Despite what Will Smith would have you believe, there’s more to Miami than just nightclubs and beaches; as for four days this month the sub-tropical vacation destination played host to Mitratech’s largest ELM user conference – Interact 2016. Bree Freeman runs you through the highlights of the peer-driven legal technology and compliance forum.
Ahhh Miami, a sub-tropical paradise and notably one of the hottest vacation destinations in the world and, for four days last week, the host city of our ELM user conference – Interact 2016.
Myself and some 300 clients, partners, and my fellow Mitratech team mates descended upon the Fontainebleau Resort, Miami Beach, for our peer-driven legal technology and compliance forum to hear what a host of industry experts have to say about issues and opportunities facing corporate legal functions. One of the key aspects of the event was for attendees to learn, share, and create lasting value for their organizations around the world as well as to have the opportunity to attend a whole host of sessions around our products, including introductions to our new products from our latest acquisitions of Hitec and CMO Software.
The theme of this year’s event was “Catching the Wave”, which was quite apt really considering our glorious surroundings, and builds upon themes from the previous few years of Interact to uncover the trends driving the legal department’s evolving role in corporate success.
Registration opened on the Sunday, but prior to that clients were offered the opportunity to attend a hands-on training class, which from what I can gather went down very well with many people commenting about just how much they had garnered from the one-to-one with our solutions experts.
A little before 3pm, I made my way through the hotel lobby, diligently following the signs to find the registration point. I couldn’t help but notice a number of familiar faces from the pool were also making their way. All of us bedecked in suitable attire for the climate and with quizzical looks on our faces as we figured out whether or not we were fellow attendees.
With our laminates on and now in possession of our conference goody bags, those of us that had registered headed back to the hotel to while away the few hours until the evening’s main event, whilst others attended some of the other hands-on training sessions for more Mitratech tips and tricks.
Before the stroke of six o’clock, I proudly put my laminate on and headed off to the evening’s do, meeting many of my fellow laminated attendees along the way. What I love about these preshow events is that it gives attendees the opportunity to meet and great and start to put names to faces in an informal fashion. Yes, there was lots of talking shop but done so in a casual way. Overall it was a low-key and chilled evening with many delicious regional delights to whet our appetites. Though I have to say the frog’s legs were, well, different! And despite my initial reticence (which caused the three lovely ladies I was dining with much mirth to see this Brit well and truly out of her comfort zone) they were actually quite tasty and they do taste like chicken. Though I must profess I very much doubt I will partake in their consumption ever again. The fried alligator was blooming lovely though!
With introductions made and a few beers consumed, the evening ended early as many of us got our heads down ready for the following big day ahead.
Day 1 – The weather isn’t the only hot topic
As we took our seats for day one of the event, I noticed many attendees waving and giving polite nods to newly-made acquaintances as we munched our way through breakfast, fueling ourselves for the long day ahead.
As breakfast was being cleared away, there was an anticipatory air to the room as my Capitaine, Chris Kraft, Chief Growth Officer, kicked off proceedings with a witty and mirthful opening address to introduce our CEO Jason Parkman.
With Chris exiting stage right, Jason came on and immediately all eyes and ears were on the head of Mitratech. Jason was quick to settle into the topic of the event – Catching the Wave – and used the analogue to eloquently align the way in which we here at Mitratech have been arguing for years that there is a coming wave in our industry, and how we’ve been trying to prepare our own business for it as well as our clients.
Catching a wave isn't easy. It requires awareness, timing, and the right equipment. Click To Tweet
“Catching a wave isn’t easy,” piped Jason. “It requires awareness, timing, and the right equipment. If you get it right, it’s beautiful: (at this point a slide was projected behind Jason with a surfer successfully riding a big wave). If you get it wrong, it’s disaster: (here came a wipe-out image).
