Recently Attorney at Work asked three legal technology entrepreneurs — all speakers at this fall’s Clio Cloud Conference — for their thoughts on the biggest challenges facing solo attorneys and smaller law firms, why so many stumble at marketing, and what new technology most intrigues them. Plus, a few reading recommendations and favorite apps. Here are words to the wise from CEOs Andrew Arruda of ROSS Intelligence, Nehal Madhani of Alt Legal, and Ed Walters of Fastcase.
@AndrewArruda and @ROSSIntel
1. What is the biggest hurdle most attorneys face in bringing in new business? I got my start at a small law firm and, thinking back, we got most of our business through word of mouth — i.e., happy clients. The challenge, therefore, was ensuring we continued to provide our clients with the best service possible. We overcame this challenge by keeping up to date with the latest technology, which allowed us to outperform our competitors and provide the best service possible.
2. What’s the biggest threat to a solo or small firm’s survival over the next 10 years? What should they be doing now to prepare? I think there will be a rise in the number of solo and small firms over the next 10 years if the right technology is adopted. I wouldn’t think of it as how to survive in the next 10 years, but rather how to thrive over the next 10 years. Start getting out there and testing the myriad legal technologies that exist to enable your practice and firm.
3. What is the most intriguing technology development on the horizon for law practices? I’m biased as I work in the AI industry, but I think the rise of artificial intelligence technologies is not only the most intriguing technology development on the horizon but also the most significant technological advancement since the internet.
4. Favorite (non-law) resource you would recommend to lawyers to make their practices competitive? “High-Output Management” and “The Lean Startup.” I know that’s two, but I think they would both help lawyers think of their practices in a totally different way, bringing that startup and business mentality to the mix.
5. Finally, what are three apps you have been using lately? Slack (so the ROSS team can keep in touch no matter where in the world we are), ROSS (a real game-changer!), and Delectable (which is great for suggestions for California red wines I haven’t tried yet!).
Andrew Arruda is an entrepreneur, strategist and leader with nearly a decade of experience in the legal industry who aims to forever change the way legal services are delivered. He is the CEO/Co-founder of ROSS Intelligence, the company behind ROSS, the world’s first artificially intelligent lawyer.
@nehalm and @altlegal
1. What is the biggest hurdle most attorneys face in bringing in new business? Marketing is perhaps the key thing that lawyers tend to overlook when forming and planning their law firms. Like other aspects of their practices, successful marketing requires a continuous investment of both time and money. We recommend that lawyers set aside a budget as well as weekly or daily blocks in their calendars to just focus on marketing. Marketing needs to be holistic; it requires multiple channels to be most effective. Referrals can and certainly should be one marketing channel, but referrals should also be supplemented with email newsletters, blogs and in-person networking.
Regardless of the channels lawyers use, being data-driven is critical when it comes to bringing in new business. Collecting, analyzing and responding to data helps you determine which channels are most effective and where to invest precious resources. Many marketing services can provide detailed data and analysis. For example, Clio’s Campaign Tracker collects and shows information about the success rates of different marketing campaigns.
2. What’s the biggest threat to a solo or small firm’s survival over the next 10 years? What should they be doing now to prepare? You hear a lot about lawyers being replaced by technology, but I don’t think that is completely accurate. There are always going to be aspects of legal practice that will require the subjective interpretation only a human being can provide. Rather, in my opinion, the real threat will be an increasingly competitive environment. Over the next decade, law firms will be run more efficiently. They are going to invest in technology and learn how to more effectively divide legal transactions into substantive and administrative tasks that can and should be relegated to technology. They are going to make data-driven decisions for their business. They are going to be more nimble.
As law practices become more data-driven and tech-savvy, those whose practices do not employ technology will have difficulty competing. To remain competitive, lawyers should start analyzing their practices now to see how they can use technology to increase efficiency, and how they can make more data-driven decisions.
3. What is the most intriguing technology development on the horizon for law practices? As a technology company, we see so many new and exciting technologies on the horizon. Tools like Casetext’s CARA simplify legal research, saving lawyers and paralegals time slaving over books to find precedent. However, given my bias as the CEO of an IP docketing software, perhaps one of the most promising is the increasing availability of open government data and APIs. Attorneys can use these technologies to access and modify data without having to navigate clunky government websites, both here and abroad. In fact, most of our business is built on APIs, and we’ve seen just how much value data automatically retrieved and analyzed from APIs can provide for attorneys and paralegals.
4. Favorite (non-law) resource you would recommend to lawyers to make their practices competitive? Jim Collins’s book “Good to Great” is thought-provoking and informative. Collins analyzes the performance of nearly 1,500 companies over 40 years to identify 11 companies that became great. He presents the lessons that emerged from those companies.
One insight that translates particularly well to attorneys’ practices is the “Hedgehog Concept,” which asks you to identify a strategy based on the intersection of three circles:
- What can you be the best in the world at?
- What drives your economic engine?
- What are you deeply passionate about?
This advice is similar to what many lawyers hear about becoming experts in a particular area or developing a niche legal practice.
5. Finally, what are three apps you use to manage your work (and your life)?
- Evernote. This classic app syncs my notes across devices so that I always have them, whether I’m at my desk or not. I can’t remember the last time I used a pen to take notes.
- Calendly. This is one of the newest and best scheduling apps I’ve seen. I used to play email ping-pong to schedule appointments. Now, I can set up the calendar with times that I’m available; provide prospective customers, clients and colleagues with a link; and let them select times that work best for them. It will even send both of us an automatic calendar invite.
- Wunderlist. This app is an incredibly intuitive and powerful way to track tasks. It also works across devices. It can even sync with Slack, my other highly recommended app, to make to-do lists while in real-time chats with colleagues.
Nehal Madhani is an attorney and the founder and CEO of Alt Legal. Before starting Alt Legal, he practiced in the New York office of Kirkland & Ellis, LLP.
@EJWalters and @FastCase
1. What is the biggest hurdle most attorneys face in bringing in new business? Lawyer advertising regulations are hopelessly out of date. I think the only way to fix them is to get involved in your bar association and change them yourself.
2. What’s the biggest threat to a solo or small firm’s survival over the next 10 years? I think the biggest threats are document automation on the one hand and increased specialization by large firms on the other. Lawyers should prepare by taking a more holistic and human approach to helping clients (robots can’t do that yet), and work to expand the universe of clients by adapting to help clients who aren’t currently seeking lawyers to solve legal problems.
3. What is the most intriguing technology development on the horizon for law practices? I’m intrigued by the new version of Fastcase, Fastcase 7, but I’m biased. I think that we’re about to find new ways of using data that we currently treat as disposable in law practice, and that data will help us make decisions based on facts, not hunches.
4. Favorite (non-law) resource you would recommend to lawyers to make their practices competitive? I’m a huge fan of “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. I can’t always get to “inbox zero,” but I’m always trying.
5. Finally, name three apps you use to manage your practice (or your life). Twitter is my go-to app for information and networking; I’m not new to Slack, but I love it; and when I’m blowing off steam, it’s 2048 (addictive) or Lettercraft (for word nerds).
Ed Walters is the CEO of Fastcase, and he teaches “The Law of Robots” at the Georgetown University Law Center. He’s working on a book about the use of data analysis in law, and is the coach of the worst (but most enthusiastic) third-grade soccer team in Washington, DC.
Image ©iStockPhoto.com; speaker photos courtesy of Clio.