Each year, the Legal Executive Institute (LEI) gathers leaders from across the legal industry to discuss, debate and offer guidance on the latest trends, challenges and opportunities. And with a busy season of LEI events right around the corner, I sat down with Nicholas Giannini, manager of Live Events at Thomson Reuters, to talk about the some of the new and returning events coming up this fall and to get a glimpse of what’s coming in 2017.

Alex: When we spoke around this time last year, you were gearing-up for the 20th anniversary of Law Firm Leaders Forum and the 14th annual COO & CFO Forum. This year, these events will mark their 21st and 15th anniversaries, respectively – what do you have in store for this year’s installments?

Nicholas: Alex, it is by now axiomatic to consider just how profoundly dynamic the legal industry has become over the past few years. The impinging forces of technology, increased competition, regulatory changes and an increasingly diverse, multi-generational workforce have yielded a perfect storm of exciting—or for some unsettling—developments that re-imagine both the business and practice of law.

The 21st Annual Law Firm Forum and 15th Annual Law Firm COO & CFO Forum reflect the new legal market in a number of ways. In addition to welcoming two new co-chairs to Law Firm Leaders, Jami Wintz McKeon and Beau Grenier, our faculty encompasses some of the most creative and disruptive midsize to large law firms yet to participate in our forum. We also welcome some of the industry’s shrewdest thought leaders, including Bruce MacEwen, Steven H. Harper, William Hubbard and Judy Perry Martinez, for what promises to be a very provocative conference on the emerging regulation of legal service, the evolving law firm partnership model, changing client service purchasing behaviors, and a riveting keynote conversation with William Kristol and Eugene Robinson on the 2016 US Presidential elections.

Later in October, our COO & CFO Forum celebrates 15 years of industry-leading content by taking a comprehensive—and perhaps exhaustive—dive into law firm technology and the opportunities and risks of the current business climate. Technology’s impact on law firm operations and finances has been an undercurrent at our forum over the past few years, but this is the first time we have truly delved deeply into conversations around designing and prioritizing a bespoke firm-wide technology strategy engaging attendees on key technology-related business challenges involving talent acquisition, vendor management, integration and client partnerships. We intend to address these important topics from the purview of the COO and CFO—which is to say, from an operational and fiscal standpoint that does not assume an advanced technological knowledge base one might expect in a CIO.

Our keynote this year is delivered by Amy Edmondson, Novartis Professor of Leadership & Management at Harvard Business School. Dr. Edmondson will offer an exciting new take on “teaming” and innovative management that every COO and CFO should hear.

In sum, we look forward to once again engaging the legal community at two marquee programs delivered by and intended for the profession’s key decision makers.

Alex: Last year you also hosted the first Women’s Transformative Leadership conference. This year, women’s leadership is a recurring theme on the LEI calendar – how has the event taken shape since last year’s inaugural event?

Nicholas: Engaging our customers around diversity and inclusion issues is a major priority not just for the Legal Executive Institute, but also the greater Thomson Reuters enterprise. We started the Women’s Transformative Leadership program in an attempt to build a formal space where rising female stars and their more established peers could engage one another in practical dialogue around advancing women’s leadership in the workplace. We see the challenges that female lawyers continuously face in their careers (the path to partnership, origination credit, compensation inequality and more) as endemic to a number of traditionally male-dominated industries still hindered by the proverbial glass ceiling.

Our program has inspired a year-long initiative called “Transforming Women’s Leadership in the Law” that connects in-house and outside counsel through a series of fireside chats and networking dinners throughout the country. Our March forum will return in 2017 to kick-off a full calendar year of programming dedicated to women’s leadership across industries.

Alex: I also notice that there are events coming up that take your team in new directions and/or are meant for new audiences. What can you tell me about these events?

Nicholas: I’m glad you asked, Alex. We are indeed branching out into new audiences and topics at the Legal Executive Institute.

One area of expansion pertains to our ongoing diversity and inclusion efforts. As you know, D&I is a broad and complex theme that permeates across many different constituencies and categories. LGBTQ equality and civil rights is one such category—and it is arguably among the most important civil rights challenge of recent note. As in the case of our Women’s Transformative Leadership program, LGBTQ leadership barriers and the fight for fair workplace representation are key topics where we feel we have something to contribute.

As such, this fall, the Legal Executive Institute is honored to present our inaugural OutLaw: Critical Dialogues on LGBTQ Representation & Corporate Leadership conference and networking soiree at the W Midtown Hotel in New York City. We are partnering with several prominent institutions from across industries for earnest dialogue around recruiting and retaining LGBTQ talent, new workplace policies toward LGBTQ employees, cross-generational LGBTQ leadership, and LGBTQ representation in the C-suite and board of directors. Immediately following our forum, law firm associates and mid-level business professionals will have the opportunity to network and hold exploratory conversations around taking the next step in their career(s). Suffice to say, we are very excited about this conference’s value to and impact on all of our Thomson Reuters customers.
One other event of note is an upcoming Emerging Legal Technology Forum in downtown Toronto that invites legal technology entrepreneurs & corporate legal department and law firm personnel (lawyers and business professionals alike) to engage a world-class faculty of disruptors and practitioners for lively discussions around the legal new wave and its broader ramifications. We see this forum as an opportunity to demonstrate the greater Thomson Reuters investment in product innovation and problem solving within the rich Canadian startup scene.

Alex: What are some areas you are exploring for 2017?

Nicholas: 2017 will be the year of collaboration. We are poised to unveil a number of programs that broker closer relationships between the buy side and sell side throughout the industry, as well as strengthen our flagship events. We also have a number of thematic pillars in place that
will greatly influence our 2017 calendar—technology, talent, law practice management—and continue to reinforce our status as the market leader. Last, but not least, we are starting to think more globally in our conference offerings. This is a nod to our geographically diverse customer base and a technologically-adept legal industry that continues to turn the world into a global village. Toronto, London and Hong Kong could all be in the cards. We can’t wait to get started.

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