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First Impressions: Legal Tech Vendors vs. Law Firms

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Sophiya Volkova is a Legal Technologist at Ashurst and holds an LLB with Honours in Spanish from the University of Edinburgh. She also completed a masters in International Business and Emerging Markets at Edinburgh University Business School and was involved in exploring use cases for Hyperloop implementation in the UK. Sophiya is passionate about technology and an avid hackathon participant.

Did you know that First Impressions was the original title for Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice? I found it quite fitting for this article as first impressions can lead to many conclusions, including both pride and prejudice.

As a Legal Technologist and someone involved in buying legal tech products, I have seen a great deal of demos from legal tech vendors. I can conclude that the disparity between my initial expectations of a vendor and the impression I take away from meeting them is often very surprising. Yes, there is a lot of prejudice towards vendors from law firms because the former at times may underestimate what it takes to on-board a legal tech product. At the same time, there is a lot of pride among vendors because they are so passionate (and it absolutely has to be this way!) about their product that they refuse to accept it has any shortcomings.  The reason I say this is because there have been times when I read about a product and was excited to see a demo of it and the demo turned out to be average or worse. Conversely, there have been quite a few times when prior to a demo I thought a product was pretty standard or there had not been enough written on it, but a demo would totally blow my mind. First impressions are key!

Working in legal technology excites me as it revolutionises one of the most conservative and change resistant industries – law. Tech-minded people inspire me every day and although I am sitting on the other side of the fence, I am empathetic towards some vendors and I do my best to help them succeed. I can understand that vendors can also get frustrated when law firms do not get back to them after a demo – being ghosted is awful in any situation. In this article I share my thoughts on how vendors and law firms can work in tandem to increase each other’s chances of success and ensure things end on a good note. Who knows: you might be reaching out to one another in the future.

1. Forget about generic demos.

Every vendor has a generic demo, and if they don’t, they should have. These are great on many occasions like training, PR and marketing or pre-demo screening processes. Generic demos in my experience have little success in law firms – they need to be bespoke and address a pre-specified use case or cases. Both vendors and law firms need to spend time communicating about it so a demo will resonate with the pain points that a given law firm experiences. Getting that information is crucial as well as the list of attendees of the demo. Make sure there are no spelling mistakes especially in the names when you send out invites. Attention to detail is paramount! 

2. Information security – the key deal breaker.

You can have the coolest tool in the world (everyone can love it at a law firm you are pitching to) but if you have not sorted out information security and obtained ISO 270001 – this is one of the key requirements in 99% of cases — you will not be successful at striking a deal with a law firm. Be open and transparent about information security requirements, resource and features – these apply to both vendors and law firms. Be prepared for cloud-averse attitudes as even though cloud has been around for years, some clients simply will not agree to use it and this is usually not a law firm’s fault.

3. Follow up & stay in touch.

More often than not vendors follow-up post-demo, however, these follow-ups need to be meaningful and tailored. Perhaps there is another approach that can be taken to address the use case with your tool? Suggest it if there was a pause in communication. Ask for feedback from law firms, and please do not be defensive but rather reflect on it. It is very rare that law firms will provide feedback – how many companies provide feedback to unsuccessful candidates after a job interview? Exactly: a handful but practically none. Both vendors and law firms should stay in touch and be proactive at adding one another on LinkedIn and checking in with each other. Another point here for vendors: please never call law firms when it has not been pre-arranged, as it can affect the relationship (not in your favour). Firms are your prospective clients and their time is pricey!

The points above are not ground-breaking, but what I want to highlight is that they address both law firms and vendors. In my experience, vendors and law firms like to speak about one another behind each other’s backs. This does not help anyone. A call to be more co-operative might sound vanilla or clichéd, but it is essential. It is crucial that both parties are transparent with one another, that they are both eager to drive success and that they are both very engaged because an excellent demo can be a start of a long-term successful partnership! Although pride and prejudice are prevalent on both fronts, first impressions are immensely significant. Let’s keep them positive!

Sophiya Volkova
Legal Technologist
Ashurst