Following the insightful panel – Legal Operations: The Uphill Battle of Change Management: Implementing Technology to Optimise the Modern-Day Legal Department – at The General Counsel Summit in Sydney, Australia, moderator Sacha Kirk continues her conversation on successful change management in implementing new legal technology.
Traditionally perceived as resistant to change, the legal profession has rapidly evolved in recent years. In an era where technology is reshaping industries worldwide, it’s clear that even the most deeply established sectors are not impervious. Law firms and in-house legal departments are increasingly embracing legal technology solutions, encompassing everything from matter management to AI-driven tools for legal research.
However, introducing new technology is about more than just the software itself. It involves a holistic change management process to ensure seamless adoption and effective utilisation.
The imperative of change management
Change is challenging, especially in a domain like law, which is deeply rooted in precedent and tradition. Legal professionals may feel that new technology threatens their conventional work processes or the value of their expertise. Further, lawyers are time-poor, and many have a limited capacity or bandwidth for new projects. Understanding and overcoming resistance and operational challenges demands a structured approach to change management.
Start with a clear vision
Before you even begin the process of implementing new technology, clarify the reasons behind the change:
- Understand the need: Why are you introducing this new technology? Is it to improve efficiency, increase accuracy, or manage risk?
- Envision the outcome: How will the daily work process change once this technology is implemented? What will success look like?
A clear vision will act as your North Star, guiding you throughout the implementation process and serving as a point of reference when faced with challenges. It can also be the measure of success when the project is completed.
Engage key stakeholders early
Every successful change management strategy hinges on involving the people affected by the change:
- Garner executive management support: An executive sponsor is crucial for the success of any change initiative. They are ultimately responsible for the success and failure of the project and will be pivotal in influencing other stakeholders and navigating roadblocks.
- Identify change champions: These individuals can influence their peers and are receptive to the new technology. Engage them early, so they can play an integral role in advocating for the technology and addressing concerns.
- Seek feedback: Before finalising the selection of a technology solution, gather input from potential end-users. By incorporating their feedback, you’ll select a product better tailored to your organisation’s needs and foster a sense of ownership among stakeholders.
Offer comprehensive training
Even the most advanced legal tech solution will fail if no one knows how to use it.:
- Seek out simple-to-use technology: Look for solutions that are easy to navigate, can be configured to meet your organisation’s unique needs and ways of working, and have an intuitive interface.
- Customised training sessions: Different roles might use the technology differently. An in-house lawyer’s interaction with a matter management system could differ from the General Counsel. Ensure training modules are tailored to specific user needs.
- Consider different learning styles: Check in with the users during and after training to make sure they have grasped the concept and offer further help if they require it. Also, consider providing training videos on-demand and drop-in sessions.
- Continuous learning opportunities: As users become familiar with the technology, they might discover advanced features, or new questions might arise. Offer follow-up sessions to support ongoing learning and gather feedback.
Communicate transparently and regularly
Open communication is a cornerstone of effective change management:
- Set expectations: Communicate what changes will occur, when, and what support will be available.
- Address concerns: Create formal communication channels, like Q&A sessions, where team members can voice their concerns or seek clarification.
- Celebrate milestones: Recognising and celebrating small victories can boost morale and help sustain momentum. Be sure to build in and plan for small wins in the early stages and find ways to communicate these.
Monitor and adjust
The implementation of legal tech is not a one-time event but a non-linear process:
- Have a plan: Provide the timelines and expectations to team members. Ensure that these are realistic and that the team has the scope to manage the extra tasks required.
- Feedback loops: Regularly solicit feedback from users. This will help you identify any pain points or edge cases (scenarios that were not planned for but need to be managed) and address them proactively.
- Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): Set measurable goals for the technology implementation. Monitor these KPIs to assess the technology’s impact and areas for improvement.
- Add value: Ensure you stay up to date with new functionality or features that could further enhance your operations and can provide more value to the organisation. Consider how adjacent functions or teams could also benefit from the technology.
Cultivate a culture of adaptability
Ultimately, the success of any technology is reliant on the people using it:
- Emphasise growth mindset: Foster a culture where adaptability and continuous learning are valued. Remind teams that mastering new tools and techniques is an important competency and skill set.
- Reward adaptability: Recognise and reward individuals and teams who are early adopters or who leverage the new technology in innovative ways.
- Act fast: Be aware that challenges will arise, and you will learn what works and what doesn’t for your business. Be prepared to pivot as required, but always keep the forward momentum.
Integrating technology into the legal function is not a matter of if but when. As the legal industry continues its inexorable march towards digitisation and automation, the ability to manage change effectively will differentiate successful firms and in-house departments from the rest.
Remember, at the heart of every technology is to augment human capabilities, not replace them. By effectively managing change, communicating transparently with stakeholders, and driving technology adoption with empathy and clarity, legal professionals can harness the full power of technological advancements, enhancing their service delivery and value proposition.