What really drives the adoption of new technologies in your firm?
Ponder this for a minute: who or what really drives technology adoption in law firms? The IT department? The client? The lawyers? The Legal Services Act?
Let’s step away from legal services for a second to get some perspective on the question. I buy my car insurance once a year. I search the price comparison websites for the cheapest quote. I sign up with the insurance company providing me with the cheapest quote. After my purchase they helpfully inform me that I have access to their customer portal. The customer portal provides me with access to my policy documentation in PDF format.
This service has provided value. But would I buy solely on the back of this service? No. It’s only part of the mix.
While clients will find value in technology services offered by law firms (web portals, online document assembly, legal communities and so on), they are not, in my experience, demanding them... yet. That’s not to say that the client won't find value in technology offerings. They will, but only after the initial engagement, based on other criteria, has taken place.
But the tide is turning - I am already seeing the evidence.
In many law firms there is a growing awareness at senior level that they need to innovate and engage with the client in new ways. There is a realisation that business process needs to be re-engineered for efficiency. This makes sense, and it ensures law firms are geared up for the future. It is a long-term vision and strategic view.
But, without a huge amount of client demand, what incentives are there for the lawyers to drive this and play a part in preparing for the day when clients are asking for this on a much larger scale? If their clients are not demanding this at the moment, what is the point in doing it now?
So the real challenge is making it happen. It is ensuring that the vision and strategy is implemented in the business when clients aren’t yet asking for this technology day in, day out. It’s about preparation and laying the foundations for a streamlined, solution driven business.
Lawyers need to buy in to the vision and understand why this technology is essential for them, the client and ultimately the firm. After all, what is the point of purchasing client-facing technology if the client is never made aware of its existence? It will be up to the lawyers to sell the benefits of the technology to the client, pushing the enhanced value proposition of the firm’s legal offering - which is in itself incredibly important.
Introducing technology without managing the adoption process is a sure route to failure - so much so that any future initiatives will be looked upon with scepticism by those who may have been strong advocates of previous technology initiatives.
Implementing technology is one thing - ensuring it is understood, appreciated and sold in the right way is another, and that cannot be overlooked.