Having spent the past 12 years selling software solutions and building sales teams for successful tech companies, I’ve sold to some tough customers, and for the first time, I’ve started to sell to lawyers.
The legal profession has many leading innovators, pioneers even, and with any industry there are going to be those ahead of the pack. After only on my first six months here, I want to share my thoughts on the joys and challenges of selling to the profession, based on hundreds of conversations with lawyer-buyers. Maybe something I’ve learnt will help to spur this emerging and exciting market forward.
First the good news.
I passionately believe in technology that improves processes and brings organizational growth. Secondly, I think this entire space is fascinating because the in-house legal team is often the last department in the organization to adopt technology solutions.
I am convinced that’s going to change in the next few years. Lawyers are becoming more tech-driven. Partly this is because of the amount of work on lawyer’s plates and the ability of tech to automate some of the drudge work. One of the things I’ve heard a lot from lawyers is: “I didn’t go to law school to review standard agreements”. Because of the pain points being faced by lawyers, legal teams are very keen to speak to companies that can help them out.
Another great opportunity from a sales point of view is that lawyers also tend to be both intelligent and skeptical. This actually enables them to quickly understand the value of a product. They also ask some really tough questions. If you’re able to build a good case for your product they very soon become strong advocates (pun intended) compared to other industries I have encountered.
Now onto the challenges…
Challenge One: Legal is new to buying
Other departments have learned how to justify technology purchasing to the C-level over the past 20 years. These other departments are also skilled at building a business case and presenting how it will help them achieve their Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
This is often a new reality for law departments.
Legal does not have the same legacy of efficient buying—and consequently does not enjoy the same technology budget as other departments. In my conversations, more than 80% of the Legal budget goes toward salaries and outside counsel. Sometimes there is no budget or process for buying technology at all.
Challenge 2: Is Legal from Mars and Business from Venus?
Despite the obvious benefits of reducing time and saving money, many lawyers do not ask questions that other buyers have asked me throughout my career. “What’s the Return on Investment? How will this streamline our operations? How much time will this save me? How much additional revenue would this generate for the company?”
Legal is often the only department in the organization that doesn’t have KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). I have yet to come across a single in-house counsel able to accurately tell me how many contracts they review per month or what their contract review turnaround time is. It is almost impossible for a business unit to improve their contract processes when they don’t measure their KPIs.
Challenge 3: Contract policies create legal risks
Legal policies are not always defined or codified. I have no doubt that legal teams that spend a lot of time reviewing and red-lining agreements are very good at what they do. However, this can create a contract bottleneck and the business slows down because of it. Legal quite rightly can justify this process, as they are often the final line of defense for the company.
What ultimately happens though, is that after much frustration, commercial teams start signing agreements themselves. Alternatively, they might just stop sending contracts to legal entirely, leading to an even greater legal exposure. What ends up happening is the legal team’s focus on risk mitigation can actually lead to increased legal risk.
Challenge 4: Less fear of AI, than fear about accuracy
Despite over-hyped talk about lawyers losing their jobs to robots, the majority of lawyers I speak to are very interested in learning about exciting advances that will help them do their job more efficiently. They agree they shouldn’t spend as much time as they are reviewing the mundane contracts. However, their main fear isn’t robot lawyers; It is that AI isn’t as accurate as a human lawyer.
However, we believe that AI is not meant to be used as a standalone tool. The goal is to use AI plus humans (like an autopilot) with AI responding to the needs of the legal department in question. Together, they can ensure that contracts are reviewed much more accurately, and more consistently, than a human lawyer alone.
We see this in the automotive industry. There is still a debate whether autonomous cars are better than human drivers. Mobileye, a company recently acquired by Intel for $15.3 billion, has developed an aid to driver alerting them to risk. Studies conducted by Mobileye and others, have proven that machine + humans reduce accidents significantly. Some countries are now requiring all cars manufactured to be equipped with accident reducing technology.
I believe the same change should, and will, occur in the legal field. As the market becomes more educated, regulators will understand that technology will improve how we audit legal agreements, and may eventually require all businesses to use some form of contract review automation.
The future of selling to legal
We have had a significant number of clients who signed up soon after the first demo — one other good point of working with lawyers is once they agree to buy, they get their contracts back pretty quickly. But the challenges for buyers, and sellers, of legal services remain.
The vast majority of lawyers have yet to implement any legal technology. The majority (60%) of lawyers not using any automation tools at all.
At the same time, we are in the midst of a technology-fueled legal revolution and most lawyers are excited about the enormous opportunities available to them. Sales people are becoming better as we do more demos, and our product and engineering teams constantly improve our offering based on feedback from our clients (we just released a new version based entirely on the feedback of clients).
Lawyers are becoming better buyers, enjoying the experience of sales calls, where they can be open and honest about the challenges they face. We all benefit as the quality of the available technology improves, while automated solutions are slowly becoming more affordable than their alternatives.
Today’s leaders of legal technology adoption are those that recognize that business and legal aren’t unconnected entities with different goals – they’re the Earth and the Moon, and their gravitational pull affects the tides of change.
For a demo from Etai or one of our other (very nice) salespeople about LawGeex book a demo now.
If you are considering legal technology also check out The In-House Counsel’s LegalTech Buyers Guide – a free, downloadable guide that showcases more than 100 must-know technology solutions which solve the daily challenges faced by in-house lawyer.