The global law firm Gowling WLG has just launched a platform that automates document production for a private placement offering. The video above does a remarkably good job of explaining how the product (called Smart Raise) works. Far from scary and technical, the innovation comes across as simple and inviting. Quite an accomplishment in two short minutes.
Gowling WLG is a global law firm that operates in Canada, the UK, Continental Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Although it doesn’t have a US office, US firms ought to take notice, as the Gowling’s rollout is a good illustration of two trends starting to take hold in the legal ecosystem:
- The use of complex technical sales methods that include market preparation activities as part of a long-term strategy;
- New pricing models that connect together commodity and bespoke offerings in ways that thin out weak competitors.
Complex Technical Sales
This sounds like an oxymoron, but complex technical sales is about simplification. For example, when a new innovation is launched, prospective clients don’t understand its technical aspects. Thus, they have a reasonable fear of making an expensive mistake. Closing this knowledge gap is costly, particularly in the B2B space, because it takes time and cognitive effort. Showing the product in action in often the best way to reduce this load. Cf. Post 008 (explaining how lower complexity and higher trialability and observability increase innovation adoption).
In contrast to the rest of Law Land, Gowling WLG has head start. Its Leader of Innovation Initiatives is Mark Tamminga (pictured right), a long-time partner who pioneered the use of practice automation tools in building the firm’s Recovery Services practice. Through automation efforts that began over a decade ago, Mark and his colleagues built a series of products and services that captured the Canadian market. The practice has become very profitable and highly defensible.
One of the things that Tamminga and his colleagues understand is that you start the sales process by emphasizing simplicity and ease of use rather than technical prowess. This is hard for innovators because it requires extra steps. The natural tendency is to jump to the most advanced features in an attempt to impress prospective clients. The result is typically confusion. Yet legal entrepreneurs make this mistake over and over again. See Post 008 (discussing how immersion in technical details makes it difficult to see the world through the eyes of the end user).
Finally, a short video can be an extremely effective sales tool because it is asynchronous and puts the viewer in control. If it’s done well, qualified buyers find you. I first watched the video via a LinkedIn post. In the year 2017, LinkedIn is a very important “communication channel.” See Post 008 (discussing knowledge awareness and the adoption decision; discussing how more and better communication channels speed up adoption).
Smart Raise reduces the volume of hourly work. It then seemingly compounds the financial hurt by showing the ease of the new process. Skeptical lawyers are bound to ask, “How does this support revenue production?”
The answer is that it probably doesn’t, at least not directly or in the short-term. Instead, it signals expertise. If Gowling WLG is smart enough to automate a substantial portion of the private placement offering process, it’s likely they’re experts on the remaining complex issues. “Perhaps we would give them a call.” This is a market positioning strategy based on a realistic assessment of where the legal market is headed. As Susskind has written, “If [cannibalization of legacy offerings] is going to happen, you should be one of the first to the feast.” See Tomorrow’s Lawyers 128 (1st ed. 2013).
What’s next? See Innovation in Organizations, Part I (015)