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SUMMER 2015 EDITION

Forefront
 

The One Word That Will Define the Future of Legal Tech

In industry conversations, we often talk about “how much legal has changed” over the past decade. However, I’ve come to realize that it’s not so much a change, as it is a shift that has transformed our industry in recent years.

There is a series of events and changes that has led to this shift. When summed up into one word it looks like this: Engagement.

Why engagement? Engagement is the root of success in the modern law firm. Whether technologically or behaviorally speaking, engagement serves as both the input and the output. Increasing engagement within the firm yields higher levels of lawyer accuracy and productivity, while firms with higher levels of overall employee engagement (read: happy lawyers, who can argue with that?) experience less attrition and better performance than those with less. Read on to learn why engagement plays such an important role in the success of a firm and how you can leverage lawyer engagement to your advantage.

Why Engagement Has Taken Center Stage in Legal

Before we understand what engagement means to a law firm, we need to frame it within the context of technology. What has really happened in legal technology over the past 10 years is that the impossible has become possible: mobility has removed the barriers that used to leave lawyers chained to their desks, burning the midnight oil. Therefore, lawyers have changed the way they work (not the other way around), and additional innovations stepped in to make this process easier.

In his recent whitepaper titled, Systems of Engagement and the Future of Enterprise IT: A Sea Change in Enterprise,” Geoffrey Moore discusses how this transformation has taken place across industries and verticals. He says, “Influence and change have shifted from a top down approach to a bottom up approach. It is happening across all industries and environments.

What is transpiring is momentous, nothing less than the planet wiring itself a new nervous system. If your organization is not linked into this nervous system, you will be hard pressed to participate in the planet’s future. To be more specific, amidst the texting and Twittering and Facebooking of a generation of digital natives, the fundamentals of next-generation communication and collaboration are being worked out. For them, it is clear, there is no going back. So at minimum, if you expect these folks to be your customers, your employees, and your citizens (and, frankly, where else could you look?), then you need to apply THEIR expectations to the next generation of enterprise IT systems. But of far more immediate importance is how much productivity gains businesses and governments are leaving on the table by not following the next generation’s lead.”

While Moore’s piece refers to the need to bridge the gap between the way that we now work and the legacy systems that support us, I’d like to shift the conversation to the importance of engagement when driving technology adoption.

At this point, lawyers are now empowered to work the way they want to work, anywhere, and from any device. The modern law firm is no longer limited by the level of technology available, but instead, the willingness and openness of lawyers to embrace the latest technology.

Change is hard. We all know this. Therefore, the big job for the modern law firm is not necessarily how to implement technology, but how to drive technology adoption within the organization. The aaS model has removed the burden from resourced-taxed IT departments, leaving administrators wrestling with the challenge of “we have access to all of the technology we need, but how do we get people to use it.”

The New Normal: Never Launch a New Technology without an Engagement Strategy

When introducing new technology into the firm, there is a tendency to spend a lot of time on vendor selection and implementation planning. Both are important, however the fact of the matter is that choosing and implementing a technology is far easier than getting lawyers to adopt it in today’s legal environment. Yet, the concept of employee engagement is often overlooked and underestimated in today’s firms. Although engagement seems like something that makes total sense, it is something that is complex to execute. In order for lawyers to actively embrace new technology and firms to reap the benefits, there must be a strategy in place before a decision is made to implement a technology.

In most cases, there is no strategy, but rather an approach that goes a little something like this:

  • Step 1: Launch technology
  • Step 2: Wait   
  • Step 3: Make it a policy to use technology
  • Step 4: Wait

Today’s savvy firms are delicately crafting an engagement strategy before they launch in order to successfully drive technology adoption.

Rules of Engagement: Key Considerations of a Winning Engagement Strategy

Before deploying any new solution, it is important for administrators to have a deep understanding of what drives engagement in the modern law firm. Based on our experience working with top firms in the industry, we’ve found that understanding the following will give you an edge:

Lawyers’ usability: less is more

Long gone are the days of the multiple buttons. To successfully engage in any technology, users look for ease of use. If lawyers struggle to understand how to use a piece of technology, it is dead before arrival.

Technology must follow the 20-second rule

The less effort it takes to get started, the more likely the lawyers will take the initial steps to adopt new technology. In fact, the app should be so simple that it takes minimal effort for the user to do what it needs to do. The technology needs to be easy to use and free of noise. It all goes to the Activation Energy principle in order to embrace new habits, and that includes technology. It should take 20-seconds to get started on any new technology. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer calls it the “2 Tap Rule,” which mandates that the user have the ability to accomplish everything that it needs to do through an app using only “2 taps.”

Know that rolling out the technology is just the beginning

Contrary to conventional thinking, completing the implementation of a technology is just the beginning of your engagement effort. You are far from being finished, but rather, you are just getting started. You must carefully design a plan that will help you measure success (or failure). Your plan should include the opportunity to set clear and realistic goals about adoption, measure the results, and seek feedback from lawyers.

Leverage the nature of the lawyers

There are certain traits and tendencies that most lawyers possess. One of those traits is competitiveness. You can use this to your advantage when driving technology adoption by getting early buy-in from key influencers within the firm and offering an incentive program based on “winners.”

Don’t lose sight of your sales pitch

Policies often fail despite a “rule” being in place. Lawyers know better than anyone that just because a written rule exists, it does not mean that it will be followed. Remember, that in this situation, the users (the lawyers) are your internal customers. Don’t hesitate to sell the importance of the technology to them in terms of their needs.

Find out what lawyers really need

There are the needs of the firm and then there are the needs of the lawyers. Before you move forward in identifying possible technology solutions, gain a deep understand of what the lawyers are struggling with and how a proposed technology solution could make their lives easier. While a solution might provide the firm with what it needs, technology adoption is unrealistic if it doesn’t assist in the productivity or effectiveness of the lawyers in a way that is realistic to manage.

There is no engagement without the right experience

Focus on the experience of the lawyers, providing ways for them to execute on the firm’s goals within the framework of how they already work. In another post written by Geoffrey Moore on LinkedIn, he said, “Human beings are predisposed to engage, provided it is on their terms with no strings attached. That is what keeps YouTube and Facebook in business.”


Bellefield

Bellefield is committed to helping lawyers improve their work lives by developing innovative and intuitive applications that solve real-world challenges. Bellefield does this by identifying a problem, evaluating it from many different perspectives, and working tirelessly to create the best possible solution. Bellefield's flagship product iTimeKeep ranks #1 as the most adopted Mobile Time Entry solution for lawyers. Founded by software veterans Gabriela Isturiz, Daniel Garcia, and John Kuntz, Bellefield is an independent, privately held company headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Click here for more information.

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