I’m a tech-savvy millennial lawyer about to start my own business, and legal tech companies don’t market to me.

Yesterday I spent about two hours talking to exhibitors on the TECHSHOW floor. I had extended conversations with a couple of them (I wish I’d had time for more). I made the day trip from Wisconsin because I’ll be launching my own solo practice in about two months, and I thought it would be a great chance to see the latest tech available for my new practice, compare my options, and make some decisions.

What struck me at the expo, however, was that none of these tech companies were marketing to me. I didn’t seem to be their ideal customer. Which struck me as odd, because I’m a tech-savvy millennial lawyer about to start my own business. Shouldn’t I be every legal tech company’s target?

As it turns out, no. What I saw and heard from nearly every booth was something else. It was all about convincing lawyers who haven’t implemented tech at all to buy in. The message all around was, Buy our software, it’ll save you time! or Our software will get you more clients! I think these messages still predominate because the market isn’t full yet. Companies are still gobbling up the vast supply of low-tech, overworked attorneys who just need a little coaxing to jump on the bandwagon.

You can see this plainly with practice management software. How many options are there now—10? 20? Most are, in fact, interchangeable. These companies have only begun to truly compete with each other as the low-hanging fruit begins to dwindle.

I am not that low-hanging fruit. I don’t care that your software will save me time or get me clients, because your competitor’s software will do the same thing. I am not deciding whether to buy; I am deciding which to buy. I want to know what makes you different. What do you have that the other guy doesn’t? Why should I pay you more? Why should I pay you a hefty onboarding fee when I’m savvy enough (quite possibly savvier than your onboarding employees, in fact) to do it myself?

I have a hard time with that last one. Onboarding and setup fees. I understand them—who wants a bunch of untrained lawyers misusing their software?—but to me they are nothing but a barrier to buying your product. I know what a sales funnel is—I read your blog. I know how to create a process for intake—I downloaded your whitepaper. I know how to put field codes into a Word document—I grew up doing that kind of thing. Please, can you give me another option?

Despite the cacophony in the market right now, some companies do get it right. Clio, of course, is ahead of the game. They’ve put themselves at the head of pack by focusing on customer stories, opening up their API, and doing things like the Legal Trends Report to help lawyers solve difficult problems (not just “save time”). Others can learn from their example.

I don’t mean to be negative—I understand these companies have their markets, and cash-strapped young lawyers (however tech-savvy) may not be one. I was just surprised that the messages I heard on the floor at ABA TECHSHOW, of all places, didn’t speak to me.

What did speak to me were the conversations I had with the techs behind the products. I talked to the people working on Lawyaw, GrowPath, and Lawmatics. I was able to ask specific questions like Will this integrate with Clio? and What’s coming in the next year? Once the conversations got past the marketing, they were excellent and useful to me. I came to Chicago for a day just for these conversations, and in that I wasn’t disappointed.

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