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Community Shines Through: Steven O’Donnell on Interact 2019

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As Head of Product Marketing – Legal Operations and a Mitratech veteran, Steven O’Donnell has seen his share of Interact user conferences. Each one has its own unique character, and 2019 was no exception.

The focus this year was on the power of co-innovation and community, and how they’re benefitting Mitratech users and the growth of Legal Operations.  As Steven pointed out in this Q&A, this theme was clear from the start.

First, let’s talk about Jason Parkman’s keynote…

Steven: It was eye-opening to see the changes that have occurred over the past year. When you’re in the midst of it, you don’t realize there’s a truly seismic shift happening all around you, but Jason’s presentation really summed it up.  We are definitely past a “tipping point” in legal technology adoption.

We’ve certainly watched this in our own business, to a very gratifying degree.  The suddenness of this, how our own clients and the legal industry as a whole have begun to turn to technology to address all the challenges facing Legal Ops, it’s still head-spinning. We certainly hoped it would happen, but it’s still the kind of thing that can still surprise you.

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What stuck out most among the sessions you led?

Steven: There was the Buyers Guide for Legal Technology session; what was so cool about it was getting to expose product marketing insights to our Legal Ops attendees and partners. We reviewed the buying cycle and focused in on 3 personas, Procurement, Finance and IT, on what motivates those roles, how to utilize the personas within the evaluation phase, and common objections each of them raise.  We also covered the unique needs of legal, and went over a roadmap that shows how to navigate the ELM RFP and selection process.

At one point during the session we asked a question around e-billing, “why can’t we just use Ariba?,” because it’s a common objection from other departments in an organization who do not understand legal invoicing. What was amazing is that half the audience had heard that exact question before and had had to deal with it.

Did you see Brian McGovern’s General Session presentation?

I wouldn’t have missed it.  His keynote on Key Findings ​of the Fortune 500 was fantastic.  His three findings – how legal departments are having to do more with less, how important it is to get the right data ​to the right people ​at the right time to make analytics and reporting really provide value, and why you should build a Legal Ops team that contains diverse skills and backgrounds – are really strong guideposts for everyone in Legal Ops. Plus it was great to see Rick Radice (VP & Chief Operations Officer at Prudential Financial) and Justin Hectus (CIO/CISO at Keesal, Young & Logan + CIO at Keesal Propulsion Labs) up there with him to reinforce those learnings and show how technologies like TAP that really support co-innovation can help an organization address them.

Did any others stand out for you?

The HBR Consulting session, A Nightmare on ELM Street,  made some excellent points on refreshing your legal technology; they covered the reasons you need to consider one, and used live, in-room surveys during the session to involve the audience.  In HBR’s other session, Top 5 Trends in Law Department Operations? Survey Says…, having Kevin Clem as the emcee for a “Family Feud” game, using the audience to predict the results of the latest HBR legal department survey, was just genius. Both of them were clever and extremely fun, and they’re the kind of imaginative ideas you wish you’d thought of yourself. Or that’s how I felt.

Then there were the TeamConnect and TAP sessions, which were led by our product team. I’m not just bragging about ourselves when I say they were sincerely focused on co-innovation and collaboration, on really driving home how much the user community is part of the development process and evolution of those products, and how that’s inspired ideas like the TAP Co-Innovation Center.

So what’s in store for next year?

I think we’ll take a very short breather and then figure out ways to surprise and delight everyone all over again. That’s a nice challenge to give yourself. But then again, how can you top a year like the industry has just seen, because it it’s surprised everyone?

Building a vigorous, vocal user community is a secret of eCounsel's evolution and product roadmap.

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