By Nonopa Vanda.
When software companies create new products or add new features to existing technology, they used to invest a lot of time and money not knowing the result. Post-Kanban, Scrum, and Lean entered the Design Sprint. Coined by former Google employee Jake Knapp, the design sprint changed the game forever. You test an idea to achieve results within five days instead of months or even years. To be honest, when all this started, people did not know what they were doing, and simply put - if you know what you are doing you are not innovating enough. In fact - you are not innovating at all.
Innovation is the thing where you start with the chicken and the egg question and finish with the little red riding hood question. No one should know the outcome. That's the whole point. It's uncomfortable. Here's what's also uncomfortable - learning innovative problem solving from different industries. The focus will be on 4 different industries (with some overlap), namely Technology, Pharmaceutical, Fintech, and Marketing. I will also cover how these industries solve problems and what legal can copy. Yes, I said, copy them.
Innovative problem-solving from different industries
LegalZoom is the legal version of pharmaceutical companies and guess what? We need more. Legal zoom filled a much-needed gap, the B2C gap. The ‘I do not want to deal with a lawyer but I need legal help’ gap. The ‘I do not want to consult a lawyer for every legal hiccup’ gap.
The ‘I want to buy a legal product and leave the store like a pharmacy’ gap. Now picture legal zoom at a large scale.
According to the World Justice Project’s report, Measuring the Justice Gap (published in May 2019), 1.4 billion people worldwide have unmet civil and administrative justice needs. Of the estimated 36% of people in the world who have experienced a non-trivial legal problem in the last two years, more than half (51%) are not able to meet their civil justice needs.
The global pandemic increased these scary numbers significantly. This group is referred to as the “missing middle” in South Africa, that is, you can afford a legal service but not a lawyer. The missing middle is who Pharmaceutical companies serve, the group that does not need constant visits to the doctor for medical headaches. But what about legal headaches?
There is a lot of debate in the legal industry about whether or not legal pharmaceuticals such as LegalZoom are taking a share of the pie meant for lawyers. It is quite obvious that the missing middle cannot afford lawyers, let alone litigation. This is not only the perfect scalable solution for them - it's eating at the pie the lawyers don't want anyway. I can already hear all the growling at the back - hold your horses. It's profitable. How much are we talking?
A study - Shaping the Future of Law- conducted by LawTech UK shows that serving the unmet demand from consumers and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) could be worth £11.4bn in annual revenues and the early adopters who will take the pharmaceutical approach to serve the unmet demand will be the winners of tomorrow. The sky’s the limit when legal services are in a cart and pharmaceuticals have already figured out the distribution channels from the producer right down to the user. All that's left is to figure out who produces, manufactures, wholesales, and retails legal services.
2. Technology; The Design Sprint
The Design Sprint provides a transformative formula for idea testing that works no matter the size of your organization. You go from idea to prototype to decision in five days, saving countless hours and dollars. Design sprints in the legal industry can improve value proposition, business models with scalable offers, digital transformation projects, contract redesign, and even go-to-market strategy. There is no limit to what can be achieved through Sprints and using the framework can have massive returns in cost reduction for law firms, paraprofessionals, solo practitioners, and in-house departments.
Legal technology is our FinTech way of doing things. The banks are law firms and FinTech is legal tech but here's where we fall short. Legal tech founders create products and sell them back to where they're not needed i.e. Law Firms. For instance, a big percentage of the legal tech market is document automation, a much-needed solution that's saturated. Now picture all these document automation companies approaching the same prospective clients. Fun. And we wonder why it's so "hard" to sell legal tech.
So what does FinTech do differently? They diversify their client base. Instead of focusing on selling FinTech back to banks, the latter’s client base is made up of e-commerce platforms and store owners, currency exchange
applications, cryptocurrency platforms, etc. A working model is to take FinTech to banks plus all industries, not fintech to just banks.
A lot of industries need legal tech, not just legal. So just like FinTech, instead of taking legal tech to just law firms, take legal tech to construction, dispute resolution, international organizations, conglomerates, banks, pharmaceuticals, logistics, shipping, venture capital, etc. This is not to say this isn't happening already. It is. But is it at a large scale as FinTech? No. Let's move people.
