelmed. Walking through the exhibit hall in years past I hardly understood what the companies were selling. Sessions seemed to be presented by people from larger organizations.

Unlike Clio Cloud, ABA TechShow and AALL Annual (American Assoc of Law Libraries), where I could understand the technology and relate to the people and their causes, I was a little lost at ILTACon.

This year seemed different, and maybe it comes down to what you make of the conference.

This year there were numerous legal tech startups and emerging growth companies. Whether speaking, exhibiting or just walking the halls, legal tech entrepreneurs were present — in big numbers.

Perhaps it was my growing interest in the stories of legal tech entrepreneurs, but there is something more going on.

The legal community is ripe for new legal tech.

  • Law firms and legal shops in corporations have seen the handwriting on the wall. The efficiencies and innovation brought by tech is upon them, no more holding on to the status quo. Larger tech and publishing companies are not the most innovative.
  • Legal tech is being written about everywhere, much of the ‘print’ about legal tech startups.
  • Funding, whether from family and friends or traditional capital/venture capital for companies having gotten traction, is more available for legal tech startups. Funders see the potential for growth and profits — if not an early exit.
  • The costs of developing legal tech solutions is not near as great as years past. Open source, cloud hosting and partnering with existing platforms are all available.
  • Lawyers are seeing opportunity,  inspiration and excitement in legal tech versus traditional law, with its limited opportunities. More lawyers are willing to take the chance.
  • AI and data driven analytics are going to lead to big change in the law. Getting in early as a founder or employee is exciting, and possibly rewarding.

Before heading out to DC, I came up with the idea of fearturing legal tech founders on LexBlog. I had seen ILTACon dedicate time and space to a ‘Startup Hub’ so I knew these folks would be there.

LexBlog’s Legal Tech Founders Series running on LexBlog, YouTube and my Facebook is my work of tracking down about a dozen founders for video interviews. Great conversations and stories, which I’ll discuss in more detail in a post later this week.

So for legal tech founders, I say “check out ILTACon next year.” Sure, the majority of attendees and exhibitors will be focused on large law and corporations.

But you have a place – picking up on the vibe, meeting with other founders and participating in the scheduled social events — and your own – to get to know other entrepreneurs. You may even pick up a potential customer or two. I did.

One after another of the legal tech founders at ILTACon told me business success was all about relationships – for partnerships, hiring, funding, customers and tech development. ILTACon is one of the places where you build relationships as a legal tech founder.

I’ve gone from dissing ILTACon a bit to being a fan. For me, it’s the legal tech startups who breathed new life into ILTACon.