Legal tech disruption: Doing it on purpose

Katie Walter

Everyone is talking about disruption in the legal industry - from the death of the billable hour to robot lawyers. Leaders are facing weighty issues that demand long-term, visionary thinking and that will change the way legal professionals do their jobs.

With 80 percent of legal departments having staff dedicated to legal department operations, legal leaders are sure to field more and more requests for systems that can make those operations better. How can you prepare for a tech or process change so that people come along with you, rather than living in constant fire drill and clean up mode? 

Follow an established roadmap

A legal technology roadmap is a plan that identifies the specifics of how technology can support the legal business strategy and priorities over time. It typically provides a three-year look and ensures that technology upgrades are strategic and implemented thoughtfully.

This roadmap helps leaders like you secure financial and technical support from the business, as you can demonstrate that new systems fit into a larger plan that aligns with business goals. Create the strategy up front and bring people back to it each time you implement another element of it. That way they’ll have an easier time understanding what you’re asking for and how they can support it.

Sell the problem before the solution

Contracts take three days to process rather than one. Marketing materials take six rounds of revisions when they could take two. RFP responses take two weeks rather than two days. The business feels this pain as much as your team does. When you talk to stakeholders and your team about changes be sure to remind them of the problem, or disruption, you’re solving.

Get buy-in from senior leaders and stakeholders

Getting senior leaders and stakeholders on board was part of the roadmap process. You sold them on the problems, how your vision solves business problems, and why the tech investment is worthwhile.

You’ll repeat this step each time you move ahead on the technology roadmap. Your colleagues and leaders are busy, and they forget what you’re marching after. They need context for new processes and expenditures.

As you undertake a system or process change, you can help minimize disruption by grounding your requests and release plans in the problems you’re solving and your strategies for improving the inefficiencies.

Run a pilot program before making a full switch

Having a vision for your changes and buy in for the problem and solution will help smooth the way. But the change itself needs to be managed to be sure the training is sufficient, and the system will be used effectively. Don’t rush through this. Identify a small group of people to test the new system or process. Involve all roles that touch the process. Aim to identify friction points or possible disruptions in the system and in training and onboarding.

“It is very important to respect the amount of administrative work required to make technology work,” says Ron Masciantonio, general counsel at Five Below Inc.  Masciantonio has been focused on using technology and better processes to address matter intake and management of real estate deals. “Without active management technology can quickly become ‘just another process’ instead of an enabler of excellence, which is what we need technology to be.”

Steve Ball, founder and general counsel Boost Legal adds: “Never forget, the people and processes are critical too, and potentially the harder parts to get right if you want to secure adoption and lasting change.”

Deliver the new system thoughtfully

Now you can bring the system to the whole department with confidence. You won’t be able to anticipate all the potential challenges with your new system. But with a thoughtful rollout plan that includes buy in from stakeholders, early communication to the whole team, and a training plan that reflects the learnings from a small group of pilot users and early adopters, you can anticipate most hurdles. From there, you can create enough flexibility in your rollout and reinforcement plan to adjust as you go.

Legal industry disruption often involves necessary change that makes things better in the long run, not worse.  Implementing disruptive legal tech in your law department team should not cause more problems than it solves. While there will inevitably be bumps and challenges with a rollout, good strategy, planning and communication can ensure it’s considered a win in the long run.

Learn more about law department technology roadmaps in our whitepaper.

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