I got it and as one who’s new to the realm of ELM and Mitratech, is was an easy to follow and interesting presentation. I have been to many events like this over the years and got seriously lost in translation, but with Jason’s keynote this wasn’t the case. He brought up examples of how some companies can miss their industry waves – Kodak, for instance, whom in the 1990s failed with awareness, timing, and the right equipment on the oncoming digital revolution. Jason explained how the result of Kodak’s misses allowed their competitors to completely overtake them in the market. Canon beat them in the camera market dramatically and Fuji beat them in a variety of other markets, recognizing that they could diversify with the same materials as Kodak.
“Kodak didn’t see the wave coming,” Jason quipped, “so the moves they made didn’t make any sense. They failed to notice the groundswell of everything going digital for decades; failed to recognize how accelerating hardware capabilities would turn this groundswell into a wave; and failed to see the other conditions, like the convergence of devices, that ultimately made the wave crest.”
“They failed at awareness,” Jason went on to add. “They didn’t realize the business that they were in or the market. They tried to preserve this business [film], when it was really in this business.”
Ultimately, Kodak failed at timing and leveraging equipment. “Kodak was always behind the times playing catch-up, and trying to hold on when things were changing,” Jason commented.
One of the key points to come out of Jason’s keynote was that here at Mitratech we believe that we’re in the middle of a similar seismic shift in the business of the clients we serve, and so in our business as well. The conditions are right for a wave to be created that transforms what it means to properly manage legal, risk, and compliance in the organization. The groundswell has been the continuing winds of regulatory change, ever increasing;
- Rise of regulation
- Increased materiality
- Prediction of where it goes
This groundswell, so to speak, meets the rise of overlapping concerns between legal, risk, and compliance traditionally.
Again I got this and from the resounding nods of agreement throughout the room, I do so believe that the attendees not only got it but believe so, too.
Jason ended his keynote with the question ringing through the minds of all those within the room: what do you do with this coming wave? As industry experts, you have the awareness – you see the wave. You know that the time is now – you’re continually expanding your scope. And we at Mitratech believe that we need to be there for you to help you with the right equipment.
To much applause, Jason’s keynote came to an end and as we all debarked the conference main room it was plain to see he had left us all with food for thought.
The next stage of the conference was: which of the many breakout sessions should we attend? Numerous attendees headed off to their preferred sessions, but many also opened up their conference brochures and were casting an eye over the day’s events. Which one of the sessions were they to choose – was it to be eCounsel Best Practices & Tips and Tricks, with our very own Laura Vaughan and Marina Jones; Tendering Tenderly in TeamConnect, by another of our team, Josh Becker; or did our attendees want to learn about the GCD Product Roadmap — Past and Future, again hosted by two Mitratechers, Jonathan Every and Kim Felice? Or one of the many others that were about to start?
In all there were around 40 breakout sessions for day one, and what was interesting to note as the day unfolded was there was a positive hum of activity and chatter from attendees. And as one attendee said to me as we were enjoying some cake and a hot beverage during the afternoon break: “The importance of these events should not be overlooked as you have the opportunity to meet other Mitratech clients and share our experiences and talk about how we use Mitratech’s solutions in different ways and we can then go back to our own offices and actually start to implement and become more productive, more cost efficient, and to really show how the Mitratech product solution can help us develop as an organization.”
And with that we departed and we joined a stream of fellow attendees heading back to our own rooms to get ready for the evening’s event – Miami Vice Night at Nikki Beach.
Day 1 – Evening session: Miami Vice Night
As the sun beat down and the humidity rose, Interact attendees boarded the coaches laid out for transporting us to what was to become a fun-filled evening at Nikki Beach, a hot spot on the beach offering seafood amid chic decor.
The theme for the evening was Miami Vice and I have to applaud those of you that came adorned in some clothing befitting Crockett and Tubbs, but for the more reserved of us, casual tropical clothing was the way to go!
