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Knowledge management

Adoption of new legal technology—best practices to get your team on-board

Clients demand that law firms focus on knowledge management, analytics and legal project management, and there is a burgeoning market of new products to address these needs. An email blast or offering free bagels no longer motivates lawyers to leave their offices and sit through a demo. Product deployment alone does not assure adoption and a return on investment. In order to optimise the adoption of products, there are multiple strategies that can be used to drive the adoption and aid in the determination of return on investment (ROI).

Eliminating the Obstacles to Adoption

This step is often overlooked. It is important to recognise at the outset that policies and the technology itself can create obstacles to adoption. Obstacles include imposing client charges for use, having a complex and unpredictable billing system for the use of products, requiring passwords, a complex installation, and hiding the resource ‘somewhere on the network’.

Online research is often identified with cost recovery and unpredictable charges to clients. Anxiety over client charges has become an obstacle for using these resources and getting the best answer for the client using the best resource. For law firms that to charge clients for research, the way to encourage appropriate use is to have transparent fee structures so that associates know the cost of each search and can easily calculate the cost of a session. Giving associates some control over costs will make them more comfortable using online research systems.

Eliminate passwords whenever possible. If a lawyer doesn’t know their password, they cannot make use of a product. Password management in a large firm is an administrative headache. Firms can achieve a win-win through the use of IP recognition and a carefully scoped license to allow designated lawyers to get access.

Make saving passwords easier. If individual passwords are required because of licensing restrictions, or vendor policies make it easy for lawyers to save their passwords in a secure desktop tool such as Research Monitor, Onelog or Lookup Precision, frustration will be reduced.

Understand the user experience. Don’t wait for lawyers to ask. If a product is worth buying, make sure that users have a complete installation before they are in crisis and need emergency access. Some products may require software installation or a password before a lawyer gets access. It is important to map out the user experience and to understand how to deploy a product in advance. Identify the pain points that could result in a lawyer abandoning the installation midway through the process. Provide concierge—desktop assistance—to assure that deployment is complete and provide a quick overview of how to use the product.

Bring the product to the lawyer and provide multiple access points. One size does not fit all lawyer workflows. Ultimately, the best way to get lawyers to use a product is to bring the product to the places they visit on the network, such as a practice group page, a client page, a research page, or a custom workflow page where all the relevant resources for a task are aggregated.

Enhancement Techniques

When It comes to lawyer training and adoption, one size definitely does not fit all. It is imperative that law librarians, knowledge managers, IT, marketing, and professional development staff employ a variety of techniques, formats, technologies, and approaches to driving technology into each lawyer’s practice. Since lawyers are no longer enticed by the prospect of bagels, or even a full lunch, one of the most important techniques is to bring training or resources to them where they sit, where they gather, or into the workflow where they practice.

Here are some techniques which drive technology and resource adoption:

Roving trainers and researchers. Periodically announce that training staff will roam the halls and be available to provide a brief intro to new tools or to troubleshoot existing tools.

Concierge roll-outs. Anytime a rollout involves a special setup, customisation or password, assigning staff to visit each lawyer’s office to complete the installation and to provide a quick overview may be the only way to ensure that the product gets to the lawyers who will benefit. One example might be a resource that tracks a particular partner’s clients, deals or litigation. Host an interactive session asking the partner to identify his or her top five clients and then customize the resource for the lawyer.

Professional development boot camps. A new generation of products offers completely new types of insights and outputs and may require a concentrated session. Since most lawyers have a continuing legal education requirement, achieve a win-win by creating a training program for an important resource that may also give the lawyer learning credit. This kind of training is appropriate for complex products such as analytics, due diligence review, and e-discovery.

Use in-house newsletters. In-house newsletter editors always need valuable content. New products or new features in existing products can be highlighted in a brief summary in newsletters. Such features can trigger requests for access and training.

Practice group lunch. One tried and true technique is to make an appearance where lawyers gather. Ask practice group leaders for a few minutes to introduce lawyers to important new resources. Provide a handout so they have something to reference back in their offices.

Publish a training calendar. While not everyone responds to training calendars, it can still be useful to promote the availability of webinars targeted to practice groups.

Promote the solution not the product. Unfortunately, many product names do not describe what a product does. Your chance of getting a lawyer’s attention improves when you explain that a product solves a specific problem—such as “learn techniques for conducting a corporate investigation” will get more traction than “learn about Practical Law”.

Promote innovation. Algorithms, analytics, machine learning, natural language processing, and jurimetrics have created solutions that “baby boomer” partners could not have imagined. It is helpful to create annual or quarterly guides to resources that deliver new kinds of answers or new kinds of workflows using advanced technologies. This also assures partners that the firm is investing in the newest technologies.

Promote products on your departmental webpage. Have a rotating promotion that targets products of interest to a wide audience.

“Just in time Skype” training. Use Skype or similar services to provide “just in time” training. These technologies enable a trainer to take control of the lawyer’s desktop and show how to solve particular problems or use a specific resource.

Year in review. Over the course of a year there could be changes in the features offered by products. The firm may rotate out underutilised resources and introduce new resources. An annual recap of new resources is an important reminder for lawyers to learn about resources—especially if they missed the initial kick-off announcement.

Quick links. Lawyers don’t need to be trained on every single product. Usage can be driven by creating simple IP authenticated links that give them direct access to a specific document or piece of information they need. Examples of quick links include, “pull an NDA document” or “find a head of terms”. These answers could come from different resources by clicking a link.

Gamification. Use gaming techniques and create teams of lawyers to “compete” in using new resources to answer questions or create documents.

Find an evangelist. A senior lawyer with influence in a practice group can be an invaluable ally in promoting the value of new resources to a practice group.

Hold a tech fair or set up a booth at a firm retreat. Periodically hold an event to show off valuable new products or new features in existing products.

Adoption by proxy. Sometimes the best way to get a lawyer interested in a product is to deliver unexpected results. The research team can be product evangelists by delivering reports that lawyers didn’t know they could ask for. The “wow” factor will often get lawyers’ attention better than an email promotion.

Follow Up and ROI

There are tools that can monitor and report on product adoption. Research Monitor, Onelog and Lookup Precision mentioned above save lawyers’ passwords but serve double duty in tracking the trajectory of adoption. Set up automatic reports on new products so you can continually assess usage. Is use growing? Do you need to encourage use in specific offices? Understand why a product is not be adopted and use appropriate outreach to find out why. Track return users: if lawyers use once and don’t return, conduct formal or informal surveys to get feedback. Are there problems with the product, or is there user error?

The bottom line is that product adoption does not end with the announcement email or even with product installation. It is an ongoing process which requires recurring outreach, usage analysis, and reassessment.


In-house agenda: October 2021 Pushing the boundaries with advanced automation Back to basics—understanding the value in document automation No budget? No problem for the in-house lawyer using technology to manage rising workloads—new report A client-first digital transformation COVID-19: economic and business environment—the role for law firms in helping their clients A new Acritas report shows how COVID-19 has changed the future of legal work Cloud computing and the use of legal technology in the cloud The key to technology adoption is in your law firm’s culture—webinar Webinar—stay ahead with the intelligent use of technology