Should legal tech companies looking to build the best solutions be seeking the input of lawyers?

Frank Ready of Legal Tech News writes today that lawyers want ‘easier’ technology, but legal tech companies aren’t sure what that means. The irregularity and hastiness which feedback does come has left product developers hungry for insights into the legal mind.

Ready spoke with various people, inside and outside of law firms, as to how this input can be obtained. In some cases hiring lawyers. In other cases, doing the tech work inside a law firm, for a captive customer, if you will. Others advised spending more time with lawyers and getting to know their language.

I’m not sure legal tech companies, when beginning or when working on new ideas and products. need to or should be seeking the input of lawyers.

I’m serious.

Look at what Steve Jobs had to say on the subject.

“Some people say, “Give the customers what they want.” But that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, “If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘A faster horse!'” People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.”

I’m in agreement with Jobs – like who wouldn’t agree with Jobs when it comes to building products and a company.

You really think Preston Gates and Ellis, now K&L Gates would have told me fifteen years ago, “You know, what we’re looking for – a blog. A website with ten posts on the front page running in reverse chronological order with each post having its own page, by a niche subject, on a separate domain from our website, that allowed comments and on which the busiest lawyers in one of our most high profile practice areas are going to publish.

It was like Jobs said, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them. It was only after a made a blog for Preston Gates, complete with design and blog posts, and displayed the blog on the big screen that Preston Gates liked a blog.

Well, at least one of the three people in the room liked the concept. The other two, judging from how early they exited the room, thought I was nuts.

I really wasn’t all that interested in what Preston Gates or other firms thought a blog should be or how I should modify my product to alleviate their concerns. They knew nothing about blogs or digital publishing, as I was proposing it.

As a the producer of a product, I didn’t want to be one-offed to death by the firms I met and end up with an inferior product which would satisfy the “lowest common denominator.” I also couldn’t afford the time and expense of such modifications.

Guy Kawasaki advised entrepreneurs and innovators to “be happy, build crappy.” Get your product out there – and fast. You’ll only know you have something when other people take money out of their pocket and put it in your pocket. You can iterate later, per Kawasaki.

Collect customer’s suggestions. As paying customers, they’re more vested in your success than they were as “some what interested” lawyers.

When we get enough customers requesting something, our products team adds the feature.

When we have a new product in mind, or have even built it, we’ll go to prospective customers – the more innovative ones – and ask what they think. Truth be told, we’re selling and not looking to go back to the drawing board.

We’ll make changes after we get enough customers on board to have enough of sample set to justify features – just as we do with our blog platform.

Hey, I am not dissing lawyer input. I just think you better be ready to run without lawyer input.

The one caveat I’d have is what’s the basis of the founding entrepreneur’s belief in the product. What problem did they see? How did the see it?

Interviewing legal tech entrepreneurs, invariably they saw the problem first hand and could not envision for a second their product not solving the problem.

As we the cased with me, others saw the mountain between them and the plains on the other side. The entrepreneur only saw the plains on the other side of the mountain. Clear as could be.

You can develop products lawyers want without asking lawyers.