By Kevin O'Keefe

Paying to speak at ALM’s LegalTech Show is a nonstarter

ALM charges sponsors to speak at educational sessions at LegalTech Show now known as Legal Week. Maybe not for all of them, but at least for the one in which I was asked to participate.

That may be standard practice for some conferences. In fact, we were told the $7,500 fee we would pay to have me moderate along with related fanfare that would reach about one hundred people was less than other shows charge.

I’m an old trial lawyer at heart. I like to know people’s motives when they’re presenting something. Why wouldn’t audience members of a pay for play conference feel the same way?

Imagine if someone at LegalWeek got up to introduce me and said Kevin O’Keefe knows a fair amount about this blogging/social media topic, but the real reason we picked him was that his money was good. Crass? But true.

Don’t get me wrong I like that ALM puts this show on every year. I am not sure who else would. It brings people from around the world interested in legal tech together in one place. And ALM can’t do it without sponsorship money.

The biggest reason I go to conferences is for the camaraderie. I like catching up with colleagues face to face and I enjoy spending time with customers and prospective customers. Relationships come first in business.

Educational sessions, though tough to find time for, can be excellent when led by people with a passion for a niche, people exploring new areas as part of their learning (take Fastcase’s Ed Walters “Law of Robots” at ClioCon) and entrepreneurs plowing new ground who share their experiences and know how with customers and entrepreneurs to be.

I’ve been going to ALM’s LegalTech Show for more than a decade. I have to believe ALM’s emphasis is on exhibitors and getting people to walk the exhibition halls. More money there than in educational sessions.

But educational sessions can be a big draw if they are exciting and led by people incredibly passionate about what they do.

Asking someone to sponsor a session, to find a few people as panelists and put up a sponsor’s table out front can be all it takes to suck the passion out of a speaker.

And what about the woman or man who has some kick ass idea or technology they’ve been working on out of their garage who’s funding their startup on credit cards? I did it and would have choked if I heard it may cost $7,500 to present at the “most important legal technology event of the year.”

ALM, if it wants its show to continue, should look for ways to up its game on educational sessions. It would’t be hard. Otherwise people and organizations will put on their own off site sessions in venues across the street from the Hilton.

And yes, we did turn down the opportunity to have me speak at LegalTech. As always I am happy to get together anytime. Just look me up — with $7,500 in my pocket I can buy a round of drinks.

Kevin O'Keefe
About the Author

Trial lawyer turned legal tech entrepreneur, I am the founder and CEO of LexBlog, a legal blog community of over 30,000 blog publishers, worldwide. LexBlog’s publishing platform is used on a subscription basis by over 18,000 legal professionals, including the largest law firm in each India, China and the United States.

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