Managing Change, Improving Adoption: How IT Can Better Support the Legal Department

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Hanzo

Lawyers have a reputation—sometimes deserved, sometimes not—of being technophobic Luddites. While there are certainly exceptions, many lawyers resist change and avoid new technology. When change becomes inevitable, those same lawyers may complain about the disruption to their workflow or call IT to report frequent problems. 

As an IT professional, your job is to support everyone in the company, even the most tech-averse holdouts in the legal department. But how? How can you find technology that will help the most hesitant users get started and ensure that they can—and do—use it successfully?

In this case, understanding the concerns of the legal team is the key to doing your IT job better. Here are a few questions to ask in your quest to understand the essential characteristics and concerns of the legal professionals you support to give you a deeper insight into their worldview.

How Do Lawyers And Other Legal Professionals Approach Risk?

Lawyers are known for being risk-averse, but why? Is this because they're naturally risk-averse or even, dare we say, pessimistic? Do they get it from their training to become lawyers, or is this characteristic why they pursued a career in the law in the first place?

It is a veritable chicken and egg question. Still, there's no doubt that lawyers have learned how to identify risks and anticipate every possible negative outcome in law school and throughout their practice. Legal training emphasizes everything that can (and, at some point, does) go wrong so that lawyers can help their clients prepare for the worst. 

This perspective regarding risk affects everything that lawyers do, including their use of (or reluctance to use) technology. Due to their heightened risk sensitivity, here are three common fears about using any technology: 

  • fear of a security breach that would embarrass the company and potentially violate the ethical duties of confidentiality for the legal team; 
  • fear that they will not be able to find or access tools or information—including documents, data, notes, contacts, and more—when and where they need it; and
  • fear of data loss because of a technological failure or a loss of control over data. 

That last point is nothing to take lightly. Lawyers measure their value based on how effectively they can help their enterprises manage risk. Lawyers who rely on a technology solution to help them get the necessary information to respond to a mission-critical case, only to find out that they can't get the data, are unlikely to grant that system—or any other technology—a second chance. 

Another fear to understand about legal professionals, whether in-house or outside counsel, is that they do not want to look unknowledgeable. When you bill hundreds of dollars per hour, you, understandably, want to avoid anything that undermines your expertise. Yet, Lawyers also don't feel that they have time to spend learning how to use new technology. 

What Pressures Do The Legal Team Face?

Everybody is under pressure at work, so what is so unique about the pressures your legal team faces? Here are a few examples to consider:

  • Lawyers are under incomprehensible time pressure. Court deadlines are not negotiable or even the tiniest bit flexible. Mistype or miscalculate a critical filing deadline or fail to file a document in time and you could instantly lose a multimillion-dollar case. 
  • Lawyers have strict ethical obligations regarding client confidentiality. An email sent to the wrong recipient can have devastating consequences on the negotiation or pending litigation matter—not to mention the business's reputation and the lawyer's professional future. 
  • For lawyers, there is no leeway for mistakes. Even a minor error—a misplaced decimal point, an incorrect name or date copied over from a template document, or an unauthorized file change or deletion—can cause grave harm to their clients, your company. 

These pressures can cause lawyers to be unforgiving of slowdowns, sloppy communications, or errors, whether their own or anyone else's. You're on the same team, and managing risk is the name of the game. The steps you take to facilitate data access efficiency are pure gold for your legal team. 

What Legal Workflows Do Lawyers Use To Respond To Litigation And How Can IT Help?

Like all of us, lawyers have their established ways of doing things. Those ways have stood the test of time, helping lawyers produce work that lives up to their high standards. Tools that keep at least some of the elements of their existing workflows—or that fit seamlessly within those workflows—are an easier sell than tools that demand an entirely new approach. Ideally, legal solutions will work the way lawyers do, instead of requiring them to change their work to fit the technology.

What's the bottom line? Understanding how lawyers view risks, how and where they feel pressure, and how they already work can take you a long way toward helping them adopt helpful technology. For example, it's easy to see how lawyers would prefer tools that:

  • incorporate world-class security protections
  • are intuitive, user-friendly, and easy to pick up
  • fit within existing legal workflows
  • get them rapid access to data 
  • save them time with automation or review-ready outputs

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