If I hear one more person saying "legal marketing", I'll pull my hair out and bang my head against the wall. Marketing is marketing. The $1.7 Trillion industry has been leveraging at least ten thousand ways to reach its target audience and make its clients rich. It's a well-known fact that lawyers aren't very good at this head-eating monster called marketing.
Marketing is to legal what Brandon was to the iron throne in Game of Thrones - a very important piece of the puzzle that no one sees coming and is often ignored until it's too late.
Marketing works in this order:
Legal marketing goes in this order:
The marketing industry has leveraged collaboration, renting other people’s audiences, buying traffic, acquiring what works, and using other people and businesses as distribution channels. Leading industry examples in my view are twofold; Mischon De Reya and Yankitt LLP.
4.1 Mischon De Reya
Marketing is all about attention, attention, and more attention. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to you. You cannot convert who you cannot attract and cannot close who you could not convert and you cannot delight who you did not close. It is all about the attention economy otherwise how will people even know you exist? Referrals alone will not cut it long term. Marketing is how you acquire clients on your own. Now let us dig into how pioneering law firm Mischon de Reya is excelling at getting our attention.
Apart from the impressive conversion copywriting they have on their website - they established the MDR Lab to attract investors, businesses, VC firms, promising startups, law firms, attention, you name it. The Lab quickly became one of the best choices for promising legal tech startups. Our YCombinator. Many of the start-ups they have helped, such as Donna, have not only gone to market, they are doing pretty well.
Any law firm making above $100m or even less annually can afford to have a Lab that assists startups in this way to attract attention to themselves and deepen their relationships with leading technologies, investors, and business partners which leads to more business. Recently, they have launched MDR Research to collaborate with academia for research and development as reported by Artificial Lawyer. Universities are all about firms, attention, you name it. The Lab quickly became one of the best choices for promising legal tech startups. Our YCombinator. Many of the start-ups they have helped, such as Donna, have not only gone to market, they are doing pretty well.
Any law firm making above $100m or even less annually can afford to have a Lab that assists startups in this way to attract attention to themselves and deepen their relationships with leading technologies, investors, and business partners which leads to more business. Recently, they have launched MDR Research to collaborate with academia for research and development as reported by Artificial Lawyer. Universities are all about research and development, so why spend $10 Million training your own AI algorithms when you can partner with universities to do what they are already doing at a fraction of the cost
4.2. Yankitt LLP
Last year, the law firm made headlines by being the very first law firm to enter the Peloton hype. Dubbed as “the great equalizer” by Law.com, Peleton has become the next generation exercise equipment company. The stock market's pandemic darling managed to get everyone's attention and if Prof Scott Galloway of NYU’s predictions is anything to go by, Peloton might be entering the metaverse soon.
Enough with the Peloton. Now imagine the world's very first firm to have its name next to this next generation company that may or may not be entering the metaverse soon. Whenever you search Peloton and law firms on any search engine, all you see is Yankitt LLP. This may have zero significance to some but from a marketing standpoint, Yankitt rented out Peloton's attention together with their partners and clients. The firm became the talk of the town for quite some time and as Peleton’s attention moves up (especially if they join the metaverse) so will Yankitt's. Like how a service provider rents space in someone’s email list who has a large list of subscribers. The audience need not be yours.
These two are examples of what doing marketing the marketing way can do instead of coining our own legal marketing with subpar returns. Find a promising company, rent their audience and buy attention.
All these examples I provided of how different industries approach innovation and problem solving can help legal think outside of the box. If the legal industry is to go all-in on legal innovation, we cannot say we know what we are doing. That is not innovation. Waiting for someone else to do it is also not innovation because FOMO-driven innovation has poor returns. We also cannot be done. The definition of ‘done’ in legal innovation needs to be continuous improvements. In product management, the definition of done is a list of criteria for constant increments. Constant improvements. We can never be done, like the chicken and the egg question, we should always ask questions and iterate as we go along. It is not over until the fat lady sings
About the Author
Nonopa Vanda is a certified legal technologist who holds a Bachelor of Laws (LL. B). Professionally, she is a legal technology and innovation consultant who helps connect lawyers with businesses. She works at the intersection of technology, design, and product management/development.
She is one of the leading voices in the field of legal technology and innovation in Africa and Internationally. Currently, she is the South African representative for WAL World International AG, on a mission to uberize legal services in South Africa. She advises startups on product and go-to-market strategies and contributes to legal NPOs from time to time. Her views are her own.