When it comes time to introduce matter management or other in-house legal software to your team, a thoughtful rollout is key. The most well-researched and well-intentioned software deployment can be derailed if it is done without taking into account the most important (and sometimes unpredictable) factor: the human users.
Consider the findings of a recent survey by the International Legal Technology Association, which asked IT professionals in the industry to identify their major troubles. The top two, acceptance of change and management of expectations, came in at 38 and 31 percent – beating out security risks (27 percent) and keeping up with innovations in technology (27 percent).
In other words, managing the people aspect of technology can be harder than managing the technology itself.
While the rewards of a legal matter management system are myriad, from visibility to reporting to intake, these will be rendered moot if the software’s implementation is met with low enthusiasm, inconsistent adoption or outright insurrection.
How can you maximize the potential of your legal matter management software? It’s time to shift your focus from the product to the people.
Address the Two Critical Factors
Indeed, the Standish Group, an independent international IT research firm, studies 50,000 technology projects every year. Through this analysis, the organization identified the two factors most likely to affect the likelihood of success: executive management support and user involvement.
These human factors far outrank more technical concerns; indeed, executive management support and user involvement are 20 and 15 times more important, respectively, than “tools and infrastructure.”
Why? Because humans will install and use the technology….and ultimately determine its fate.
Here’s how to apply these success factors to your in-house legal department software:
Executive Management Support. Appoint a “sponsor, a leader who champions the rollout and takes responsibility for its outcome. Ideally, this would be the general counsel, chief legal officer, director of legal operations or another position of visibility and respect.
Deploy your sponsor strategically:
- Ask the sponsor to articulate to the Legal Department (and to other stakeholders, such as IT and Finance) the vision for the legal management software and how it mitigates pain and stress. This will help recruit supporters (and likely quiet detractors).
- Provide your sponsor with project milestones, so you can show incremental progress. Establish those milestones – installation, rollout, adoption, et cetera; keep your sponsor updated; and ask them to report accomplishments to your stakeholders.
- Celebrate success. When your incremental goals are achieved, the sponsor should provide praise, and, if possible, rewards.
User Involvement. Start by identifying all users of your online legal workspace and outline the project’s potential value to them. Don’t forget about business clients who may not be primary users, but may encounter new processes, interfaces, or reports. If your new matter management system includes Legal Intake and Triage, for instance, the ways in which business clients request help will change significantly; anticipate questions and concerns.
It is persuasive to address the different types of benefits users can expect. Writing for Medium, legal industry consultant Sam Duncan recommended three layers:
- Economic benefits: how the software can save money and create a competitive advantage;
- Productivity benefits: how much time lawyers and business units will save; and
- Individual benefits: how the technology can help people advance in their careers and achieve better work lives.
If you have a small Legal Department, you can engage the entire team. For larger groups, consider a focus group that comprises representatives of different job types, locations and technology comfort levels. Either way, bring users along with you to cultivate belonging and ownership:
- Explain the project. Provide some assurance that you understand the users’ needs and concerns. Explain the rationale behind the project and its role in the bigger picture of your Legal Department and your organization.
- Share the “stepping stones” that will take the project to completion. Meeting milestones allows users to see progress, which keeps them motivated to continue.
- Cultivate an evangelist or two. While executive sponsorship is important, cynics may be more influenced by an enthusiastic peer in the trenches.
Remember It’s Not Personal
When you have invested time, energy and personal credibility into the success of a software project, it is natural to have an emotional investment as well.
Acknowledge there may be a stumble or two, no matter how well-planned and well-executed the rollout. Technology is technology, and people are people.
And many of your people happen to be lawyers, too – individuals who have been shown to be 90 percent more skeptical than the general public. The same psychological study found lawyers to have significantly higher needs for autonomy and urgency.
Knowing this, you can “lawyer-proof” your rollout by anticipating their concerns. Combat skepticism with precedent; show case studies of Legal Departments similar to yours that have adopted the legal tech successfully. Accommodate a sense of urgency by frontloading some quick wins into your implementation plan – and keep training short and direct. Finally, balance your need for uniform adoption with the lawyers’ need for autonomy by showing different options for execution and workspace customizations.
The Legal Departments who implement modern matter management with a plan and a purpose – and, perhaps, a sense of humor – will be well-positioned to reap the rewards in short order.