In this interview, our Head of Sales (GP law firms), Marc Storm Andersen provides insights into the unique features and customized approach of RightHub for GP law firms, such as the significance of prioritizing user experience (UX) and establishing and maintaining client relationships.
RH: What unique features or benefits of the RightHub IPMS solution do you emphasise when targeting GP (general practice) law firms, and how do you tailor your approach based on their specific needs?
MSA: As a starting point, most often people do not tend to come to me or to us as a software company with a wish to buy our solution. I think even before thinking about how we can present our offering in a meeting, I must think a little bit about how I can incentivise people to accept the meeting with me - which is easier said than done.
I don't believe in spreading a ton of information in an email, so I usually just stick to introducing myself and the reason why I'm reaching out. I might include what I believe to be a unique selling point, but as you know, times change as well as trends and hot topics. There is not one standout solution for such an approach, in my opinion at least. But when I actually get a meeting, I always do a minimum of research on both the law firm and also the people who I'm having the meeting with. This could be simple, such as whether the firm advises on all types of IP rights, whether they brand themselves as expert on certain IP related services such as brand protection, and approximately how many people they have in the IP team overall. Furthermore, I would probably look up the profile of the person or people that I'm having the meeting with on the company website to better understand their position and thereby their roles and responsibilities. There is only so much information that you can get beforehand. So, in the actual meeting, if it is the very first time I talk to these people, I would try to ask different questions to get a more detailed understanding of both the firm, but also the people. And sometimes I believe that this can be a little anxiety-provoking because you may end up in a situation where you have prepared a lot, but the information that you get from the people means that you need to adjust all the preparation that you have done.
When we come to the actual presentation of our software solution, and in general when we talk about IP, there are certain things that need to be in place before you can call a software an IP management system. There is a need for you to have a space for IP records and related information. Even though this is a minimum requirement, I would still show this product as part of my presentation - not because of the data, but merely to show the look and feel of it. For me that's a great example of the importance of UI and user experience. I strongly believe that user friendliness, which characterizes our solution, is one of the most significant parts of the software solution. If you as a law firm already use the software tools for IP management purposes, then you are not exactly keen on a migration process. Consequently, you can have the most powerful tool with all kinds of amazing features, but if you as a customer can't figure out how to use it without a lot of training day and night for half a year, I don't think we will win many customers.
When we talk a little bit more specifically about actual features, it depends on the people in the call and on the information I received. If I'm in a meeting with people from a firm that does no enforcement and litigation work or the other way around, I tailor the presentation accordingly. In this case I would focus on our online brand protection tool and show them how this can bring their level of efficiency and proactiveness to protect a client to a totally new level.
I think two big buzzwords of the RH solutions are automation and integration. Automation in the sense that we build workflows that ease the manual workflow for our customers where we see that technology can replace the human touch. Let's say you would like to notify a client about upcoming renewals - why would you then spend time copy pasting information from the relevant IP records into the report when you can just have technology to do so? Why would you copy paste information from a PTO (Patent & Trademark Office), a foreign agent, a registration of a new trademark - risking typos or even missing information when you can just rely on OCR reading technology and the likes to extract the relevant information and submit that directly into the relevant data fields in your software leaving you with the only task of just verifying if the data is correct. I’m not saying that our software changes data or sends instruction and reports and so forth without the approval of the user, but when such actions need to happen, it is far less time consuming to click a button and verify, than doing the groundwork yourself. I think that's why I always focus a lot on our automated renewal process, for instance, which can bring down the time of handling a renewal from around maybe 2 hours to 5-10 minutes. I know that 2 hours may seem like I'm exaggerating a little bit, but from the very start, when we send a draft or renewal list, budgets should be calculated, an email is sent to the client, maybe one-two reminders are sent to the client in an instruction to a foreign national agent and updating the real data and all of that. Then at the very end reporting to the client, it just takes a lot of manual effort, right? If all you have to do in such a process is to review the instruction from the client, simply select the preferred agent and verify the updated data, that will save a significant amount of time. That is exactly how it is done in our renewal flow.
The final buzzword that came to mind was integration. And we would, of course, love to be a one-point solution for everything IP related. And I also believe that our vision is to be that platform where you don't need any separate system for time tracking and invoicing, trademark watching, or docketing - but of course, we also need to be realistic. We know that a law firm with other legal services than just IP in most cases would probably have a company-wide software for certain things that could be financial, where they have a company-wide billing system. In such cases, I think the likelihood of convincing the whole firm to switch out of their existing financial software and into ours just because it makes life easier for their IP department is close to zero. That's also why it's a crucial part of our business to build our solution open-ended in the sense that we can integrate with other external software solutions. This will eventually allow our customers to operate partly in other software systems but still benefit from the automation that we are building. Of course, I always love to also show in the general practice law firms the client portal side of things, and it might seem simple, but being able to offer clients access to a user-friendly portal where they can find their own portfolio, budget, forecasting for future renewals, registration certificates, and much more is a great way to provide that extra layer of transparency that makes the client even more loyal to you and to stick around longer.
