One of the largest annual legal tech conferences in the U.S. drew more attendees this year than ever, according to organizers, underscoring the dramatic growth of the legal tech industry and its increasing importance to the practice of law.

The International Legal Technology Association’s annual event this week at Disney World in Orlando, Fla., ILTACON, was on track to hit a total of 1,850 participants, up from 1,715 at last year’s conference, which was held outside Washington.

ILTACON is considered one of the premier legal technology gatherings of the year.

The total in Orlando included 800 first-time attendees and exhibit booths from about 200 legal tech vendors. But the statistic that appeared seemed to energize top ILTA officials speaking to the press most, including ILTA CEO Joy Heath Rush, was that the conference has a growing international draw. Two dozen countries other than the U.S. were represented at the event this year.

“We’re putting the ‘I’ back in ILTACON,” said Beth Anne Stuebe, ILTA’s senior content manager.

ILTA’s new president, Jim McKenna, Fenwick & West’s chief information officer, echoed the importance of growing and maintaining a strong international component, and said that would be a focus of his term.

Talks on Tech

Certain topics emerged as highly popular at this year’s conference.

There were at least 17 discussions that focused on the use of artificial intelligence in legal tech, during which some presenters urged law firms to be wary of hype and instead focus on exactly how AI-driven products can solve problems and create efficiency.

In addition, the conference hosted several discussion that centered on blockchain—an emerging tech tool that allows digital information to be distributed but not copied through cryptography.

Law firms are cashing in on blockchain through the growth of practice groups that represent blockchain developers and users. Attorneys are also are considering growing their use of “smart contracts,” which are blockchain based.

In addition to seeking continued growth in its membership and conferences, ILTA in the coming year will be focusing on diversity and inclusion within the legal tech sector, said Rush.

Legal tech investments have skyrocketed from $233 million two years ago to $1.7 billion in 2018, according to figures from the Legal Tech Sector Landscape Report by Tracxn Technologies.

Such funding, for now, anyway, is primarily a U.S.-driven phenomenon. Of the roughly $400 million that was invested in legal tech in the first quarter of 2019, $332 million, or 83%, went to companies headquartered in the U.S., according to data compiled by Bloomberg Law Analysis.