How to adopt new technology for your law firm

Tuesday 10 October, 2023

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If you want your law firm to be more efficient, productive, and compliant, then there may be technology that will make that transformation easier.

However, what should you be considering, how do you use it best, and how do you know it’s working when you have it?

Here are six principles to follow if you’re adopting new technology for your firm:

      1. Don’t fall for fads
      2. Set your goals
      3. Make cultural change
      4. Collaborate, don’t impose
      5. Keep an open mind
      6. Assess, measure, and experiment

Don’t fall for fads

Is the next big thing really the next big thing? Even if it is, is it right for your firm?

You don’t have to go far online or on LinkedIn to find some very exciting predictions about emerging technology and how it is going to change the professional landscape. Or, there are out-of-hand dismissals that turn out to be somewhat misguided.

The Metaverse, for example, was set to change not just how we work, but how we live. It looks increasingly like that’s not to be. The Internet, on the other hand, was waved away by some experts as a ‘fad’.

How do you know what’s worth your time and what is not?

One approach would be to wait for the early adopters. There are always those who are willing to bet on a new technology, and in doing so they provide the use cases that others can base their decisions on.

Alternatively (or additionally), look critically at the technology on offer. First, can you explain what it is and what it does? If you can explain it well, then can you sell it to yourself as if it were your product? Apply it to the problems you have, and forecast what it would change. You’ll come away with a clear answer as to whether this is the technology for you.

If you don’t really understand the technology, then you might be buying into the hype, rather than the tangible benefits for the firm.

Set your goals

How will you know your technology is working?

When you’ve chosen your technology, the only way you’ll truly know if it’s doing what you want it to do is if you can measure it against specific, clear, and measurable goals.

If your goal is extra productivity, then you might choose a percentage increase of billable hours in a quarter, six months, or a year, without an increase in working hours. You can break that down further by department or by individual fee-earner, perhaps giving each one a bespoke goal.

Without that objective yardstick, success will be measured by anecdotes and sentiments, which are completely unreliable and cannot express the return on your investment.

Make cultural change

Technology is not a silver bullet. It enables change — it doesn’t create it.

There are no technological solutions to cultural problems. Bad habits will survive whatever new programmes you invest in, unless you address them as well.

To do that, you need to get to the bottom of why those habits exist in the first place. It might be that people simply think the way they do things is how they’re supposed to. It might be that they’re nervous to do things differently. It could even be laziness. Once you know, you need to work with your team to find out what will help them change.

Collaborate, don’t impose

Tools rely on people’s ability and willingness to use them. You need firm-wide buy-in.

Rather than telling everyone, ‘This is what you’re using, and here’s how to use it’, present them with the system, ask for their opinions, address any concerns, and listen to any feedback.

Some people will find new technology intimidating, some will instinctively feel hostile towards it, and some will embrace it. Training and education should run in both directions, so that you can properly help those who need it, and engage those who are sceptical.

Respect everyone’s input before, during, and after implementation, and you will find the adoption process much smoother.

Keep an open mind

If your technology isn’t working for you, don’t be too proud to accept that.

The sunk cost fallacy leads us to believe that if we’ve invested in something, we have to make it work, or we have wasted our resources. It’s understandable, but it’s a greater waste of resources to continue using something that doesn’t work.

Humility is vital when implementing new technology. Having argued for a piece of technology, and possibly vehemently disagreed with some colleagues, it can feel nearly impossible to accept that you have made the wrong choice. That’s why a collaborative decision is so valuable, and why objective goals are imperative.

Assess, measure, experiment

If it isn’t working, why not? If it is working, why?

Having set your goals, you have what you need to decide if your new technology is a success. However, it’s not an immediate yes or no answer.

Some parts may work well, others less so. Some teams may be enjoying the new system, others may not be. Some features may not be relevant, and some may be unexpectedly useful. Experimentation allows you to tweak programs and how you use them, and if you encourage a spirit of experimentation, then you have a meaningful picture of how your technology is working, and you can make sure you use its full potential.

Want to hear how other practice managers choose, use, and measure technology? Join the conversation on the Practice Managers’ LinkedIn Page.