They say no prophet is accepted in their own country. If you’ve ever advocated for something new in your firm, you might have felt that first-hand. It’s not at all unusual for people to resist changing the way things are done — better the devil you know, after all. However, if you know that the change needs to happen and that the status quo is holding the practice back, you need to win people over.
Here’s how to win the buy-in of your law firm, turn resistance to enthusiasm, and turn sceptics into advocates for new platforms, systems, software, and practices.
There are few places you’ll find more negative emotion than the subject of timesheets. Everyone hates them. They’re as awful as they are essential, and since they’re always going to be mandatory, it shouldn’t be difficult to win support for a different, easier version.
If you encourage people to speak negatively about timesheets, you’re opening Pandora’s box. Make sure that you keep the focus and drill into specifics. Through a fog of loathing, it’s hard to see precisely what needs to change, which will make finding, agreeing, and using a solution much riskier.
Is it a matter of user experience? For example, is something about the software clunky, counterintuitive, or unnecessarily manual? Is it more of a policy issue, where the firm requires a process that makes it more difficult? Or perhaps there’s something specific that’s hard to do with the current tools, like amending or correcting previous sheets.
For many, managing cases is more difficult than it used to be. It could be because of hybrid work, where the physical separation of teams means that communication is less fluid and effortless than it once was. It might be because of firm growth, and they’re having to handle more matters than they’re accustomed to.
Greater work volumes or different circumstances can accentuate existing weaknesses in a system. If the team hasn’t realised what those weaknesses are or why they’ve appeared, then asking open questions about how they manage cases will reveal a lot. Their answers will often lead them to realise where the problems are.
Like case management, compliance becomes more difficult when there are higher volumes of work or fewer members of staff. Many plates spinning mean more to drop.
It’s perfectly natural for anyone with compliance responsibility to feel a little defensive under any kind of examination. That’s not a frame of mind that’s ripe for critical thought, so it’s important to give a sympathetic frame to any questions you ask. Beware of accidentally implying that they’re failing or at fault. Instead, invite compliance officers to suggest what the firm could do or have done to make their job easier. Ask what the firm or the system should have offered.
On the positive side, if someone is feeling defensive, they’ll probably be all too happy to explain the weaknesses of the current compliance software. They’d welcome the opportunity to diffuse any blame, which means you can easily secure their buy-in for a new system and tease out details about what that software needs to offer.
A new system is not always a matter of procedural change — it’s as much a culture shift. Our latest guide explains how to start and manage that transition. Get your copy of: Vive la Révolution: When and why running a better law firm requires cultural change
For more resources on how to make your firm more compliant, productive, or efficient, see all of our guides here.
We’ve worked with over 1,000 law firms to help them understand if they need to change their approach to managing their practice and their cases, and if you’d like some honest, no-strings-attached advice, call 01252 518939 or drop Nathan a message here