Legal Technology Developers Talk Sluggish Adoption

When Law 2023 released its findings two years ago, the legal technology startup industry was already changing the way tech-savvy attorneys worked. Since then, this startup niche has exploded, resulting in a higher quality and more diverse selection of digital tools from which lawyers can choose. Yet even as the array of apps grows exponentially, the traditional legal field as a whole remains slow to adopt these tools for routine use.

Mary Juetten, founder and CEO of the IP management software company Traklight, recently addressed this trend in an article for Forbes. Juetten spent some time at a 2015 Evolve Law event discussing the issue with legal tech entrepreneurs and attorneys, and she captured some enlightening perspectives from both sides.

“The legal industry is in a state of flux, and change brings opportunity,” said Ned Gannon, CEO of document review technology company eBrevia. “Find a niche where innovative processes or technology can create value through efficiency.”

The findings of Law 2023 show that law firms will initially use new technologies primarily as a means of reducing costs by maximizing efficiency. But while individual apps can make some tasks more efficient, juggling multiple apps can bog an attorney down. As Juetten notes, the legal tech industry must focus on improving integration between new tools and traditional practices if it hopes to make adoption easier for attorneys.

“Legal tech companies require founders to marry the art and science of law with technology,” said Ann Lawrence, Partner at DLA Piper LLP. “You need to innately understand the pressure points of being a law firm attorney in order to develop technology that will solve their problem and convince them to pay for it.”

This also echoes one of the key findings of Law 2023: that law firms will recruit their own in-house technologists to ensure that their digital tools reflect their exact needs. Many legal tech startup founders are themselves former attorneys who recognized opportunities to solve their most frustrating problems with new technologies. For an attorney who sees great potential in a particular app amd has nuanced input as to how it could be improved, there is an opportunity to provide invaluable feedback to the designers.

“Don’t create an artificial need or copycat another,” said Susan Cartier Liebel, founder and CEO of Solo Practice University. “Find an actual gap in the legal profession no one else is effectively and efficiently addressing, and then fill the void. If you do, you won’t have to sell your service; your service will sell itself.”

Not long ago, the legal tech industry was dominated by e-discovery platforms. Today, developers are looking high and low for unmet needs so that they can be the first to enable new pathways to practicing law. Attorneys can expect to see increasingly diversified solutions in the near future, and they can help shape tomorrow’s tools by communicating their toughest problems to the startup community.