After attending my first LegalTech New York, here are 10 tips for vendors who are trying to reach the next wave of electronic data discovery lawyers and litigation professionals.
1. Hand over the mouse. If you get time in front of potential clients to demonstrate a product, give them the mouse. Let attendees try your tools, with you serving as their guide. Take a trick from teachers active, engaged learning, is much more effective than a lecture or a slideshow. Do a Socratic-style demonstration: ask questions of the folks reviewing your product throughout the demonstration. When you talk about your product, be specific, and skip the general puffery about how it is the best-in-class, is the most defensible, etc. If I hear 30 minutes of general statements, I learn nothing about your product.
Because you have a financial interest in selling me your product, general statements do not carry much weight in my cost-benefit analysis. Plus, if all I hear are generalities, I am going to assume you do not really understand what you are trying to sell. Sales 101 in any industry is to know your product backward and forward. Someone who knows the product will typically be more teacher than salesperson.
2. Add value. Our clients expect more from us than just delivering high-quality work product and hyper-responsive client service. They demand that we add value in fresh ways. From partnering with them in pro bono endeavors, to visiting in-house (and off-the-clock) to learn more about how they do business, we are expected to be our client's advocates in and out of the courtroom.
I make a point to try to stay in hotels that are owned by companies we represent, and I even make some personal consumer purchasing decisions based on the fact that I want our clients' businesses to thrive. Our clients know we are in their corner on every level. Develop relationships beyond that of another fungible vendor.
3. Be humble and keep innovating. The barriers to enter the e-discovery world are fairly low. Technology is evolving rapidly, just like the law. The environment is competitive. You cannot rest on your laurels and stop innovating, even if you have a strong market share. Arrogance is a telltale sign of complacency stifle it, even if you are the best in class. Ask us for advice, and let us know where you are improving.
4. Don't bad-mouth the competition. There is no need to put down your competitors. I would never criticize another law firm while pitching to a potential client it's gauche. To use the grade-school saying, you shouldn't need to blow out another vendor's candle to make yours shine brighter.
5. Share. We practitioners in the e-discovery community need talk to each other and trade notes, so we get candid feedback from peers about vendors. A fellow practitioner's assessment of the best and worst of show is typically credible. Your opinion on how much better you are than your competitors is not credible, because you have a vested financial interest in saying that everyone else's product is inferior. So stay positive. Show me why you are the best, not why everyone else is the worst.
6. Stop pushing unnecessary services. On the collection front, we know you make a great deal of money in per-gigabyte processing, as well as in making forensic images and selling goods and services associated with data collection. Don't let the profit-motive blind you into trying to steer clients into making tons of forensic images, and processing unnecessary terabytes of data when pre-processing culling methods make sense. The second a vendor tries to push me towards over-the-top collection strategies, they lose my trust, and my business. Lay out the pricing and options. Don't try to push one way or the other in what needs to be collected from a legal standpoint that is for the lawyers to figure out. You may get away with it with lawyers who don't understand e-discovery and just follow your recommendations blindly, but the bar is learning fast. Be make sure your profit-motive doesn't cloud your judgment. You can make plenty of money performing the services without overselling.
7. Leave the legal work to the lawyers. Do not cross the line into providing legal services. Advising a client on what is a legally sufficient preservation effort, and giving advice on litigation strategy, is a task for a lawyer. There is a knowledge gap in the bar-at-large in the EDD world, and plenty of lawyers are more than happy to defer entirely to non-lawyer judgments on legal issues involving e-discovery. Don't fall into the trap of filling the vacuum for them offer your products or services, and let clients know you cannot make legal calls for them on legal issues. This is tough to do, because many clients will not like to hear this but you play with fire when you have non-lawyers skirting the edges of practicing law.
8. Reach out to new lawyers. Nearly every law student knows LexisNexis or Westlaw by the time they get out of law school, and are intimately familiar with both titans of legal research. When these students matriculate into practice, they have a strong preference (typically) for their favorite brand of legal research. But few law graduates have any knowledge of e-discovery vendors. Guess who handles EDD at most firms? New lawyers. Start reaching out to law students, so that when they see hundreds of booths at LegalTech, they'll hit yours before conking out from "vendor fatigue."
9. Let me export a privilege log with a click. For review-platform vendors: Once a review is completed, I don't want to spend a fortune re-reviewing the same documents to compile a privilege log. Nor should I, if your review platform has the features and fields I need. Reviewers need to be able to enter the fields necessary for a legally sufficient privilege log, and then be able to export those fields for all the documents tagged as privileged with the click of a button into a format that we can produce (such as an Excel spreadsheet). This should be an easy feature to integrate into your product, yet I am surprised I don't see a touted "One-Click Privilege Log" feature on all review tools.
10. Let me kick the tires on a case for free. Ask me to use your product for free on a case. The tools we use in a litigation are a client decision in the end, but they often listen to our recommendations. And if we can try out your technology for free, that helps make up for the loss we incur as we take non-billable time to learn your new tool. Our clients really love when we can get them something for free that other firms need to pay for and when our clients are happy, we are happy. If we like your product, we will pay for it in the future.
Adam Losey is an associate with Foley & Lardner. Email: email@example.com.