#ILTA12 in the Rearview Mirror

“Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.”

According to Wikipedia, this warning is required on side-view mirrors for a very practical reason:

while these mirrors’ convexity gives them a useful field of view, it also makes objects appear smaller. Since smaller-appearing objects seem farther away than they actually are, a driver might make a maneuver such as a lane change assuming an adjacent vehicle is a safe distance behind, when in fact it is quite a bit closer.[2] The warning serves as a reminder to the driver of this potential problem.

Admittedly rearview mirrors do not typically present the same challenges as side-view mirrors. Nonetheless, it would be wise to keep the warning in mind as the ILTA 2012 conference slips into the recesses of your memory. With the passage of time, it’s easy to let things fade or blur together. I’d encourage you to make serious efforts to keep that learning fresh and close at hand. In an attempt to slow this inevitable process, I offer some reminders of what we experienced at ILTA12:

  • Innovation at the Intersection. As law firms and law departments become more specialized, it’s tempting to dig deep into your area of expertise and ignore what’s happening around you. In his keynote address, Frans Johansson cautioned us against this blinkered approach. Rather, he encouraged us to seek out ideas from disparate domains of knowledge and then combine them in new and unusual ways. By doing this early and often, you have a better chance of innovating than someone who rejects the opportunities for fresh insight available at the intersection of disciplines.
  • Engagement can Yield Greater Rewards. There are people who prefer to learn by listening. Then there are those that prefer to learn by doing. For the latter group, ILTA12 offered a six-session Alternative Format Track. Each of these sessions had a unique format that had been specifically designed to bring out the best in that session’s topic. Based on the anecdotal feedback received during the conference, these sessions were a huge success. Several participants asked for more sessions like this. From an organizer’s perspective, I couldn’t be happier. I had the pleasure of working with some terrific collaborators to make these sessions a reality. One such collaborator, Toby Brown, went so far as to declare his marvelous alternative format session on AFA negotiations “My Favorite Session at ILTA 12.” That’s high praise indeed!
  • Insecurity about Security. Early in the week it became apparent that one of the hot topics of the conference was legal information security. How hot? It wasn’t unusual for the legal security sessions to be standing room only. Everyone wanted to learn more. To be honest, this wasn’t all together surprising since law firms and clients alike are struggling to find the best way to keep confidential information confidential and out of the hands of hackers. Thankfully, ILTA’s LegalSec Project is designed to help give guidance and support to all the folks who are trying to improve the legal security situation. Given the interest at this year’s conference, I suspect that this topic will feature heavily in next year’s conference offerings.
  • A Little Discomfort can Lead to Insights. In addition to offering alternative format sessions, ILTA offered an Advanced Curriculum Track. These sessions were described by their organizer, John Alber, as being like a “sharp stick in the eye, which is the shortest path to the brain.” I was fortunate to attend several of the ACT sessions and can attest that they caused some discomfort to the people sitting in the audience. As a person involved in law firm knowledge management, some of these sessions were guaranteed to cause discomfort:
  • Innovation Award Recognizes Social Media. On the last night of the conference, the organizers gave the award for Innovative Law Department to the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corp for its outstanding work in bringing technology to bear on the practice of law. In particular, the JAG Corps was recognized for launching JAGConnect on milBook, “the Department of Defense’s largest and most successful secure enterprise social network for military and civilian legal practitioners stationed worldwide.” As a longtime proponent of enterprise social tools, I was delighted to see how the JAG Corps was able to leverage social tools to greatly improve knowledge sharing. Further, they are opening this platform up to the other services and inviting colleagues there to join them rather than creating service-specific knowledge silos. This is a great precedent for military and civilian lawyers alike.
  • ILTA is More than a Conference. And it’s more than an organization. After three years on the conference planning committee I can say with certainty that the good folks of ILTA have discovered  a wonderful way to help us help each other. I’ve found the professional staff, members and volunteers to be supportive and cooperative. Even more than that, I’ve come to value greatly their generosity of spirit. In short, being a part of the planning effort has been an amazing experience for me that I hope has resulted in some helpful educational experiences for you.

After the conference, North American attendees had the benefit of the Labor Day holiday and then found themselves back at their offices dealing with the myriad challenges that kept them occupied before their brief time at ILTA 2012. When faced with the press of business, it can be easy to let the rich educational offerings of a conference like this fade from view. However, I’d urge you to resist that. Use the conference recordings and session material downloads to keep the learning fresh, share information with your colleagues or explore new topics. In other words, make sure the objects in your review mirror remain closer than they appear.

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