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Highlights From Everlaw Summit '23

A New Hire’s Perspective

by Justin Smith

The Palace Hotel isn’t necessarily an unassuming place—its 19th-century brick and stone facade takes up a hefty chunk of real estate at the corner of New Montgomery and Market streets in San Francisco’s Union Square neighborhood, and the sheer feeling of history about the place offers a can’t-miss announcement of its presence. It’s been the site of everything from presidential speeches to United Nations conferences, and has undergone reinventions several times over.

It also served as a fitting setting to the second annual Everlaw Summit held in mid-October. Billed as three days of education, connection, and inspiration, it offered attendees a chance to hear from industry-leading experts across the legal field, get insight into how Everlaw products can benefit their practice, and discuss the merits and challenges of generative AI, all as the legal profession undergoes its own renewal.

Attendees gather at Everlaw Summit
Attendees gather between sessions at Everlaw Summit

Out of the Gate

I arrived at Everlaw Summit on my second day as an Everlawyer. When I’d accepted the opportunity to become a Content Marketing Manager at Everlaw just a few weeks prior, there’d been a vague mention of Summit in the midst of packing boxes and Docusigning offer letters, more so as this thing that would be happening rather than an all-consuming three-day marathon that would be vital to my onboarding experience. And yet fresh off transplanting my life to the land of tech companies and fog, I found myself standing in front of the Palace Hotel, looking down at my open Google Maps app to ensure this was in fact the right place, unsure what would be in store.

As the day began and the Summit machine got humming, any reason to fear the potential impending boredom and exhaustion one would typically associate with a legal conference was comprehensively snuffed out. Patrick Radden Keefe offered a discussion on his book about the Sackler family and the opioid crisis in America, in which he walked through the rise of the epidemic and the critical role litigation played in unveiling the key actors and events at its core.

It served as a case study on how legal professionals can help redress the most challenging societal issues — though the final chapter to this story remains unwritten. The Supreme Court will soon decide whether the Purdue Pharma bankruptcy plan, which would shield the Sackler family from additional litigation, will stand.

Everlaw’s Chief Legal Officer Shana Simmons led a panel on supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion practices, which challenged attendees to make their hiring processes and workplaces more accessible and inviting. The passion the panelists showed when discussing how DEI practices changed their careers made the talk one of the more emotional cornerstones of the week.

Kevin Roose, tech columnist for The New York Times, spoke about how we can protect our careers in the age of AI, detailing the research and reasoning behind his book Futureproof. It helped provide a sense of ease that not all was lost when it came to AI in the workplace, while also educating attendees on what its arrival meant for their jobs.

Ironclad's Alex Su (left) and The New York Times's Kevin Roose (right) after their session on futureproofing your career in the age of AI at Everlaw Summit.
Ironclad's Alex Su (left) and The New York Times's Kevin Roose (right) after their session on futureproofing your career in the age of AI at Everlaw Summit.

AI at Center Stage

Of course, that wasn’t all that was introduced regarding AI. After hearing about it on the news and discussing it during my interview process, I was interested in how it would be incorporated into Summit. Thankfully, outside of curiosities about what was for lunch or which breakout session to attend, AI was the topic of the week, and instead of the discussion focusing around killer robots and automated jobs, it was refreshingly rational.

Among the questions swirling the room were: How can we use AI as a tool to help supplement our work? Can AI systems be unbiased and inclusive to increase access for everyone? What sorts of oversights and regulations are available to ensure everyone is playing by the same rules? Leaders from law firms of all sizes, corporate legal departments, and government agencies discussed the potential impacts of GenAI and shared tips on how they were evaluating tools.

Donna Haddad and Megan Ma at Summit
Donna Haddad, Vice President, Associate General Counsel at IBM Cloud (left), and Dr. Megan Ma, Assistant Director at Stanford (right), discuss large language models at Everlaw Summit.

These questions and concerns were matched with considered responses from people whose job involved working with these systems to determine how they can work for the very professionals sitting in the crowd. From the keynote address delivered by Everlaw Founder and CEO AJ Shankar on the ways in which generative AI is changing how the legal profession works to smaller breakout sessions and informal discussions, no sort of alarmist or doomsday-centered view ever came into question.

The Finish Line

Reaching the end of Summit put a new perspective on a company I hadn’t yet had time to form a perspective on. It was that of a business that made time for its clients, created space to share information and community, was practical about the future of its field, and invested in shared access for everyone. Pair that with a Hawaiian-themed, Summit-ending Soiree, and it’s easy for this new hire to understand that Everlaw Summit '23 stuck the landing.