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Insider Most Commented: Wechsler out as part of wholesale leadership shake-up

Added on the 31st Aug 2017 at 1:16 pm
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As part of an extraordinarily ill-timed leadership shake-up, ILTA, led by newly-appointed CEO Dan Liutikas has exited long term programme director Peggy Wechsler with now just a week to go before the organisation’s flagship annual conference, leaving many vendors and ILTA aficionados seething.

Others exited as part of the shake-up are conference lead and former ILTA IT director Clay Gibney, as well as director of learning Deb Himsel.

Legal IT Insider last week on two occasions contacted Liutikas, who has been dealing with press enquiries direct, for comment on the departures – on Wednesday 2 August over LinkedIn and on Friday 4 August over email – and received no response. However, at 23.45 on Friday GMT, we received a widely-distributed press release announcing a newly-elected board of directors and an executive leadership change, which is listed in full below.

We learned of the exits of Wechsler, Gibney and Himsel early last week, after a well-known legal industry expert contacted us saying: “Don’t know if you guys are in the loop but there are some seriously upset dedicated ILTA geeks. The new CEO, Dan, has cleared house. They fired some long-time ILTA people, including Peggy Wechsler, and people are pissed. There is no communication going on (other than on Facebook and in other private forums).”

In later email correspondence, he added: “I think it’s the complete lack of communication and timing that are adding some serious insult to injury.”

Wechsler has worked at ILTA since 1998 and for many has long been the face of the volunteer-led networking organisation. Those discussing her exit in the run up to ILTACON in Vegas assume it is either the result of a lack of understanding of the regard with which she is held in the market or of a fall-out of old guard versus new behind the scenes.

Liutikas was appointed to CEO in March 2017, taking over from Randy Mayes, with a mandate to drive change. Most recently, he served as the chief legal officer and corporate secretary of CompTIA and during his tenure, CompTIA’s legal department was recognised by Inside Counsel magazine as one of the most innovative adopters of technology for legal efficiency in the United States.

At the time of his appointment, then ILTA president Meredith Williams – who has been replaced by Angela Dowd (see below) – said: “Dan has a strong track-record of innovative thought, program development and driving strategies to benefit members and the industry. We are delighted he will be leading ILTA into the next leadership evolution.”

Legal IT Insider has still not been contacted in response to our request for comment. We spoke last week (4 August) to ILTA press officer Kristy Cole, who said that Liutikas has been dealing directly with press enquiries direct and at the time was not briefed on the leadership shake up.

The new board and executive leadership are as follows:

Board

Angela Dowd, President:

Director of Practice Innovation at Burns & Levinson, LLP, Angela has volunteered with ILTA for 10 years. She is continuing on ILTA’s Board of Directors after serving as Secretary from 2015-2017

Chris Boyd, Executive Vice President:

Chris is the Senior Director of Professional Services at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati PC and has volunteered with ILTA for 11 years. Recently he has served as one of ILTA’s Knowledge Advisors.

Catherine Monte, Treasurer:

Catherine is the Chief Knowledge Officer at Fox Rothschild LLP and has volunteered for ILTA for about 13 years. Recently she has served as a Co-Chair of the Women Who Lead affinity group and the Strategic Relationship Liaison with Thomson Reuters Practice of Law.

Ginevra Saylor, Secretary:

Ginevra is the National Director of Knowledge Management, Dentons and has volunteered with ILTA for about 15 years. She has been actively volunteering in many capacities with ILTA recently including as ILTA KM White Paper coordinator and 2017 Conference Committee member.

Kate Cain, Director at Large:

Kate is the Director of Market Intelligence at Sidley Austin LLP and is a longtime ILTA volunteer. She is continuing on ILTA’s Board of Directors after serving as Executive Vice President from 2015-2017.

Rick Krzyminski, Director at Large:

Rick is the Knowledge Management Director at Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz and has volunteered with ILTA for 10 years. Recently he has served as ILTACON Committee Co-Chair in 2015 and 2016.

Skip Lohmeyer, Director at Large:

Skip is the Chief Information Officer at Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP and is a longtime ILTA volunteer. He is continuing on ILTA’s Board of Directors after serving as Treasurer from 2015-17.

