The legal profession is remarkably resilient. The only significant changes over the last few centuries have been to the method and mode of communication. From quill and ink to telegraph, typewriter and telefax, and to email on laptop and now mobile. With the recent emergence of LegalTech as a bona-fide technology vertical, is all of this about to change?
It is tempting to dive straight into the world of LegalTech. There are thousands of companies in the LegalTech marketplace, and most will offer you a free one-to-one live demonstration of their solution. You will hear stories of ex-lawyers departing the law. Some stories will no doubt resonate. You can spend months just ‘scouting the market’.It can feel really overwhelming. If you are starting out on this journey, or find yourself wanting to get involved, here are four things to consider…
Start with problems
Collect as many problems as you can. These might initially be phrased like: too much time spent on administrative tasks, not enough junior support, need updated templates or better precedents, inconsistent approach to negotiating standard form documents, difficultly managing external spend. Take these problem statements and sort them into categories. What do you see? Take a macro-level view and start to redefine the problems from the category-level. Then, go deep. Reconstruct your understanding of the problem. What are you really trying to solve here? What is the root cause of the issue? Is it surface level or is there a more fundamental problem underneath? Once you think you understand the problem, try reframing it again. Ask questions about it. Assess and quantify, wherever possible. Why is that the right problem to solve? Why that problem and not another? Ask why. A lot. Who is impacted most if you solve it? Who are the stakeholders involved? Is it about saving time? Is it about re-allocating valuable resources? Is it about risk mitigation? Context is key here:
- For law firms, prioritise the problems that impact the quality of service to clients.
- For legal departments, prioritise the problems that impact the value you provide to the business.
Taking this methodical approach will get you closer to who matters: the people who produce work product and the people who consume it.
LegalTech vs …just tech?
LegalTech is technology designed specifically for lawyers and the price reflects that. There are some legitimate reasons for it. The requirement for precision means that LegalTech solutions must be far more refined than other technologies before the release of v1.0. This requires greater investment, which translates to higher prices. However, do not assume that just because there is a legal element to the problem (the one that you have clearly and precisely defined) that a LegalTech solution is the only solution. The automation and workflow features in MS365 and Google Workspace will often solve 50% of your issues. Look at the solutions your business already has and assess their capabilities against what is being advertised by the ‘made for legal’ solution.
Point solutions vs platforms
When you encounter a solution that solves a specific problem this is a point solution. Whilst point solutions often solve the specific problem at hand they are often created in isolation, and do not consider the upstream or downstream activities in a workflow. It is satisfying to define a discrete problem and find a point solution to solve it. However, another (potentially much larger) problem surfaces when you have a few point solutions, and you want the outputs from one to become the inputs for another. Enter the LegalTech ‘platform’. This is a solution in which a wide variety of tasks can be completed. Be wary of companies marketing themselves this way. There are few, if any, actual platform solutions available in the LegalTech market, particularly when compared to the Microsoft or Google ecosystems.
No single ‘platform’ solution will solve all your needs. If you do find one that gets you most of the way there, that’s great! Just remember to factor in both the cost of the solution and the cost of change management, which escalates with the number of people and working styles affected.
The time you spend on problem identification may lead you down a path toward a handful of point solutions. That, too, is fine! Just remember to ask whether they integrate with other systems.
Get involved with your local or regional LegalTech community. They are amazing places to meet like-minded individuals motivated to see the legal industry change and to hear about unique challenges and wins. If you are unsure of where to start, get to a LegalTech conference, like Legal Geek in London or Legal Week in New York. If you cannot attend in person, many of the conferences now offer a streaming option, which gives you the benefit of being able to consume content on your own schedule. Good luck with it and have some fun along the way.