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Articles | 28.08.19

3 Things You Can Do to Encourage Legal Tech Adoption with Your Law Firm Employees

In an environment where we have more connectivity, more computers, and more technology, we assume that everyone working in a law office should automatically pick up on how to use legal technology. If they can use Word and save a document or even make and use a template, shouldn’t they instinctively know how to use legal practice management tools? Shouldn’t they know how to use online contract repositories that allow them to write or edit or even sign contracts just by opening it? Shouldn’t they know how to navigate a CRM and send out emails? Technology is technology is technology…right?

No, and, unfortunately, it is that overly broad idea that often means law firms as a whole and employees at their individual level do not get everything they want and need out of legal tech. If legal tech isn’t being used properly or isn’t being used at all, a disconnect is created at the individual level, the attorney-client level, and at the management level. It can be very difficult to determine which document for a certain client is the right one if you have people who don’t save it within the central server or document management system. There could be multiple people with different versions of it. Which one should be used? Sure, they could be using Track Changes and emailing the file back and forth, but there’s no way to know with certainty unless you do a lot of digging.

I’ll say it again: legal tech only works when people know how to use it and actually use it. What we must consider as lawyers as what we can do to create the right environment for employees to be more open to learning to properly use legal tech and also be open to asking for help.  The good news is that we can structure, implement, and encourage the right environment. And it doesn’t have to be difficult, either.

Explain How Legal Tech Makes Employee Work Easier and It’s Not Meant to Replace Them

Legal technology is designed to make providing both and excellent experience and excellent service to each client. From a historical standpoint, it’s certainly easy to see how word processing programs that allowed us to edit documents and correct mistakes was an improvement from the use of typewriters and correction tape. We can see how the wider adoption of email and secured attachments (and the ability to create and provide secured document delivery online) has far better protected us all when compared to faxes (and, yes, I know that there are many online faxing options available that are still used; most of them have secured databases which makes them significantly more secure than the giant paper rocks of yore).

The entertainment industry hasn’t really given the general population much hope in regard to AI. Terminator, Beyond Blade Runner 2049, Bicentennial Man, Resident Evil, Westworld, RoboCop, I, Robot…the list goes on and on. The idea of AI in the workplace sparks a lot of fear. First AI comes to monitor and obliterate us if it thinks we’re misbehaving and now it wants our jobs. Thanks a lot, Hollywood.

Place your focus as the supervising lawyer on how the tech will help improve the daily work experience for each employee. Explain how legal tech should make them enjoy what they’re doing more and that they are still a necessary part of the law firm. Technology is nice, and sure it can do a lot of neat things, but it isn’t a substitution for a person. Someone still must check the quality of whatever it is that legal tech does for the firm. And although legal tech makes certain things more convenient for clients, such as receiving updates and paying their invoices, they still want to talk to a person when they have questions or concerns.

You may have to explain this concept multiple times. Just keep in mind that it’s about reassuring your team you’re looking to make the office function more smoothly and not looking to automate them into the unemployment line.

Create an Environment That Welcomes Questions, Concerns, and Feedback

No one likes to feel stupid or inept. Not all technology works the same; some legal tech applications are definitely more intuitive than others. Some are really easy to learn because they resemble common software used every day. Others have a steep learning curve. If you want to ensure that your employees give technology solutions a fair shake, create an environment that welcomes questions, concerns, and feedback.

It may not be possible for you to constantly have an open door policy for questions and help with software. You have meetings. You need deep work time. Sometimes you’re in court. You also have the option of setting up once a day (or once a week as time goes on) check-ins to ensure that no one is stuck. In addition to proactively addressing questions and concerns that could be hindering proper tech adoption, it also lets you get a look at what’s happening from the front lines in terms of quality in both the product created and whether the employee believes the technology is useful or if it really does nothing more than slow them down.

It’s vital to really listen to your employees. You can create help documents to answer common questions. You can create walk-throughs for training manuals. While those items are great, what you can really get is insider information on whether all those bells and whistles are helpful or a hindrance. Be open to this information. Don’t necessarily label every question, concern, or piece of feedback that doesn’t align with your opinion as a complaint or resistance. Use it as an opportunity to learn.

Get Input from Employees Before You Buy

Talk with key employees about their workflow. Give them some information about the legal tech they’re considering. Ask them to review the information and to let you know how they think each possibility would impact their work. Remember that while you are the one who holds the ultimate responsibility for their work as the supervising attorney, you’re likely not the one down in the trenches every day. Their input can help you make a better decision. It will also improve the likelihood that the employees will actually put in the effort to learn to use the one you decide to purchase.

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