Innovation vs. Disruption and Platform Infrastructure: Reflections from ILTACON 19

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Since ILTACON 19 wrapped, our event team has been busy gathering insights from the NetDocuments and ILTACON communities. We returned to NetDocuments HQ energized about processing everything we heard and saw at the show.

As we dug into everyone’s findings and compared notes, two main themes emerged.

One was customer feedback about the speed of innovation and whether legal tech evolution is really addressing basic business problems. The other was the CIO struggle to address technology stack concerns. There was a lot of discussion around the potential for platforms to help them manage the rising flood of emerging point solutions.

As a company that holds innovation as a core business value, and views platforms as the foundation for effective tech stacks, we wanted to seize this opportunity to continue the conversation.

“Can’t we just slow down?”

This was a common question our VP of Product Strategy, Peter Buck, heard in numerous conversations. “I was asked several times, when will legal tech stop ‘innovating’ and make sure that what’s being created is actually solving the problem? When will legal tech vendors start going deep to solve business problems? Fee earners are hungry for tech that solves problems in meaningful ways,” said Buck.

As law firms face increasing pressures to produce better work, faster, and at lower costs, they are running into unprecedented productivity and workflow challenges. This has led to a multiplicity of legal tech startups and an uptick in firms building their own software solutions.

With that in mind, our answer to “Can we just slow down?” is a qualified ‘no’. Tech solutions must keep pace with the dramatic speed of change in the legal profession, but to stay relevant, those solutions must also have a clear vision behind them.

After years in the industry and watching fellow service providers rise and fall, the services that stay around are the ones that found their niche and dug deep. They poured all of their innovative energy into solving a particular challenge for the fee earner and tech leader alike – and they did it better than anyone else.

When you evaluate a new, ‘innovative’ solution ask them: where are you going to be in the next five years? If they can communicate a clear vision for what’s ahead, you’re likely picking a true innovation partner, not just a disruptor.

So, where is it all headed?

“Are legal technology platforms a viable option?”

It was clear at ILTACON that platforms were top-of-mind, with many asking will document management systems expand to become the platforms we need them to be?

At NetDocuments, we answer that with a resounding YES.

Platforms allow legal technology leaders to build tech stacks that truly solve their unique challenges so fee earners can focus on getting work done.

To see what this looks like in action, let’s take a brief step outside the legal industry:

In business-to-business (B2B) companies, a customer relationship management system (CRM) is absolutely imperative. The best CRMs make it easy to monitor sales activities, nurture potential customers, and keep current customers engaged. Undeniably, Salesforce leads the CRM market with its robust cloud software and a broad ecosystem of apps built on top of it.

In this analogy, Salesforce is laser-focused on simplifying the sales process for organizations of all sizes. They expanded their original lead tracking system into marketing automation and is now adding business intelligence capability.

Understanding that their tools were essential to the success of every B2B organization, Salesforce opened their platform, allowing other innovators to build on it and add functions that “played nice” with Salesforce. This allowed their in-house developers to stay focused on solving real customer productivity and profitability problems.

Bringing it back to the legal tech question, our ILTACON friends wanted to know if document management systems will expand in a similar way to become the platforms they need them to be. The answer is that it’s already happening at NetDocuments.

In the late 90s when Salesforce began solving the CRM problem, we were building solutions for legal firms’ DMS challenges. We recognized that fee earners were having trouble navigating an increasingly digital and mobile world, and we made a conscious choice to go deep.

The goal of the platform has always been to create a place where fee earners could do their best work and technology leaders could be absolutely confident that data and documents were secure. So, as we expanded our platform to include collaboration and productivity offerings that continued to solve the document management problem, we opened up our platform for other best-of-breed innovators to build on.

Our robust, cloud-based platform with the added value of an open API has made it possible for tech leaders to build the tech stacks that solve their unique challenges without ever disrupting the flow of work for the fee earner.

Essentially, we’ve built the NetDocuments platform to be the Salesforce of legal.

The Conversation Continues

From the ways fee earners get work done to overarching business models, change is the only constant we can count on for the legal industry. These changes prompt new questions from legal leaders every day – questions that urgently need answers. Having a foundation to build on will be key to answering these questions in a way that adds real value to the legal tech community.

For more than 20 years, NetDocuments has delivered security innovation through a world-class content services platform that has been deemed safe, ready, and proven by over 2,500 professional services firms and corporate legal departments around the globe.

We’re interested in your questions and insights too. To add your voice to the conversation, join us on Twitter and LinkedIn, where we’ll be diving deeper into topics like these in the coming months. To learn more about our platform, start here, or request a demo today.

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