We entered Nikki Beach and were warmly welcomed by the staff. The venue quickly filled up and the atmosphere was buzzing. I took the opportunity to go and mingle with clients and members of the Mitratech team. Spirits were high and the conversation flowed and there was a relaxed and fun atmosphere. The food was delicious and we were even entertained by a particularly lovely lady adorned in some very tropical getup. I had the pleasure of meeting some very interesting people and, yes, the conversation was shop, but it was also interlaced with personal chatter. People were taking the time out to get to know each other and learn about their experiences with us as a solutions provider – it warmed the cockles so to speak. Throughout the evening, the Mitratech team was on hand to answer questions and did so diligently and with enthusiasm.
Before the clock struck 10pm we filtered back to the coaches to hit the hay before the carriage once again became a pumpkin. In all it was a fun-filled evening and I had a ball!
Day 2 – Information is key!
As I made my way down to breakfast on day two of Interact, I was joined by a number of familiar faces from the previous night.
Once inside the filling breakfast lounge I made my way to a table and introductions were made and it would seem that others were also doing the same. What was nice to see was that the conversation flowed with ease throughout the room as we munched our way through our breakfast offerings and after copious amounts of coffee (naturally for this Brit, I opted for tea and even taught a server or two as to the correct way to make a cuppa much to the amusement of those sat with me) were consumed, we all waited patiently for the day’s keynote by Morae Legal’s Managing Director Danish Butt to start.
A little after 8:30am, and with our bellies suitably full we settled down to watch Danish present his keynote – You’ve Caught the Wave, Now What? Danish noted that the decision to invest in technology is often based on the anticipated value and return on investment. He talked about how user adoption is the ultimate goal that ends up delivering on the value of the investment. He commented: “User adoption levels can be attributed to many factors including leadership mandate, what’s in it for me, why should I do it, how easy is it, does it work, is it easy to use, can I rely on it, etc.?”
In order to realize the powerful potential of technology, Danish explained what you can do before, during, and post implementation and gave real life examples where delivery increased user adoption and maximized returns on investment as well as interlacing his presentation with sporting video snippets to really highlight his points – as Danish proudly noted he was “a sporting man”. There was even some crowd participation much to the amusement of us all.
After Danish wound up his presentation the hall emptied quickly as we each sought out the rooms for the sessions for which we were interested in. There were another 40 sessions being laid on throughout the day, but for me I took the opportunity to see what was going down in the Solution & Design Center. It was a room that was portioned off for those attendees looking to speak with our experts on our solutions, provide training, demonstrations, and live instruction as well as to help guide those with lesser experience than others.
Janna Hill, our Senior UI/UX Designer, was on hand to provide answers to delegate’s questions; she also gave tailored mini-demos, as well as giving sneak peeks into future product designs. I caught wind of one attendee saying to another: “Aww what a lovely lady that Janna is,” which made me smile.
Talking of attendees, I spoke with one as he was leaving the Center and he informed me that he had learnt a lot from spending some time with one of our experts. He told me: “Prior to this event there were a number of areas within the product that we use that I was not aware of and I was looking for the little tricks within the application that I could apply. I was informed of product enhancements that were coming up within the next year that I was not aware of and the team here was really helpful in explaining what these were and how best I could utilize them for my company’s development. I am happy, I learnt a lot today.”
Another delegate that I spoke with whilst in the Center told me that the Center had been really helpful for her: “When I started at my company I was thrown into the deep end as there was no one to train me so I had to learn on the job. Coming here has been really helpful because not only can I speak with other people that use the same product as me, but also that I have been able to learn more from speaking with the experts within the Center,” she informed me as we walked to grab a mid-morning beverage and a well-needed snack.
Once my sugar levels were well and truly raised, I went to see some of the events partners, which took me a while as I kept bumping into familiar faces from the day before. I have to say one of the best things that I have taken away from this event is just how friendly and open our clients are, and some I had the good fortune of spending time with will most definitely be on my Christmas card list – TL & TJL, I thank you for your companionship and the giggles we had.
Anyway, on to some of the day’s sessions. As mentioned previously there were another 40 breakout sessions throughout the day, which even if I was in possession of Hermione Granger’s time turner (sorry, Harry Potter reference) it would have been some feat to have attended them all. But the ones that I did were very insightful and helped me as a newbie to Mitratech garner a greater understanding of our solutions as well as the ELM sector. And from the murmurs and snippets of conversations I overheard or was privy to it would seem I wasn’t the only one.
