On this episode of Contract Heroes, we had the chance to sit down and chat with Alex Su, the head of community development at Ironclad, Inc. After graduating law school, Alex started out practicing law as a litigator before eventually making the transition into legal-tech as an eDiscovery sales associate.
He then shifted into the contracting space a few years later and used his experience with sales to inform his work with contracts. Now, as head of community development, he is responsible for facilitating community engagement with digital contracting.
Our chat with Alex was a little different than the typical subject matter we cover on Contract Heroes. Of course, we touched on some great contract lifecycle management (CLM) advice from his unique perspective, but mainly our discussion focused on the heaps of valuable insight that Alex provided for anyone who is struggling to find their way in the legal industry. Read on to learn more about how Alex discovered his own perfect role in the community.
Swimming Through the Sea of Legal Traditionalism
As we mentioned, Alex began his journey with the desire to become a trial lawyer, specifically a federal prosecutor. During his time as a clerk, those he worked with talked highly of their jobs and seemed to genuinely love it. Since Alex didn’t have those same feelings about the job, he decided to look elsewhere and worked at a law firm for some time. But the tasks he was doing there were not for him either, as he had to spend much of his time doing research alone instead of engaging with other people. Even after switching to a smaller law firm and attempting to start his own, Alex was still unsatisfied, so he accepted a position selling eDiscovery software. It was here that his exploration of the tech side of the legal industry began, and he eventually moved into the contract sphere in 2019.
While working as a sales associate, Alex was trained to perform cold calls and emails, which was the main way to gain customers at the time, and in some ways it still is. However, he found the method inefficient and decided to try a different way to connect with people. Eventually, he stumbled upon the possibility of using social media. Back when LinkedIn was still just a place for resumes, Alex began posting there with anecdotes about his experiences in the legal industry. People found his content extremely relatable, and, over time, his following grew. When the pandemic hit in 2019 and more people migrated to online spaces, Alex’s following increased even more. To encourage growth, he focused on consistency and started posting every day while engaging with his followers.
Alex’s transition to TikTok began with a skit he recorded about contracts. He explained that the heart of his content is to take some aspect of the legal industry that everyone seems to universally accept, but if you really think about the concept, it’s a little bit ridiculous. His skit reflected this by highlighting the difference between what law school teaches you about contracts and what contracts are like in the real world. In his experience in American law school, Alex learned about contracts very theoretically, in terms of their elements. However, as shown in his skit when a law student is handed a real contract for the first time with horror music playing in the background, actual contracts are often packed with items you never learned about in school such as indemnification and limitation of liability. This type of relatable content is extremely popular and helps build the community.
Learning and Selling Through Community
To explore his role as head of community development, we asked Alex to tell us more about what he does and why he feels uniquely suited to the position. Ironclad’s goal is to host a space for people to come together and communicate their experiences with each other. Traditional marketing methods like webinars can sometimes feel impersonal, with one individual teaching to many. By investing in the community, you can encourage peer to peer interactions where people learn by sharing real world experiences and knowledge.
Throughout his journey to find the place that best fit his interests and talents, Alex explored a variety of areas within the legal industry. He believes that this experience is what makes him suited for the community growth work that he does now. By talking about his stories and opening up honestly, he creates a space for others to share their own experiences in the comments. For example, he noticed some problems with NDAs while working in sales. In his experience, they slowed down the progress of deals and never really added much value in the end. This led him to create a video making fun of NDAs by calling them useless. This type of controversial statement generates meaningful conversations between people who think NDAs are necessary the way they are and those who think they need to be reformed.
We also wanted to tap into Alex’s wealth of sales knowledge, so we asked him to provide some tips on selling as a lawyer to other lawyers. Alex explained that while working in sales he was told to gloss over any problems with the product and phrase them in the nicest way possible, but he feels that this technique is ineffective when selling to someone with a legal background. Lawyers are trained to be skeptical of every claim they hear, so they often see through this type of sugarcoating. Being upfront and laying out the pros and cons in an honest way gives you more credibility and builds trust in the relationship. You should still focus on pros and explain why the weaknesses are not as important in light of them, but it’s important for the client to understand the full picture of the product before making a purchase. Tricking them into buying only generates more problems for both your company and theirs down the line.
And finally, for anyone out there feeling stuck in their current position or looking to change their path, Alex suggests taking everything one step at a time and using each opportunity as a chance to learn about yourself. His own first step was to switch law firms because he was unsure if it was the firm itself or the actual profession that was making him unhappy. Small steps like that can help you figure out what it is that you’re really looking for from your work and make you better equipped to make the bigger jumps down the road. Don’t feel pressured to take a huge leap right away! Small moves in the right direction are key to understanding yourself.
For more exclusive chats with expert guests in the contract lifecycle management sector along with valuable legal-tech advice, check out past installments of Contract Heroes and be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss an episode! If you have any questions for our guest, Alex Su, the best place to reach him is LinkedIn, but he is also available on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.