This Arizona transplant froze earlier this month in NYC but over all I believe things are heating up between technology and legal. It’s been a year since the Reinvent Law event in NYC and the number of legal tech companies has grown rapidly. A February 4th 2015 Evolve Law event at Cardozo Law School addressed an important question: Why are attorneys somewhat resistant to change, particularly technology?
A recent article, “Four Areas of Legal Ripe for Disruption by Smart Startups” by Bob Goodman and Josh Harder of Bessemer Ventures, identified the most promising types of legal tech companies. There are indeed hundreds of legal startups popping up all over the US and Europe. However, adoption of technology in the legal field is still slow.
Why do attorneys struggle with adoption of technology?
A simplistic answer is that nobody wants to be replaced by technology and most people do not like change. As someone who led a finance department at a law firm and now sells into the legal field, I can say that attorneys want automation to be easy (not so different than other busy professionals).
Consumers will not mind creating an account on a platform to solve a particular problem, but lawyers are challenged to log in to multiple systems.
Our panel at Evolve Law discussed the need for integration between systems. With the hundreds of legal tech startups in the fields identified by Bessemer and the majority of these companies using cloud technology, we have created a disjointed attorney user experience.
Legal tech or tech in legal
My opinion is that we should be providing technology for the legal field and supporting the existing processes with our platforms. Attorneys are not yet ready to replace processes or practices outside of e-discovery and practice management systems.
Even when a legal tech entrepreneur explains that their solution will not only save time (which is a finite commodity) and increase revenue using the infinite resource of technology, the firms are slow to adopt. Sometimes that is because of the size of the firm and the difficulty of buying software that is outside of the traditional areas of billing and trial support.
Taking a step back and discussing this with fellow legal technology pioneers and entrepreneurial attorneys, some themes emerge in addition to the idea of integration and providing technology to support the legal industry.
Empathy and problem solving:
The key aspect of starting any company is to solve a real problem plus focus on your niche. However, make sure your solution can be integrated with other technology (not just legal tech).
“The legal industry is in a state of flux and change brings opportunity. Find a niche where innovative processes or technology can create value through efficiency.” —Ned Gannon, CEO, eBrevia
“Legal tech companies require founders to marry the art and science of law with technology. You need to innately understand the pressure points of being a law firm attorney in order to develop technology that will solve their problem and convince them to pay for it.” —Ann Lawrence, Partner, DLA Piper LLP (US)
“Don’t create an artificial need or copycat another. Find an actual gap in the legal profession no one else is effectively and efficiently addressing, and then fill the void. If you do, you won’t have to sell your service; your service will sell itself.” —Susan Cartier Liebel, Founder and CEO, Solo Practice University ®
“Do something better than anyone else. Stay really focused on the problem you’re solving and who you’re solving it for otherwise you will spread yourself too thin trying to be everything to everyone.” —Abe Geiger, Founder and CEO, Shake, Inc.
Selling into the legal market:
Like any other sales process, you must talk to and understand your customers.
“Legal services are inherently very personal; the same techniques that work for selling widgets at ‘Company X’ may not translate well to the legal space. In consumer-facing legal tech, it’s especially important to have a deep understanding of your customer’s objectives and concerns, and to be empathetic and thoughtful in the way that you go about delivering a solution.” —Heather John, CEO and Co-Founder, LawGo
“If you are thinking of selling to lawyers, know that it is a very difficult market to sell technology solutions to. They (we) are very slow adopters. If you are not a lawyer, make sure you spend time getting to understand the market before building or launching your technology solution and have a clear and concise message about why your solution provides a competitive advantage.” —Nancy Cremins, Startup Attorney, Gesmer Updegrove
For anyone thinking of starting a legal tech company:
At this point, many have left the practice of law and started companies to solve the pains experienced first hand. While being a former attorney is not a necessity, knowing your market and your product well is critical!
“Starting a legal tech company is an incredible journey that will surely give you struggles with user adoption. Lawyers tend to adopt technology at the speed of a tortoise, so be prepared for the long-haul.” —Michael Chasin, Co-Founder, Lexicata
“You need lawyers on board. While there are many opportunities for increased efficiency and transparency in the legal profession, it’s important to make sure you develop your product and pitch in conversation with, not opposition to, lawyers.” —Basha Rubin, CEO and Co-Founder, Priori Legal
“Invest the time to learn how to code. Understanding the process and knowing how to develop will allow you to directly shape the direction of your product and have more meaningful conversations with your tech team about its development.” —Nehal Madhani, CEO, Plainlegal
A theme within all of the advice from those in the market is the challenge of slow adoption. It is our work to make the adoption of technology as painless as possible. I believe the future of legal tech is to weave our disparate systems together or create bundled offerings to simplify technology in the law.
This article was written by Mary Juetten from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.