How to Sell Legal Tech to Big Law in 30 Days

Do you have a great legal tech product, but not so many large law firm clients? Hmm……tricky. How on Earth do you sell into Big Law as a startup, especially within a timeframe that doesn’t almost bankrupt your company in the process?

Well, MDR Lab cohort member Version Story has a few thoughts on that subject. Here are the personal views of Kevin O’Connell and Jordan Bryan, co-founders of the startup, on ‘how to sell to Big Law in 30 days’, with plenty of input from MDR Lab, including from the innovation group’s boss, Dan Sinclair.

‘Legal tech procurement does not exactly have a reputation for being expeditious. Lawyers, being famously detail-oriented, are thorough in the diligence of new software. Law firms take seriously the questions of ‘does this solve a real problem?’, ‘will our lawyers actually use this?’, and ‘does it meet our security requirements?’

Given lawyers’ predilection for careful diligence, it is exciting when new precedents are set that enable innovative software to pass through a thorough diligence process in a rapid manner.

Last week, Mishcon announced that they had signed a commercial license with Version Story, our company, only a month after the completion of the MDR Lab incubator programme, which is part of the UK law firm Mishcon de Reya.

We hear time and again that one of the biggest challenges facing legal tech is the long sales cycle with Big Law firms, the largest buyers in the space. Does this 30-day sale suggest that things might be changing and can it provide a lesson for other law firms and legal tech startups?

With the dust of the contract now settling, here are our thoughts on what helped speed this deal up:

Solve a real problem in a way that does not require widespread behaviour change

Dan Sinclair, Head of MDR Lab, shared his analysis on this point: ‘At MDR Lab, we think about sales cycles within the context of a simple formulae: Time to sale (Ts) is a function of product market fit ([f]PMF). If you build a product that lawyers love and want, and your users become your salespeople and champions, deals get done faster.’

As shown by this formula: Ts = (f)PMF

Use hard data to describe your value

Version Story came equipped with data to validate the software’s value and during the pilot in the MDR Lab the firm conducted controlled trials to measure the impact of Version Story.

Version Story further supported the business case for adoption with detailed usage statistics. We provided Mishcon with application logs showing that 70 Mishcon lawyers had tried Version Story during the pilot. 75% had returned to use the application after onboarding, and almost 20 lawyers had subsequently become weekly active users of the platform. Mishcon lawyers had created nearly 200 version stories, and further had mapped the version relationships between around 1,500 documents.

Kerstin Morgan, Mishcon’s Head of Practice Transformation, explained: ‘We review a lot of tech. And we often find ourselves in discussions afterwards saying, ‘That looked interesting, but what would be the impact?’ These numbers really made an impression.’

Integrate with existing systems, and have an organization that supports new tech

Sales to law firms are often drawn out because there are additional requirements, aside from the lawyers’ needs, that must be addressed.

During the pilot, it had become apparent that integrating Version Story with iManage would speed adoption for many more lawyers at Mishcon. Mishcon invited Version Story to speak with its lawyers to scope out the requirements for an integration. After confirming requirements, Mishcon and Version Story worked together to quickly get an iManage integration up and running.

It bears emphasis that Mishcon had done everything they could to make it simple for us – and other legal tech companies – to integrate with their systems. Mishcon has built a dedicated team of integration experts who know the process from top-to-bottom. They have mapped everything out in advance, from a Quality Assurance testing process to dashboard tools for staggered deployment among lawyers.

In other words, this sale moved quickly because Mishcon has a well-oiled machine for bringing on new tech, and Version Story had the engineering ability to take advantage of that opportunity.

Can the 30-day sale become a new precedent?

Every sales process is unique, but here are a few general lessons for other law firms and legal tech companies:

(1) solve a real problem for lawyers, and solve it well;

(2) substantiate the value of your software with hard data; and

(3) integrate with law firms’ existing systems and have a process for onboarding new tech.

As legal tech matures, we hope to see more of this.’

[Thanks to the Version Story team for this educational guest post for Artificial Lawyer.

Perhaps the central point here is the comment that MDR Lab / Mishcon de Reya has ‘a well-oiled machine for bringing on new tech’ – but does every law firm have that, no matter what size they are? It would seem that not all do.

Is that really the key to the whole thing? I.e. a law firm has to invest a lot in building the onboarding team and processes to enable rapid deployment like this…? Although, clearly Version Story was also well-prepared to be onboarded and also prove its value with data.

What are your top tips for selling into Big Law….? Let us know. ]