Updated: Aug 19
Something we frequently run into as we talk with in-house counsel and outside corporate litigators: they understand that they could do their jobs better if they had better tools, but they are at the mercy of the glacial pace of their team or firm’s decision process and/or budget restraints.
However, it doesn’t do us any good if people are chomping at the bit to use a solution at any level if they can’t convince decision makers to allow a pilot. Good lawyers also know they have to pick their battles. It goes without saying that, as a LegalTech vendor, we want to equip and nurture champions. Since "deposition technology" is a relatively new space, I’ll cover some rules of thumb for evaluating new tools in a future post.
So, how can you accelerate the glacial pace of change? Are there ways you can apply a little heat? I’ll draw out some ways to approach it in this post and upcoming ones. While the examples are specific to depo tech, the principles are universal!
Start with a Tiny Change, not a Major One
What if the change is very small? What if a profound innovation is so impactful that even an incremental change in normal processes has an exponential effect on outcomes? Recall when Netflix began by simply shipping DVDs to customer homes, ending the scourge of late fees. Subscribers logged on to pick their films while they maintained the Blockbuster habit. For a while.
A classic Harvard Business Review case study on organizational change emphasizes that the most successful changes are incremental, and they align closely with the existing culture’s deeply held values.[i] This is a chance for people to candidly ask, what are the litigation team’s top values and strengths? What would the impact be if everyone was able to truly live up to them?
The hallmark of the best law firms is that they truly put their clients’ interests first. As Comment 8 to Rule 1.1 of the ABA’s Model Rule of Professional Conduct recognizes, that includes embracing technologies that deliver better outcomes and better value.
With “working smarter, not harder” in mind, a team should argue for allowing more experimentation, especially in low or no-risk scenarios. A good place to start is to take advantage of new tools (and old rules – e.g., FRCP 30(b)(3))[iii] to create your own automated transcription and rough transcripts, versus buying them at “retail.”
Another argument relates to collaboration during depositions. “We say that we bring our collective expertise to bear in every matter for our clients.” What if litigation teams did exactly that during depositions – by having people with expertise in a matter collaboratively present for every potentially impactful deposition noticed?” Effective tools now exist to help teams put their heads together during critical moments, even when they're geographically dispersed.
The easiest change is when you don’t have to change anything; you’re just adding one simple step. Like going online to pick out the next DVD to be sent to your house; it was incremental, but significant. And now most of us can't imagine doing it the old way ever again.
[i] Thanks to Mathew Rotenberg, Dashboard Legal: "Dear lawyers: The legal tech boom has neglected you."
[ii] ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 1.1 Competence - Comment 8.
[iii] Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 30(b)(3): With prior notice to the deponent and other parties, any party may designate another method to record the deponent's testimony in addition to the method specified by the person taking the deposition. The additional record or transcript shall be made at that party's expense unless the court otherwise orders.