6 ‘must dos’ for speeding up Legal Tech adoption
These days, if you’re a lawyer who hasn’t been affected by the disruption of Legal Tech in delivering legal services, you’ve been trying really rather hard to avoid it.
As Legal Tech vendors proliferate in the market, as in-house Corporate teams receive increasing pressure to do more with less and as law firms continue to invest in their ever-maturing suite of innovative services, this disruption is not just an interesting trend. It is an inevitability. It’s also a huge investment, drawing on precious time and energy, sparse resources, and, often, the lawyer-client relationship. And so it becomes the responsibility of all lawyers and business teams to arm themselves with a robust strategy for the swift adoption of Legal Tech in their organisations. For the sake of time and value as much as for keeping themselves relevant and successful.
But, as everyone will admit, the path to adoption of Legal Tech is slow. It’s a battle as prevalent in small legal departments as it is in the magic circle. The same challenges exist for both. To name a few:
- Lawyers are busy people and the work will always come first.
- It’s harder to learn a new way of working than it is to carry on doing what you know.
- Technology often solves some, but not all of the problems lawyers face.
- There simply aren’t enough successful examples out there to influence adoption.
What lessons have we learned during the COVID-19 pandemic? We’ve witnessed an unprecedented acceptance of new, and pre-existing, technologies and different working methods since March 2020 to enable a virtual lifestyle – across all industries. In legal, video conferencing software, e-signature tools, mobile apps, and digital workflow tools have irreversibly blended into everyday working habits. These have all been taken up without the luxury of time for intricate internal decision-making, gentle onboarding, and dispersed adoption. It’s been a matter of urgency, and everyone has had to do it.
But must it really take a pandemic to get everyone using their current tech stack or to roll out new technologies that may just solve fundamental challenges and keep everyone’s pockets happy? We’ve all proven we can adapt more quickly than we might expect. And we’re running out of excuses when it comes to Legal Tech.
So what can Legal Tech vendors, lawyers, and the business professionals supporting them do to encourage quicker adoption? While you could of course take away all the other options available to users, as COVID-19 did, there are some other moves that you can make to clear the way.
1. Clearly define and communicate the problem to solve.
Identifying and proving the business problem is the first hurdle. All too often, this critical first step is mishandled – with catastrophic consequences. A complex task, ‘the business’ attempts to solve the problems that they perceive to exist without thoroughly integrating lawyers into the discovery process – whether that’s due to lack of engagement, a persuasive individual in need, or a comprehensive list of assumptions. This is not an easy path to organisational adoption.
As Simon Sinek has observed, ‘true innovation is solving a real problem’ and for adoption to really take hold, the technology must have a direct benefit to its users. It requires Legal Tech teams to spend time with lawyers, to understand the ways in which they operate, and to get to the heart of the key challenges that they face – well in advance of their search for a solution. Once a solution has been found, they must clearly communicate the day-to-day impact that it will have and the problems that it solves. The quality of this communication will hugely influence the likelihood of adoption.
2. Build the right Project Team.
Assigning sole responsibility for the successful rollout of any technology to one individual is like asking someone to assemble Ikea furniture on their own. It’s much harder than it looks! For each new implementation, you will need a Project Team. At a minimum, this might consist of:
- At least 1 lawyer, who is active on legal matters and has been with the business for a minimum of 2 years. This person knows what it’s really like in practice and will be the best person to advise on how things are done and what really counts to the user.
- A Project Lead, who is dedicated to delivering the solution and has suitable influence at the organisation. At a law firm, this might be a leader in Innovation, Digital Transformation, Knowledge, or even Legal Tech. For in-house teams, this might be a Legal Operations Manager or Information Technology Lead.
- Depending on the size of the organisation, a trainer is ordinarily responsible for teaching lawyers and other business users how to operate the organisation’s tech stack. This is critical to merging workflows with current technologies and advising on current best practices.
This team should work together to come up with a plan and really get to grips with what the lawyers are being asked to do, well ahead of onboarding. Which leads nicely to my next tip.
