Last month I was invited to present on a panel at next month’s LegalTech New York put on by Incisive Media, the owner of American Lawyer Media (ALM).

In that LegalTech is one of the premier legal technology events of the year, I readily accepted. It was an honor to be invited. I was to appear on a panel in the trek on how to use ‘Web 2.0 Technology to Gain a Strategic Advantage for Your Practice.’ The person from Incisive went so far as to say they were really excited to have me on the panel.

A week or 10 days ago the organizers of LegalTech called and for the first time told me that as LexisNexis is the sponsor of the panel, LexisNexis must give final okay on presenters. I took that as formality. I’m known as open commentator on products and services in the legal industry, but criticism of companies has never resulted in my being un-invited from presenting.

This morning I get a call from an Incisive Media employee that they’re very sorry but that the panel I was invited to speak on was full. They ‘didn’t know what to say,’ but were ‘very sorry.’

I responded that it appears that LexisNexis, the sponsor of the panel, did not want me on the panel because of my recent commentary on LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell so bumped me. I doubt they ran out of chairs. Their response was basically ‘can’t comment on that, there’s a lot of politics involved.’

I’m sure my comments have kept me off programs before. And I’m sure it’s happened to others as well.

It’s not a Kevin O’Keefe ego thing. I’ll go to LegalTech and enjoy the camaraderie and the networking. I’ll probably attend the session I was to present at. But there’s a much more important question.

Does LexisNexis, via the position it holds in the legal industry, curtail innovation in the legal industry? Consider these points.

  • LexisNexis is one of, if not the largest, sponsors of legal industry conferences and events.
  • LexisNexis may be one of the largest advertisers in Incisive Media – American Lawyer Media publications and one of the largest sponsors of LegalTech.
  • Any innovator in the legal vertical knows that to openly criticize LexisNexis will result in your being blacklisted from speaking engagements at events sponsored by LexisNexis.
  • Innovators without huge advertising budgets like Martindale-Hubbell require the exposure speaking provides them.
  • Innovation in other industries comes in part from open debate and discussion, often at conferences highlighting the innovators and their ideas.

LexisNexis should begin to realize that criticism from commentators like me is a good thing. You sure don’t learn anything from the guys that say you’re doing everything great.

Before LegalTech 2008, I challenged LegalTech to do more to empower bloggers to blog live from LegalTech. Monica Bay, editor of ALM’s Legal Technology News, commented to my blog post that she was puzzeled by criticsim of ALM in that she viewed the company as a pioneer in legal blogging.

I responded to Monica the same way I still feel.

When I post criticism it is meant to promote discussion and possibly action on innovative items. Generating such discussion improves services, to the benefit of customers and the vendor, which in this case is the ALM.

An open conversation on the Internet involving customers, commentators, and innovative corporations seeking to improve their products and services by the taking part in this conversation is key to an industries growth. With the Web today, marketing is in fact a conversation. And this conversation and debate can be done in a constructive way.

I have an excellent relationship with Monica Bay. And though it’s admittedly the result of Monica’s work, LegalTech is going all out for bloggers this year. Bloggers are getting complimentary passes and reserved space up front in each seminar room.

Shame on LexisNexis here. For chilling some entrepreneurs from bringing needed innovation to the legal industry. And for giving the appearance you are unduly influencing Incisive Media, which as the leading legal press, should be free of your influence.