Future of Law is Now at TBD Law

The future is not yet written. Yet, those of us at TBD Law, hosted at Filament, in St. Louis, Missouri are working on writing the next chapter.

TBD Law, as in “to be determined,” is not your ordinary law conference. It’s not about CLEs.

Conceived by the founders of Lawyerist (Sam Glover and Aaron Street) and Filament (Matt Homann), TBD Law is a two day conference billed as a “mix of summit, retreat, design-thinking workshop and hackathon… for innovators by innovators.”

The focus is on law, technology and how these two will change our future as lawyers. Invitation only, the attendees of TBD Law are a curated mix of innovative lawyers from the United States, Canada and Europe who are leading the charge against the status quo.

As a bit of a law tech geek myself, I was very excited to meet other members of my “tribe” – other lawyers that incorporate technology into their practice and are changing the way lawyers do business.


St. Louis Gateway Arch

Now, St. Louis would not be the first city I would think of to host a technology forward law conference like this. But when I had a chance to explore it kind of makes sense too. I discovered St. Louis is home to International Shoe (of Civil Procedure fame) and the courthouse where the Dredd Scott case was decided, but it also has co-work spaces, start ups and the futuristic Gateway Arch.

Granted, the topic of technology in law and the future of law practice has become very trendy as of late so you might ask yourself, “What makes TBD Law different from other conferences on the same subject?”


Filament CEO Matt Homann speaks to TBD Law attendees.

While many legal tech conferences offer a top-down approach with talking heads who tell you how things are and how they’re going to be, TBD Law is as bottom-up as possible while still maintaining some structure. In fact, Filament (the space where the conference took place) is less a meeting place and more an engagement facilitator. As Filament CEO Matt Homann put it best on Day One, TBD Law is about fostering creativity and conversations between peers. And did they deliver!

We split up into smaller groups at several different times and talked – with the help of conversation cards and brainstorming sessions – with each other about who we are, what we do, where we want to be and what we’re willing to change to get there. As Lawyerist Editor in Chief Sam Glover advised, we focused our discussion on the big picture changes to help us to 10X our practice rather than individual tactics or tools.


Lawyerist Editor in Chief Sam Glover addresses the crowd.

We talked about questions like:

  • What is a new market you’d like to expand into or practice more in?
  • What could you change in your practice to make it more client friendly?
  • What is a goal you would like to achieve in the next 5 years?
  • What is the best marketing advice you have ever received?

And, issues, like:

  • Technology
  • Disruption
  • Pricing and Fees
  • Client Service

Through these topics, I got to know many lawyers from across the country and the world, learned about their law practices and what they are doing to stay ahead of the pack as well as their aspirations and dreams.


TBD Law lounge and discussion area

One attorney uses an app to capture new legal clients. Another is considering drafting contracts using document assembly to streamline her practice. Another just launched a network of freelance lawyers. And yet another has developed a markup language for creating chatbot conversations.

In a nutshell, many different types of lawyers, from those with the technical ability to code to none at all, were represented at TBD Law and their enthusiasm and energy in the room was infectious.

Sponsors of TBD Law are progressive companies such as ARAG (Nicolle Schippers), Clio (Joshua Lenon), Fastcase (Ed Walters) and Affinity Consulting (Barron Henley). Refreshingly, sponsors offered their expertise to contribute to the conversation. No sales pitches here.

Through 15 minute interviews of each sponsor, we learned about better ways to organize your practice and legal research, to document automation, to how to get more clients and grow your practice.


TBD Law discussion groups

The conference culminated in a hackathon. Sure, “hackathon” brings to mind the image of hoodied 20-somethings coding a new Snapchat.  But, for us, the hackathon was our opportunity to use our creativity and inspiration to imagine something people would use to solve their legal problems 5 years from now. Attendees pitched ideas, like “LegalZoom killer,” “Legal advice cafe,” and “Robot law school,” amongst others, and gathered supporters to discuss the idea and flesh it out. What resulted was pretty cool (and you can read about it in detail here.)

TBD Law gets a big thumbs up! It’s an exhilarating and engaging ride into the future of legal practice. Plus fantastic food, catered from local eateries, and craft beer didn’t hurt either. 🙂

All in all, TBD Law made me some new friends and and gave me the motivation to take on the challenges of the next 5 years. With a little help and inspiration from them (we get to keep in touch thru Slack), I know I can do it.

If this sounds like something you’d enjoy, I hear TBD Law is coming back in early 2017!


About Tom Martin

@lawdroid Tom is a legal bot advocate, author and speaker. He is a lawyer and founder of LawDroid (a bot development and consulting company for the legal industry). Tom is also co-founder of Vancouver Legal Hackers, advisor to ATJ Tech Fellow Program, member of ARAG Technology Innovation Committee, and Chair of Education for Group Legal Services Association. Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Tom now lives in Vancouver, Canada with his wife and two daughters.

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