When Adam Friedman graduated college, the self-professed “argumentative type” thought that a career in litigation would be perfect for him.
It turns out that he thought wrong.
After graduating from law school in 2011 and practicing family law litigation for two years, Adam realized that he wasn’t satisfied in this role. Although he enjoyed his successes, they were “fleeting,” and soon overshadowed by “an unhappy or disgruntled client.”
So when an opportunity to transition into legal technology and sales presented itself in 2014, Adam seized it. He hasn’t looked back since.
After spending two years as an Account Executive and Senior Legal Counsel at an e-discovery company, Adam became an UpCounsel Enterprise Partner in March of 2017.
Here, Adam discusses how he made the transition from litigation to legal technology sales and how it has changed his perspective on sales, the legal industry and staying motivated despite the challenges he faces every day.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in law?
There’s something that I really like about the way law governs the functioning of society. The law is an agreed upon set of rules, and the development of those rules and the way they interplay with our daily lives always interested me.
I also wanted to help people who didn’t understand how to use those rules to their advantage. I’ve always been driven by a desire to make the law more democratic and available to people.
What did you envision for your career when you graduated law school?
I hoped that I would be a litigator. I thought that arguing in court was my passion and that I would be able to save the world through my excellent argument and litigation skills.
What made you change your mind?
Litigating. Although practicing family law gave me a lot of great litigation experience, there’s a lot of anxiety, stress, heartache and bad energy that comes with it.
“I’ve always been driven by a desire to make the law more democratic and available to people.”
I realized this after about two years of litigating. I was very successful, but it wasn’t making me happy and I could see that what I was doing wasn’t helping enough people.
How did you first become involved with legal technology and sales?
One of my friends knew the CEO of an e-discovery company. My friend suggested that I apply for a job there. I took his advice and got the job.
What did you learn from your first foray into legal technology?
Being connected to technology allowed me to see that the legal industry was not adopting technology to the degree that it could be. There’s still a lot of room for growth. Two industries are converging and creating new opportunities, and the ability to tap into them is very exciting for me.
Was it at all difficult for you to transition from litigation to sales?
At first, it was tough for me to let go of my legal practice when I first landed at a legal technology company. I noticed that no one was managing contracts or our relationships with outside counsel.
This actually turned into a really good opportunity to learn about managing a legal department for a smaller company. I gained insight into the challenges of in-house attorneys and what role legal needs to play in facilitating the business operations.
How does your experience as in-house counsel help you now as a salesperson?
The fact that I was working as in-house counsel before means that I don’t have to fake an understanding of what my clients are going through. I know what they’re facing and what’s important to them.
I think when your client knows that you’ve experienced some of their pain points and can speak with authority based on your own experiences, the sales pitch is much more persuasive and credible.
Clients want to be understood, no matter the industry. When I can demonstrate that we understand their needs, I can build trust much more easily.
“Clients want to be understood, no matter the industry.”
Are there any other skills that you’ve been able to transfer from legal to sales?
Yes, namely persistence, thoroughness, diligence and making sure that your writing is on point.
Writing is such an underrated part of being a lawyer and a salesperson. Email is probably the most common way that people engage with each other nowadays, so it’s extremely important to eliminate spelling and grammar mistakes and to be aware of the cadence of your email and how it reads.
You shouldn’t write for you. You should write for your audience with an understanding of how they’ll decode it.
Also, analytical skills transfer well from law to sales during information-gathering conversations with clients. Clients give pieces of information, and a salesperson should pull at that thread and see where it goes, just as an attorney would do during cross-examination.
When I speak to clients, I have a couple of questions prepared, but during the conversation, I’m constantly thinking of what else I can ask to piggyback off of their answers and get at the core issue.
What advice would you give someone hoping to transition from law to sales?
Don’t completely forget everything that you know about being a lawyer, but realize that the skills valued in attorneys are different than the skills valued in a salesperson.
Being right and getting the last word can be great if you’re a lawyer, but when you’re in sales it’s not about that. It’s about facilitating relationships.
Check your ego at the door and realize that your job is to be a dealmaker.
That being said, don’t be afraid to tap into your legal knowledge when needed to add value.
What makes a good salesperson?
Aside from persistence and not taking things personally, the most important thing in a salesperson is the ability to really listen to what your client is telling you.
It’s very easy for salespeople to think that they have the one solution, that there is only one way to solve the problem and that if a client doesn’t like it then there’s something wrong with them.
That’s pretty short-sighted and that attitude is what gives salespeople a bad name.
However, I think that you can do a really great job as a salesperson by listening to your clients, understanding what they need and considering the different ways to address it.
“Our country’s legal system is currently ‘pay to play,’ but it shouldn’t be.”
Be flexible, be receptive to what your client is saying and be there for them. It should be second nature to ensure that your relationship with the client makes their life easier.
What’s difficult about being a salesperson?
There are a few difficult things about sales. One is juggling 50 or 60 or even 70 relationships at once and making sure that you know exactly what’s going on in each of them.
It’s challenging to give yourself to every client and ensure that they know that they’re not just a number to you. They’re someone whose success you care about.
There’s a lot of work that goes into staying organized enough to be able to do that.
It can also be tough to stay optimistic and not allow the losses to drag you down.
How do you stay motivated despite those losses?
I try to focus on the wins and on the next win, rather than dwelling on the things that didn’t go well or that I can’t control.
It also helps that I have a lot of faith in what we do. The most important thing is that we have a great product. UpCounsel is offering something that really resonates with people, and that makes my job really easy.
Why is the legal industry in need of disruption?
Our country’s legal system is currently “pay to play.” For so long, there have been gatekeepers that prevent the democratization of legal knowledge.
There shouldn’t be. Legal services should be available to anyone, whether they have a lot of money or a little bit of money.
How does UpCounsel further the democratization of the legal industry?
UpCounsel provides businesses of all shapes and sizes with unprecedented access to a community of thousands of attorneys across the country and increasingly around the world.
We’re five years old and have about five thousand attorneys on our platform, outnumbering all but two of the world’s largest law firms.
“We’re breaking down barriers and making legal services that much more accessible.”
Moreover, empowers us to provide legal services at a very low cost. Our clients aren’t paying an arm and a leg.
In short, we’re breaking down barriers and making legal services that much more accessible, and I’m genuinely proud and excited to contribute my knowledge to a company that’s helping to change the legal industry for the better.
About UpCounsel Enterprise Partner Adam Friedman
Adam is an Enterprise Partner and a former litigator. He graduated from Hastings College of the Law and served as an associate at two law firms before becoming Senior Legal Counsel and Account Executive at a legal technology and e-discovery company. Adam now leads UpCounsel’s outreach to and management of enterprise customers.