There are unique challenges for product marketers in legal technology, and in this article, I want to share the lessons I’ve learned at Everlaw for marketing to busy professionals.
I’ll provide a brief overview of the ediscovery market, followed by what lawyers are like as a demographic, the specific challenges PMMs face in the legal industry, and how you can solve them.
In this article, I'm going to talk about the unique challenges of product marketing in legal technology. The company I work for, Everlaw serves attorneys at the moment of electronic discovery.
I'm a Product Marketing Manager for Everlaw, we're based in Oakland, California, we're a rapidly growing startup with 150 employees.
I’ll start with a brief overview of the ediscovery market - I'm including this in an attempt to provide a better understanding of the challenges that our company faces, specifically when we're marketing to lawyers.
My goal is the lessons I share with you in this article will also be applicable for any of you reading who are involved in B2B marketing or similar industries where you're marketing to busy professionals, such as healthcare, financial services, and any other related industries.
I'll share a brief overview of what lawyers are like as a demographic, and then three specific challenges of product marketing in the legal industry:
- Creating engaging content for your buyer and customer personas,
- How to source case studies when your potential market is extremely busy and under a lot of pressure and doesn't really have spare time to do you a favor, and
- How to bridge the gap in communication between product development and your prospects.
About the ediscovery market
People often think lawyers are money-hungry scumbags but who are you going to call when the shit hits the fan but a lawyer? They're also perceived as irritable and way too driven. I want to set the record straight.
Overall, in the legal industry and specifically within ediscovery, you have a need at any point in a case when it's going to trial to process a huge amount of information. The data set that we use in the legal industry as a sample set for demonstrating to prospects is the Enron data set.
This is from way back in the day, around 2004 although I honestly don't remember when the Enron litigation was. But you're dealing with millions of emails, company chats, depending on whatever the cause of action as well, text messages, product management files, and so on.
There's been a huge explosion in data that's involved in litigation - it's estimated that the global ediscovery market is about 17 billion however, there's been a huge lag in technology where only $1.5 billion has been invested in legal technology.
What does this create? A giant market that's hungry for more sophisticated solutions that don’t necessarily have them but at the same time, doesn't also necessarily have the time to invest in technological aptitude or really look around for a better solution.
Because deadlines are so tight and there's such a huge volume of information to process for every legal cause of action.
Everlaw: a collaborative litigation platform
Where Everlaw enters the picture is we've developed modern technology that enables customers to ingest, search, and review the information at play in any legal matter, to unlock hidden data in that information through the use of powerful AI, and to act on what they discover by an integrated suite of case preparation tools.
How do you convey that information to lawyers?
Lawyers are hardworking, loyal to their clients, and extremely smart
The thing about lawyers is that in fact, we're extremely hardworking, loyal to our clients, and very smart. The challenge of marketing to lawyers is because they work so hard, and they're extremely dedicated to their clients’ interests, they don't have a whole lot of time to educate themselves on technology or related legal services.
A great example could be a firm that's involved in Johnson and Johnson litigation. You may have heard about talc powder and its alleged carcinogenic effects (it's not my place to take an opinion).
The lawyers involved in that matter are probably working 12 to 16 hour days just on the fact-finding aspects of that case alone.
They're also extremely smart. This is not the space for gimmicky slogans, product messaging that is not well thought out, or quick, easy one-off sales. These people went to intellectual boot camp, they can spot errors in logic from a mile away.
So whatever content you're creating has to be not only engaging but watertight - you can't have any mistakes.
Every area of legal practice is unique. Every case is unique
Another challenge in marketing to these professionals is that every area of legal practice is unique and every case is unique.
For those of you reading who are unfamiliar with legal, it's extremely different when I am a plaintiff's side firm representing a group of plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit against Johnson and Johnson - to use my previous example - versus a small mom and pop personal injury firm where I'm representing people in hit and run collisions, versus a mergers and acquisitions firm or bankruptcy law.
When you're developing collateral for this demographic and you want product stats, for example, it's not as if there are common search terms involved in ediscovery. Every matter is going to have different pieces of evidence that are relevant to that claim, every field of law is going to have different workflows they're going to need to use.
Customer personas are clear; buyer personas are opaque
Another challenge of marketing to lawyers is that customer personas are clear, but buyer personas are opaque. It's very easy to segment the different roles within a law firm, all the way from contract reviewer attorney to a paralegal to an IT professional to a senior associate to a managing partner at a law firm.
Anyone with any understanding of the practice of law knows that, for example, someone who just graduated law school a year ago and just entered a law firm is probably going to be doing a lot of individual document-by-document reviews.
These are the people who, when they're reviewing the Enron data set, have to read through every single email, code the document for any issues that they might find, possibly escalate that to a review administrator.
Paralegals are more involved in administering the course of e-discovery, they probably also are involved in preparing outlines for case discovery.
Whereas a managing partner is overseeing the litigation from more of a post-discovery perspective where they're getting ready for depositions or trial, taking the compilation of evidence along with the outlines that their paralegals have produced, and going into a face to face situation armed with the facts and their significance.
That's all easy to segment out. But who's actually making the buying decision at every law firm is very idiosyncratic. It takes a lot of per-account discovery to figure out who's signing off on the cheque to use ediscovery software.
At one firm, it may be the IT professional who's in charge of choosing software for the attorneys and training people at their firm. At another firm, it might be the managing partners who are signing off. Each of these buyer personas requires distinct messaging, and there's no default buyer persona for each customer.
Technological competence varies widely among customer personas
Technological competence also varies widely among customer personas within the legal industry. A lot of this is due to a generational spread.
Typically at a law firm, people who are at the partner or managing partner level have been in the profession for a long time, they have worked their way up to the top through their knowledge of the practice of law, and through their prowess at the practice of law.
But they've not worked their way up to the top by necessarily staying up to date with the latest legal technology.
In contrast, people who have joined the profession more recently tend to be more open to being early adopters of technology, and people who are fulfilling the role of paralegals and IT professionals tend to be more up to date with the latest technology because they're closer to the process of electronic discovery - that is reviewing electronically stored information.
Lawyers have a professional responsibility to protect their clients’ information while also staying abreast of technology
Finally, one key thing to remember about the legal industry is that lawyers have a professional responsibility to protect their clients’ information while also staying abreast of technology.
It's kind of funny if you think about everything I've said so far about how these people are busy, how people who have worked their way up to the partner/senior partner/managing partner level don't necessarily have the direct need for a lot of technological competence because it's actually codified into the American Bar Association's model rules of professional conduct that lawyers shall stay abreast of technology precisely to protect their clients’ interests.
Problem #1: Creating engaging content
I want you to remember, we've got a population of extremely intelligent hard-working professionals with not a whole lot of time to spare. People who have varying levels of technological capability, varying needs for technology, it's unclear who's buying what.
At the same time, there's a very clear directive from their professional organization to stay abreast of technology.
The first problem we face when marketing to legal professionals is how to create engaging content.
I know everybody's organization is different, but at least it Everlaw, the PMM team has a very prominent role in content creation. The prevailing thought is that white papers and dense content are the way to go.
Attorneys are highly educated and deal with densely written information
That's because attorneys are highly educated and deal with densely written information. If you've ever had to read or review a legal contract you'll know it's not fun times. They are written worse than the labyrinth of Crete. It's so many clauses upon different clauses and your brain gets used to doing that when you're a lawyer.
Industry standard heavily favors white papers and long form content
That's why the industry standard does tend to heavily favor white papers and long-form content. The idea being if I am a hypothetical software or product organization within the legal industry and I can prove to lawyers I know what I'm talking about, I am abreast of the latest developments in the law, different legal rules, therefore they will take me seriously as a company because I know things.
Writers are often recovering attorneys
Writers within the legal industry as well are often recovering attorneys, like myself. Having been through that training for legal writing, there's a very natural inclination to write that way with clauses upon sub-clauses and sentences with several semi-colons that read like paragraphs, and it all looks so beautiful, but it's actually not that fun to read.
Previously, this white paper would have been an example of typical marketing content in the legal industry. This was an older piece of marketing content.
Wow, guys, this sounds so amazing. I've got to get this filing in by 2pm today, otherwise, my client is in hot water. But no, let's take an hour to read your white paper.
There's a disconnect there. Previously, we had focused heavily on white paper creation but in brainstorming how and why we were going to revamp our marketing, we decided to actually experiment with some shorter form and video content.
What we actually discovered was that by investing heavily in a program of webinar creation, we were able to attract more leads, more high-quality leads with actually a smaller investment of time on our part.
The amount of time that it creates in the legal marketing industry to build a deck and to come up with content and a program for a half-hour presentation is vastly smaller than what it takes to write a well-written white paper with correctly formatted legal citations.
We started doing live and on-demand webinars in April of 2020 and we found it actually doubled the number of leads we were able to attract versus a white paper. We also found that by hosting these webinars on-demand and remarketing them to our email newsletter, we were able to dramatically increase the quality and the quantity of our leads.
This might seem obvious to some of you reading, but to some of us in the legal marketing industry, it wasn't obvious. We had just assumed because our target market is in a profession where they have to consume a lot of written content all of the time, and is required to stay abreast of the latest developments in the law, that by providing them content similar to what they have to consume for their day to day jobs, that would create authority and create interest.
In fact, what we had failed to consider until we actually started experimenting was that because they're under a huge amount of time pressure, short-form, live content, where they can ask questions in real-time is way more appealing.
Solution: always be experimenting
The takeaway from here, for me at least, is you have to experiment - constantly be experimenting, no matter what you think about your target market. I even thought I was an expert too because I'm a lawyer, I couldn't have been more wrong about this.
Problem #2: Sourcing case studies
If you work in a field where you're marketing to professionals or B2B marketing, financial services, healthcare, I'm sure you're also dealing with people who are busy.
Legal professionals are busy
Lawyers have to get everything done yesterday, and there is no spare time. So when I have a contact or lead for a case study, either from our sales team or accounts team, I'm calling someone who's under a huge amount of demands and I'm asking them to do me a favor.
I'm asking them to donate a half-hour to an hour of their time for an interview and then more time after that to review a written case study, if not more for a video case study.
The legal profession tends to be very risk averse
The legal profession in particular also tends to be very risk-averse. There's a high duty of confidentiality towards their clients. They also don't necessarily want to disclose their pain points in a case study because it's effectively, in their minds, exposing their firm to criticism, potentially, or at least unwelcome questions or not ideal questions from potential clients.
If I'm a law firm trying to attract corporate business from the Chevron Corporation, and there's a case study on how our software used to be clunky and out of date, Chevron might not consider me as serious a player as a different firm.
There may be issues with disclosing client names, software names, or pain points
There's also an issue with disclosing particular names because they're risk-averse, a law firm might not want to disclose previous issues that they've faced.
How do you sell a case study to prospects?
We had problems even getting people on the phone. We were always phrasing these requests in terms of 'we'd love to tell your story, would you be willing to get on the phone with us for an hour?' and the response rate was pretty low.
This was key to getting more case studies through our pipeline. I've cited this here within the ABA model rules of professional conduct, which most states have adopted as their guiding rules for lawyers’ professional conduct.
Lawyers are required to stay abreast of changes in the law, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.
There's also another section in the ABA model rules of Professional Conduct where it states that lawyers are ethically obligated to use the best tools and technology available to further their clients' interests.
