In 2021, picking legal tech for a small- or medium-sized law firm is a tricky task. Suddenly, there are dozens of technologies, hundreds of vendors, and growing innovation pressure from clients and competitors. How does one navigate through these legal tech jungles? Are there any tech pitfalls you should be aware of? How can one make sure your new software improves your firm’s performance? If you have asked yourself these or similar questions, this guide is set to help. Let’s walk you through the legal tech adoptions process, step by step.
In this article:
1. Things to consider before starting your legal tech journey
– Understand your firm’s pain points
– Ask your team
– Rely on data
– Review the software you are already using
– State the legal tech’s end goal
2. Where to search for legal tech vendors
3. D-day: What to ask on a legal tech demo
4. How to approach change management
5. How to evaluate the trial’s success
Things to consider before starting your legal tech journey
Before you even start searching for tech vendors, there’s some crucial work to be done. The first thing you need to realize before rolling up the sleeves is that legal tech will not solve all your problems. Tech can improve your firm’s performance, free attorneys from routine tasks, make operations more transparent, and significantly cut expenses. But technology is never a panacea. There’s no all-in-one, one-fits-all legal tech solution to heal a law firm. To understand what kind of tech you need, you have to understand exactly what problems you need to solve.
Understand your firm’s pain points
You will be surprised how many firms fail to ask “What problems do we need to solve?” before wondering “What software do we need?”
“The top mistake is jumping into technology to solve business process issues. Too many organizations start evaluating technology before they’ve analyzed their business processes to find weaknesses and opportunities for improvement. Those should be addressed first so that they can evaluate the technology based on which one will best support their improved processes… not the technology that will “fix” their processes – because the technology will only end up automating the bad processes.”
In other words, understand whether you have a tech issue in the firm. Now, how do you do that?
Ask your team
Essentially, introducing any legal tech solution boils down to one purpose: to help people work better. No matter how sophisticated or revolutionary the technology is, it is destined to fail if the people using it don’t see their problems resolved. Talk to all your team members: run through their daily workflow, ask which tasks they find most stressful or inefficient, hear their pain points, and write down your insights.
If you don’t make your team part of the discussion, chances are you’ll end up with a shiny but useless legal tech toy that nobody ever needed in the first place, as Sharan Kaur, a corporate lawyer, and legal digital transformation evangelist, has put it in one of her LinkedIn posts. Plus, talking to your team makes your job easier: you don’t need to assume what issues your firm has — you will know it directly from the people.
Rely on data
Talking to people will give you tonnes of valuable insights, but how do you make sense of diverse human experiences? By taking a data-driven approach. Of course, an ideal solution would be to hire a data analyst or a consultant who knows what data to collect and how to interpret it.
Still, there’s data that you can (and should) collect and analyze yourself. Look into your firm’s expenses. Look into which tasks and processes earn you money and which don’t. Track the time spent on each type of task. This hard data will be essential to creating measurable legal tech performance indicators and to evaluating the effect of the adoption.
Review the software you are already using
Take a step back and look at the software already in place. Chances are, you might have had a solution already — you just didn’t realize it. Even the most widely used solutions like Microsoft Office or Google Suite might have a lot of features hidden from your daily workflow. In fact, around 80% of cloud-based digital products’ features are rarely or never used.
To avoid paying twice for the same feature, ask support or IT teams whether your problems are solvable with the products you are already paying for. If you don’t have a solution installed, move on to the next step.
State the legal tech’s end goal
What exactly do you want to achieve with your new legal tech software? How will you understand that the new product has been a success? Clearing out these expectations from the start will make you more confident during demos and will help you evaluate the effectiveness of the new software after the proof of concept or trial period. Moreover, a clear set of goals will help you make sure that all of the partners want the same thing from your new purchase.
Where to search for legal tech vendors
You have identified your firm’s tech issues and clarified your expectations. Now, where do you actually go and search for a legal tech tool? Simply googling “legal tech” is a messy task, so it’s better to focus on search platforms that publish only verified software products for businesses.
