August 10, 2017
Daniel Liutikas, CEO and Members of the Board of Directors International Legal Technology
Dear Mr. Liutikas and the ILTA Board of Directors,
When we launched ILTA more than 35 years ago, it was simply a user group for specific legal software that ran on the Wang VS; we called it VSLUG. VSLUG members helped each other through the tricky problems created by the software or the VS operating system, sometimes providing each other with technical support, sometimes with new ideas for using the system, sometimes just providing an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on.
That “peer to peer” philosophy has remained at the organization’s core as its name evolved from VSLUG to LawNet to ILTA. It remains in the organization’s statement of purpose: “ILTA provides the premier environment for peer connections, education and collective intelligence to leverage the strategic advantages of technology in the legal profession.” Events over the past few months and years has many of us wondering if the organization is still living up to its stated purpose, regardless of what the home page says or what the magazine is named. Simply put, we are concerned that ILTA has lost its way.
As someone who has supported ILTA for many years, first a member and since 1997 as a vendor, ILTA’s trend toward commercialism has been obvious. Educational sessions at ILTACON used to be mostly about solving specific problems and led by those who have done so. Now they are often panels led by unprepared “big names” from big firms who simply pontificate. Vendors and service providers who used to be treated as peers—as they should be considering how much they add to the conversation—are now ghettoized and treated as cash cows. An organization whose mission is to encourage partnership, education and support now seems to focus more on pushing attendance at ILTACON and bringing in sponsorship dollars.
We have reached a tipping point with the sudden and unexpected firings of Peggy Wechsler, Deb Himsel and Clay Gibney. Deb and Clay each served ILTA diligently for almost a decade, and Peggy has been the face of ILTA for 20 years. She was often the facilitator of peer connections, the driver of educational initiatives and the fount of collective intelligence. She was a walking, talking Statement of Purpose. The timing, abruptness and lack of communication surrounding these dismissals are, in a word, disrespectful. Which is in direct violation of ILTA’s very first core value: “Respect our colleagues.”
The overall trend towards commercialization, along with the head-scratching decisions of the past few weeks has a lot of us asking questions about ILTA’s future:
- Will ILTA remain peer-to-peer or continue to move towards a hierarchical approach?
- Will the organization focus more on its members or on its revenue?
- Will it emphasize education or will it continue to scratch the backs of the largest law firms?
- Will ILTA’s leadership once again walk the walk and refocus on its Statement of Purpose and Core Values?
If the answer to that final question is “no,” then on what purpose and values will it be focusing? And if the answer is “yes,” then what is the plan? Because if the recent changes are somehow in service of the organization’s stated purpose and values, your stakeholders deserve to be told how.
Rick Hellers President & CEO nQueue and Founding Member ILTA (fka VSLUG)