Executive leadership

TJ Johnson, an ILTA veteran, has been promoted to Vice President of Events and Conferences “to provide strategic vision in continuing to build best-in-class events for our members.”

Susan McClellan has been promoted to Director of Membership “focusing her attention on creating consistent engagement at various touchpoints with each of our member segments to ensure we are providing exceptional value and a tremendous membership experience.”

Corey Simpson has been appointed Chief Technology Officer “focused on ensuring that ILTA’s technology platforms support deep member engagement, collaboration and content consumption.”

Jason Stookey has been appointed Vice President of Partner Development “where he assumes responsibility for developing and expanding relationships with ILTA’s business partners.”

27 Comments

  1. bob says:

    Worse, they didn’t offer her severance until the membership made a massive stink. We’re still not sure if they made her whole or not. The Board is responsible for this mess, they approved this.

    • Lisa D. says:

      Shocked. I have known Peggy since the Wang LTMS days. Always a pleasure to work with and a true professional

  2. Jonathan Maas says:

    Of course one doesn’t know all the facts but on the surface this seems like utterly reprehensible and vile treatment of one of the best known and best loved faces of ILTA. She gave her all to her ILTA family for them to back-stab her, and just before the crown in the ILTA calendar, too. And apparently (from bob’s comment) with the full intent of not giving her any pay-off as they did the dirty behind closed doors.

    For me Peggy was and is the face of ILTA. I love the international community the association fosters in the legal tech world but I’m not sure I can support an organisation that can do this to its own. My thoughts and prayers are with Peggy and her family. I hope someone has the hutzpah to toast and cheer her at the ILTACON dinner!

    • Vince Neicho says:

      Completely agree. ILTA without Peggy simply isn’t ILTA. Someone has miscalculated badly here. Here’s to you Peggy.

  3. Paul Hoffbrand says:

    I heartily agree with Jonathan. Peggy is real pleasure to work with and I feel privileged to have been involved with ILTA Insight during her time with ILTA.

    It’s good to see that both TJ and Susan are still there and have been promoted, both with great ideas and organisational skills.

    I don’t know the reasons behind the change and I wish the new team all the best.

    Good luck, Peggy.

  4. Jeff says:

    Technically the new Board has not taken seat yet.

  5. PB Coleman says:

    Quite a shakeup for an organization built on sharing and collaboration. Not the best move to create an environment of uncertainty before the annual conference. Now the staff will spend all of 2018 rebuilding relationships and explaining the changes.

  6. Sue Pasfield says:

    Over the last 17 years working with Peggy on conferences, she has always been a delight – a top diplomat for ILTA in every respect. I will cheer for her at ILTA.

  7. Christy Burke says:

    Peggy is a class act and she always brought such professionalism, kindness and diligence to her position at ILTA. It has been a great pleasure working with her over the years. ILTACON will not be the same without her – I hope one day she will come back!

  8. Rachel Harris says:

    I am stunned and appalled. Have robots with no understanding of the true value of ILTA taken over the ship? I too understand that sometimes changes need to be made along the way to further a strategic plan, but could it have been handled any worse? There is a difference in bringing in someone with new ideas and letting that person totally undermine what has made this such a great organization-the personal involvement and support of its members.

    • Tom Morrissey says:

      No, not robots, just people out of touch with the membership. Peggy, Clay and Deb were the heart and soul of that organization. Just seeing Deb and Peggy at a show or event was confirmation it was going to run well. I chose to leave the organization after 12 years when I saw the writing on the wall, the new structure & leadership. No longer a community of peer collaboration, but rather heavy vendor involvement and loss of understanding of the needs of the members. Going to look like Legal Tech in a few years….Maybe that’s what the goal is.

  9. Michelle Spencer says:

    It was widely known that Peggy planned to retire next year. Regardless of where the organization is headed under new leadership, she should have been allowed to retire on her own terms.

  10. anonymous says:

    As a supplier who would spend £60,000+ annually with ILTA I am very happy to see this change. I know many other suppliers that feel the same. For years Peggy treated suppliers poorly and provide no service. She showed favouritism to her favourite suppliers and gouged us saying we were lucky to be able to exhibit.