3. Have a plan. And stick to it.
It’s no use tackling adoption without a game plan, no matter the size of the organisation. Here are some of the key factors to consider:
Is it a mandatory rollout (for example due to expiring software) or a recommended one? This will dictate your timeline.
What is the scope of adoption? It doesn’t have to cover every feature of the solution. Clearly identify what is in and out of scope.
What are your adoption targets in year 1 and year 2? Be aggressive, get numbers down on paper, and put the onus on the users to deliver them. This will drive you towards success.
Can they do it on their own or do they need training? Consider the parties involved and the variety of training options you may need to make available. Think about the impact on your timeline.
Does it really make sense to onboard everyone at once? Some of the best results come from small, quick wins that prove the success of the solution. This gives you time to identify challenges and overcome them before any damage can be done. Pick a discreet group of enthusiasts to pilot the solution thoroughly and make them feel part of something special. Better yet, overwhelm them with genuine incentives.
Once you’ve agreed to your plan, do your best to work together and see it through. It will almost certainly change and deadlines will move. But if you use it as your anchor to keep you on the straight and narrow, you’re more likely to achieve your adoption goals.
4. Take risks and fail fast.
When video conferencing became the new normal in 2020, we forgave each other (and the tech) immediately for challenges that arose during the course of meetings, and we continue to do so. Whether it’s user error or feature shortfalls, the expectation for virtual meetings is low and a truly smooth experience can be unusual. But we laugh it off, we adapt and we do better next time. If anything, it’s brought us all closer. At Lupl, our bespoke ‘You’re on mute!’ paddles have become a highly sought-after commodity with customers across the globe due to the universal issues that we all continue to face with chatting away to an audience while on mute.
If we took the same attitude with Legal Tech solutions, we’d take up the use of the tools much faster. Project teams tightly control the approach to onboarding for fear of the impact of a poor experience on users and of wasting their time. I don’t blame them – I would too. But if users could be as agile as they have been with video conferencing, they’d be receptive to failures and become part of the growth of the tech and, consequently, of their organisation.
If we all waited until everything was perfect, tried and tested (which, let’s face it, it can’t be – there are too many variables from one organisation to the next), we’d still be using fax. It’s up to lawyers on every side of the fence to take risks, embrace failure, and do better quicker by learning from their experiences. Project teams, particularly Project Sponsors, should encourage their users to put their foot down and fail fast. It’ll pay dividends.
5. Celebrate your successes!
It’s a simple thing that’s often underestimated. When something goes well, tell everyone else about it! Plaster it over your intranet, write it up in a newsletter, take over weekly meetings, put together a video short…spread the good news and encourage those who might be falling behind.
6. Collaborate with your vendor.
If you’re not quite hitting your adoption targets or you’re coming up against challenges, speak to your Vendor. It’s likely that they’ll have ideas and ways to support you. They may even have specialist expertise in-house that could transform your path to adoption. For example, at Lupl we have specialist PMP and Legal Project Management professionals that can provide upskilling workshops to complement our platform.
Furthermore, vendors themselves benefit enormously from hearing about the adoption challenges that users face, as they navigate their never-ending development journey. You’ll be doing each other a service.
Rallying the adoption of Legal Tech is hard. But you can make it so much easier for yourself with an organised strategy, the right team, and a ready usership. It’s tricky enough to get past all the obstacles of procurement when taking on technology. Legal Tech teams must take a positive, forward-thinking, and faster-paced approach to adoption in order to meet the expectations of the market and to realise the vast investment of their time and money more speedily. This includes preparing and persuading lawyers to be involved from the outset and to get their hands a little dirty.
Set yourself up for success right from the beginning and work towards measurable, achievable goals. We know that the users can do it, we have the evidence to prove that now. Empower them, incentivise them and make them responsible for taking on the task of adoption. If it solves a core business need, there’s no longer any need to roll out at a snail’s pace.