Last week, Logikcull participated in ILTACON 2022, where we learned, demoed, and rubbed elbows (and backs- shout out to everyone who stopped by our massage station) with some of the top leaders in legal technology. As it drew to a close, we realized we'd been hearing a lot about a particular issue: Law firms are struggling to scale tech to their size, partially because many of them are in contracts with tech that's 10-15 years old.
A lot of firms find themselves locked into legacy contracts with outdated tech. This may be because they are using overcomplicated RFPs to evaluate new tools and be sure they're getting the best value (which can be avoided with the try-before-you-buy model that most software companies now offer, providing a low-risk way to test a tool out). Or, law firms may skip the evaluation step altogether and just renew three-year contracts with trusted but outdated tools to avoid the burdensome task of making a firm-wide change.
Legal tech has advanced a lot over the last decade (and that article doesn't even account for advances due to the pandemic). And at the rate legal tech advances, being locked into a contract for three years can cause firms to miss entire innovation cycles. Market leaders can become market laggards very quickly if they don't keep up, which has very real consequences. Though a firm may not be motivated to streamline processes due to the billable hours, that lack of efficiency can cause client dissatisfaction. Clients are smart people who are aware of the competing tech that's out there. If they learn they're working with a firm that uses outdated technology, they may lose trust. And of course, outdated technology can result in serious data security risks.
In addition to client satisfaction, firms are seeing an influx of younger attorneys who have a more natural tendency toward technology. If you've been following the debate on LinkedIn about quiet quitting, you know that Millenials and Gen Z have no problem prioritizing their work/life balance and going to jobs that allow them to work smarter, not harder. Seeing resistance to innovation and efficiency in their firms can cause attrition among these younger attorneys. This is trend was mentioned by ILTACON panelist Matthew Basile, who is not only an attorney but also the CEO and founder of Naya Software. Matthew emphasized that Millenial and Gen Z attorneys like to feel that they work somewhere that is moving forward, including in tech, and that he knew of at least one young attorney who left a firm because they refused to do so.
According to Julia Montgomery, leader of the Solutions Advisory Group at Intapp, firm resistance to new technology can be partially attributed to attorneys' personality traits. Her incredibly engaging ILTACON session on change management strategies to get attorneys to adopt new technology contained some very interesting facts about attorneys vs. the general public. Attorneys tend to be more skeptical, more results-focused, and more resistant to being managed than the average person. Not surprising. Many attorneys would likely wear those traits as a badge of honor. However...
Attorneys also tend to be-and this is where I'm going to need any attorneys reading this to do earmuffs (or I guess blindfolds)- less resilient than most people. Meaning that attorneys don't do well with criticism or rejection. This is the point where the attorneys who chose to read on despite my warning may start feeling attacked. As an attorney myself, I may have squirmed a little when Julia gently broke this news. Let's just take that feeling and examine it for a second.
Per Julia's presentation, the average person has a resilience score of 50. Lawyers have an average resilience score of 30. Yikes. This means they-okay, we-don't do well when we feel we look bad in front of others. And when firms are examining new technology, there tend to be group demos and other opportunities for lawyers to be slow on the uptake in front of others. Unsurprisingly, this can cause lawyers to balk at adopting the tech.
So, how can firms strategize to break the legacy contract cycle and adopt tech that keeps them competitive in retaining clients and employees?
First, find the people who will be champions for new tech. You may be this person already if you have the authority to do so. For example, we had the pleasure of speaking with the CIO of an Am Law 50 firm who happened to have a product background. This CIO is in the perfect position to champion new tech and bring a scrum mentality to the evaluation and adoption process.
If you're not in the position to champion tech yourself, find the people in positions of authority who are willing to think outside the box and whose jobs would be directly affected by adopting the tech. This could be IT managers, paralegals, or attorneys themselves. Yes, despite everything I just said, attorneys can be tech champions if you know how to pitch it to them.
To entice attorneys to use new tools, Julia suggests keeping communications concise and to the point, be upfront about any of the tool's shortcomings, focus on outcomes that are specific to the attorney, and go for those private demos to avoid bruised egos. She also suggests going after rainmakers, who have a different psychological profile from other attorneys: Namely, they are risk-takers with high resilience scores. They also have a trait called Ego Drive, which makes them love persuading for the sake of persuasion. This means that when rainmakers are told "no," they will work even harder to bring someone around to their position, making them ideal champions for new tech tools.
Beyond this, take baby steps. Try rolling out tools in a pilot program to test the waters before trying to make the change firm-wide. Identify a practice area or group that you think would benefit the most from the tool, and have them test it out. Or target the tech-friendly go-getters who you can turn into champions, and get them to try it out first. The more voices you have saying a tool works, the better the chance that it will be adopted on a larger scale.