    Having to submit this anonymous for fear of reprisal from the pro Peggy membership. The suppliers are happy with this change.

    Charles Christian adds… Just spoken to another vendor who said he felt ILTA had become “self conflicted” in its dealings with vendors, with many of the processes being “quirky” – “challenging” and “antiquated”. He added that it is interesting that post the shake-up, ILTA now speaks of vendors as “business partners” – and (while adding he always found Peggy delightful as a person) is optimistic vendors will now get a more professional deal.

    • Jonathan Maas says:

      I recall ILTA started life as LAWNET, a vendor-driven association so maybe it’s going full circle. Whatever people’s view of the outcome, the handling of it has not made anyone look good.

      • Sally Gonzalez says:

        Actually it started life as VSLUG, a very unfortunate acronym for the VS Legal Users Group. You had to be a law firm using the Wang VS (remember those?) and Informatics VS software. It was not vendor driven; it was intentionally and fiercely an independent users group and 100% volunteer run so as to maintain that independence. Only members were allowed to speak at a session; vendors were prohibited from speaker roles. Vendors were also excluded from certain sessions so members should speak frankly. And there was no vendor hall initially. In the early days VSLUG’s primary purpose was to set the development agenda for Informatics. A big part of the annual meeting was working through their requirements backlog (line by line) and setting priorities that satisfied the largest number of members. For members, it was always a safe place to learn and test soft skills that IT folks could not do safely in their home firm. I attended my first meeting in the mid-80s and we had about 90 – 100 people and 2 tracks: WP and Accounting. It was the 9th meeting. Legend had it that the first meeting was attended by 10 people. Later they added a Basis track (database app). I watched VSLUG shrink in the 90s as Wang and Informatics disappeared and blossom again as Lawnet and eventually emerge as ILTA. Through all of my 30+ years of involvement, Randi Mayes and Peggy were there, nurturing the growth of the international organization it has become today. They and all of the departed will be sorely missed. And clearly another transformation is underway. We shall all just have to wait to see if the next iteration is one we want to extend our loyalty to.

        • Jonathan Maas says:

          Thanks for setting me right, Sally (and how the devil are you?). Seems like it’s a tad older than I thought and sounds like it was more like our now-defunct LiST Group.

  11. groundhog Geoff says:

    Perhaps Iltacon should book Islington for the next couple of years…

  12. Another Anonymous says:

    As a member and former volunteer, I too, choose to post anonymously for fear of reprisal. This organisation’s culture is of exclusivity. There are no POC on staff, very few as volunteers (and ask any former POC volunteers how they were treated). I suspect any adds to staff will not be POC. As volunteers, dissenting opinions (fair and supported with hearty examples) would get you ostracised and summarily dismissed from future events. Power was given to those annointed by ILTA leadership, who crave like minded people. The higher you are on staff (Director or Chief preferred), the bigger your Firm or the full Monty, the mighty Attorney (regardless of character) gets you nominated, appointed, elected and tenured.

    Take a good hard look at the representation of ILTA staff, leadership, BOD, Conference Committee and every other faction of ILTA. No diversity + No New ideas = Same Old Same Old.

    Don’t expect much from the future of ILTA and you won’t be disappointed. Connect with members and vendors the way it was done in the LawNet days.

    • Former ILTACon Committee Member says:

      I joined Big Law and ILTA in the mid-aughts. My first conference, I felt it ILTA was cliquey. But the following year I made it a point to actually try and meet some people. Once I opened up (the emphasis being on ME), I could not find a more welcoming, caring group of people. Peggy knew my name before I ever learned hers.

      I’ve left Big Law and sorely miss ILTA. I find myself trolling for ILTA news, even though it no longer has application in my life or career.

      It’s sad to hear about what happened.

      But how can you even begin to claim that there’s no diversity in ILTA? Angela Dowd is the President. While I never bothered to ask her her ethnicity (because I really don’t care), I am certain it’s not European. As I think about, my last conference committee track team, consisted of an Hispanic, an African American, and two people who were either Asian or Pacific islander (not to mention two immigrants to the United States, who are not among the people I previously listed). POC made up half of the team.

