Legal tech directories reappear in growing legal tech market
The past few years have seen a surge of new legal technology solutions hitting the market, especially as the legal industry has struggled to adapt to remote workflows during the pandemic.
Today, as this tech boom shows few signs of waning, another vertical is resurfacing after years of hibernation to educate buyers about the various tools available to them: legal tech directories.
Robert Ambrogi, lawyer and journalist, founded the legal tech directory RightNext in February of this year, emboldened by repeated questions from firms and legal departments about how the various tools compare to each other.
“As a legal tech blogger for years, I regularly get people contacting me looking for a product,” Ambrogi said. “[They say], “I’m confused by all the ones out there and want to know which one is best for me.” I told them that I was not a consultant. But after a while, I wanted to be able to give them a resource to make comparisons and find more information.
This is a good time for legal technology directories to emerge precisely because they have more to cover from a consumer and seller perspective, Ambrogi said.
“Directories now serve two audiences, consumers, because there is a lack of resources to get product information, but the same is a problem for sellers,” he said. “While it is difficult for buyers to find suppliers, it is extremely difficult for suppliers to be found because there are more products on the market. Directories therefore meet these two important needs here.
As more and more directories surface, the competition between them also intensifies, pushing each one to cover different areas of the legal field. Some are geographically different, such as the European Legal Tech Association (ELTA) directory which focuses on the European market. Others are more news aggregators, while some cover distinct audiences, such as corporate departments versus independent attorneys.
The Aptivos Legal Directory, for example, is designed as a hybrid between LinkedIn and a legal tech directory complete with a news feed, events, and job postings. Douglas Geller, founder of Aptivos, says the directory grew out of pandemic-related social distancing restrictions in mid-2020.
“At the start of COVID, we saw that all conferences were canceled and were afraid that the general feeling of a [legal tech] the community was going to disappear,” Geller said. “We were also concerned that small startups would have no way to show off their products. So we kind of looked at the directory aspect as a small component of what we would do, instead of bringing the whole community together with job postings and vendor voices to tie it all together.
Geller echoed Ambrogi, saying now is the time for legal tech directories to grow because there are more products and funding in the industry than ever before, creating a market that wants more information. Ultimately, however, Geller believes that many directories will have to find their own niche to survive in order to avoid too much overlap.
Yet, in the same way that the state of the legal tech industry informs about the boom in legal tech directories, this latest also signals something important about the state of the legal tech industry.
Nicola Shaver, co-founder of Legaltech polea repertoire that had a facelift earlier this year, said directories are springing up to fill the void in a hugely fragmented industry, regardless of the increased M&A activity within it.
“Despite the accelerating pace of acquisitions and consolidations in the market, the legal technology market continues to be fragmented with literally thousands of solutions, many of which only really do one or two things well. Buyers need help navigating this complexity and making the right investment decisions,” Shaver said. “The emergence of directories is an indication that people recognize this need.”