Driven by market demand for efficiencies and cost savings, law firms and IP departments are looking to implement more legal technology into their workflow. But after all the work you put into choosing the right tool, how do you get attorneys and staff members to adopt?
According to Robert Half Legal’s report, Future Law Office 2020: Redefining the Practice of Law, 34% of lawyers believe emerging technologies will have the biggest impact on the practice of law in the next five years. But to implement new legal technology at your organization, it’s important to first understand the standard lifecycle of technology adoption.
Based on this model, first proposed by sociologist Everett M. Rogers, each attorney or staff member falls into one of five groups:
- Innovators: Technology enthusiasts interested in trying new things
- Early Adopters: Users who can see potential in new technology and are willing to try it out before the majority. These users have the power to influence others and are sometimes referred to as “visionaries.”
- Early Majority: Sometimes referred to as “pragmatists,” these users wait until the technology has been vetted by others
- Late Majority: These skeptics will only adopt new technology once it’s proven and well-established
- Laggards: Laggards tend to use familiar technology and software as long as they possibly can. Often, the only way to move this group is to eliminate legacy options.
Looking around your organization, you can probably easily spot some of these user types. The more significant struggle is what sociologists refer to as crossing the gap known as “the chasm” between the early adopters and early majority.
Innovators and early adopters are more willing to embrace change, while the majority and laggard users tend to be more risk-averse. And as more technology is introduced into the workplace, everyone may be feeling tech fatigue.
For advice on how to implement new technologies, we turned to Sarah Garber, Director of Client Success here at Juristat, and Emily Rugg, Director of Department Operations for Polsinelli’s Intellectual Property Department.
1. Build internal champions
Getting a product in the hands of end users is imperative, and it’s best to start with those innovators and early adopters on your team. These influential “visionaries” can help convince others to get on board.
At Polsinelli, for example, they start each new technology implementation with a pilot program of tech-savvy champions from the firm. Emily Rugg says this group of early adopters is invaluable. “They’re going to be great champions because they’re invested. They’ve tried the tool and can speak to its value.”
How do you identify the innovators and early adopters on your team? Look for attorneys actively seeking ways to improve their practice and challenge the status quo. Product champions should be willing to adapt and eager to try new things.
2. Make a case for change
One of the principles of change management is helping people understand why they should change and how this change can benefit them in the long run. The onus is on you, the agent of change, to communicate to your attorneys and staff that the obstacle of learning something new now will lead to smooth sailing later.
Sarah Garber shared, “In my experience, when users fully understand the value provided by Juristat, getting adoption goes much more smoothly."
Some tools, especially those powered by AI, can be a more straightforward sell internally. Juristat’s workflow automation tools, for example, shave hours of tedious work off an attorney, paralegal, or assistant's workload. There, the cost savings are cut and dry.
When it’s more difficult to show ROI, use more qualitative measures like client surveys and strategic planning initiatives to explain how the technology aligns with broader business goals.
3. Be mindful of when you introduce new technology
When it comes to introducing a new tool to the team, you don’t want to add another meeting to their already busy schedules. Instead, work it into the agenda of a regularly scheduled, standing meeting. This helps reinforce that usage of the tool is part of a larger business initiative, and also ensures that most of the team is in attendance and aware of its availability.
4. Get vendor support
Many vendors, Juristat included, offer onboarding training to educate users. Garber recommends scheduling training sessions early in the adoption process so that users can hit the ground running as soon as they log in. "We have found that by participating in trainings, Juristat's clients not only drastically improve their adoption rate, but their users also have a better experience because they know how to get the information they need the very first time they log in."
5. Make it part of the workflow
When adopting a new technology, it helps to share specific use cases or points in the workflow to start integrating the tool. For example, many of our new Juristat clients start integrating data and charts into regular reports right away. This encourages attorneys to log in, look at the examiner report, and start using the data on their own.
When it comes to crossing that chasm between early adopters and majority users, the latter may need more than a subtle nudge to adopt new technology. In that case, sharing a timeline (and even a hard deadline) for migrating to the new technology may be required.
6. Celebrate success
When evaluating the success of new tools, you’ll likely turn to usage reports for some hard data. But don’t ignore qualitative, anecdotal measures, too.
Rugg says she knows technology is working when she hears Polsinelli’s attorneys and staff reference the tool by name. And it may sound counterintuitive, but often, the more questions she gets about a tool, the more she knows her team is adopting it.
Over time, make sure you share success stories with the wider team. Has your new workflow automation made the team faster? Did the analytics included in an RFP response help win a new client? Making the team aware of these successes can help reinforce the value of the tool (and convert those laggard users!).
7. And remember, implementation doesn’t end with roll-out
Rugg suggests staying on top of product updates, webinars, and additional training materials long after that internal implementation. These updates are great to share with attorneys, but she said it also helps expand her own knowledge of the tools so that she’s prepared to answer questions or take advantage of new features.
Implementing new technology can be a challenge, and as more legal technology is introduced, attorneys may be feeling overwhelmed. Following these tips will help to not only get the team on board to sign up, but help make legal tech a regular part of their workflow. To see how our technology can transform your patent practice – and learn how we onboard new clients – sign up for a demo.