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Taking a nod from Wordle: How to accelerate the LegalTech of the future

By Thomson Reuters

Page Reading Time: 4 minutes

Like much of the rest of the world, I have been Wordling. Every. Day. Today, they said I was Splendid! Beyond the quick endorphin shot that gave me, I’ve been spending more time lately thinking about the magic formula behind this simple word game. What is it that makes it so engaging, and how can we make the technology we use every day in our professional lives this easy and fun?  

Here are my top takeaways on what makes Wordle such a delightful product experience and what inspiration the LegalTech community can take from those insights. First, the three things that really make Wordle connect with users:   

  1. Wordle aces Time to Value – it gives users value back within seconds (in this case, value being fun). It doesn’t require a huge learning curve, implementation time or onboarding time. The onboarding instruction guide is 85 words long and took me 40 seconds to read. 
  1. Wordle avoids the Build Trap – it only has a few capabilities, and it makes those features work really well. Plus, it only lets you play once a day – meaning you can’t binge it and then get bored. It makes you want to come back again and again. It just works by doing a few things really well.  
  1. Wordle is Agile –  Wordle was recently acquired by The New York Times, and some small hiccups ensued. We learned we weren’t all solving the same puzzle with our friends and families and speculation started growing that the acquisition would ruin the thing we all loved.  The brand needed an intentional, well thought-through approach to making the integration successful, protecting the essence of all that is good about Wordle. But the team recovered quickly! Our lesson is to listen, iterate and make improvements fast! 

So how can we take the essence of what Wordle does so well and apply it to the much more complex LegalTech space? We can start by bringing some joy into the equation. 

We all know the last two years have not been kind to corporate legal departments. A perfect storm of record M&A volume, a slew of new regulatory and compliance challenges – including a rapidly growing list of environmental, social, and governance (ESG)-related issues – and a pandemic that disrupted traditional workflows and created widespread staffing shortages, has left many corporate legal departments feeling exhausted. 

I’ve seen the phenomenon first-hand. As chief product officer for LegalTech at Thomson Reuters, I help create technology to help legal teams confront their challenges. As those challenges have grown considerably over the past few years, I’ve felt a very real urgency to address the existential question: Can technology really help improve the experience of our people? 

As I’ve continued to talk with clients – one of whom started a call by apologizing for looking disheveled because he hadn’t slept in 48 hours – We’ve landed on three key criteria to inform LegalTech product development experience from the customer’s perspective.   

  1. LegalTech needs to be Smart – The LegalTech industry needs to ensure we are truly saving people time, not asking them to spend more time monitoring and second-guessing the technology. That’s a really big deal when it comes to leveraging AI for things like automated contract review and spend management analytics. It means the technology must understand the language and nuance of each industry to inform the next best actions – and explain those recommendations by showing the logic. It means we need to be able to trust that the AI is fair, representative, and accurate. We need a human-centered approach to AI that instills trust and confidence.  
  1. Proprietary platforms need to be Open – The way we work and collaborate has changed in the last few years, with cats and alien eyes joining us on virtual meetings. We must bring technology to where people are already working. For decades, tech companies have built software on their own proprietary platforms hoping to win clients over to their product universe. In fact, it is a far more effective strategy to build an open platform that can work seamlessly through existing platforms, which legal departments are already using to collaborate, both with their in-house colleagues as well as outside counsel.  
  1. Technology is all about staying Connected – Over 50% of large legal departments use more than nine legal technologies, often disconnected from each other. This leads to a fragmented and inconsistent experience, and the effect is the opposite of what  we all want – needing technology to just work, seamlessly. Law departments have a role to play – asking for industry standards like LEDES and SALI, asking for open APIs, asking for ownership of their data. Raise the issue with software providers, asking for your suite of solutions to cooperate with and complement one another. And tech companies need to listen, learn and innovate. 

Tying this all together, tech providers need to think like partners. For some product development that means rolling, iterative software development schedules make incremental refinements and improvements every day or every week, allowing end-users to learn and absorb new product enhancements gradually as part of their workflow. 

The world has changed. The way people work has changed. In LegalTech, this means we need to be smarter, with human-centered AI capabilities, open, with the ability to meet people where they work, and connected, intersecting the choice of technology with the integration of technology.   

LegalTech can not only be better, but it can also be – dare I say – Splendid! 

Author: Kriti Sharma is Chief Product Officer, LegalTech at Thomson Reuters.