Why It’s Hard to Sell Tech to Lawyers

And when I say lawyers, I include the courts, law firm staff, paralegals. Everyone who moves the machinery of law.

So here is why it’s hard to sell tech to lawyers.

Everything your law tech can do is already possible by other means.

Here is a list of other means:

  1. Email
  2. Microsoft Word
  3. Spreadsheets
  4. Phone
  5. Fax (disgusting but true)
  6. Folders and files on your computer
  7. And last but not least: human labour

The above is also tech. At some point it was hot new tech (even human labour—see the history of employment and management science). People who designed the above technologies were geniuses. All of this tech is sufficiently general to support any application. You can draft any document in Word, send any letter by email, satisfy Ontario (that’s where I practice law) requirements for service of most documents by fax, build arbitrarily complex matter management systems in spreadsheets and simple file systems.

General-purpose systems like email, word processors, spreadsheets, file systems, phone and so on are extremely powerful and flexible. But this power and freedom comes at a cost. Here are its elements:

  1. Human error
    • errors are more likely when users have more choices and must make more decisions
  2. Delay
    • special-purpose systems are faster because they eliminate many decisions and impose tunnel vision through input forms
  3. Integration deficit
    • it’s harder to make general-purpose systems work together; often humans have to be that glue raising the cost and increasing errors

Lawyers are often willing to bear this cost because they have traditionally been able to pass it on to clients. So far a combination of the general-purpose systems and a sufficient number of staff and junior lawyers can solve any problem that the law tech is eager to solve.

But two recent developments have put this status quo at risk: 1) clients are running out of money; 2) solo/small firm lawyers (whose clients never had money anyway and who are starting to target higher-tier clients with tight budgets) cannot bear the above costs.

We are not at the inflection point yet. But smart people are starting to invest in law tech.

Find me on Twitter: @pulat

Comments

  1. Hi Pulat,
    This makes sense. I would just suggest the addition of paper based delivery and storage of information to your list. These systems continue work very well in many ways.
    Sarah

  2. Gerry M.Laarakker

    If lawyers were tech savvy, they would have stayed with WordPerfect rather than switch to Word. There is nothing of significance that Word can do better than WordPerfect. Plus WordPerfect has several features missing in Word. Things like simple numbered lists, page formatting, ‘make-it-fit’ and formatting code display come to mind. They’ll have to pry the legal version of WordPerfect 9 out of my cold, dead hands.

  3. ….. and Law Equity models do not enable capital to be set aside for innovation.

  4. Good points and I mapped out this universe of lawyers tools in 2007 here: https://www.legalcomplex.com/blog/2015/04/08/how-first-principle-thinking-uncovered-the-mythical-legal-professional-universe/

    The sad story is that it hasn’t changed much. Even worse, there are far better, faster and “safer” apps to replace each of the tools lawyers use. Example: Signal and Whatsapp are far more efficient and better-encrypted communication method than email.

    In the end, there will be no excuse left when in the entire legal industry inc, the people working in it, will disappear in a sea of software.

    Software will eat world…of legal as well.