One of my personal highlights attending the Alternative In House Technology Summit 2020 was hearing how firms introduced technology within their practice. In sessions with Rob Booth, Ben Eason and Patrick Fennelly (from three completely different companies), they explained their personal experiences of embedding legal technology within their business. Although described in different words, all three had key questions they asked both themselves and their teams before embarking on a technology shift:

  • Is it desirable for the individuals involved?
  • Does the business care?
  • What is the purpose of this project?

Change management and emotions

The first question above is especially interesting as it forces those involved to consider the emotions involved in a change management project. Rob Booth mentioned how pathos (a quality that evokes pity or sadness) is what is required to get a product over the line, but is often the missed step in (legal) innovation. If you are unable to get under the skin of what your customer (your stakeholders within the business) wants and needs, wonderful products will fall flat.

Language and Culture

Ben Eason expanded on the question "does the business care?" by mentioning the growth of non-lawyers within law firms, which is widening the skill-set. This increase leads to a change in conversation when introducing technology to a business because you are talking to a group, including both lawyers and non-lawyers, that are coming together to solve a problem.

And as Susan Hackett mentioned in a later speech, the language and culture within law firms may require some modernising as the mere use of the term "non-lawyers" shows the arrogance of the industry.

"We do not refer to the world as doctors and non-doctors, why do we in the context of a law firm?" 

Ben also went on to explain that starting with a problem, rather than just a piece of technology, is also fundamental in getting user adoption. Technology is a tool, not the solution. Therefore, getting the basics right and resisting the urge of going for shiny toys will ensure you choose the correct product/provider for you.

Problem before solution

This is exactly what Patrick Fennelly did with his team to ensure optimal legal outcomes at the best possible value, both monetary but also in regards to the problem solved. Once the problem was identified, they ensured they chose a vendor (after making some mistakes) that took ownership and supported them every step of the way making their journey much more enjoyable and the benefits far greater.

All in this together?

As all the above speakers shared, there are challenges to introducing technology but by ensuring you take a systematic approach and not missing out key steps such as including the right people at the right time in the process, including the lawyers with you on the journey will hopefully shift their attitude. 

By using some of the methods mentioned above, I hope that by the next Alternative Summit the answers to the below question will be totally different!

Lawyers often get an unfair reputation with technology – they just need to be taken on the journey with you!