Welcome back to the Big Law Business column, written by Roy Strom. Today, we sit down for a conversation with Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe’s Daryl Shetterly and learn how one law firm is trying to navigate the legal tech gold rush — interruptions and all.
I took a trip to Disney World last week to attend my first ILTACON. I was among the 800-plus first-time attendees at the event that felt a whole lot like Super Bowl week for legal tech junkies.
There are some things to know about attending a legal tech conference. Like how to avoid eye contact (and thus, sales pitches) while navigating your way through a cavernous exhibit hall.
But other lessons are less obvious. Like how to pitch your company to a Big Law decision-maker. It can be more complicated, for both the law firm and entrepreneur, than you might expect.
I learned this firsthand while having a conversation in the hotel lobby at ILTACON with Daryl Shetterly, director of Orrick Analytics.
Shetterly works for one of the AmLaw 50 firms best known for using technology to change the practice of law. The division of Orrick he leads bills itself as using “state-of-the-art technology and probability modeling” to handle document-heavy engagements. He’s also well over 6 feet tall with a hockey player’s flow of jet black hair.
All of which is to say that Shetterly is among the most easily recognized and desirable targets for legal tech sales pitches. The well-prepared entrepreneur doesn’t even have to stare at Shetterly’s name tag while shaking his hand (a common ILTACON occurrence).
So perhaps it was no surprise that during my chat with Shetterly, he was interrupted by a CEO looking to make an impression. The founder of a document automation startup joined our conversation on that section of the industry by denigrating some of the long-standing competitors in the space. Shetterly had an almost preternatural sense that a sales pitch was already underway.
“I could tell because of the look in his eye,” Shetterly said afterward.
It turned out that the CEO had a demo with Orrick set up for the following week. He had already made it through the first stage in a well-oiled vetting process.
The first step is an interview of the legal tech company conducted by an employee at Orrick’s Global Operations Center in West Virginia. The employee then classifies tech companies by the problem they are trying to solve and by who their competitors are.
Then Shetterly asks questions: Has the legal tech company received venture capital money? Does it have a publicized relationship with another law firm? Has it been through an incubator?
“I don’t know how many technologies are out there. It is more than I can keep in my head,” Shetterly said. “So you need a system.”
Another potential solution to the vetting problem, Shetterly suggested, was a word buzzing around the conference: the platform. The idea is to have one company providing a host of legal technology products under one brand.
The concept received so much attention in Orlando in large part because of recently announced deals known in conference lingo as “platform plays.” One was Thomson Reuters’ purchase of HighQ. Then there was Litera Microsystems’ purchases of transaction management systems Workshare and Doxly. Reynen Court was also part of that conversation, having recently launched a test of its platform to deliver legal tech products in an app-like fashion to some of the most prestigious firms.
Shetterly said the rush of legal tech companies offering single solutions, like document automation, transaction management, or AI-powered contract review, will eventually follow a path to consolidation similar to what happened in the e-discovery market. Startups in that field initially offered solutions to single parts of the discovery process. They have since been folded up into more comprehensive offerings from bigger companies.
“The same thing is ultimately going to happen here,” Shetterly said.
For now, though, CEOs still need advice on how to get in front of law firms. Here are some tips from Shetterly:
First, ask for a short meeting; not an hour-long lunch. Second, send over a two-minute video that shows the “actual value proposition” of your tool; not marketing fluff.
“If you can show me that on a screen in a minute or two, I will call you back really quickly,” he said.
Finally, if you have a good product, give it out for free in a test license.
“If we like it, we’ll ask you: How much do we have to pay for this?” Shetterly said. “Now you’re in a different situation than trying to start out with an enterprise license that is six figures.”
Just as he finished that thought in the conference hotel lobby, another tech entrepreneur spotted him.
“Darryl,” the CEO said, reaching out for a handshake. “Just wanted to say, ‘Hi.’ Let’s catch up at some point.”
“Absolutely,” Shetterly said.
Worth Your Time
More On ILTACON: ILTACON this year set an attendance record, my colleague Sam Skolnik writes. That may be in part because lawyers are more frequently making the jump to start legal tech companies, and they will have to learn the ins and outs of the conference circuit.
On Big Law Finances: Citi Private Bank’s quarterly report showed modest second-quarter revenue gains for law firms. But expenses are growing faster than revenue.
On Big Law Titles: Goodwin Procter named former Allen & Overy business development leader Lee Garfinkle its first “chief client development and relationship officer.” Meanwhile, Fish & Richardson split up its IT function and created a new Legal Technology Solutions Group, led by Beau Mersereau.
That’s it for this week! Thanks for reading and please feel free to send me your thoughts, critiques, and tips.