      Also, I met more women in the position of authority in ILTA than I ever came across in the industry. Look at the board. It’s had several women as president and females currently outnumber males on the board 4-3.

      And no new ideas? I can personally attest to the conference committee combing through hundreds, if not thousands, of ideas for topics each year. Some sessions are an annual event, but that’s because they’re the most well attended, most talked about sessions.

  13. Mal Mead says:

    I can think of few things that are as counter to ILTA’s culture and tradition as this purge of leadership. And I can not think of any clumsier way of handling this than how it’s been handled – vague press releases, no statement from the CEO, and just days before conference – really folks?

    Peggy’s departure in particular leaves a great hole in the heart of the organization – no one has been as loyal, or worked harder, than Peggy over the past 30+ years as a volunteer and employee.

    As a retired CIO, I have no current standing in the group. But having been an active member for almost 25 years I can tell you that what is unique about ILTA is its culture – it’s not like a law firm, or a corporation, or even a trade association. It’s a place of sharing, of trust – a safe haven from the stressful environments we work in. When that culture goes, so will the organization.

    Here’s hoping the new Board will use this episode to reflect on the direction of the group. I wish them luck.

  14. David Bignault says:

    I attended my first Lawnet Conference in 1992. 21 conferences later, I can honestly say that so much has changed. Gone is the member-driven organization that was possible when the conferences were held at smaller venues like the Camelback or Marriott/Ritz in Orlando. ILTA has changed quite a bit over the years and, in this day of social media, the changes will be debated in forums like this. I find it interesting (but not surprising) that some feel they must post anonymously. Still, we should all recall that ILTA has always been cliquey and always had a tension between “business partners” and members. Remember the days when “vendors” were not allowed to participate in many events? I now work for a company that is both a business partner and a member. I can feel the difference. I have known Peggy since 1993 and spoken with her at every conference I attended. I will miss seeing her next week. It will be interesting to see how the mood is. I am sure Peggy would want it to be business as usual.

  15. Anthony (Tony) D. says:

    Honestly it was about time. Peggy is nice and all. But she is not innovative and was able to move ILTA only so far. The technology arena is exploding and law firms have been kept away form truly innovative technology. They have been feed from the same old vendors peddling the same old snake oil. Kuddos to Dan Liutikas for cleaning house… ‘draining the swam’

    • donald says:

      A trump slogan? really? Well it’s going to be great to see how firms will no longer be kept from great technology such as yours, now that this one person is out of your way. I’m sure that’s the answer for anyone who is a loser and fake!

  16. Anonymous says:

    I will keep it anonymous for now, but much of the criticism of Peggy and team is unfair as issues such as having the same speakers (quite frankly some of the same ‘blowhards’), from the same big firms and the same tired topics (how often do we have to hear from the same large Firm about their cloud DMS implementation). Oh and by the way the same Firms and vendors and others being nominated for and winning innovation awards when what they did was really not very innovative. These were not Peggy issues but ILTA member leadership issues. The same speakers, etc. occurred because ILTA member leadership has less focus on solving real problems and challenges and became enamored with certain members and vendors who had strong PR machines and were self promoters.

    • Christopher Hunt says:

      I just wanted to respond to your comment about the same speakers. We’ve worked very hard this year to find the best speakers for ILTACON content, which led to 1/3 of our speakers this year being new to ILTACON. We will continue to strive for greater diversity of speakers, presenters, authors. I can assure you, we, the volunteer member leaders, are very much focused on solving real problems faced by our colleagues, and I would invite you to please let us know of your challenges so we can find ways to deliver content that is meaningful to you as well: https://www.cognitoforms.com/ILTA1/IHaveAnIDEA

      • Anonymous says:

        The points that I raised have been issues for a long time and yes, this year was better, but ILTA has a long way to go to overcome years of ‘samespeaker syndrome’ and popularity contest award winners. Many individuals who are leaders do not attend ILTACON any longer and many who really added to the industry were never recognized by ILTA and have stopped coming to the conference.

Any Comment?