Enabling a successful legal tech rollout
Jenny Hotchin argues understanding how lawyers actually work is an essential prerequisite of a successful legal tech rollout
Let’s get something out of the way up front: lawyers, generally speaking, don’t care about legal tech.
They care about the matters they’re working on and the clients they’re serving; they care about the thorny issues they’re navigating, the counsel they’re giving, the documents they’re drafting or reviewing, and the deadlines they’re up against. They care about getting home at the end of the night at a reasonable hour.
For the most part, a new legal tech product or solution is not at the top of their list of priorities.
Given this relatively common sentiment, how can leaders at law firms ensure the successful launch of a new legal tech solution across their own teams and groups? Fortunately, all it takes is a few careful considerations – all of which foreground the needs of the lawyers themselves and set the firm up for success.
Solution in search of a problem?
One of the first steps any firm needs to take is to understand why they’re deploying a new technology. After all, technology in and of itself is not a goal for anybody. It's the business outcomes that technology enables that are the goal, whether that’s greater productivity, enhanced profitability, improved collaboration, faster response times, or some other result.
As part of clarifying what they’re trying to achieve, firms should remember to validate the problem they’re aiming to address with the actual users – i.e., the lawyers.
This might sound like common sense, but quite often, momentum for a new legal tech project will build, budgets will be scoped, and teams will be assembled before anyone has talked to the lawyers to validate the solution is actually a good idea. The lawyers will be the ones in a position to say “Yes, this proposed legal tech solution solving problem X would be very valuable” or “No, deploying our resources elsewhere would actually be more useful to us.” In this way, organisations can ensure they’re tackling a problem that’s actually worth solving.
No big bangs
Once a firm has clarified its goal and validated the problem, it should decide how its going to roll out the technology. There are a couple different approaches here, but once again, it pays to keep the lawyers in mind for best results.
Rather than launching across the entire firm at once, the recommendation here is to start with one team in one jurisdiction, get that team up and running, and prove the use case. Then, the firm should talk to other teams and other jurisdictions about the positive impact the technology has had with that initial team.
It’s one thing for a project manager or IT manager inside the firm to say legal tech product X is the greatest thing since sliced bread – it’s quite another for a lawyer to say it. Lawyers listen to other lawyers, and if the deployment goes well and drives better outcomes for one team, the firm will much more easily be able to roll it out to another team and scale the technology out.
Another advantage to not taking a ‘big bang’ approach is the feedback loop is much tighter when a firm does a smaller pilot or proof of concept. No matter how much preparation and hard work a firm might have done in the problem-finding and solution-designing phases, there will be unanticipated issues that come up in the early stages of implementing a solution. The ability to be agile and quickly act upon the feedback from the initial group of lawyers can be the difference between a product rollout with momentum and one that struggles for adoption.
Clear communication counts
No discussion of a rollout is complete without a discussion around communication. Simply put, firms need to figure out the best way to communicate the value around a new solution when they launch it.
It’s instructive here to look at an example of an ineffective communication strategy. Consider the following: “Dear lawyers: We’ve deployed a new, cutting-edge, AI-powered blockchain automation technology. Have at it.”
Aside from the multitude of jargon and vagueness on display here, the biggest communication error is the fact it doesn't say what the solution does or how it makes lawyers’ lives easier.
As a matter of course, firms should explain in very clear terms what the product is, how it can help lawyers, and how they can start using it
Take an instant messaging tool like Teams or Slack, for example. Instead of saying “We have rolled out Teams/Slack. It is now available for you to use”, an even better approach would be to say, “We know you hate dealing with flooded email inboxes. We now have a tool that lets you communicate with people quicker than ever without cluttering your inbox. Click here to use it.” The lawyer is left with no doubt as to how this technology can help them, and they have an action point that puts them on their way to successfully using it.
Metrics and measurement
Once the solution is in use, how should firms go about measuring success and what should they focus on? As the saying goes, not everything that matters can be measured, and not everything that can be measured, matters.
Success on this front goes back to the very first point about validating the problem. If a firm has done the work of talking to “the doers” – the lawyers, the trainees, the paralegals, and the people in charge of a specific task or workflow within the firm – from the very beginning, then they’ll have a clear bead not just on the problem that is being fixed, but also on what success should look like.
In addition to hard metrics, this measurement effort will likely involve soft metrics. What is the value that is being delivered? Thinking about the value from all angles – for example, the absence or avoidance of a particular problem on a daily basis can be a metric in itself – will provide plenty of fodder for measurement and tracking.
Don’t forget the ‘small stuff’
With all the excitement around rolling out a new legal tech solution, it can be easy to lose sight of more mundane factors: for instance, once it’s live, how does ongoing support for that product work?
Again, it pays to keep lawyers in mind here. As an example, if a firm has just rolled out a new e-signature tool, lawyers’ questions might not solely be limited to technical questions like how to get started with the application or how to insert a signature into a PDF. They might want to know if an e-signature would be legally valid for whatever deal or transaction they’re working on. Or, in the case of a tool like Teams or Slack, they might want to know whether or not they’ll be violating any data protection or security requirements if they store client files or communications within it.
In this case, the firm will need an overlay of advice which looks at the context within which the tool is used to go with the more traditional IT support, which will require upskilling the support desk team. The lesson here is with some of the more modern tools, it’s really important to understand the context in which any product questions will arise – and that can only be achieved through a full understanding of how the lawyers work.
Success starts with understanding
If a firm thinks they can buy a piece of tech, chuck it over the fence to the lawyers, and call it a day, they’re sadly mistaken – and they will have very limited success in actually getting value out of the technology they’re buying. By keying into the needs of their lawyers and the way they work, however, they’ll be well on their way to a successful legal tech rollout that will drive better results for the firm on an ongoing basis.
Jenny Hotchin is legal practice lead at iManage imanage.com