Change management strategies that help promote lawyer adoption of new technologies

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During the ILTACON 2022 session “New Change Management Strategies to Help Build Lawyer Technology Adoption,” Julia Montgomery, Director of the Solutions Advisory Group at Intapp, explored why some tried and true change management methodologies might be ineffective with lawyers when driving technology change initiatives, and how firms can adjust their strategies to successfully promote lawyer adoption of new technologies.

Montgomery shared data from research conducted by Dr. Larry Richard, an expert on the psychology of lawyer behavior. Richard assessed more than 1,000 U.S. lawyers using the Caliper Profile, which scores participants on 18 common personality traits. The data revealed several key traits that differentiate lawyers from other professionals. The data also points to rainmakers as having unique traits among lawyers, making them ideal candidates to recruit in support of your change initiatives to help promote adoption among other lawyers at your firm.

Montgomery urged firms to consider the following traits when developing change management plans for their next change initiatives. Learn how you can best adjust your change management strategy to promote lawyer adoption of new technologies.

1. Skepticism

The average professional scores 50 for skepticism, but Richard’s research found lawyers scored an average of 90, with this trait being the most consistently high-scoring trait among the lawyers in the study. It’s important to keep in perspective that these traits — which can present challenges to change efforts — are what make lawyers successful in their profession. Lawyers with a high level of skepticism question things to bring new information or perspectives to the surface, and to argue their cases well. They’re also careful decision-makers who might avoid moving forward with something that seems unproven or too significant a risk — including adopting a new technology or process.

To earn the trust of your firm’s lawyers, you must first prove to them that the new technology or process you’re implementing will meaningfully improve their daily efficiencies and workflows. Demonstrate the technology or process in presentations that are tailored to their unique needs and the way they work. Acknowledge any known shortcomings up front so they feel duly informed and can help offer solutions. Concealing known problems from your professionals will only break their trust, making them less likely to adopt new changes in the future.

2. Urgency

With an average score of 71, lawyers demonstrate a strong sense of urgency, specifically towards achieving the best possible outcomes as quickly as possible. Use this to your advantage by emphasizing how a new tool can help them accomplish just that. Rather than focusing on the technical aspects of your system, focus on the outcomes it will produce and how it will improve your lawyers’ workflow.

You’ll likely need to repeat this message several times. Studies show that people with an average urgency score of 50 need to have change messages conveyed to them at least seven times before the message truly resonates. Lawyers moving at a urgent pace through their busy days likely require an even higher cadence for your message to be received.

To ensure you don’t overwhelm your lawyers, keep communications short. If, however, you need to send a content-heavy email, consider including at the top a bulleted summary of the “5 key things you need to know.” This way, even if the reader only reads that far, the key points of your message will still have been conveyed.

Because lawyers are wordsmiths, ensure your communications are accurate and free of errors. In addition, it’s vital to find ways to deliver your message other than email, such as short presentations. Rather than setting up multiple new meetings, ask for a few minutes at the beginning or end of the meetings lawyers already attend, such as practice group or industry meetings.

3. Autonomy

With an average score of 89 for autonomy, lawyers clearly want to have a say in how they work. Most lawyers prefer to work in ways that best suit them individually, and often connect more with new tools that can benefit them individually rather than merely benefitting the organization.

One strategy to help win engagement with highly autonomous lawyers is to provide benefit stories about your new tool that directly relate to their own experiences. Look at recent support case logs, or even time entries for a lawyer, to learn what type of work they’re doing and what pain points or frustrations they’ve experienced around technology. Then, explain how your new tool can help solve those pain points or make their current work more efficient. Providing a direct, individual benefit statement can go a long way toward engaging lawyers with your change project.

It’s also a good idea to let your lawyers have as much say as possible when adopting a new system. Consider focus groups or online polling to invite their participation and build buy-in, but in ways that won’t slow down your project.

4. Resilience

Given the tenacious nature of their profession, it might be surprising that Richard’s research found that the average resilience score for lawyers is 30. Resilience refers to how someone reacts to criticism or perceived failures, and it’s an important trait to keep in mind when planning your change initiative.

The best way to support professionals with lower resilience and promote user adoption of new technologies is to focus on two key areas: training and enablement. Training refers to the learning and information firms provide so people can use new tools, while enablement is how effectively firms support their users’ efforts to use the new tools. Make sure your support teams can quickly provide in-the-moment answers to questions, and provide any necessary hardware or other accessories to ensure that lawyers who elect to engage and use the new tool have everything they need to be successful.

The more difficult it is for lawyers to access the tool, the more likely they’ll revert to their old processes. If they get frustrated when trying to use a new technology and don’t have adequate support, it’s difficult to convince them to give it a second try.

5. Ego drive

To further encourage your lawyers to embrace your change management plan, enlist the help of your firm’s rainmakers. Part of the reason why rainmakers are so good at bringing in money and business is because they excel at persuasion. In fact, many of them have a trait Richard defined in his research as high “ego drive,” which motivates them to persuade others simply for the sake of persuasion itself. Whereas lawyers only scored 38 for this trait, rainmakers scored 60.

Rainmakers also have a higher resilience score than lawyers: Lawyers scored 30 while rainmakers scored 63. This combination of a drive to persuade and the ability to persist in the face of challenges makes rainmakers excellent allies for championing change. Richard’s research also revealed that rainmakers are good at empathizing with others, which makes them helpful as reviewers of your communications to ensure your message will connect with lawyers.

As you devise your change management plan, start where you’ll have less resistance and work your way toward the more resistant areas of your firm. Find the rainmakers as well as others in your firm who are most open to your proposed change, and enlist them as your champions. Once these allies have successfully adopted your new tools, they can help convince and inspire others to do the same.

Adjust your strategy

To achieve a successful firmwide adoption of new technology, it’s critical to consider the unique needs, traits, and perspectives of everyone in your firm. By developing your change management plan accordingly, you can help your firm’s lawyers and other professionals become more receptive to change and more likely to fully utilize the benefits of your new system — enhancing performance and efficiency to the benefit of your entire firm.

Interested in making a change within your organization? Schedule a demo to learn how Intapp can help.