Every once in a while, I have to give legal tech companies some tough love. They are doing an amazing job, but I do see some common behaviors even among the best of them that are detrimental to their ability to build even better products.
Here are 5 things legal tech companies can do to take their product from good, to great (reading the book Good to Great is a good start too):
Sync with lawyers’ contacts– This may seem like a minor change, but every app today asks to sync with your LinkedIn or Facebook contacts, but I have yet to see one legal tech product that asks to parse through lawyers’ email contacts, especially their work email and add all their contacts automatically.
Every company expects us to enter every one of our client’s names, the opposing counsel, and any contacts related to the case. Chances are, by the time I have gotten around to purchasing a subscription to your product, I have all that information in my inbox and I have been talking to those people already. It would be much easier for me to select and unselect people I want to include in my practice management software than it is to enter everyone manually. Any little step you can automate makes your product that much more useful.
Bonus for any company that allows me to match the contacts to particular cases.
Add lawyers to your staff – I know a lot of the companies I have reviewed have an advisory board made up of lawyers, which is great. But given that most tech companies want to quickly develop and deliver new features to their users, having someone on staff who has a legal background and can identify with the users would help get those features developed much quicker with a higher chance of success because you have a user in-house who can give you instant feedback.
Not only that, even if you want a broader user base to give you feedback, lawyers can help you formulate questions to ask and determine what observations to make of the users based on their experience. Only 17% of legal tech companies were founded by lawyers, so having a lawyer on staff will give the other 83% a competitive advantage.
Hire a designer – Yes, you have a great product, but I have seen a lot of products that I simply cannot review because the UI and UX is so bad. I don’t want to give them negative publicity until they make significant improvements to their user interface and user experience.
Hiring a designer and someone who understand processes and user flows can make a significant difference in how the product functions and looks. Remember, the main reason lawyers want to purchase your product is ease of use, and if your product requires a lawyer to learn how to code or stare at the screen for more than 5 seconds before clicking anywhere, you need help. Here’s a great resource: Alexandra Devendra.
Listen to feedback – We are all human and we all get defensive about things we care about. Legal tech founders are no different. When a user tells you that something’s not working, or is difficult to use, or that they know of a company who does it better, pay attention.
I try not to be too critical of the products I review, but I have had instances where I make a recommendation based on the products I have used or products I have reviewed in the past and how this would make a significant improvement to their products, and all I hear is “right yeah, but have you seen this great feature?” I get it, no one wants to hear criticism and you only want to focus on how awesome your product is, which is great for sales, but listening to your users is critical to developing a great product.
Also, surveys are helpful, but talking to your users in person and watching them use your product will tell you more than any survey will. You don’t know what you don’t know until you’ve sat down with a user and seen what their struggles are in using your product.
Attend lawyer events – Along with listening comes interacting with your user base. I have heard it all, lawyers are close-minded, they’re difficult to work with, they are resistant to change. If you approach your user base with such a negative view, you’re unlikely to see results.
You have to understand why they are resistant to change. Is your product difficult to use? Is the implementation process daunting? Have they used other software that was a pain and are reluctant to make another investment in something that may not work? Attending legal events as opposed to legal tech events will make you understand and empathize with your users rather than rely on stereotypes that have no basis.
If you have any other suggestions on how legal tech companies can improve their products, message me: @maryredzic