Earlier this year we wrote one of our most popular blog posts: “At Woodpecker, Fear is not an Option. Shockingly, the Feeling isn’t Always Mutual.”  In this post, we discussed how a legacy document automation competitor was using fear to try to sell upgrades to their product, and we reaffirmed to you that our purpose – our only purpose – is to make your job more efficient, and your work more meaningful.

At that time, we didn’t feel it was necessary for us to disclose the name of the company that would resort to such fear-mongering. But sometimes we don’t even need to call out companies that make their message all about fear; they do it themselves.

Will fear ever go out of style? We can only hope.

In a recent Law.com article, “The Business Case for Document Automation,” AbacusNext, the makers of HotDocs, make fear the underlying emotion in their message to you.  From the very first two lines of the story, it’s all about dreading the disaster of an economic downturn:

“As law firms face pushback from clients on high rates and large legal bills, firm leaders are looking for durable ways to increase efficiency. The prospect of an economic downturn creates even more pressure to boost productivity and streamline processes.”

What proof are we offered about this terrible prospect?  Well, of course it’s “widely predicted.”  Moving past this circular “proof” we are told that the doom is coming, and coming soon:

“While no one can know with certainty when the next recession will occur or how significant it will be, the consensus is that it will happen and not all firms will fare as well as others.”

So, yep, there it is again, a legacy document automation company whose message for you is: Be afraid.  Be very afraid.

Batten down the hatches, run for cover, save the women and children first, because the storm’s-a-coming and it’s time to start panicking.  Right.  Now!

“An impending economic downturn only heightens the need for improvements in efficiency that will cut costs and reduce financial risk.”

Why ruin good, solid advice with fear?

Ironically, if only perhaps in the Alanis Morisette use of that word, the rest of HotDoc’s article provides some pretty solid advice on some of the benefits of using document automation.  Our customers have told us that consistency, special care, and proofreading are all excellent reasons to implement document automation at their firms.  And the tips that HotDocs gives on taking a holistic approach and starting small with that implementation are spot on.  For this alone, we almost wish we could come to praise HotDocs, not to bury them.  Almost.

For at the end, HotDocs reverts to type and emits this one, final, “be very afraid” warning:

“Document automation is one major way that firms can achieve the increased efficiency that will be crucial for surviving the next economic downturn.”

We’ve said it before, and we guess we have to say it again, we’re not here to use fear to try to scare you into buying Woodpecker.  Our goal is to make your lives as lawyers, as people, better.  You don’t need document automation for that, but it will help reduce dreadful, administrative work – which is how we can help you.

Perhaps the real problem is that fear isn’t even the point. Making your lives better is.

But perhaps the strangest, maybe even silliest part of this kind of FUD Factor* marketing is that, in so many cases, the fear isn’t even real.  As in this case.  Because just a few days after publishing HotDoc’s warnings of impending (soon) doom, they published articles stating things that are 180 degrees opposite, like this:

Preparation for the Future, Not a Recession

Despite growing talks of a recession, few in legal say they are bracing for an economic downturn. Rather than a recession influencing their planning, law firms are assessing what their client and business needs are to inform their legal tech purchases to succeed during any economic climate.”

“Meanwhile, corporate legal departments say their departments aren’t actively preparing for a downswing in the economy, though they are always looking for any process that could be streamlined.”

“For outside counsel, no matter the economy’s outlook, they’re concentrated on providing legal services their clients want, with more clients expecting technology to play a part in the delivery process.”

And also this:

“The idea of greater use of technologies today to cut costs is certainly a departure from law firm strategies in the past, where [it was] we’ll wait until things get bad and then cut everything that we possibly can,” [Bill] Josten [strategic content manager for the Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute] said.

Look, we get it.  Doom-and-gloom, “be afraid” headlines get attention.  In fact, we didn’t include the headlines from either of those Law.com articles because both speak of this “inevitable” and “coming” downturn despite the fact that the legal industry experts they’ve quoted are quoted for their viewpoints on how the legal industry is no longer being driven by such fears.

And that’s a good thing.

It’s time for all of us to do better

Are we telling you that there won’t be a downturn, ever?  Of course not.  Our economy has cycles and we have been in a long run of an upswing that one day will have to come to end.  When will that happen?  How bad will it be?  We have no idea, and neither does anybody really.

But we do know that our customers – and the legal industry as a whole – are being driven by a higher purpose: to do better.  To do better for their clients.  To do better to compete as a firm.  To do better for people in need.  To do better, sometimes, for children who have nothing else.

Which also means that you’ll likely be better prepared to weather an economic downturn. And that’s the icing on the cake.


* We have linked “FUD Factor” only to show that we didn’t make this up – we wish we had, as it’s awesome phrase.  Please, we beg you, don’t go to this link (or any other page on this) and actually do any of the terrible, fear-based evil sales deeds that these folks for some awful reason seem to want you to do – that would make us wish we hadn’t put that link in.