In the last ten years, legal tech has gone from being just a cool, new term, to now being a widespread reality.
Today, whether you are in a courtroom, work at a law firm, run a chamber, manage an in-house team, or are even a litigant / common citizen stuck in a legal battle, it is easy to spot how technology has crept into the ways in which the legal world works.
Whether we call it legal tech, or tech, or software, or tools, there is a noticeable change in which professionals, as well as clients, approach legal work, and the rapidly increasing role of technology (especially how much of it is related to the use of tools and software).
More and more in-house teams now have dedicated and specialized roles entirely geared towards increasing the overall productivity of their lawyers (as well as the overall economics of their legal function).
Service providers are experimenting with different things: making their own tech, spinning off legal tech companies, piloting their own projects, developing their unique approach to tech adoption, and building their own stack.
The changes in the workings of solo lawyers, and small law offices, are perhaps the most noticeable. It is the benefit of small scale, the ability to easily experiment, withdraw them if they don’t work, and review successes and failures, that make it easier for small law offices to apply changes. There are fewer corporate barriers to implementing new processes.
In general, technology has had a huge behavioural impact on our day-to-day lives (better customer experience, one-click transactions, easy file sharing, new modes of communication, and paperless working in a digitized office). Lawyers are no exception. It is, of course, intuitive that lawyers would want to bring these experiences in their work too, and increasingly, we find a good number of lawyers doing just that.
As regards legal technology developers and providers, their number in the Indian market is at an all-time high. As per our own research, there are over 200 specialised legal technology providers operating in the country, with the most growth having been seen in the last 3-4 years. There are new legal tech companies mushrooming in India as you read this. The new companies bring their own fresh outlook towards software development for legal, their own philosophies, creating immense pressure on the leaders of legal tech in India to have to compete to stay relevant.
The leaders in the legal tech industry of India, such as for example in the context of legal research, have long championed the use of legal tech (even before the word “legal tech” reached the mainstream consciousness), now feel the pressure to reinforce their thought leadership position in the legal technology market.
In an environment such as this, where competition is only increasing by the day, public awareness is at an all-time high, and newer players are coming up each day, there is one thing that all players in the legal market need to get right: position their business to reflect what it does, what it creates, how it serves, and what it stands for, in the context of today’s new reality.
We are all products of a sector that overoptimises for work quality, but underoptimises for marketability. I guess it is part of the culture in the legal world we all inherit, no matter what corner of the industry we come from.
As products of this culture, we often hold the false belief that if you do good work, and service clients well, work will come automatically.
But that is an overly simplistic worldview. We forget the fact in today’s world, that is table stakes. One of the things the power of which we tend to underestimate is marketing, and in specific, how our businesses are positioned in the market.
We underestimate the value of an authentic brand and a powerful positioning, simply because we don’t understand how to do it (or what specifically even needs to be done?).
In today’s legal tech market in India, the way I see it, poor positioning is the number one challenge plaguing almost all actors: law firms, solos, legal tech companies, and so on.
Many law practice management solutions for instance, by and large, compete on price alone, not on how they are different. Leaders in the market feel the pressure of being left behind, of becoming irrelevant and find themselves flocking to try new trends and tactics. In an effort to play catch up, they lose their voice.
Solo lawyers may be very tech-savvy and productivity geeks, and get complimented by their peers and clients all the time, but no one except their inner circle of work knows anything about it.
As the Indian legal market continues to evolve, we should evolve with it. We already are — we just forget to communicate it. We forget to communicate how much focus we put on efficiency, we forget to show we are different than our competitors. We naively expect clients will read our minds and telepathically understand how we are better positioned to fit their needs.
Legal is changing. And here is our chance to improve the way our sector functions, individually and collectively. It’s still early days in the new legal world. And in such times, businesses looking to gain an immutable competitive advantage should be staunch believers in marketing their initiatives and their worldviews, at least as much as they focus their energies on optimizing their products, if not more.
In today’s new reality of legal, a business with a solid foundation, an authentic voice, and a powerful message, is an immutable force. What we need is not more technology, but differentiation. We should consider it our duty to communicate those differentiators through an authentic positioning that is updated in the context of today’s world.
That is a duty we hold to ourselves, our clients, our employees, and to society at large.
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