Who does a legal technology company need to have on staff? Software designers, absolutely. Sales and customer support staff, you bet. But what about lawyers? What do they bring to the table?
Quite a lot, as it turns out. Here’s why it pays to have at least a few lawyers at any legal technology company.
Common Knowledge Base and Worldview
Remember how every professor in law school liked to tell you that they weren’t just teaching you the law, they were teaching you “how to think like a lawyer”? As repetitive as the line got, they had a point. Thinking like a lawyer—approaching problems from the perspective of evaluating facts and frameworks, identifying the interstices between them, weighing and evaluating precedents, and arguing for application of the rules or an exception to the rules—is the underpinning for the very practice of law.
That shared perspective, along with a familiarity and level of comfort with massive documents, all-but-impenetrable regulations, and dense, fact-specific court opinions, means that the lawyers on staff at your legal technology companies get where lawyers are coming from.
Understanding of Tasks, Processes, and Pain Points
Software developers rely on subject-matter experts to ensure that they’re designing solutions that will address real problems in the industry. After all, you can’t really know a job unless you’ve done it. You may have a rough comprehension of what your financial advisor or accountant does all day, but if you haven’t worked in that world, you probably don’t know exactly what tasks are on his plate, or what processes and workflows she’ll rely on to complete those tasks. Most importantly, you won’t have a clear grasp on the pain points or daily frustrations that accompany those workflows.
Truly feeling the agony of a legal workflow pain point was what led Haley Altman, a former partner at Ice Miller, to launch Doxly, a revolutionary transaction management company that Litera recently acquired. As Altman tells the story, Doxly was born in the wee hours of the morning, while she was scrambling around looking for a signature page to complete a legal transaction. Realizing that there had to be a better way to manage transactions than with paper and physical signatures, Altman created Doxly, leveraging technology to streamline and simplify transactions.
From marketing and sales to customer support and product troubleshooting, it helps to have people on staff who speak the same language as the product’s ultimate users. Instead of wasting client time figuring out how or why a complicated problem with forensic collection arose, for example, an ediscovery lawyer who works for the vendor can immediately get the gist of what the client needs to be able to do.
There’s a secondary benefit to shared language too. As one lawyer put it, “technology is easy … it’s user buy-in that’s hard.” When a legal technology company can draw on actual on-the-ground experience from another lawyer, they can better craft a message to communicate to their end users—other lawyers—why they should adopt the product.
Don’t get us wrong: we’re definitely not saying that legal technology companies only need lawyers. There’s value in having a wide variety of viewpoints, from the software developers writing code to the sales staff pitching it and the administrators and managers overseeing the big picture. But if you want a legal technology vendor that shares your worldview, understands your processes, and speaks your language, lawyers should definitely contribute some of those viewpoints.
Litera is grateful to have several lawyers on staff, starting with our CEO, Avaneesh Marwaha. To learn more about how their experience helps us design better tools and technologies to meet the real-world needs of lawyers and law firms, please contact us.