The Cowen Group facilitated two thought provoking events last week in New York, focused on emerging eDiscovery trends, data management challenges, and essentialism. Corporate and Law firm guests had an opportunity to discuss key industry trends, as well as new ways to maximize productivity and add meaning to their daily responsibilities. Many thanks to TCDI for hosting Wednesday’s corporate dinner and introducing the topic of essentialism and to LexisNexis and Iris for their generous support of Thursday’s breakfast.

Conversation at Wednesday’s dinner focused on essentialism, a term coined by Greg McKeown to represent the “disciplined pursuit of less” with the goal of making the highest possible contribution towards the things that truly matter. Jason Stearns, Director of Information Governance at BlackRock pointed out that, like a Brooklyn yogi, the essentialist practices the art of focusing his or her attention and activity on what’s important, not only what’s urgent. Applying ideas about essentialism to today’s market trends, the group asked how law firms can improve efficiency and reduce discovery costs – cutting the fat to focus on what’s essential for client matters and long-term client success – in response to the gradual shift of power from law firms towards corporate counsel. Pfizer’s Gene Ames upheld that what truly drives efficiency – what truly produces the essential – in eDiscovery is not predictive coding or other technology assisted review methods but the statistical validation of data sets that reduce costs and workflow complexity. Finally, Monica Bay urged the group to recognize that the ABA made an essential move this past year when they recognized the gap between the BigLaw and small law business models, finally admitting that small firm lawyers have trouble procuring clients and that cheaper, faster and more intuitive technologies like RocketLawyer will shape the future of law whether we’re ready or not.

Thursday’s breakfast featured a dynamic group of law firm and corporate legal technology professionals, who had the opportunity to take a strategic look at the market trends identified in our Q2 Critical Trends Survey as well as discuss the growing data management challenges.  Attendees were united across their different roles by the fact that, in today’s information governance and risk management environment, IT, security, privacy, risk and legal must collaborate and converse adequately to address emerging data management challenges. Law firm and corporate stakeholders agreed that the volume, scope, complexity and type of eDiscovery data they process is increasing, but that they feel better prepared to address this volume than in the past. The group pondered the extent to which the Internet of Things will affect their practice; most agreed that, in the short term, the impact would be minimal. In turn, the group said their top challenges related more closely to staffing and strategy than the daily practice of information governance. Scott Cohen, Winston & Strawn, described how he works to train his team not only to analyze data, but also to develop the soft skills required to interface with clients, pitch the value of the firm’s approach, develop business and sell. Managing up to communicate the business value of well-managed data was viewed as a priority by many.

Josh Fine from Tiaa Cref elegantly summarized the challenges he and many others face in addressing what is essential. Given how fast things changed, he said, he finds himself visualizing the next 5-10 years; planning for the next 2-4 years; hiring for today’s problems; and managing everything with yesterday’s budget.

Join us for our next inspiring and thought-provoking events – our upcoming WomenToKnow breakfast series, which will kick-off in San Francisco – Thursday, July 16 and our next Corporate Big Thinkers dinner in NY on July 21st. We hope that you will join us as we continue to explore these topics as well as what’s essential for your own your career growth!  For an invitation, please contact Sophia@Cowengroup.com.