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Switching tech systems can present a myriad of challenges for law firms. Often, many of these challenges derive from forcing a change in mindset. Therefore, change management must be a key component in the installation process. As Ruth Ward, Head of Knowledge
& Collaboration Technologies at Allen & Overy, attested: “Lawyers are innately hesitant and risk averse when it comes to change, and this is an accepted mindset of the legal space.”
In a recent survey, of the lawyers and law students panelled the majority agreed that although more change will happen, the profession is not equipped for change. So, while decisions makers must be mindful of carrying users along with them in the process
of change, alongside it, they must try to also build a culture of continual improvement. This is vital in developing a body of staff who is receptive to change, and who can adapt to new processes. Hence, part of this shift in mindset means that lawyers
must also be able to anticipate change. While it sounds obvious, it’s important that staff are ready for technology changes and do not expect new technology to function in the same way as old technology. In a new technology implementation, “change”
must be at the heart of related conversations. As Ruth advised: “Put big change at the beginning of the project, as part of the question – what are we trying to achieve? – so that when change arrives, people are ready and receptive.”
To ensure this, keeping the userbase involved in the new technology implementation from the beginning is an important to ensuring a smooth and effective delivery. Ruth commented, “It’s important to ensure you start the journey together –
rather than taking the “steamroller” approach and then hammering lawyers into submission.”
Working in this way signals a different relationship between supplier, producer and client indicating much more of a partnership approach. People increasingly want to determine their tech journey and choice of tech solutions, rather than have it thrust
upon them. As Mike Giles, Finance Director at Fieldfisher, commented, “It’s essential to make sure that any change isn’t confrontational - cultivating honest conversations about change and difficulties in moving forward offers the
necessary consultation to ensure a synergistic change.”
Also, harnessing user driven change is an essential aspect of managing technological improvement. “Early engagement is critical,” said Mike Giles. “It’s easy for the project team to have all the information but not communicate
it to the users. In this scenario, they will see it for the first time at go-live and then have a huge catch up process to go through. Give people time to prepare for the change and be proactive in flipping the conversation from “this thing
doesn’t do the same thing as the old system” to “I don’t know how to use this new system.” Everyone expects the new technology to be brilliant, but nobody expects to have to change the way they work.” Encouraging
learning is a vital component in the tech adoption process. Communicating that learners will need to understand a new skill is a constructive way of preparing users for the change.
Finally, utilising the idea of “imperfect change” is a valuable component in the tech implementation process. As Mike articulated, “It’s important to overcome the idea that there isn’t going to be a finished project on day
one – it’s going to take time to implement.”
In essence, new tech implementations must be undertaken with a longer-term view. It will allow you to build a system that pushes for continual development and challenges the expectation that technology will provide a miracle cure for business. While it’s
easy to think of technology as a silver bullet, reality demands a more practical thought process so that the system can be utilised technology to help the business take meaningful and measurable steps forward.
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