There is no shortage of hype surrounding new legal technology. But firms looking to adopt these new technologies are realizing that converting hype into meaningful integration of new tools can be more difficult than expected.
Considering legal is such a competitive industry, you’d think firms would be racing to embrace more efficient and effective approaches made possible by new tech. Yet, according to the 2017 Thomson Reuters Peer Monitor Dynamic Law Firms Study, “dynamic” law firms — those within the top quartile of firms analyzed for compound annual growth, revenue per lawyer and total profit — grew their investment in technology by 3.2%. In the same period, “static” law firms invested a mere 1.2% in technology. Overcoming internal barriers and challenges around investing in technology often centers on buy-in.
To convince stakeholders that investment is worth it, firms must quantifiably demonstrate how legal technology will make processes more cost effective, enhance client services and outcomes, create opportunities to bring in new business, or solve well-known problems.
Ideally, a proposed solution would improve operations in all these areas. And your case for such a solution must be strong enough to get past the “If it’s not broke, why fix it?” mentality that can plague leadership.
IDENTIFYING PAIN POINTS
In articulating an argument for new technology, start by identifying pain points new tools could solve at your firm. While “nice to haves” can be compelling, stakeholders are more likely to dedicate resources to addressing issues that cause actual friction, such as:
- Efficiency: Firms are under constant pressure to be cost-effective and deliver more value to their clients. Whether by improving communications, enhancing transparency or completing routine legal tasks more quickly, technology can alleviate this pain.
- Workload: Supporting your team with tools to help them manage their workload — and improving their sense of work-life balance — can pay dividends with your talent.
- Value: Law firms and lawyers must demonstrate their value to clients not only through legal work, but also their ability to strategically help their client’s business succeed.
- Lack of knowledge: Firms frequently manage based on intuition and soft feedback from staff rather than actual metrics. They understand the bottom line and who billed the most hours at the end of the year, but not which group or person is efficient, overloaded or capable of taking on more work.
- Competition: The Dynamic Law Firms Study found that the largest law firms in the nation are separating from the rest of the pack when it comes to technology. Midsize firms can catch up by evaluating technology that is built specifically for their needs, which can level the playing field with clients.
UNDERSTANDING THE MARKET
Finding a solution that solves an actual problem within your firm requires an understanding of the legal technology marketplace. To start, map out your priorities — the “must haves,” the “should haves” and the features or technologies where “good enough” is acceptable.
A helpful exercise is to compile client feedback, case studies, and intel from your attorneys and staff to use in identifying solutions that satisfy as many stakeholders’ needs as possible.
You will then be able to properly sift through the abundance of legal technology tools to identify the ones that meet your needs. The goal is to check as many boxes as you can. A helpful exercise is to compile client feedback, case studies, and intel from your attorneys and staff to use in identifying solutions that satisfy as many stakeholders’ needs as possible.
BUILDING A BUSINESS CASE
To get the green light on your preferred solution, you must build a business case that shows why your requested spend is legitimate.
Start by mapping out the challenges your firm wants to solve and show how the technology will deliver value through reduced cost, increased efficiency, risk mitigation and value delivered to clients. Compare your return on investment (ROI) to current benchmark metrics and engage your key stakeholders early to understand what they are looking for and how this integrates into your plan.
MAKING NEW TECHNOLOGY A SUCCESS
You’ve spent the time identifying your firm’s pain points and finding a technology solution that will help relieve them. Even after your budget has been authorized, continuing to show value to your stakeholders is critical.
Your ability to invest in technology in the future will be dependent, in part, on the precedent set with previous endeavors. To increase and measure the success of implementing technology in your firm, consider these best practices:
- Measure and demonstrate ROI. When you developed your business case, you demonstrated the value the new technology tool would create. It is important to continue showing that value to prove that the firm’s investment was a good one.
- Invest in new roles. Managing integration of your new technology, maintaining the tool and training your firm’s lawyers can be a daunting task. You should have someone in a legal operations role to manage the deployment and integration with your current processes, documents and technology.
- Train your team and business. Work with your business partner to create a training program and schedule sessions so that everyone knows how to use the new technology and the ways that it will benefit them.
- Take feedback and iterate. Deploying your new technology will inevitably uncover issues. Be sure to develop channels of communication where users can submit questions, feedback and suggestions. Taking user input and exploring how the tool can be improved encourages engagement and may lead to even stronger tools for your firm.
Convincing key stakeholders to buy in to legal technology can seem overwhelming. It is important to identify your firm’s requirements and put together a business case that demonstrates the value a new technology will provide to your firm and its clients. Remember that gaining buy-in is only half the battle; continuing to demonstrate ROI to your decision-makers encourages future investment and eases the process moving forward.