This week the first annual KM&I conference took place and I thought I’d take a moment to share some thoughts on the event. When the ArkKM event moved from NYC to Chicago it created a void that Patrick DiDomenico set out to fill by putting together a similar event in Midtown Manhattan. My company sponsored and attended the Ark event several times and firmly believe that KM&I matched or exceeded it in just about every category.
The conference venue was the 5th floor of 360 Madison Ave and it was top-notch. The location was convenient, the facilities were clean and modern and the food was outstanding. Ark was hosted in an auditorium on the NYU campus and delivered quite a different feel. The session rooms at KM&I had great A/V and gave more of a professional conference feel and less like the college lecture experience of a campus auditorium. There were a few audio issues like there are at all conferences but aside from that the A/V was good.
One thing Ark did really well was deliver great speakers and excellent content. KM&I delivered equal if not better content from my perspective. Many of the “who’s who” of legal KM were there, both as speakers and attendees. Anyone who follows KM/legal tech knows that AI has taken over headlines in our space and it would have been very easy for the agenda to have had AI topics over represented. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. There were plenty of sessions that centered or touched on AI but it wasn’t the only topic we explored. There were outstanding discussions on basics with topics like starting a KM program from scratch and more advanced topics like how to lead through change, complexity and disruption. It felt balanced.
The vendor space at Ark was very limited and it made interactions with attendees a bit more challenging. The vendor hall at KM&I was a little tight but was more than enough to display a banner and layout a table to host casual conversations. Patrick also went way out of his way to encourage attendees to engage with sponsors and gave vendors 5 minutes to introduce themselves to the audience in between sessions. Many conferences limit sponsor visibility and access (including ILTACON until recently) but the opposite was true at KM&I. It was refreshing and made interactions with attendees feel casual and natural.
I am a vendor but I have been working closely with KM professionals for 15 years and try to be a student of the KM&I discipline. Attending this conference as a sponsor furthered my understanding of this world significantly. I attend a lot of conferences and that is a unique opportunity. Big shows like ILTACON are insanely busy for vendors and finding the time to attend sessions is usually a challenge. ILTA didn’t even allow exhibitors to participate in sessions until recently. I was able to attend most of the KM&I sessions and that learning will help me serve our customers more effectively and make me a better partner. It’s hard to put a price tag on that.
Here are a few highlights from the sessions in no particular order:
- The fun and casual energy Joshua Fireman and Patrick DiDomenico brought to the stage as co-chairs. It created a great vibe. They both did a really good job. Joshua and Patrick were fixtures on stage at the ArkKM events and their chemistry reflected the fact that they’ve done this many times before.
- Hearing Sarah Hirebet (Andrews) and Marissa Parker deliver the opening presentation on starting a KM program from scratch in the voice of the Cat in the Hat. It was titled “Green Eggs and KM” and was light hearted and fun which set the tone for the conference out of the gate which was relaxed and informal.
- Hunter Jackson’s metaphor about gen AI hallucinating like a hippie at Burning Man. He also equated choosing AI vendors to picking tech stocks in the late 90’s. You could pick Amazon or Pets.com like he did. It’s not easy making a presentation about AI hilarious but he did it.
- Glenn LaForce’s story from his vendor days when a few folks on the law firm side treated him poorly. Ironically some of those same folks ended up as vendors themselves and later called on him as a law firm CKO. It’s hard not to smile imagining those interactions and the lesson of observing the Golden Rule is a good one.
- Scott Rechtschaffen delivering a very engaging presentation using the history of Major League Baseball as a backdrop for highlighting the history of the legal profession. I learned a few things about baseball and the legal industry. Most importantly it kept me engaged.
- Tanisha Little and Jennifer Mendez only getting through a few of their slides during the KM round table because the audience was so engaged and asking excellent questions. The session literally ground to a halt with questions when they pulled up a screenshot of Fisher Phillips’ Knowledge Bank which is a curated repository for model documents and templates. This session demonstrated the need for more KM in KM. We need more sessions sharing real world solutions to knowledge sharing problems
- Mark A. Smolik giving the audience a super interesting history of DHL as a prelude to giving countless examples of how law firms acting in the interest of their clients pays dividends even when it conflicts with their own short term interests. Those lessons apply to legal tech vendors as well. If you’re ever going to go pitch Mark for his business you had better done your homework on DHL and not show up and just talk about yourself and your firm.
- Hearing Joe Green, Stephanie Goutos and others from the Gunderson Dettmer team tell the story of the transformation journey of their L&E practice. The whole panel was well-spoken and engaging but Joe and Stephanie are especially gifted in this area. Again, hearing real-life stories about applying KM&I principals to a practice provided a much more interesting conversation than listening to theoretical discussions.
- Last but certainly not least hearing the incredibly articulate Meredith Williams-Range discuss her experience with gen AI tools at her previous firm and how she’s bringing those learnings to her new role. She discussed specific use cases on how Gibson Dunn intends to use Microsoft Copilot and other AI platforms. She described an example of taking a spreadsheet of raw data and using natural language to have Copilot to summarize and create pivot tables. She has an accounting background and loves Excel but most attorneys don’t. Any time you get to hear Meredith speak it’s an absolute treat.
There were a few presentations I really wanted to attend but couldn’t get to because I got caught up in engaging conversations in the vendor hall. Change management is hard….especially for lawyers…so I really wanted to get to see Oz Benamram and Alma Asay talk about the topic since my company inserts change every time we engage with a law firm. There were a few others I missed as well but hopefully we’ll get access to the slides at some point.
I hope this overview gives you a flavor for the show and I’ve convinced you to attend next year if you couldn’t this time. This did NOT feel like a first year conference and I am sure it will get even better in the future. Be sure and mark your calendars when dates get announced!
Check out the recording of Infodash’s presentation on the future of unified legal collaboration, which aims to eliminate the legacy terms “intranet” and “extranet: