Guest Post: Legal AI and the Communications Gap

This is a Guest Post by Lena Ahad, Founder and Director of Technology PR, which specialises in the legal technology sector.

There is no doubt that technology adoption is picking up pace in the legal sector. This is evident in the growth of law firms seeking innovative ways to improve traditional legal practices, either internally through the hire of technical staff, or through partnerships with tech vendors.

We have seen a major Magic Circle law firm create its own tech incubator hub, another UK firm create a machine learning platform for litigation analysis; and many more practices reportedly having ‘plans to digitise’ this year. This is just the tip of the iceberg – there are many more initiatives not so openly publicised.

Lena Ahad

Interest in Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions is also gaining ground in terms of pilot schemes. This is echoed by PwC’s technology predictions for 2018, in which Euan Cameron, UK AI leader says: ‘2018 is the year when AI will start to become mainstream in many organisations.’ 1

Greater Transparency and Education

For technology vendors there is a genuine opportunity to educate and engage with early adopters and to co-develop ground-breaking solutions along with legal sector clients. Likewise, forward thinking law firms and legal professionals have an opportunity to shape the next generation of legal practice.

Expectations of AI solutions are high, but some maturity is required before tech vendors and law firms can align. With more AI solutions and tools coming onto the market, it’s no longer enough to send out a press release and hope that your target audiences understand it.

Here are some considerations for legal tech companies or law firm practices looking to bridge that communication gap:

  1. Focus on education. Many law firms and legal departments know they should be doing something with AI but they simply don’t know enough about how it would work for their business. At a recent trade conference in November 2017, which was attended by more than 800 legal professionals and partners of law firms, it became very apparent that law firms know they need to evolve and adopt technologies to improve efficiencies, but they were unclear where to start. Attendees were quite frank in acknowledging the gaps in their knowledge. There is a real appetite to learn and this is where content marketing can really give you an edge, allowing you to demonstrate your expertise without a direct sell.
  2. Know your audience. Do your research – who are your target prospects and where can you find them? What are their job titles and have new roles been created within those organisations to investigate new technologies? Your marketing communications must be highly specific and relevant to that audience, tuning into the challenges those businesses are facing and using sector-specific language and a communications style that suits that sector.
  3. Create ‘early adopter’ advocates. Sharing customer stories and real experiences is the best way to get prospects to understand what the technology could be doing for them. Right from the beginning of a relationship with a new customer, build in the contractual expectation that you will work together to educate the wider legal community about the benefits of AI. The best-told customer stories will draw in prospects and keep them reading to the end. If you are struggling to produce customer reference stories (and frankly there are still a lot of closed trials that will not reach the public domain) then there are alternatives routes, including sharing the results of quantitative customer surveys and research-based analysis.
  4. Invest in specialist PR support and targeted advertorials. Many article placements in the legal tech press are simply not available without sponsorship – but if these are coupled with non-sponsored opportunities they are a highly valuable way of communicating with pre-screened audiences. Furthermore, don’t assume that the National papers are the only way to gain market attention. Trade magazines still have a critical role to play. For example, in the AI sector, having access in Magazine X to, say 3,000 qualified experts in legal tech and AI is likely to have a higher value than a more expensive placement in Magazine Y, which goes out to 300,000 lawyers who may not be interested in AI. But it’s worth noting that strategic combination of online and offline outlets will be beneficial and this is where a PR agency with legal tech expertise can help steer you.
  5. Look beyond written content. Multi-channel communications marketing is not only about the written word. Delivering video content is also a great way to get your message across. For example, working with Technology PR, intelligence contract review solution provider, ThoughtRiver, produced short video clips explaining how AI can be used to cut through the pain of contract reviews which generated 693 views in a single marketing campaign2.

2018 looks set to herald broader adoption of AI in the business and practice of law. Legal practitioners that have been dipping a toe into AI waters will start to roll out solutions and implement them at the heart of their business. Technology advancements, driven by client demands to reduce costs and to automate repetitive tasks will also create greater demand for AI tech solutions. So the message for both vendors and law firms is to remain agile and open to change, otherwise you will be left behind.