My Problem with Legal Software Marketing

Lets say that you want to trim the forsythia bush in front of your house. You could take a knife and try to cut each branch individually. It might take a long time, but you could eventually get the job done. Alternative, you could get a hedge trimmer and cut off the errant branches in seconds. But what if you don’t own a hedge trimmer? Do you go to the store and buy one? You would think so. But wait, what if before you could buy that hedge trimmer you had to track get each and every household in your entire neighborhood to agree to simultaneously purchase the same model of trimmer from the same store? Why, that would be absurd! It would be a rare person who would ever get to buy a hedge trimmer. Instead, they would be relegated to taking out their pocket knife and slowly sawing through each individual branch.

Such is the state of affairs in the legal world. If I want to buy some software to help my legal practice, the software company’s licensing system requires that I pay a “per seat” fee that is multiplied by the number of attorneys in my firm, regardless of whether they want or would even use that software. So, before I can buy software, I have to convince dozens of attorneys that it is worth spending $30,000 so I can have some software (unlikely) or that it is worth them getting the software as well and supporting me in my effort to get the rest of the firm to get the software as well.

I can understand this approach for basic software such as the Microsoft Office products, which is ubiquitous and used by all. What I can’t understand is why this marketing and business model is supposed to work for other products. Take CAD/CAM or photo editing software. This software is used by many large companies. Those companies buy the software to the users in the design or art departments and are not forced to buy copies for, say, the marketing or maintenance departments.

Of course, this monolithic approach has been used so long that software companies have written their products so that they must be implemented on an enterprise-wide level. Even if they wanted to allow a smaller number of users to use the product, it would require re-writing the code and a wholesale rethinking of how the product works. However, there is a market out there for individual productivity products that is not being me. Create the product and the market will be there.

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About James Pray

Attorney with BrownWinick Law Firm in Des Moines, Iowa.
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