Ed. note: This is an installment in the “Reference Manual of Legal Tech Lists. Read select prior installments here.
The Oxford Dictionary defines “cliché” as “a phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought.” Nowhere are clichés more overused and misused than in legal tech marketing and sales.
For more than 30 years, legal tech companies have tried to oversimplify the marketing of their products by adding jargon that simply doesn’t fit the mindset of legal professionals.
Here are seven words and phrases that lawyers don’t want to hear from the mouths of legal tech advocates:
- Work Smarter, Not Harder – This mantra, while seemingly inspirational, comes across as an oversimplification to many lawyers. Law practice is inherently complex and detail-oriented, requiring a deep understanding of case facts, laws, and regulations. The phrase is condescending, implying that lawyers have been “working harder, not smarter” all this while. Furthermore, it suggests that technology can easily replace the nuances of legal work, which is not only far from reality, it represents a genuine threat to most legal professionals.
- Save Time – In theory, this sounds wonderful, but to lawyers who bill hourly for their work, “Save Time” can threaten their income. Now, they must go out and find more business just to stay even. Of course, lawyers who embrace flat-fee and value-billing are prime candidates for products that save them time. Still, hourly billing remains a standard for the majority of legal professionals.
- Easy – The law isn’t easy, and neither is understanding and implementing new technology. When legal tech companies claim their products are “easy,” it sparks skepticism. There’s a fear that the “easy” tech solution might oversimplify complex legal processes, leading to mistakes or oversights. Legal tech adoption always comes with a learning curve to master the latest technology, train staff, and troubleshoot inevitable glitches. Lawyers are already cynical of overstatements, and the promise of easy alerts their “Spidey senses.”
- Change – Lawyers are trained to avoid risk, and change often equates to risk. “Ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is a preferred method of operation. Change implies uncertainty and unpredictability, which makes lawyers uncomfortable. They prefer proven, reliable methods, especially when their clients’ interests are at stake. This resistance to change makes them wary of adopting new technology.
- Best – Legal tech companies often proclaim that their solution is the “best” product. However, the legal profession is diverse, and what works best for one firm or lawyer may not be the best for another. Lawyers understand that one size does not fit all, so claims of a product being the best often ring hollow.
- Beta – The term “beta” indicates a product is in its testing phase. For lawyers, it screams “unfinished” and “unreliable.” No lawyer wants to be a guinea pig. When dealing with sensitive legal matters, lawyers want dependable tools, not something that could break down, cause problems, or create a risk. Don’t confuse early adoption with beta.
- Innovative – While innovation is generally seen as positive, it can be a double-edged sword for lawyers. An innovative product may offer new ways of doing things but may also be unproven or unstable. Lawyers prioritize reliability and proven effectiveness over novelty. Every product by nature is innovative, but this over-used term has no place in day-to-day legal tech marketing.
And one bonus phrase:
- Solution – Monica Bay, a lawyer and the former Editor-in-Chief of Legal Technology News, literally banned the term “solution” from our vocabularies during her tenure. She said it was overused and misapplied.
In conclusion, legal tech is undeniably transforming the landscape of the legal profession. However, tech companies must embrace and understand the profession’s unique needs, values, and concerns to achieve successful adoption.
The emphasis should be on how your technology genuinely enhances the quality and efficiency of legal work rather than the technology itself. Careful and thoughtful communication will go a long way toward bridging the gap between the legal profession and the tech world.
Cathy Kenton is the CEO of Legal Tech Media Group & Legal Tech Publishing. With first-hand experience leading change inside Legal Tech companies, and decades of success selling products and services to law firms, lawyers, and legal departments, Cathy helps companies with their go-to-market initiatives, turn strategies into action, generate measurable ROI, and avoid pitfalls.