Some of the key things for me that came out of day two were that a number of Mitratech energy and utility clients learned more about how our recently acquired Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) platform, CMO Compliance, enables organizations to implement a comprehensive Health & Safety program for organizations. Our legal users typically manage matters that are an outcome of Health & Safety incidents, and there was a lot of interest in how an end to end program could be implemented to reduce risk and standardize process throughout the organization.
Elsewhere, HBR Consulting’s Kevin Clem and Prudential’s George Chui presented on legal analytics and measuring success for the department. There is considerable interest in the legal ops area, and out of all the attendees only a couple felt their company’s did a great job on this, and many legal ops managers admitted they spend days tracking and reporting on department level activity each month. Kevin and George shared a wealth of tips on how to create KPI’s and measure success for the legal team.
Another session of note from the day was my pal and fellow marketer Steven O’Donnell’s presentation on outside counsel management and how to build better relationships with law firms. He talked about the major obstacle being a misunderstanding and alignment of legal department and law firm goals and highlighted that Viewabill was a product that allows safe sharing of law firm time entries and bridges the gap by enabling a common language to discuss value.
All-in-all a thoroughly interesting day and I have to say my brain hurt from all the information I had taken in.
Day 2 – Evening Session: Havana Nights – White Party
With the conference having wound down, it was time to let our hair down and what no better way to do so than with a Havana Nights – White Party spectacular. Come on, this is after all Miami!
As I made my way into the event I was overjoyed to see just how many white-clothing clad attendees there were fully embracing the night’s theme. When you entered the hall, there was so much to entertain you and I have to doff my cap to the organizers as they did a brilliant job keeping us thoroughly in the spirit of the occasion. In true Havana style you could learn how to make cigars from an expert, you could play ‘bones’ as there were two tables to play dominoes, the food was exquisite, and the band really livened up the place, and as for the cocktails… well they hit the spot!
For those that wanted to escape the noise and the rising heat there was an outside area where I muddled around talking with senior management and delegates.
As with the night before, spirits were high and the conversation was a mix of work and discussions of a social nature.
I spoke with one attendee as we watched the sun set on the terrace, she was an absolute dear. She gave an earnest comment on the conference. She said: “You know, this has been a marvelous conference because it gives us the chance to see not only the one product that we are kind of focusing on but all of the other opportunities that Mitratech is offering now and is going to be able to offer in the future. I was aware of some of the acquisitions but it’s nice to know some of the other ones. I even had a chance to talk with one of your Hitec staff and it was phenomenal to talk with him. It’s fun that you can see how that tool could easily connect with TeamConnect or any of the other ones that Mitratech offers, I think they’re really branching in the right direction to be able to offer multiple solutions across the risk management range.”
When I asked her what her overall thoughts were on the importance of events like Interact she went on to say: “It’s really nice as you get to meet the Mitratech staff and share your thoughts and suck the information right out of them as well as getting the opportunity to speak with peers, which has been very beneficial. The networking part of an event like this is just invaluable.”
You know what, I couldn’t have put it better myself!
At 10pm the Havana Nights came to an end and all those that were exhausted headed back to their rooms for some well-needed respite. Much merriment was had and it was lovely to see clients, partners, sponsors, and Mitratech staff mingling and truly enjoying themselves.
Adieu, Adieu, to you and you and you!
Wednesday morning, there was softer and rather quieter exchanges going on in the breakfast room. As I finished my fifth cup of tea I sat back and gazed about the room. What was lovely to see were the many smiling and happy faces. People were exchanging numbers, business cards, and connecting via LinkedIn, and there were many parting hugs as new acquaintances said their goodbyes.
As the room emptied I took stock of the previous few days of Interact 2016 and you know what, I do so believe that the conference had been a roaring success!
Roll on next year… I’m already looking forward to Interact 2017!