Solution: sell case studies to legal professionals
I basically decided, well, let's change our pitch for case studies to clients and see what happens. I started writing my emails to potential case study contacts in terms of the benefits to them of doing a case study, specifically referencing these rules.
A case study is a free piece of marketing collateral
I sold the case studies to our clients in terms of a piece of marketing literature they could use to attract more corporate business, in terms of highlighting their commitment to staying abreast of the latest technology developments and their commitment to using the best technology to further their client's interests, to discover truth faster, to speed up the process of review, and to control costs while improving accuracy.
I basically took these very clear directives from the professional organizations that govern how lawyers are supposed to work, tied it back into the ask, and sold it to them in terms of a piece of literature that's going to get them more business.
The response was huge, our rate of yeses to requesting participation in case studies went through the roof, we were also able to build out more video case studies as a result, which was huge for our marketing department.
But it's also extremely useful to our clients to have a piece of marketing literature they can then use when they're in the process of attracting new business for their firm.
Reassure them of their voice in the editorial process
I also made sure to reassure them of their voice in the editorial process, to involve them very heavily in the process of content creation and editing from the beginning to the end.
I'm hoping that the key takeaway for those of you who are involved in similar professions where you're marketing to healthcare, financial services professionals, or other industries, is that if you can find any rules in their professional organizations that govern the use of technology and have a similar mandate to use the best tools available to serve others, that you could also adopt a similar strategy and experiment, see if it changes the number of case studies that you're able to publish.
Problem #3: Bridging the product-prospect gap
Finally, another problem that we've tended to face in the legal industry is the gap between product development versus prospects’ needs.
Unique areas of law and cases mean small features can have an enormous impact for affected users
If you remember earlier, when I said that every matter in the legal industry is unique, and every area of the practice of law is unique, what happens when you're developing software for the legal industry is you have customers with such diverse pain points that solving one pain point for a particular practice of law, or a particular cause of action, may have a huge impact on those particular clients or customers, but zero impact on another.
To give you an example, if I have a client that is involved in litigation against a public utility company, structural drawings of those components of the public utility - say power lines - are extremely important to that cause of action.
If my software can't view architectural CAD files, then that's terrible for that client.
At Everlaw we're lucky relative to our competitors in that we have a very fast release cycle. Our engineers can incorporate that feedback, and then release improvements to our product every four weeks. For those clients or clients in related matters, that is huge news, and product and engineering will probably want us to make a big deal out of it.
However, if our sales team is trying to court business from a mergers and acquisitions firm, they couldn't give two cents about architectural CAD files.
Establishing context and meaning for non-affected users is challenging
The unique challenge for product marketing is how to communicate this in a way that both reflects its significance for a group of our target demographic that has an enormous pain point, versus a demographic that couldn't care less.
Solution: categorization and education
Again, this might seem basic for some of you reading, but to put this in context, until July of 2018, the marketing department at Everlaw was one person. I was actually part of a very new product marketing team at the company.
Interface with product early on in the development cycle
What I did was basically interface with product early on in the development cycle. It took a lot of patience internally to develop a framework for evaluating releases and settling on appropriate messaging.
It also took a lot of delicacy with our product and engineering teams. Nobody wants to feel like the thing that they invested their heart and soul into over the last four weeks is a minor or unimportant feature.
We had to develop a framework for indicating the importance of a feature while also being sensitive to the fact that other people were working very hard on that feature, regardless of its wider impact on our prospects.
Remain committed to educating others on the goals of marketing communications
It took a lot of education on our part as well to communicate to product and engineering that there's a very different way of talking about our product, external to the company, versus talking about our products to current customers who are using it day in and day out.
It was a very big mind shift to go from talking about 'this is the button that does the thing that pulls the blah that does the XYZ' to 'here is a problem and this is how we can solve it'.
Time, patience, and process are game-changing
My only piece of advice if you're in a similar industry or facing a similar challenge on your team, is that time, patience, and process are your best friends.