Driving adoption of new technology and new processes continues to be a significant challenge in law firms and corporate legal departments. Even though it's clear that a new system will markedly improve the way a lawyer works, increasing their efficiency and productivity, it can be difficult to get billing lawyers to pause for long enough to learn how to use the new technology and integrate it within their workflows.
Firms and legal departments are responding to this challenge by hiring professionals internally whose responsibilities include change management and adoption, or by bringing in external consultants to support change management and adoption efforts around a specific project. To shine a light on tried and true methodologies for driving adoption, we went out to speak with experts and have collected their top tips for addressing this challenge. This is the second piece in our series of Adoption Best Practices. The first part can be found here.
Adam Curphey, Senior Innovation Manager at Mayer Brown
Two things are vital for adoption: context and the “what’s in it for me” consideration. Context-wise, you need to show that the tool solves a problem in the exact practice/area of your intended user. If I had a dollar for every time a lawyer has said they support an innovation but can’t see how it applies to their practice, I would have…er…about fifty dollars. Contextualization is key. The “what’s in it for me” problem is trickier, but make sure you are selling the relevant advantages to the right people. A lawyer incentivized to work more hours might not want a time-saving solution, while a junior lawyer might not care about a tool that increases revenue if it makes their lives harder. What excites you about a solution is not necessarily what excites your intended user. In short, show your intended users how your solution works for them.
Sam Spivack, Managing Director at BRYTER
Taking adoption as a day by day piecemeal approach and not trying to solve everything at once is crucial. Your team should definitely have a grander plan, but you should start with honing on the specific pain point and then focus the adoption process around that. This means you need to really understand what you want to accomplish and the end goal. Don’t start with what this solution will do for the firm in five to ten years. Instead, consider the most immediate pain point you want to solve within the organization. This generally means there are key metrics and KPIs to assess against, which in turn will help build the business case. Moreover, vendors should be seen as partners in this process. The best technology companies invest in the support and consulting of their companies to really become a part of the team.
Patrick Dundas, Special Counsel at Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP
If I had to give this one adoption tip it would be to continue bringing the product to the front of the minds of the expected users. It's a marathon, not a sprint, so KM needs to press the flesh and continue trying to get face time with the attorneys. Although adoption can occur when the product is launched, it's constant, especially in a quick turnaround environment like law firms. There are many market offerings for proofreading documents, for example, that use AI to identify little proofreading edits, such as finding defined terms that aren't defined, or inconsistencies in a document. We’ve had about twenty different versions of this product in the past twenty years, but every two years, a significant portion of our workforce is replaced. As soon as one generation is trained, another generation comes. It's not uncommon when I'm talking to someone that they have no idea these tools exist. Adoption is a constant process of training. Hopefully, most firms have a dedicated training department where it is their mission to support adoption over the long term. When it comes to knowledge management and new tech, success often boils down to keeping a very open and consistent line of communication where you are continually asking people about their challenges in their practice area. Oftentimes, they'll mention things that we already have solutions for.
Jason Dirkx, Director of Practice Innovation and Technology Solutions at Paul Hastings
Involving the stakeholders, or the attorney using the tool, in the procurement process as early as possible helps with adoption as they become champions for the product. This gives stakeholders the opportunity to see the technology capabilities from early on and have ownership in the decision to move forward with a pilot. This makes the stakeholders much more invested in seeing the partnership succeed and they become active champions within the organization.
Adam Dedynski, Knowledge & Development Professional Support Lawyer at White & Case LLP
Communication, communication, communication. Lawyers are inundated with information so you need to make sure that any communication about your new KM technology or process is well crafted, timely, targeted, uses the best or mixed channels, and is appropriately repeated. Always remember your audience, as it needs to be very clear from the outset: “what’s in it for them?”.
Are you a knowledge management or legal innovation expert or a legal tech vendor with ideas on adoption? Submit your best adoption tip to firstname.lastname@example.org for an opportunity to have your tip featured!