Rick Klau delivers the keynote speech at ABA Techshow 2014

Yesterday seemed to fly by here in Chicago, as did today. I attended two of the morning sessions: Tools of the Trade for Paperless Practice, presented by JoAnn Hathaway and Richard Serpe, and How to Collect and Use Social Media for E-Discovery, presented by Hon. General Bruce Lee and Sharon Nelson. In the first session, the speakers discussed hardware and software options – mainly portable, desktop, network and flatbed scanners – to help attorneys become less reliant on paper. Nothing new here. The second session was a little more informative, with the speakers talking about how lawyers can identify and gather social media data for purposes of production during discovery and presentation at trial.

But the big stand-out was the keynote presentation, delivered by Rick Klau, a partner at Google Ventures where he helps lead Startup Lab. Klau started his presentation by talking about Google Ventures. The company is a financial investing company that invests in sectors like mobile, internet, gaming, life science, and enterprise. The rest of his presentation was focused on the three lessons he has learned in his time in Silicon Valley:

1) Data trumps opinion every time. Klau showed an example of an A/B test the Obama campaign conducted on a landing page for Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. He showed the audience six examples of media and had us pick which one we thought they chose (three videos and thee images). Then he had us pick from four buttons to go on the landing page (Join us now, learn more, sign up now and sign up). The Obama campaign apparently had the same theory as the audience, who chose one of videos with the “join us now” button. However, the data showed conclusively that video didn’t work. In fact, when a video was used on the landing page, they had 30% less traffic. Roughly 2.8 million more people signed up for the list on the landing page with the right image and wording on the button. “No opinion is as effective as data,” Klau said.

2) Just say no. Klau talked about how earlier in his career, he went with the theory that the customer is always right. But as time went on, he learned that the customer is not always right. In fact, the customer is sometimes wrong. “You need to be the expert at what you do and what you’re good at,” he said. Then he talked about an example where he made a data-driven decision to kill FTP when he worked at Blogger. “We were committing 15% of our engineering time to something half of our users were using. We never doubted for a second that we were making the right decision.” Even though some customers wanted to continue using the FTP site, this was a case where saying no was more effective in the end for all involved.


Rick Klau greeting attendees at the WestlawNext booth after the keynote

3) Think big. Klau encouraged the audience to think more radically about objectives and key results. “Get consensus on what’s important, stop committing to less important goals, and align teams around ambitious initiatives,” he said. “Google has adopted this theory for the last 17 years. They went from being busy to making an impact within a few months. When you think big, it’s no longer about the incremental functions.”

Klau concluded his address by talking about failure. “We embrace failure because failure is data,” he said. He’s learned in his career that when he is in a situation where he fails, just learn from that and don’t do it again. “Failure should not be career-limiting or something you are embarrassed by. Be embarrassed if you do it again.” He also said that we should fear small successes. “When you commit to 10% improvement or 4% better quarter over quarter, you are leaving opportunity on the table for other successes.”

After the keynote, it was time to head home. All in all, it was another excellent ABA Techshow and an exceptional keynote delivered by Klau. Until next year!

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