6 Takeaways from creating a “Bible” for LegalTech

The In-House Counsel’s Legal Tech Buyer’s Guide 2018  is a free 80+ page piece of content. It includes graphics, 20 expert contributors (some of the top legal journalists, vendors, tech experts, and in-house lawyers), and analysis of 16 different categories of legal technology.

It was grueling, with research spanning a year.

Thankfully, the hard work seems to have paid off. In the first day, the guide hit 1000 downloads. In the second week, 2,000 downloads, and rising. Though a buyer’s guide is not exactly cinematic, the reviews at least show we produced something the legal profession has been asking for.

For legal teams switching from manual to automated processes, the demand for up-to-date information about technology solutions reflects a new mood in the legal profession. The guide, for instance, reveals that there has been an increase of 65% in legal tech companies utilizing AI, while consolidation and funding have rocketed.

Lessons on legal content in a new time-strapped era 

The eBook is also something of a case study for those of us seeking to provide quality content for time-strapped lawyers. The legal profession (as we point out numerous times in the guide itself) is under severe time and efficiency pressures (leading to the widespread adoption of efficiency-saving tech). This includes rampant cost pressures, the need to reduce law firm costs, and the growth of legal operations (full stats on these trends in the guide). In this era, for content providers, anything lawyers open must be valuable. Ideally, it should provide easily-explained information that cannot be found elsewhere.

6 key takeaways  from producing a magnum opus for LegalTech 

Takeaway 1. It’s 85 pages. It could have been longer 

Hitting “publish” on a massive guide comprising 130 must-know solutions for in-house counsel felt like that episode of UK comedy series Blackadder set in 18th century England. Blackadder congratulates the famous Dr. Johnson for compiling the world’s first dictionary after 10 years of intense research.

Blackadder: “I hope you will not object if I also offer the Doctor my most enthusiastic contrafibularities.”

Dr. Johnson What?

Blackadder: Contrafibularities”, sir. It is a common word down our way.

Dr. Johnson Damn!

But, unlike Dr. Johnson, we had to make a decision to publish, despite any lingering concerns that we may have left out important players.

If you have an awesome in-house legal technology, here are details about inclusion in the updated 2019 version.

Takeaway 2: Know your audience 

Knowing your audience is, of course, the first rule of creating content. The buyer’s guide is aimed squarely and only at in-house lawyers. For this reason, the guide includes practical narratives of in-house legal adoption from 80 major law departments, including Microsoft, Facebook, AIG, NetApp.

On the guide’s content-creation panel we include those who know the frustrations and realities of making decisions first hand. This includes Vicky Lockie (former Head of Pearson’s Legal Operations team), Nilema Bhakta-Jones (former group Legal Director of Ascential), Mary Redzic (former in-house counsel Vionic group), Casey Flaherty (former corporate counsel at Kia Motors), Sterling Miller (General Counsel at Marketo), and Alex Butterworth (Senior Legal Counsel at McDonald’s). As this is a guide for in-house legal teams, we only selected technology that is being marketed to legal departments. This is in order to ensure razor-sharp focus on our audience’s needs.

Takeaway 3: Simple communication

The guide’s pages of analysis seek to answer the simple questions each of us ask when buying anything:

why should I do anything? why now? why you?

This is what our researchers asked in looking at 130 software solutions and when compiling the experiences provided by law departments adopting technology. The guide carries the essential elevator pitch for the companies – how they convey their value to in-house teams —  as well as client examples of the precise value they receive.

For vendors, we looked at what measures of success the software can effect, and the key performance indicators (KPIs) the software can help tick off. If a solution could not answer these questions of value then it was not included. The guide is thus packed with zinger quotes, as well as ROI analysis of the technologies, revealing how they can help the bottom line.

Takeaway 4: Inspire a conversation, do not pretend to be the final word

One of the nicest reviews we have had on the guide is that it’s the “bible for any newcomer to this space” (Stephen Scorziello, Chief Operating Officer, Legal, Compliance & Public Affairs at Marsh & McLennan Companies, and formerly GC at Spotify). However, no one, of course, is going to make decisions to buy a product based solely on one source of information.

Dominic Carman, a former publisher of the august legal publication, Chambers, says “no-one will ever admit to choosing a lawyer or firm based solely on their ranking. Instead, they use them intermittently as part of the mix of intelligence”. In reality, research shows it takes somewhere between six to eight “touches” for most of us to buy something.

Lucy Bassli, former Associate General Counsel at Microsoft, says in the guide that it may even help some lawyers decide tech is not right for them. Bassli says:

“Consider the biggest pain points in your department and ask if technology is the right solution. Consider whether there are process changes that can be just as or significantly impactful with a much lower cost (if any) to the department.”

At the same time, what is absolutely clear is that legal buyers must read this guide, or guides like this. Lawyers need to keep up to date with legal technology, and/or attend events. This allows legal tech buyers to make decisions from a point of knowledge. In the research process, Roberto Facundus, General Counsel and Chief Operating Officer at Tongal, told us:

“You have to follow trends at the risk of being left behind. I recognize that there will be many things created that are not relevant or helpful, but one out of 100 might be worth knowing about. This doesn’t mean you have to be an early adopter, but you should at least be an early observer. I think you’re doing a disservice to you and your company if you are not paying attention.”

The trajectory for lawyers is only towards more knowledge about automation. Florida became the first state to mandate that lawyers complete three hours of technology continuing legal education (CLE) every three years. The American Bar Association (ABA) has long modified its rules to extend a lawyer’s duty of competence to keep “abreast of changes in the law and its practice” to include knowing “the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.” Many state bars have followed, extending lawyer “competence” beyond knowledge of substantive law to a duty of technological competence.

Takeaway 5: Wait, why are you sharing information about other (even rival) solutions?

Having been in this market for nearly four years we have accumulated a lot of knowledge. We wanted to play a small part in giving some structure and definition to the market. There are great resources out there for those interested in automaton and we wanted to help bring some of them together in this eBook.

Following the launch of last year’s guide (the 2018 version is fully expanded and updated), a huge multinational got in touch with us to say they did not know such technology existed until they scanned through the offerings. It opened their eyes to a new world and helped begin their legal tech journey.

We have even seen potential competitors of LawGeex spread this content and in the spirit of sharing important knowledge, we equally share knowledge that helps advance the legal technology cause, providing direction to lawyers to navigate this new world.

Sharing of knowledge is vital in the long run for all, particularly in a sometimes traditional market. Following the release of the updated LegalTech guide, we are co-hosting a webinar with the
biggest names in legal technology. In the words of Mary O’ Carroll, Head of Legal Operations at Google the legal profession has to collaborate and learn from each other’s successes (and failures) and in double quick time to catch up with other industries. “It’s the only way we’ll make progress as a group and profession. It’s good for all of us.”

Takeaway 6. We all need to classify what we do better

One challenge in researching a massive guide, such as this, is the exact demarcation of lines between solutions and categories. Even when our researchers were deep in the weeds of research, differentiating the different categories of when and how each software is used, they found that distinctions can be confusing. We did our best to preserve the language in which vendors see themselves while ensuring that the actual technologies were properly represented. We brought it back to the pain the customers are experiencing and how technology is helping solve that pain. A takeaway from our research is the need for all vendors to articulate more clearly what we all do, and – just as importantly – what we do not do.

We value any feedback for improvements to the guide for 2019 via our online submission form or at hello@lawgeex.com

If you have not yet downloaded the guide it is free for download here.

Jonathan Marciano is Communications Director at LawGeex.

Follow him at @J_Marciano