Understanding change management in law firms
Understanding change management in law firms

While “legal innovation” may be a buzzword for many, the actual need of innovation is now being felt within the Indian law firm ecosystem. Change and innovation are no more just catchy words, they are becoming the need of the hour. With adaptation of technology by western law firms and significance presence of MNCs within India, marketplace realities are driving Indian law firms to accept the change.

Change management, however, is not easy. While many law firms are attempting to drive change internally, there’s a number of them doing it unsuccessfully. In this post, I am doing a lean analysis of this very basic problem through the “Legal Innovation Success Pyramid”. I use the Pyramid as a way to look at the root cause of the problem of managing change in law firms, suggest a methodology to better approach the problem.

People

If you look at the figure above showing the Pyramid, you’ll notice that the base and major proportion of the pyramid is People. That’s for a reason —no matter how good your tools and technologies are, you need people to execute them and bring them together.

People are the pillar to drive the change within law firms. More involved your people are in your processes, better your results will be. In order to bring more participation from the people, law firms need to drive the following things (within and outside their organization):

  • To emphasize the importance of change in your law firm, it needs to get embedded in the culture of the firm.

  • Handle emotional issues and psychological reactions to change, especially among lawyers who are not tech-savvy, risk-averse and take time to adapt things.

  • Understand pain points and help your team address their pain points with technology. Encourage them to be more open.

  • Build an internal champion team within your organization and let them be the agents of change among other, more conservative members of your team. Your internal champion team should be able to identify key pain-points, evaluate tools and provide critical feedback when finalizing the technology, you deploy in your law firm.

  • Never select the technology on your own when the actual usage will be by the team. Focus on their inputs.

  • Incentivize their efforts and recognize properly. Conduct brainstorming sessions and let the team participate more.

  • Arrange basic technology training sessions for all within the organization.

Again, don’t lose hope soon. Give them some time. Move slowly but steadily. While implementing this within people, make sure to prepare some organizational level progress report.

Process

Standardization of processes plays an important role in order to make technology adoption smoother and effective. To accomplish this goal:

  • Define your practice areas

  • Identify stages of the entire matter management process, order / re-order them, refine them, define them, arrange them and finally re-design the stages to improve overall efficiency and reduce wastage of resources.

  • Identify areas which requires a lot of manual input and the major pain points for the lawyers.

  • Try to define almost all processes within the organization irrespective of their relation to client deliverables. By that I mean that even if you are struggling with some purely internal process related to business management in general and not directly linked to client deliverables, go ahead anyway and lay out the process as well. Defined processes bring more uniformity and eventually delivers quality work products.

Technology

This is the topmost stage of the pyramid and has the least importance. However, this stage requires the most diligent and careful decision making. Here’s how to navigate the decision-making process:

  • After a deconstruction and analysis of the process, identify which pain points are worth solving.

  • Identify potential technologies for those pain points and the most tedious and inefficient areas while defining your standard workflows.

  • Analyze several technologies / tools. Take input from the team and analyze the commercials vis-a-vis the ROI.

  • Follow the following steps while deploying any new technology:

    • Demonstration,

    • Implementation,

    • Analysis of the result

    • Audit/compliance

    • Celebration

  • Conduct regular audits on the tool implementation. Measure the gaps. Find the root causes. Fix them immediately.

  • Constantly evaluate other tools and technologies against the current available tools. But, don’t change the tools frequently. Let the people adjust with the tools and let them understand the technology first.

  • Focus on basic technology literacy rather than focusing on the high-end tools every time.

Given that change is a continuous process, law firm management teams also need to take care of several other things to drive the change successfully.

  • Accept the failures. Celebrate it. Learn from it.

  • Have a dedicated technology team led by lawyers. You can also have non-lawyers in the team but let the lawyers lead.

  • First listen, then define, plan, test, implement, finally audit and enforce.

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