Last week’s successful Legal Geek conference drew many people’s focus again to Legal Tech. It followed the IPOs in the summer of LegalZoom and Intapp, which confirmed that legal tech is coming of age, five years after the initial burst of start ups, which feels like a lifetime ago now.
At the time, anyone fortunate enough to be involved in legal tech in any capacity felt like they were at the centre of the universe from a legal sector perspective. Innovation was the overriding narrative dominating much of the media’s agenda, with legal tech sitting right at its heart. However, the initial hype died down and it is only now that a number of mature startups and other players are translating that initial buzz into genuine change in the business and practice of law.
The law firm agenda looks very different from five years ago as we begin to recover from the pandemic. The theme of people has replaced innovation at the epicentre of law firm thinking – whether that’s hybrid and agile working, office moves, mental health, work life balance, ESG or pay, much of it underpinned by the war for talent. New legal tech initiatives – be that a law firm sponsored incubator or a partnership with, or investment in a provider – are producing diminishing returns in the form of press coverage and social media engagement. The market has just become too saturated. Where once it felt like law firms where genuine disruptors for the first time, that third or fourth iteration of a once exciting tech incubator now feels to the outside world like business as usual at best.
The onus is now on legal tech companies themselves rather than law firms to drive the Legal Tech narrative. Their challenge is to move that narrative beyond functional communications about their products and which firms are using it to joining the big conversation on stories that matter to law firm leaders and senior in-house counsel.
The key question is how do your products and services help the sector in tackling its biggest issues? Those issues include the challenges for firms of attracting and retaining the best people, becoming ESG leaders with the highest standards of corporate behaviour and effectively undertaking their own digital transformations.
Legal Tech leaders should have a voice in contributing to these debates – but their content, thought leadership and PR strategies need to evolve to reflect this.
As with any good content or communications strategy, you have to understand your target audience, focus on the issues that audience is likely to care about and develop the right rhythm of interactions, to hit that audience with the right message, in the right way at the right time.
It’s increasingly clear that we are still much closer to the beginning than the end of the Legal Tech growth story. Companies wishing to capitalise on these opportunities must align their profile and content strategies with their growth strategies. Those that seize the day with a renewed burst of creative thinking will find clear space at the heart of our sector.