Promoting legal technology adoption in a law firm is part science, part art. That might well be the overall lesson from the "Successful Law Firm Adoption Stories" session at the Litera Changing Lawyer Summit. The panel traded stories – mostly success stories, some "lessons learned" – about their experiences as IT professionals promoting the use of technology to reach law firm goals.
Matt James, Vice President, Drafting Go-to-Market at Litera, moderated the session. The other panelists were Mary Nehring, former Application Support Analyst at Robinson Bradshaw, currently Professional Services Consultant at Ivanti, and Rick Thompson, CIO at McAfee & Taft, and former IT consultant to law firms.
James began the conversation with some relevant data points. He cited a recent Wolters Kluwer survey that showed 76% of lawyers believe technology is a key concern, while only 28% consider their organizations ready for it. Another report, the Bloomberg Law Legal Technology 2020 Survey, showed that the pandemic might be having a positive effect on technology adoption. Before the pandemic, 40% of respondents thought their leadership was open to legal technologies, but by the time of the most recent post-pandemic survey, 54% thought so.
While that data shows that not all lawyers are necessarily on board with technology, Nehring and Thompson provided ample evidence from their experience that there are standard methods to encourage tech adoption and ensure the success of technology implementations. Here are some of the essential themes of the conversation:
The Pandemic Had a Positive Effect on Technology Training
After the pandemic struck, reported Nehring, her firm was suddenly able to get more lawyers into tech training. She also noticed that there were multiple reasons for the change. One was that it's more convenient to hop onto a Zoom session, where all training was moved, than it would have been to make the trip to the training room at the firm's offices. Thompson noticed a similar willingness to go to training. Still, he also attributed it to the fact that lawyers were suddenly dependent on technology and had to figure it out themselves because support staff wasn't available next door to help. This had multiple positive effects, in that it taught the lawyers how dependent they were on technology, but it also changed the work of IT staff from "putting out fires" to preventing fires in the first place.
Get Lawyers to Buy into the Solution
Thompson recounted a recent initiative at his firm called the Technology Modernization Initiative. This was a comprehensive overhaul of the firm's operating system and every application. It touched every practice group in the firm. The success here came precisely because of that comprehensiveness; Thompson saw it as an opportunity to get in front of all the lawyers in the firm and get to the bottom of exactly how each of them thought that technology might support their work. The success here was in the reaction to this approach: one of the partners said that this was the first time in 30 years that someone from IT had come to them and asked questions about how they could help support their business and practice, rather than coming to them with mandated new software applications.
Nehring also emphasized the role that champions can play in building toward success. A new attorney had joined her firm and wanted to continue to use a Litera product that he had used at his previous firm. Nehring's team partnered with the lawyer, who acted as a champion and eagerly shared the benefits of working with the product, convincing many of them that they wanted it. This greased the wheels for the rollout, which has been successful since then.
In both examples, the key was engaging the lawyers in the solution rather than imposing new tools from above.
Let the Metrics Lead the Way
Nehring emphasized using metrics to understand the impact of tech adoption efforts. She gave an example of a product that provided her team with regular usage data, and she could see that the product was being used much less than anticipated. The data was helpful for the training team, which focused efforts on that product with tips, posts, and videos. The targeted training had an impact, and today she can show how usage has improved – helpful information when IT leadership asks questions about how well the firm's investments in technology are performing.
Another example was data on how long it took staff to perform specific tasks. She gave an example of a task that went from 8 hours to 55 minutes with the support of technology. And the users are starting to realize that the time savings gives them more time to get more work done in the same amount of time and are better able to meet budgets.
Thompson noted that quality of life issues play into this efficiency argument. "I see more interest in lawyers wanting to have a life. They want to be home for dinner with the family. They want to go to Billy's baseball game and Susie's recital." The efficiency argument is starting to make sense to more lawyers, and metrics play an important role in supporting choices on working more effectively.
Motivations: FOMO and Competition
Nehring pointed out that many lawyers pay attention to their peers and how they do their work. If someone is using a slick new tool, it can attract attention, which can be leveraged. It's the FOMO factor – Fear of Missing Out.
Thompson cited competition as a driving factor as well. Some will go out of their way to show off a new tool or process that benefits them. This leads to a sort of arms race to keep up with peers on acquiring the latest. And it doesn't take much to encourage that sort of creative competition. He mentioned a cybersecurity awareness exercise at his firm that caught on because the lawyers became pretty excited about winning gift cards and other prizes in return for their participation.
This Summit session was peppered with examples of how to drive technology adoption with practical steps, a little psychology, and some science in the form of metrics. There is no magic bullet, but firms can employ an array of techniques and strategies to keep lawyers engaged in technology decisions and drive usage and firm-wide benefits.
Posted in The Changing Lawyer