The legal sector’s adoption of new technology has always been slow and conservative, for good reason. Attorneys have many considerations that other businesses do not have, such as privilege, compliance, confidentiality, and security. Training your firm’s employees on new technology is difficult to get right, but powerful when done correctly.
Traditionally, law firms have lagged behind much of the corporate world in implementing new technologies. The slow pace of legal technology adoption costs firms opportunities to enhance client relationships, improve efficiency and productivity, reduce non-billable time demands on attorneys and staff, and, frankly, make more money.
Why are law firms so resistant to new technology?
Why are firms so hesitant to pursue new solutions? A recent survey by Above the Law provides meaningful insights into the state of legal technology adoption across the industry. In addition, it highlights the concerns that firms hold about new technology. Not surprisingly, one of the main sticking points is getting attorneys and staff adequately trained.
According to the survey, despite the benefits of practice management solutions:
- Less than half of all firms surveyed have one in place: Most firms implementing a practice management platform also still rely on a host of cobbled-together applications, creating inefficiencies from duplicative data entry and minimal communication between applications.
- Less than 10% of firms currently use a fully integrated practice management system (6.7% across all firm sizes and 7.8% for small firms and solo practitioners).
Firms acknowledged that a variety of challenges hindered or prevented their digital transformation efforts:
- One of the most significant challenges was securing buy-in from lawyers and staff (60.3% of all respondents and 60.9% of small firm and solo respondents).
- Lawyer and staff training was also an issue for 45.8% of all firms and 47.7% of small firms and solo practitioners.
It is far from surprising that attorney and staff buy-in and training significantly impact firms’ legal technology adoption efforts. Throughout the years, when faced with digital transformation efforts, lawyers have fallen back on common refrains. If you haven’t used some of these reasons yourself, you likely have heard them coming from other attorneys at your firm:
- I don’t have time to learn more new software
- My existing system works just fine
- It will cost too much
- I’m already working too many hours in a day, and now I have to spend even more time I can’t bill
Concerns about attorney and staff buy-in and training are strongly interrelated. Indeed, the time and effort involved in training are significant obstacles to achieving buy-in.
How to get your attorneys and staff on the bandwagon
Getting buy-in for a new product is never simple. It requires a concerted internal sales effort and innovative ways of educating attorneys and staff with minimum impact on their already busy workdays.
Consider some of the following options when building your legal technology adoption training programs.
1. Begin with the right question
Too many product training sessions are nothing more than a death march through a parade of features. Trainers put little effort into why people should use the product. But “why” is the most critical question.
Begin by saying, “We are here to show you how to make your workday simpler, reduce stress, and get more done more easily.” Making the training about your staff instead of about the product is the best way to generate enthusiasm.
2. Avoid whole firm training sessions
Too often, firms believe that the best way to get through training quickly is to fill a big room with as many people as possible and drag them through an extensive discussion of all the new product’s features. But this is actually quite inefficient. Your lawyers and staff have a wide range of abilities and skills, as well as different needs. Your training should take this into account.
Create training groups around similar skill sets and similar functions. By doing so, you avoid boring higher-end users and wasting valuable billable time. You create a more supportive atmosphere for those who need a little extra attention. And you focus training on the features that matter most to each group.
3. Create a high-end user sales team
Consider beginning your training with a group of technically oriented attorneys and staff: the ones who are always early technology adopters, the first to own new products, devices, or applications. By convincing these users that a practice management solution streamlines their day, making them more efficient and productive, and allowing them to spend more time on billable work, you can swiftly build an enthusiastic in-house sales force.
It is equally important to teach them how to convey the platform’s benefits to less-skilled users. They can’t get in the weeds about specific functions and features but instead need to simply show one thing: using the product will make your life better.
4. Train for effect
Not every user will utilize every feature of a practice management solution, and training them to do so will overwhelm them and reduce their enthusiasm. Early training should focus on fundamental functions that apply to everyone. You can then supplement this with more advanced training focused on those who will use additional features. Concentrating training for effect reduces the likelihood that your personnel will say, “Why do I need this?”
Legal technology adoption need not be an insurmountable challenge for your firm. With well-founded practical training and a little bit of help from super users, you should have no problem building internal momentum for new products that will make your firm more productive and profitable.