In the fast-paced world of product development it's easy to believe we know exactly what the end-user wants. We convince ourselves that our legaltech customers surely need that sophisticated new feature or must be dealing with the same legal issues as their industry counterparts. Likewise, we might have heard anecdotally that a particular area of law is a hot topic and immediately begin coming up with ways to resolve it by way of a legaltech product. In doing so we run the risk of 'solutionising', in other words, coming up with a solution for a problem that hasn’t been defined and might not even exist. 

In order to avoid this, how should we identify the real problem a customer is facing? The best way is simply to ask.

The Research

Alongside the development of our multi-jurisdictional legal resource tool we designed a structured three-month market research project to do just that: ask. The main element, a Qualtrics survey rolled out via LinkedIn, targeted emails and QR-code cards handed out at events, had the goal of identifying:

  • which areas of cross-border law are currently most difficult for clients to manage (applicable to a range of industries), based on a list of subjects identified using the firm's current thought leadership and areas of frequent instruction;
  • whether customers would use an online legal resource tool to resolve that pain point; and
  • what that tool might look like.

In order to add depth to the survey results and not restrict the findings to pre-determined questions (after all, a client may sow the seed of the next great legaltech product if we're only prepared to listen), we planned a series of fact-finding meetings and calls with a number of key contacts, as well as informal discussions at external conferences from London to New York and Singapore.

This led to valuable and consistent qualitative evidence, such as requests to be able to personalise the product (for example with client-specific templates or documents) and to make content relevant for a range of business users (not only in-house lawyers) by means of practical traffic-light systems, diagrams and clear information. A repeated message was the importance of ensuring that the basics, such as ease of access, login and quality technical support, are never underestimated.

The Results

What else did we learn? Our three major takeaways:

1. Handling the requirements of a complex personal data protection regime, whether falling within the scope of GDPR or not, is an area of difficulty for a large number of businesses globally

Based on nearly 100 responses, data privacy was the highest scoring answer to the question, 'which area(s) of law would you be most interested in comparing across multiple jurisdictions', closely followed by cyber-security regulation and the legal framework around artificial intelligence and the use of big data.

This not only allows us to direct the product towards the content most relevant to most customers, but sparks ideas about other specific solutions to research, for example how to address the difficult area of differing global data retention periods in light of the severity of sanctions for breaches.

2. Customers want us to ask their opinion

We've had hugely positive feedback from meetings and in-depth interviews with representatives of both existing and prospective customers, from international and UK banks, long-term investors and foreign exchange companies to online mortgage brokers. They’ve been impressed that we’re taking feedback about their concerns – whether practical (e.g. clients need document automation or data extraction to free up valuable time) or conceptual (e.g. clients struggle to find a central resource for reliable legal guidance) – before and during development rather than afterwards. 

We’ve had several volunteers for usability testing as a result of these meetings and are thereby growing our network of legaltech allies. At the same time, we've gathered valuable analysis on the competitor resources most commonly used, which allows us an opportunity to differentiate.

3. The simpler a product, the better

Sometimes market research serves to validate what you already know: our survey tested a couple of specific ideas to gather information from a larger population. 

First, the idea that customers are prepared to invest in a digital legal resource to help address an area of concern. On a scale of 1 (would never buy) to 5 (would definitely buy) the level of interest was rated a very positive 4. 

Second, the idea that customers want a practical solution that offers a) actionable steps for businesses to take – in the same way that the SMCR Manager and the Continuing Obligations Tracker: Debt Securities products do – and b) a means of comparing the law in multiple jurisdictions, both of which came out ahead of simply 'providing in-depth legal information'.

By committing to market research in a structured way, we’ve had some great outcomes in identifying a direction for the legal content of the multi-jurisdictional survey product, defining new features for future releases and learning more about how to best serve and meet the needs of our clients with legaltech.