Legal Tech isn’t Special

Flippant title aside, hear me out. Having attended a number of legal tech events in the past 4 years, there seems to be an underlying assumption that legal tech has a very unique, maybe even insurmountable, set of challenges. When you look at law firm business models, legal consumer research, and the ethical/regulatory landscape, it seems to make sense. I even find myself feeling overwhelmed by these idiosyncrasies while building Gust Launch. What I have come to realize though is that this isn’t a productive mindset. 

Every industry is unique and has its own set of challenges. We can’t be mired in the hurdles. We have to focus on the opportunities to create value for people that can benefit from legal services. 

One thing I remember from law school is that only a small number of people that need legal services actually get them. This information was primarily in the context of encouraging attorneys to perform pro bono work. While more attorneys should aspire to give more of their time to pro bono (myself included), the same concept also applies to technology. Every day in my job I get to make starting a company easier. We are trying to lower the barriers to entrepreneurship. Innovation in law is more than just helping today’s winners get more successful. It is about providing more access with better outcomes. 

Another thing, can we pump the breaks on our fixation on how the value is being delivered? Whether it is AI, blockchain, NLP, or whatever else on the cutting edge, the means don’t matter as much as the value it ultimately generates. All this fixation on the how takes away from the why and makes the conversations about technology adoption and process improvement more challenging. It makes it unapproachable. There is a place for technical deep-dives—let’s not have it be the dominant way of trying to convince attorneys to adopt legal technology though. 

So let’s relax a little on hammering on the great challenges for legal tech. Even if it is true, it really isn’t getting us anywhere. Plenty of other hard problems and challenges in different industries have been solved and improved. Let’s look to those examples to see what strategies were successful and how they apply to our problems.