Tech­nol­o­gy offers many oppor­tu­ni­ties, but some­times law firms have a hard time see­ing past the risks. To help legal mar­keters intro­duce var­i­ous tech­nolo­gies like data inte­gra­tion and mar­ket­ing automa­tion into their law firms, the Legal Mar­ket­ing Association’s Annu­al Con­fer­ence in Las Vegas will fea­ture a pre-con­fer­ence track called the Rise of the Legal Mar­ket­ing Tech­nol­o­gist. This will be an entire day focused on help­ing legal mar­keters see the poten­tial of these tech­nolo­gies, as well as case stud­ies of how some law firms and oth­er pro­fes­sion­al ser­vices firms have inte­grat­ed these tech­nolo­gies into their prac­tices.

Rise of the Legal Marketing Technologist

Legal Mar­keters are in a unique posi­tion to help their law firms embrace tech­nol­o­gy. In today’s world where mar­ket­ing is get­ting more sophis­ti­cat­ed and user expe­ri­ences are per­son­al­ized, it’s get­ting hard­er for law firms to ignore con­sumer expec­ta­tions. Rob Kahn,[1] co-chair of Rise of the Legal Mar­ket­ing Tech­nol­o­gist, says, “What we’re see­ing in mar­ket­ing tech­nol­o­gy is lever­ag­ing data to under­stand your clients at a more indi­vid­ual and dis­crete lev­el, and being able to deliv­er the right infor­ma­tion at the right time to meet their needs. This is the next fron­tier in mar­ket­ing tech­nol­o­gy for law firms. I feel like as an indus­try we’re a lit­tle bit behind in that, and I am invest­ed in get­ting the word out.” That’s where these ses­sions at LMA Nation­al come into play. Mered­ith WIlliams[2], the oth­er chair of the pre-con­fer­ence track, says, “This will be a dif­fer­ent look than just the typ­i­cal mar­ket­ing tech­nolo­gies. It will be a broad­er per­spec­tive, get­ting a lot of peo­ple in law firms and oth­er orga­ni­za­tions talk­ing about their per­spec­tive through case studies–so if you haven’t done it, this is how you can get start­ed. It’s a prac­ti­cal view into that side, but with also an eye to the future.”

Legal Marketing Technology: Fundamental in Today’s World

Kahn points out that the way the con­sumer expe­ri­ence works in today’s world is that it is personalized–and con­sumers of legal ser­vices are going to expect that same lev­el of ser­vice. They will want infor­ma­tion that they need deliv­ered to them con­ve­nient­ly and in a time­ly man­ner, and the con­sumers will go to where that expec­ta­tion is met. Kahn says, “Con­sumers expec­ta­tions are chang­ing as oth­er indus­tries lever­age the tools in mar­ket­ing tech­nol­o­gy, and those con­sumer per­cep­tions of how the world should be impact their per­cep­tions of the law firms they are using.” Williams agrees, say­ing, “Ten years ago things were just com­ing on board–Facebook was get­ting start­ed, the first smart­phone was available–but today tech­nol­o­gy is part of every sin­gle process that we have. Whether it is com­mu­ni­ca­tion, data stor­age, pub­li­ca­tions, pub­lic­i­ty, what­ev­er it may be, tech­nol­o­gy is no longer a nice to have; it is a must have to com­pete in the mar­ket today … Peo­ple don’t pick up a phone to ask some­one a ques­tion any­more, they go to Google to get the infor­ma­tion.”

Law firms and lawyers have a rep­u­ta­tion for being risk-averse, and that char­ac­ter­is­tic applies to tech­nol­o­gy. Lawyers look at tech­nol­o­gy and see the rea­sons why it can­not be used in the prac­tice of law–ethical con­cerns, gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tions and laws on the books pro­tect­ing per­son­al infor­ma­tion. The avoid­ance of tech­nol­o­gy is seen as the avoid­ance of risk. Kahn says, “One of the great­est val­ues legal mar­keters bring to their orga­ni­za­tion is being a trans­la­tor between what’s going on in the rest of the world and trans­lat­ing that through the attorney’s risk-averse view­point and mak­ing them under­stand that the risk is actu­al­ly not chang­ing your behav­ior.”

Considerations for Starting the Legal Marketing Technology Conversation

Kahn says, “As a mar­keter, you know your first response is going to be ‘No.’ But that has to be the begin­ning of the con­ver­sa­tion.” So, to be effec­tive in mar­ket­ing tech­nol­o­gy suc­cess­ful­ly with­in your firm, you must know your audi­ence and how tech­nol­o­gy might improve your firm’s prac­tice. Williams says, “You have to know the propen­si­ty of your peo­ple to accept change and to use tech­nol­o­gy, because you can’t just say, ‘we are going to be a tech­nol­o­gy-focused law firm.’ You have to find the right toolset to have these con­ver­sa­tions.” To embrace new tech­nol­o­gy effec­tive­ly, you need to know the process­es at the firm, the steps the lawyers go through when work­ing on a mat­ter for a client.” Williams says, “Today it is about learn­ing the process­es of our law firms, and fig­ur­ing out how tech­nol­o­gy can improve those process­es.” This, of course, varies depend­ing on what types of law are prac­ticed and the clients being served, as those are vari­ables that can dra­mat­i­cal­ly alter what type of tech­nol­o­gy is appro­pri­ate. So it goes back to under­stand­ing the goals and prac­tice of your firm, and how tech­nol­o­gy can help meet those goals.

Addi­tion­al­ly, how you talk about these goals with indi­vid­u­als can have an impact. In some ways, it comes down to good, old-fash­ioned com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills, and under­stand­ing what aspect of the issue you need to con­front with each indi­vid­ual. Williams says, “You may have a very tech­nol­o­gy-focused con­ver­sa­tion with Lawyer A, but a very process-ori­ent­ed con­ver­sa­tion with Lawyer B; it all depends on the indi­vid­ual, and being able to know your audi­ence.” Kahn says, “You have to work with the attor­neys, IT and risk man­age­ment to get into the details of what’s impor­tant to man­age the risk, and what’s impor­tant to the firm and the busi­ness, and not lump the two togeth­er when they don’t need to be lumped togeth­er. What at first seems like an obsta­cle turns out to be an oppor­tu­ni­ty, if you use an approach that makes sense for your firm. There is usu­al­ly an approach that works.”

Not only is tech­nol­o­gy a must in today’s mar­ket, it can great­ly improve deliv­ery of ser­vice to clients and it can sup­port attor­neys in their prac­tice. Williams says, “What we have to do as peo­ple sup­port­ing tech­nol­o­gy is to break down the func­tions and make sure the right tech is avail­able to per­form that func­tion at the right time … all of these dif­fer­ent forms of tech­nol­o­gy can be bro­ken down to focus on how your prac­tice can be increased.” In many ways, mar­ket­ing tech­nol­o­gy is just the begin­ning.

Many of the tech­nolo­gies to be dis­cussed at Rise of the Legal Mar­ket­ing Tech­nol­o­gist inter­sect with oth­er areas of law firm life, like knowl­edge man­age­ment and risk man­age­ment. Kahn says, “These tools help increase effi­cien­cy and accu­ra­cy, and the best prac­tices lever­age tech­nol­o­gy to make it eas­i­er for attor­neys to con­tribute their data to pro­vide them with more action­able infor­ma­tion … it’s not just about mar­ket­ing, it’s about improved deliv­ery of legal service–that is the oppor­tu­ni­ty.”