ILTACON 2016 kicked-off at the Gaylord National Harbor in Maryland this morning with a record-setting number of attendees present. With a promising week of programming ahead, author and futurist Mike Walsh started Day One with a rousing keynote titled “Re-Imagining Legal Technology for the 21st Century.”

With a sleek presentation in tow, Walsh’s charm and wit punctuated several practical points about the state of the legal industry.

“The story of disruption was just the first act of 21st century business… now begins the tale of transformation,” he noted. “We are all being called now… to reimagine how we work.” As he described it, disruptive technology and human behavior are converging.

Walsh noted that the challenge then shifts to encouraging leadership to change. But it was here that this message took a twist. It’s not partners, customers or technology teams that are going to lead this change, it’s going to be children, particularly children under 10 years old, that are going to be the drivers.

“This new generation doesn’t think of mobile [technology] the way we do – it’s everyday life for them,” Walsh remarked. Based on the technology we have now, children expect a vision of the world where they interact with data on a seamless level.”

According to Walsh, the new frontier is conversational interfaces. “Your kids will be the first generation raised in part by artificial intelligence,” he said, and cited the pervasiveness of personal digital assistants in most modern devices as a key proof point.

As he noted, disruptive technology typically gains acceptance as toys, in large part because that’s where gadgets become more human and interact with us in seamless ways. Walsh’s wake-up call is simple: the next generation has been touched by technologies and experiences on a deeper level than most professionals are prepared to deliver today.

Fortunately, it’s not too late to change, but it will take some trial and error.

“We’re still trying to work out what it is to be a 21st century enterprise,” Walsh admitted. But he then went on to describe how recent high-tech acquisitions in the retail and communications sectors have been more about buying an infusion of culture and technology rather than the assets themselves.

Walsh’s key point was that organizations need to reshape themselves to attract talent and foster innovation, and as a result, companies are desperate to redesign their physical spaces because “they are competing for people’s attention spans.” Simply put, he challenged the attendees to design spaces people want to spend time in. The key is to create an environment where people are energized by the unknowns.

His final point was an exploration of AI and its impact on the Legal industry.

“The question is not ‘how will automation and algorithms replace lawyers,’ but ‘what does a smart, intelligent, upgraded lawyer look like in the [21st century]?'”

Walsh reminded us that we as humans need to look at the value of data and elevate the function of humans in the office.

“Sometimes embracing the future means challenging everything.”

His closing mantra was simple: “Think big. Think new. Think quick.”

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