We buy technology because of two things at once that are equally powerful and interconnected, but are experienced in different ways. We buy tech for the delight it brings, but also for the efficiency it delivers – they are a duality and we need both.
In fact, each makes the other possible. It is efficiency that makes the tool delightful (i.e. it works well), and in turn when it is delightful it can then create additional efficiency and economic benefits that are not immediately apparent.
In short, it’s an interlinked duality, a ‘yin and yang’, where the two halves feed into each other and make the whole stronger. Another way of looking at it would be to use the analogy of the quantum duality of light, i.e. photons appear as both a wave and as a particle – two very different phenomena, yet they are one thing.
Why This Matters
This matters more than ever now as ‘professional’ legal tech tools, that are designed to change how lawyers work, are on the cusp of much wider adoption. However, we seem to be stuck in a rut in how we look at, sell, and buy these products. And if this remains the case then legal tech will never grow to be as big as it should be.
In fact, I’d argue that if legal tech tools really were experienced as the compelling and delightful products that they can be sometimes, then most software companies in this sector would be many times larger than they are today.
Rather than finding ways to show the qualitative, the humancentric, and the delightful aspects, we focus on the mechanical, quantitative, and economic at all costs – and that’s a big turn off to the buyers – even if those latter things are essential in how the whole fits together.
Worse still, because the sellers and also the specialist buyers (i.e. tech teams inside law firms and inhouse) have grown up mostly on the efficiency side of this duality, we have law firm partners asking for Return on Investment (ROI) data on legal tech purchases that may appear to be ‘sensible’ and ‘factual’, but tells the firm almost nothing about the real value of the tech they have purchased.
So, lawyers get Excel sheets filled with numbers that tell them they’ve bought something with a ‘good ROI’ (whatever that actually means…) – yet it doesn’t really resonate with them, while the tech sellers are pushing numbers that make sense to them, but are cut off from the experiential world that the end users exist within.
Here’s an example from my own experience, and it’s worth noting that I’ve never bought anything in my life, for myself, or my business, on the basis of ROI.
I use Calendly to schedule Zoom calls. It is tremendously efficient and economical, but that is not the main reason why I bought it. The tool removes the need for the constant back and forth with emails, e.g. ‘Can you do 3PM on Tuesday? No, but I can do 1PM on Thursday. Sorry, I am out that day, can you do…..?’ etc. You know the drill.
Has it saved me time? Has it crushed process work? Yes. It has taken work off my plate that was slowing me down and wasting my time. But, I enjoy it because now I don’t have to think about scheduling, I just send a Calendly link and the choice of time and date is all someone else’s decision. In short: I don’t have to worry about it. It has removed stress. It has removed a diversion from the things that I like to do most, e.g. such as write articles for this site. It has brought me a small amount of happiness.
I have not once calculated how much time and effort it has saved me. I have not measured how much time I put into scheduling and then calculated how much less time is the case now. I don’t have to because the benefits are obvious. This product sells itself.
Now the money. It cost me about $100 for an annual licence. Is that ‘a good deal’? That sounds like a simple question, but it is in fact a really complex one to answer and we don’t have time to get into this in too much detail today. But suffice it to say, a sense of what is ‘expensive’ is totally relative – and picking what to compare X product to is in itself a complex act.
The truth is I made no genuine attempt at all to consider the price, I made no ROI calculation at all, I simply said: ‘Does that feel like a lot of money to bring me the happiness I now realise I can attain with this tool?’ (Which is of course a totally subjective question, naturally.) I answered: ‘Stop asking me questions like that and just give it to me.’
Thank the Gods that I didn’t have to waste hours of my time providing the (largely made up) ROI for this purchase in order to appease my accountant! It may have stopped me from buying it.
Both Are Essential
Now, some may say: ‘Hold on, you’re always going on about efficiency still, in fact, even after you started writing about humancentricity you’ve continued to mention the importance of efficiency in Artificial Lawyer articles.’
That is right, and it’s because both aspects of the duality remain essential, neither efficiency nor the delightful and humancentric rules on its own, they both work together.
In fact as noted, a tech tool’s benefits can be experienced in phases, although we may only consciously focus on certain parts of this transformative system in action:
Well-designed tools provide efficiency (from UI/UX, to its APIs, and more), which means we get to experience delight (e.g. it removes stress, it makes life easier, it enables us to focus on what we enjoy), and this in turn provides efficiency-economic benefits, e.g. it can reduce burn out and staff turnover (because losing valued staff is very inefficient for a business) and great tools can also keep clients coming back because you’ve provided services with them that encourage loyalty because the clients are delighted (this is also efficient for a business, as winning a client costs a lot of time and money, so you want to keep them and not lose them because you are charging a small amount of money for tiresome activities that can be replaced with tech tools you offer up to them). In turn the owners of the business feel ‘delight’ that the staff and clients are ‘happy’. And in turn a more successful business has more capital to spend on additional tech tools to achieve similar results to the above.
In short, it’s an ever-expanding positive feedback cycle, where efficiency morphs into delight, which is then expressed as efficiency again but in a wider and more human area, which leads to business efficiency in turn. And so it goes.
Now, this site continues to express the value of ‘technical efficiency’ e.g. a doc generation system that provides an atomised collection of clauses may be more efficient than a fixed template for doc automation that doesn’t fit your needs. So, Artificial Lawyer will continue to pick up on the ‘efficiency’ aspect. But with this, and it’s implicit, is that this is making the lawyer’s life easier and removing stress from their work.
I can probably do better there myself in expressing the humancentric values, and no doubt I’ve been inculcated in the world of quantitative value as well. But the human aspects are always there, even if they are not expressly mentioned.
When we make, sell or buy a legal tech tool (or any manufactured item on the planet) there are two experiential sides to it: the efficient and the delightful, these can be generally summarised as:
Efficiency – quantitative, economic, mathematical, logical, direct, ‘surface’.
Delight – qualitative, humancentric, emotional, often indirect and not obvious.
But, some may then ask: ‘OK, if this other aspect is so important then can we measure it?’ I have to admit that aspect is still evolving, but it seems that we can do things such as satisfaction surveys and link those to the tools firms have bought and what outcomes they have produced. It would make sense to measure these results not with hours saved, but rather levels of stress removed, or opportunity to achieve more interesting work achieved, or positive feedback from clients attained.
There are also more popular ways to do this, such as Net Promoter Score (NPS). The reality is that if you’ve had ‘a good experience’ with a tech tool then you will recommend it. Under this NPS is a mass of interesting stuff that needs to be explored, but at least the NPS gets a human response, i.e. ‘Did this product make you happy?’
So, to sum up, the next time someone talks about efficiency and legal technology, ask yourself how much the other part of the system is also there and what that means to those who make, sell, buy, and ultimately use this creation. Because legal tech’s duality is always there.
Richard Tromans, Founder, Artificial Lawyer, Oct 2022