How to Plan for Smooth Adoption of Legal Tech

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Our Managing Director of Legal Partnerships explains from his experience how firms can successfully adopt new technology with pragmatic planning and support from technology providers.

Digital transformation has taken on new urgency and significance with the rapid adoption of remote working. Even before COVID-19, it was a top strategic priority for many businesses — and those in the legal sector are no exception.

A McKinsey report revealed the significant return on successful digital transformation. Data-driven organizations are:

  • 23 times more likely to acquire customers.
  • 6 times as likely to retain customers.
  • 19 times as likely to be profitable as a result.

Still, many organizations are stuck in “pilot purgatory,” unable to realize the full benefits of their technology investments. As much as 70% of digital projects fail to meet expectations leaving senior executives frustrated by the slow pace and limited ROI of these projects. So how do you avoid this happening, and reap the proven benefits of digital transformation?

From my experience supporting clients, the answer is with pragmatic planning that occurs in stages. To truly benefit from new technology, you need to develop a realistic change management plan that doesn’t put off the initial user base. We call this “scalable adoption.”

In this article, I’ll explain from my experience the key elements of the adoption process that, when considered at the outset, will lead to a smoother implementation that actually generates a return.

  1. Develop a plan of action
  2. Identify a product owner
  3. Focus on real use cases from the beginning
  4. Identify use cases with ROI
  5. Work with technology providers who are invested in your success
  6. Adopt a solution-focused approach that integrates with current processes
  7. Looking ahead to later stages of adoption

NEXT: Get started on your technology adoption plan

Develop a plan of action

Most new technologies take time to become fully embedded into your organization. Perhaps you are an in-house lawyer looking to streamline a process with workflow automation to save your team time, or your firm is looking to offer new services to clients. Whatever the reason for adopting new technology, it is essential to create an implementation plan that fits with your broader organization’s goals.

Having a coherent plan for the year(s) ahead helps to create alignment and ensure, as an organization, that you have clear metrics to work toward. These can include:

  • Creating and using success stories to showcase your team’s innovative approach to servicing internal or external clients
  • Identifying efficiency savings to ensure you satisfy your internal clients or remain competitive with other firms
  • Measuring employee or client satisfaction levels

These metrics won’t be measurable initially, so use the early stages of adoption to test the technology with new projects that address business challenges. This approach can reap significant rewards. Ultimately, obtaining these metrics will provide confidence that as adoption increases, the process has been successful. This will help to build a business case for further adoption and investment opportunities.

Identify a product owner or manager to drive engagement and buy-in

Digital transformation will impact all facets of your business — across levels of seniority, different departments, and activities. Identifying key stakeholders and gaining their buy-in and support is critical in the adoption stage. Their buy-in and engagement are essential to help drive and maintain momentum throughout the process.

It’s important to identify a product owner to administer and steer the implementation of the technology. Backed by senior leaders, they will prove invaluable during the earlier stages of adoption. This person or team will be responsible for several products and can oversee their application in line with the broader transformation strategy. Typically, they will coordinate and manage the process, ensure it is aligned with other transformation projects in the organization, help overcome resistance, troubleshoot integration issues, and record milestones.

Have your product owner work with these key stakeholders

Product owners are also well-positioned to identify and win support from key stakeholders. As intrapreneurs, these individuals or teams will be equally important to driving change in working practices and, in the process, winning hearts and minds in your organization. The key stakeholders your product owners will identify and work with fall into three primary categories:

  • Sponsors – This group is comprised of decision-makers in your organization, including law firm partners, directors, and C-Suite members. Sponsors have the requisite authority to greenlight the use of the technology on new projects. They also own client relationships, so they are best equipped to ensure new projects ultimately address clients’ needs.
  • Champions – These often come from a mixture of seniority levels ranging from paralegals and lawyers to partners in your practice groups. Champions are the first internal super users who know how to use the technology and understand how it will apply to new projects identified by Sponsors.
  • Clients – For many client-facing self-service apps, like those built with BRYTER, your clients will be an invaluable resource to ensure that the updated or new services you provide are of value. Obtaining constructive feedback from your clients — internal or external — on how you deliver services powered by new technologies will ultimately help you perfect the process and build stickier relationships.

Focus on real use cases from the beginning

Educating your initial users on how to use new technologies is an essential starting point for driving early project adoption. At this early stage, engagement is key. To ensure that would-be users are motivated and that the training sticks, make sure that you’re focusing on real and relevant use cases.

Support training through collaboration between your subject matter experts and the technology provider. The more information that can be shared around target use cases and intention for the deployment of the technology, the more the technology provider can help support the training and early projects. Focusing on these real-life use cases will help your first trainees build momentum that will show your broader organization the true value of the technology.

Identify use cases with ROI

As part of selling the value of a new technology internally (and sell you must), it really helps to ask the right questions in order to identify the best use cases which will deliver ROI and win more hearts to expand your transformation agenda. Ask questions like:

  1. When you carry out this work manually, do you follow a similar process each time?  
  2. How often are you working on matters like this?
  3. How many of your clients do you provide these services to and how often?