RH: What is the difference in your approach towards general practice law firms compared to how we would approach IP boutiques or even enterprises and other IP owners?
MSA: I think one notable difference is that, while not applicable to everyone, general practice law firms often have limitations regarding patents. To work with patents, you not only need a team of lawyers but also individuals with technical backgrounds, such as physics or biology. This requirement sets them apart in terms of their needs.
If we are talking to an IP law firm, then everything that they do is with IP in mind. It's very different for them to convince the whole firm that this is a good solution for IP, because everybody understands the value of what we are showing them. If you compare that to a general practice law firm, it might be that the head of IP needs to report to some other C-level person about this, and that person doesn't necessarily understand why this is a good idea. This creates a different selling point.
Also, as an IP law firm, you have some software in place already when we approach you – so, I know that nine times out of ten I'm competing against the existing system they have. It is something that they have thought very well through because it's their core business. That's where I need to show why our solution is so much better than their existing set-up, because they have probably been running that for several years. Apart from these differences, I still see similar synergies and target personas across the board. Although there may be engineers and such, my focus remains consistent. With corporations, things vary depending on whether they have an in-house IP team. If they do, their IP expertise matches that of general practice or IP law firms. In such cases, I would highlight the ease of accessing information and finding details about their portfolio, tailored to their level of IP expertise.
RH: How do you build and maintain relationships with general practice law firms?
MSA: Building and maintaining relationships is my specialty, and I believe it is crucial for fostering great collaborations. Personally, I strive to be the same person no matter who I talk to - and at the same time also understand and respect different backgrounds, cultures, opinions, etc. I don't try to get too personal with everybody, but I still enjoy having conversations with our existing and potential new customers about topics that are not IP or business related. I also think that this is a good way of building strong relationships, and although my primary role is to sell, it's not the most frequently used term in my vocabulary.
Also, I think maintaining a good relationship requires honesty, and thereby also providing an answer that you may not wish to deliver. I have tried in my relatively short career to oversell something unintentionally, but merely because it was my expectation that we would be able to meet certain criteria within the foreseeable future. And it's safe to say that I would rather be honest from the beginning than later on having to explain why we cannot deliver what I told we were able to do so. So being transparent and totally honest is one of the key elements here. On that note, I also think it’s better to consider the big picture, instead of solely focusing on individual ideas. It might be that a law firm asked about something specific that will solve this one problem, and they also have an idea about how this feature should be built - but if we as a team can actually solve five other problems by implementing a new feature in a slightly different way than been proposed by the customer, I'm also sure that they eventually see that we bring much more value than just taking in and building exactly what they are looking for. I consider this as being respectful and open to taking in requests, but also saying, “Hey, I think we can build what you are asking for, but in a slightly different way.”
And then a final, very important thing is that it doesn't hurt to bring a good - or bad deal, for that matter - into a meeting with a customer now and then, and maybe even squeeze in 1-2 bad jokes so you can start off with laughter and end the very same way. I would then also say, if no one laughs, then you just look stupid twice within a short period of time, which can also be funny in itself.
RH: The last question, how do you stay updated on the latest trends and advancements in the legal tech industry? Of course, especially those relevant to general practice law firms?
MSA: It's important to understand the industry that we are operating within. If we only cared about trends from a technical perspective because we are a software company, but we didn't understand anything about IP and the pain points that lies within working as an attorney or a paralegal, then we would probably not be building something of much value. For that reason, I am extremely happy with the people at RightHub, because not only am I lucky to have amazing colleagues on a personal level, but we are also a team of people that one way or another have worked within the IP space for a long time. I think this definitely gives us an edge in building something that solves problems in our industry. We host our very own user conferences where we invite both law firms and corporates, we participate in IP conferences and in general I think we are in very close dialogue with our customers to ensure that we keep working proactively instead of falling a little bit behind and developing reactively.
On a more personal level, I guess it's the same for everyone - a day is no longer than 24 hours and there's probably also a capacity limit in my brain. So, I will never know the details of all laws and rules around IP globally. However, I am signed up for different newsletters that publish information about new regulations, trends and the like. This way I can keep a finger on the pulse and thereby understand the needs of the markets a little bit better and share that with our product team. When I come across IP related articles on LinkedIn, on the RightHub Feed or somewhere else, I typically give it a read. And it's not only because I'm interested in keeping my job, but also because I generally find IP interesting, which is of course nice. I think from a technical standpoint, it is no secret that I don't possess the skills that all our great developers do, but I engage with them as often as I can to understand how, what, when, etc. And these conversations make it far easier for me at least to communicate internally, but especially externally to customers, including potential new ones. I'm in a better position to answer a question about customisation of workflows like labelling, data hosting and security to a much greater extent than I would be if I solely focused on the customer facing interaction. I'm also able to better understand more technical questions, get more realistic estimates of timelines for future projects, and answer whether a future request is technically possible to build and if it's already part of our roadmap. So, I really think it's important to keep on track with new trends and hot topics in the IP industry, but also working at a software company I think it's key for me to also understand our own software and the capabilities from a more technical perspective, so that I can actually be prepared to whatever questions I might encounter.
RH: Thank you.