The Challenges Associated with Legal Technology Adoption

The Challenges Associated with

Legal Technology Adoption
By Stacey E Burke, Legal Influencer


By now, businesses worldwide have grown to understand the importance of technology with regard to effective operations, especially during transitional times. Law firms are no different, as they must now – if they have not already – adopt legal technology at a faster and more thoughtful rate in order to survive and remain profitable. Any doubt the legal industry had about the benefits and/or necessity of technology to the law firm business model should be disappearing rapidly.

But even once law firm employees know technology can and will facilitate a myriad of improvements both within the firm itself and on behalf of the entity, many remain resistant or at least hesitant to evolving. This article seeks to examine the reasons why legal technology adoption can be challenging and present advice as to how to resolve or mitigate these challenges.

Historical Lack of Knowledge Management

Law firms are notorious for failing to effectively store and retain historical data in a meaningful way. Many firms that have been in existence for over 50 years have lost scores of valuable data points due to a lack of internal aggregation of items such as number of total matters handled on behalf of long-term clients, statistics on resolution of matters before certain judges and in certain courts, staff performance metrics, and more. This lack of information preservation squanders countless opportunities for remarketing, cross-selling, and fine-tuning litigation strategies, among others. It also prevents a firm from truly assessing where its pain points have been over time, and from analysing internal productivity trends in an effort to reduce overhead and prevent passing through unnecessary costs to clients.

Inadequate Needs Assessment

Before a firm begins its software search process, educated decision-makers need to assess the specific needs of both the organization and its workers, & gain as much insight as possible from the employees who will use the systems most through surveys and interviews. Ask your workers at every level what challenges they are currently facing and which current software and hardware options and items they feel could be most improved upon in order to bolster their current job duties. Conducting an internal needs assessment is crucial, largely because management is most often completely out of touch with the true thoughts and needs of the staff using the solutions they purchase. Finding out what current staff members can't live without as well as what they despise using will go a long way toward both informing the firm's decision making concerning solution selection and to obtaining employee buy-in when the ultimate purchases are made and implementation begins.

Piecemeal Solution Selection

Law firms must have a long-term strategy that encourages technology adoption; unfortunately, firms often opt for a more piecemeal approach to tech adoption and implementation. A lawyer or office manager may feel like short-term progress to address one really annoying pain point is sufficient to warrant the purchase of an expensive solution without thinking it through, but actions like these will not result in a positive departure from legacy systems, and will likely alienate and anger long term employees used to and invested in existing structures. Rather than responding to salespeople you meet at events, cold emails or calls from vendors, or a friend’s recommendation from another law firm, a technology adoption committee should be formed that includes staff members of all levels, including someone from information technology as that person will be intimately involved in the actual implementation and integration of the new program or programs.



Skills Gap Affects Rate of Adoption

Law firm employees of all titles and at all levels are affected by skills gaps that hinder the adoption of legal technology. These skills gaps can be caused by deficits in experience, training, and/or education. Skills gaps will absolutely affect the rate of adoption, both during training and once a new legal technology solution is implemented. I have personally seen one rogue, angry staff member completely derail a training session out of fear due to her own lack of education and lack of experience working with advanced software. Meeting everyone on your team where they are is crucial to setting the firm up for success, even if it means having separate training sessions for employees at different skill levels. The initial investment in skill level-based training will pay the firm in dividends as all workers learn to adopt according to their own abilities.

A law firm can and should also incentivize technology adoption and use by rewarding adherence to formally developed protocols. The vast majority of your team already embraces technology in their personal lives by using items like smartphones and apps because these items make their lives easier. When properly selected, trained on, and implemented, legal technologies will help every member of your team save time and enable the law firm as a whole to analyse patterns and therefore optimize performance both internally and on behalf of its clients. Often, people just need an appropriate incentive in order to do the right thing. Time and again, we have seen firms utilize metrics from legal technology programs as more neutral criteria for performance evaluation; corresponding financial or other rewards can easily help facilitate the adoption of software in challenging and change-resistant environments.

Ineffective Training and Onboarding

As mentioned above, a one-size-fits-all legal technology adoption and training method can be less effective than an individually tailored approach that addresses each individual's potential gaps in skills. Evaluating each employee's (or if that is too cumbersome, each department’s) level of technological knowledge by evaluating each individual's interest in technology and also their proficiency goes a long way toward determining the best approach for training and onboarding.

While the consultants employed by or recommended by a particular technology provider are often a great resource for training, onboarding, and troubleshooting, independent consultants are also available and less biased toward upselling the firm on additional functionality it may not need. Retaining the services of a neutral third party educated in the particular legal technology you plan to purchase can go a long way toward supporting the entire process and ensuring the challenges associated with legal technology adoption are significantly minimized, if not removed completely.