Spearheading Technological Change and Innovation: The Role of the Legal Marketer
Technology is changing the landscape of the legal world, and making it possible for law firms to achieve new heights in terms of client service, transparency, and making smart, data driven choices. Roland Vogl, Executive Director of Stanford Program in Law, Science and Technology (LST), will be the keynote speaker at the LMA Technology Conference in San Francisco in October.
Vogl says, “Currently, technology is coming to the law from all sides. It’s making the law more efficient for all stakeholders, it’s giving lawyers a better understanding of what’s relevant for a particular case, and they can use new technologies to be more empirical and data-driven about their decision making. It gives lawyers a way to make internal processes more efficient, and deliver their services to their clients more efficiently.” There is a lot of potential with technology in the law, however, the road is not sunshine and roses. Significant challenges must be faced down to reap the rewards of technology in law firms, and Vogl believes legal marketing professionals are uniquely positioned to advocate and strategize for the appropriate technologies for their law firms.
He elaborates, “It's challenging for law firms to figure out what technologies to embrace. Firms need to determine what they need, what their clients need, and how to use technology to add value in the most efficient way.” Many attorneys are not interested in solving this problem, as Vogl points out: “Lawyers don’t really want to run businesses, they want to practice law. The best way to package or bundle or make their legal expertise available and accessible to create a data informed work product is not a lawyer’s priority.”
Vogl thinks that Legal Marketers are the ones who can help bring firms up to date technologically. Legal marketers, according to Vogl, are the “internal evangelizers of the firm.” He says, “The legal marketer works as a liaison between the client and the law firm, and knows what the client expects. Legal marketers can help identify which technologies law firms should use based on their knowledge of what clients want.” Additionally, legal marketers can serve as “tech scouts” in order to keep the lawyers in the firm aware of how the industry is changing. Vogl says, “Marketers can keep the lawyers in the firm informed about how the practice is changing and how technology is driving that change, and what the law firm can do, adjustments the law firm can make to try and modernize their practice.” Finally, part of the job of a legal marketer is to differentiate the firm from other firms. One way firms can define themselves is on how they use technology. Vogl says, “a way to differentiate to the outside world is whether a firm is a modern firm that uses modern project management tools.”
Making these changes can be an intense process, because in many instances firms are not only adopting new technologies, but also new work procedures. Vogl says, “The partnership structure makes it very hard to embrace new technologies and new business models and work processes.”
In some ways, creating the environment that's conducive to change is like nurturing a grassroots movement; it can take time to win hearts and minds in the notoriously conservative law firm environment. To take on this challenge Vogl suggests a team committed to change. He says, “It’s important to create a task force, a group of lawyers who see the importance of change--working in conjunction with the marketers--to create a catalyst for change and facilitate conversations within the firm.” In many ways, the need for change is a constant conversation where early adopters need to campaign and get other members of the firm to see the wisdom of their view. Vogl says, “you have to bring other lawyers along to get critical mass to push the changes through.”
Another way to pursue change, once the firm leadership is on board, is to use the firm’s structure by practice group as an advantage. Vogl suggests having individual practice groups adopt new technologies and procedures first to demonstrate their benefits. Firm-wide change is difficult, so starting with one practice group can make the change more palatable. Vogl says, “To create firm-wide change, you need to market the change internally to the firm. Do events, create materials, educate the rest of the firm about how it works, and how it has worked for early adopters, and celebrate successes.” A final piece of the puzzle for the marketer comes after the change has been implemented. Once the firm has made the changes and is delivering what the client wants, Vogl suggests the marketer “project those changes to the outside world to make a compelling story for other, prospective clients.”
Even though the road towards embracing technology is convoluted, and there are many challenges ahead, the potential is exciting. Vogl suggests firms and marketers “Think big, but start small” as they advocate for change in their law firms.