Updated: Jul 24
I wrote about the simple principle of “starting small” a couple of weeks ago. We launched a program that does precisely this: find a select group of likely users to try one piece of functionality. Ask them to change only one thing about how they conduct their litigation practices.
It’s a natural segue to the next idea on how to champion useful LegalTech. In other industries, I’ve seen many flavors of application and methodology implementations succeed, drag out far longer than intended, or occasionally fail. Millions blown on shaky salesforce automation solutions for hundreds of users. Smooth upgrades from entry-level accounting to big league ERP platforms. Zombie enterprise doc management systems that perhaps a dozen people across the country used, kept on the pretense that “everyone can use it” because of the sunk cost fallacy. The list is long.
Instead of implementing a new alternative tool and crossing one’s fingers or insisting unilaterally that everyone use the new stuff immediately, successful innovation adoption efforts often work like a wedge. Start by looking for easy wins and small, but significant gaps, or points of failure, where a new solution or process delivers advantage.
This is not a news flash: legal is one of the last professions to adopt innovation. Artificial intelligence, which is frankly everywhere there is a computer and an internet connection, is like a box of puppies waiting to be trained as future service dogs, just sitting outside your conference room. In reality, you are probably already using AI in your department or firm, but it just isn’t obvious.
Two of the biggest rationalizations against adopting anything new are: adoption and proof of concept. That is: “If everyone can’t use it, no one can use it.” And: “If it isn’t perfect, it isn’t good enough.” How do you overcome these aphoristic objections? Rig the game, and lower the bar, in two ways:
Look for automation solutions that can augment attorneys at whatever level of technical skill they have now. If they can operate a flip phone and a laptop, they can log into a web site and push a start button. If they skillfully use document review solutions and run SQL queries in a relational database, they’ll probably jump at having AI tools performing advanced tasks like generating adverse witness response analyses.
Adjust your metrics of success in stages. Start small and expand. I’ll use the Cloud Court app for example. Suppose you have a matter where you’re noticed for several depositions. You want to try a realtime transcription tool to augment an already-scheduled court reporting service. Having the AI-driven realtime transcription takes some weight off the attorney’s shoulders. It turns out to be worth the few clicks, and they give it their seal of approval. Within a few months, every litigation attorney is having the app ride shotgun in every deposition – taking and defending.
Over time, small successes (or null experiences or failures) will accumulate into a general sense of whether a solution is beneficial. Then you take the next incremental step, and the next one. As you prove the concept, one or a few users at a time, you may upgrade your license agreement or subscription plan, or you don’t.
Regardless of the tech, a trustworthy vendor perceives the lifetime value of a customer and does not want to stick users with a huge price tag on a pile of shelfware that no one uses. That vendor is constantly seeking to learn from user experiences to increase the perceived value of the solution.
On the customer side, as a champion of legaltech in a corporate legal organization, you can build the case for innovation by gathering firsthand evidence of tangible benefits, ease of use, etc. over time. References who are close to the company or the firm are nice, but they don’t count as much as actual users.
At the risk of preaching to the choir: when you hear objections about learning curve, find the pilot user(s) who takes the least amount of training. When you hear serious doubts over integration and adoption, find the smallest (or most motivated) group of users who most urgently need the solution and set them up with a pilot. If the obstacle is a byzantine budgetary review schedule, identify a client or a significant matter that will quickly benefit from the new application or process to show an immediate or sizable return on investment.
Not long after starting to draft this post, I discovered a relevant webcast by Jack Shepherd, hosted by UK LegalTech Association: Adoption of legal tech: Why it doesn’t happen on its own. If you’re an innovator/product owner within your company or law firm (or even if you’re a vendor), it is well worth a view. It speaks to bridging the gaps between tech innovators – who may be within a firm or a company – and lawyers. It assumes a generally larger price tag solution, but the principles are universal to LegalTech innovation. Points that resonated for me include:
Lawyers don’t care about the latest buzzwords. They care about the results the tools deliver for them, but if it takes too long to learn, it’s not worth the hassle.
The Zone of Apathy is a big hurdle to overcome. (10:40)
Correlation between billable hours and profit. Every client has a breaking point at which they’ll challenge an invoice, and efficiency can deliver a profit benefit from the first hour. (14:45)
“If people are too busy to spend 30 minutes talking to you, they will also be too busy to use your tech” – you need to move on to someone or something else. (34:54)
Build advocate networks (i.e., early adopters, advisory team as alluded to above. Old hat for LegalTech innovation managers).
As we cultivate innovation champions for Cloud Court, I hope these tips can help you in your quest to drive LegalTech innovation within your own team. I’ll be back with another post.