IT key for legal market

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BtoB: What products and services are in high demand by law firms today?

Forshee: Law firms are feeling the heat from a competitive market for legal services, not only from the firm across the street, but increasingly from providers in other countries. ... The great equalizer among firms of all sizes is technology. IT infrastructure bridges the gap between offices, attorneys and third-party experts that all need to collaborate on clients and matters, regardless of location or time zones. Software applications such as business intelligence, client relationship management, case management and work flow automation are all designed to help attorneys and firm leadership house and search information about a case, mine information about [clients], automate manual processes to reduce operating costs and nonbillable administrative hours, and make sound business decisions based on key financial and performance indicators.

In the wake of 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and other recent disasters, disaster recovery is at the top of legal IT technology purchasing lists around the world. Due to last December’s new Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and what these mean for complex litigation, litigation software and electronic data discovery are on the evaluation and purchasing agenda of most every litigator, litigation support manager and general counsel.

BtoB: What opportunities and challenges do vendors face in engaging audiences of lawyers?

Forshee: Firms are looking at one-stop providers and professional services to either help retool or add new efficiencies and work flows to existing ways of doing things. Judging by the number of litigation support and electronic data discovery vendors springing up at legal technology trade shows—often 50% to 60% of all exhibitors—helping law firms and corporations manage litigation, from data preparation, to collection, processing, review, production and trial presentations, is addressing a big technology and legislative need.

On the flipside, the U.S. legal industry is comprised of roughly 1,000 law firms with more than 50 attorneys and about 1,000 vendors hoping to sell to them. The bottom line is that law firms are getting blitzed with e-mails, direct marketing, sales calls and demo requests. For this reason, when planning their marketing activities, the big vendor question is “How can we cut through the clutter?”

BtoB: What are the best marketing practices for winning business with this audience?

Forshee: Tactically speaking, the old-fashioned face-to-face approach still works best when reaching out to lawyers and those folks that lead the technology decision-making process, [the CEO, CIO, COO and CTO]. It’s important to leverage existing relationships, value your target’s time, know what they want and where it hurts, and provide them with answers to these problems. Since we’re talking relationships, drastically limit the “spray and pray” approach of direct mail and mass telemarketing, and instead focus on adding value via creative means—[for instance,] using lunch-and-learn seminars that provide education and insight to replace hard-nosed sales pitches. Public relations is equally important and gives you another avenue to provide industry thought-leadership and educational content via unbiased, independent sources.

Media, and specifically print advertising, might be a tried and true method to reach your legal targets, but at what cost? If your budgets are small, get creative and go beyond tiny display ads and consider online options such as Web sites, electronic newsletters or even blogs and podcasts.

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