Law firms should ask these added questions:

  1. Is this work currently limited to fixed fee or capped fee arrangements? If so, do you incur write offs and what does that look like?
  2. How do your competitors market this service? Are they doing anything different?
  3. Is this new product idea something your clients would pay for? Would your clients pay for it if you could tailor the product to their specific needs?
  4. How are you planning to monetize this service?
  5. Is there merit in developing this product as a business development or marketing solution to both signal your expertise in this area and channel client work to a practice area or group of practice areas?

Work with technology providers who are invested in your success

Technology providers are not limited to the role of vendors; they should be partners during the adoption process. Progressive technology companies offer a customer success strategy alongside their product(s) to help meet the unique challenges that each organization faces when adopting new technologies. They should work with you to facilitate a new way of working.

Customer Success Managers can help accelerate the adoption process by working closely with organizations to help onboard new users as well as identify and develop new use cases and opportunities where the technology can be of value.

For instance, amongst other things, they can:

  1. Provide training (alongside FAQ guides and e-learning tools) to ensure that users know how to properly use the technology
  2. Advise organizations on how to technically apply the technology to the project in question
  3. Ensure that any product enhancement requests provided by your users are fed back to the technology provider’s product team

Adopt a solution-focused approach that integrates with how you already do business

One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to adopting new technologies. Integrations with complementary tech that your organization is using will become increasingly important. As we move further toward integrated solutions that are built from different technologies, it is important to appreciate the capabilities and nuances of each and factor in sufficient lead time to integrate.

Take, for instance, complementary technologies like machine learning contract analysis and no-code decision automation.

Machine learning technologies, when correctly trained and deployed, can significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to carry out certain tasks, like identifying key terms in a contract. To teach a machine learning contract analysis tool about a new legal concept (i.e. build a new model), you will need to first gather relevant training data. This requires the involvement of a subject matter expert to categorize and label the correct training data. The time this takes will depend on several factors (e.g. the variety of the language used in that concept, its pervasiveness across different documentation, etc.).

Decision automation software helps streamline decision-making processes and automate the way you deliver advice or make decisions (e.g. a digital legal product to assess the impact arising from changes in law, regulation, or political events, such as Brexit). Getting decision automation technology ready for commercial use involves a different approach to machine learning. It’s important to involve a subject matter expert to map out and instill their knowledge and decision-making process into a ready-made application. The complexity of the subject matter and process may dictate the time it takes to build the application, albeit that many can be built in a matter of days rather than months.

Both of these technologies offer tremendous value but operate very differently. Together, they can be even more powerful. For instance, you can use decision automation applications to triage and reason information identified by machine learning contract analysis software. Being able to appreciate this force-multiplier aspect as part of your project plan will be hugely important to ensuring that expectations are managed within your organization and that you get the most out of the technologies within a realistic timeframe.

Assuming you plan to combine these two technologies to create an integrated client solution, you will need people in your organization who understand both from a technical as well as an operational perspective. This is where you’ll want to enlist service providers and consultants and/or develop a Center of Excellence comprised of skilled Champions and technologists to truly transform the way you deliver your work. That’s the path to constructing and operating sophisticated client solutions.

Looking ahead to later stages of adoption

If you have been able to use the first 3 to 6 months as a testing and evaluation period, learning what has and hasn’t worked, the next 6 to 18 months should help you begin standardizing and scaling the approach across more departments or business units. As you do so, more hearts and minds can be won over by demonstrating the fruits of your labor – the hard metrics that demonstrate the real value of the solution alongside testimonials from Sponsors, Champions, and Clients that it works. This will help you pursue a coherent approach to spreading the word about the value proposition of your newly adopted tech.

For instance, leveraging real success stories from the early stages of adoption (both internally and externally) can help you communicate the value proposition of the technology for the challenge(s) you are looking to overcome on a wider scale.

A combination of a top-down and bottom-up approach will be helpful here. Top-down support from Sponsors at client events, internal or external hackathons, and in firmwide mandates can motivate your workforce to take adoption seriously. Bottom-up enrolment of targeted groups of your workforce for whom the technology is aimed at in training sessions is equally important. The key aim here is to enable you to scale what has already worked well.

If successful, you will likely have an active user base engaging with the technology on a routine basis for all types of use cases. While the technology may not be used by everyone in the organization, there is likely to be a critical mass of users and clients who are engaging with it and understand its capabilities and limitations.

At this point, you have mastered the initial stages of adoption and can more broadly demonstrate the value that the technology brings, which is particularly important when pricing and pitching your digitized services to clients.

Get started on your technology adoption plan

The adoption of new technology is crucial to digital transformation. However, it is not a straightforward process and involves planning and the winning of hearts and minds across your organization.

To recap, in order to realize the massive benefits of digital transformation, you’ll want to:

  • Develop a clear plan of action
  • Identify a product owner and key stakeholders to drive adoption
  • Focus on real use cases from the very beginning
  • Work with technology providers and their partners throughout the process
  • Adopt an approach that integrates with current processes and tools

Involving the right technology providers and consultants in the process, a variety of stakeholders, people with the appropriate skill sets and training is not a nice-to-have; it is essential for a smoother adoption process.

If you are looking to digitize your services or offer new digital solutions, book a demo of BRYTER to learn how we can support your business in digital transformation. Alternatively, check out our Legal Operations guide and read about real-life use cases for more efficient legal processes.

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