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An Open Letter To LegalTech Vendors

Nicole BlackDear legal technology vendors,

It’s a competitive marketplace and you want to get press coverage at LegalTech New York next month. Trust me, as someone who is employed by a legal software company, I totally get it. It’s a big investment to exhibit at this conference and you want to get your money’s worth.

In addition to lots of foot traffic, new leads, and new customers, you want to trumpet your company’s achievements to the world. So, you scour the press list and you either have an employee of your company reach out to the media or you hire a PR firm to do it for you. 

The problem is, most of you are going about this in the worst possible way. I know this from personal experience. Because you see, not only am I employed by MyCase, a web-based law practice management software company, I’m also a legal technology journalist who writes for Legal IT Professionals, Above the Law, and The Daily Record. I’ve been on the press list for LegalTech New York for years now and every January I am besieged by requests from legal vendors who would like me to write about them. 

Most of these requests are seemingly dispatched with no rhyme or reason whatsoever. More often than not, these generic emails appear to have been blindly sent to everyone who appears on press list, regardless of whether a given journalist has any interest in covering the particular type of legal technology that a company provides. 

If this is how your company approaches the press covering LegalTech, trust me—you’re doing it wrong. Confused? Don’t be. Let me explain exactly what NOT to do when reaching out to the press.

Do not open your email with an overly familiar comment designed to imply that you’ve met a journalist before if you never have; trust me, we’re aware that you’re a complete stranger. Do not open your pitch by suggesting that you’re familiar with our “legal technology articles”; your vagueness is not convincing and, if anything, it’s insulting. Do not send out lengthy, convoluted emails that read like press releases; we won’t make it past the first few sentences. Do not act like your company’s newest software update or partnership with another vendor is some sort of top secret embargoed mystery that will only be revealed to a select few at LegalTech; we’re not idiots. Do not act like your company’s CEO is some sort of international superstar who is willing to grace us with his presence; he’s no different than the CEOs of every other company so we’re not impressed. Do not share your CEO’s speaking schedule; it’s completely irrelevant to my function. Do not describe your company’s product in a breathless burst of acronyms designed to make a fairly basic offering sound more complex than it really is; we’re not fooled by smoke and mirrors. And finally, do not harass us with subsequent emails thinly veiled in hostility; if we didn’t respond the first time we’re probably not interested.

”Legal

So that’s what you absolutely should NOT do when contacting the press. Now that’s all fine and dandy, but you’re probably wondering what steps you CAN take to increase your chances of catching the attention of a particular member of the press and obtaining coverage for your company. Well, guess what? You’re in luck!  My suggestions follow.

Do draft a short, concise email that briefly describes what your company does, why it’s different from your competitors, and what you will be focusing on at LegalTech, whether it’s a new feature, a new partnership, or a new round of funding. This email should be short—no more than 5-6 sentences. Make sure to leave room at the beginning of the email for a personalized introduction.

Do research the journalist before contacting him or her. This should take about 60 seconds. Google the person’s name and the publication and see what the journalist writes about in general and what s/he has written about LegalTech in the past. If your company is an eDiscovery company and this person has never written about eDiscovery, then move on! This is not the journalist for you. But, if it appears that the journalist might be interested in covering your company, draft an opening sentence that indicates that you know who the journalist is and explain why your company might interest him or her in light of the journalist’s focus. 

If you can believe it, I can only recall receiving one email of this type out of the hundreds I’ve received over the years. It was short and sweet and in the introductory sentence, the author showed that he knew who I was and what I was about. I was so impressed that I scheduled a meeting with the company even though it was a bit outside my areas of interest. This is what he wrote: 

“I'm reaching out on behalf of Lex Machina, a small software company that provides data and analytics on IP litigation. Seeing your writing about legal tech, cloud computing, etc., I think you might find their work really interesting. 

Looking forward to LegalTech in a couple weeks - we were wondering if you might be open to grabbing a coffee with the CEO or GC while in New York that week? They're both JDs who have long been involved in legal, startup, and tech communities in Silicon Valley. We'd love to hear your thoughts on the product, or just to chat a little bit about where all this new legal technology is going.” 

The remainder of the email was about three sentences long and he explained what the company did and why it was important to the industry. That was it. As far as I’m concerned, it was the perfect pitch email and I fell hook, line, and sinker. I met with the CEO and GC and had a really interesting discussion about the state of legal technology and learned a lot about their product and the direction they were taking the company. And, then, I wrote about their company.

Which brings me to my last point. If we do meet with you, talk to us, not at us. As legal technology journalists, we’re fascinated by legal technology. That’s why we spend so much time writing about it. Of course we like to talk about it, too, and who better to discuss it with than leaders of legal technology companies? 

Truth be told, that’s why I love covering the conferences: I get to engage with like-minded souls who share a passion for law and technology. But what I want to do is discuss the legal technology space, not receive a pitch. I want to understand your perspective on the future of legal technology and how your product fits into it. And, then I want to learn about your latest releases or partnerships and why you think they will help to shape your vision for your product and the industry as a whole.

So, that’s my advice, LegalTech vendors. Take it, or leave it. But whatever you do, good luck at the show. I’ll be at LegalTech this year networking and covering the conference. Maybe I’ll see you there.

All my best,

Niki Black

Nicole Black is the Legal technology Evangelist at MyCase, a cloud-based law practice management platform. She is an attorney in Rochester, New York, and is a GigaOM Pro analyst. She is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise. She speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .
 

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