Here are platforms that will cover you:
- G2 (formerly G2 Crowd) is a peer-to-peer review platform for business software products. G2 is easy to navigate and it accumulates quality reviews from real-life software users. Go straight to the Legal software section to browse deeper.
- LegalTechHub is a platform of legal tech resources, including legal tech vendors. Search by case region, language, and other categories to find a perfect match.
- Capterra is a well-established online marketplace that connects software vendors with buyers.
- Crozdesk is a relatively young business software search platform, championing an extensive library of user guides to a variety of software solutions.
- Orrick’s Observatory is a platform focused on giving data and peer reviews on legal tech solutions.
Can’t make sense of all the legal tech options? Ask for help
According to Deloitte’s Legal Technology report, “One of the most often cited obstacles to technology adoption is the abundance of solutions on the market and in many cases the lack of an industry standard.” So, if you feel lost in the legal tech jungle, you’re not alone.
The best way to avoid the stress is to hire a qualified person or company that can make the choice for you. However, if you’re confident you’re doing it solo, go ahead and research what your peers from other firms have been doing — some of them might have already been through a similar journey. Keep in mind, though, that each firm is different and you can’t be sure that the same solutions would work for everyone.
One way or another, you will end up with a shortlist of the most fitting vendors. This takes us to the next step of the legal tech adoption journey — demos.
D-day: What to ask on a legal tech demo
Most legal tech vendors give demos before offering to purchase their product. Demos are calls with vendor representatives where they show their potential clients what their product can do and answer buyers’ questions.
For law firms, the general advice is to have as many demos as possible, with some experts saying that general counsel should set aside 30 minutes each week just for demos of promising legal tech products. However, the success of demos lies not in the quantity, but in the quality of these calls.
Of course, you should ask for a product overview and talk about the features while on a demo. But there are more nuanced questions you should also be asking the vendors:
- How does the tech solve your problem? Products can be widely used and have many cool features, but you need to focus on one thing: making sure this software is able to solve the problem you stated at the beginning.
- Does the product give a trial period or a proof of concept option? Commitment without trial is risky. Many vendors are flexible about trial periods or limited proof of concept sessions and are happy to suggest more than one option if you ask for it.
- Are there any potential integration issues with the software you’re already using? Prepare the list of software tools you are already using and ask the vendor about the pitfalls.
- Have the product had any data security issues? How does the vendor make sure their product is secure for processing sensitive data? If the vendor has some kind of a security brochure, it’s a good sign.
- What kind of issues do the vendor’s clients tend to have when adopting their products? This might be an uncomfortable question for the vendor, but it’s a great way to see how open and helpful the company is. You’re searching for a business partnership here, after all.
Sharan Kaur listed her top three “questions that law firms should be asking legal technology vendors but aren’t”:
“What is the vendor’s change management process? Law firms need to know the vendor has experience in driving change and adoption.
What do the self-help and troubleshooting guides look like? Buyers need to know they are comprehensive and won’t need the provider to help every time users get stuck.
Depending on the tech solution, law firms need to be clear about who holds the IP. This is important and can become contentious.”
Armed with these questions, you will have a much higher chance of picking the right vendor after a series of demos.
How to approach change management
Success! You have picked your new legal tech, made all the trial period arrangements, and had the software installed on your firm’s PCs. Unfortunately, this is far from the end of your legal tech journey. Enter change management.
“Few people like change and when new technology is added to an already busy work schedule, it must be deployed with care and change management of different user personas in mind. It may be the best technology solution for the project, but if users don’t adopt it, it doesn’t matter how perfect a fit it is,” Jason Smith told Loio.
At this stage, you need to activate your best managerial traits to lead the change in your law firm. Don’t expect your employees to independently learn to use, benefit from, and love their new software. Be there at every step of the way and be ready to extensively use your vendor’s support services whenever you have a question. Having a dedicated manager or even a team to answer users’ questions and hold training sessions might be a wise option, too.
How to evaluate the trial’s success
Think of trial periods and proof of concept sessions, whatever their outcome is, as the means of understanding your law firm’s needs better. As your solution’s trial period is running out, look back at the initial problems that you identified before searching for the new legal tech. Has the new tech been able to solve them? What do the people and data tell you? If no, why do you think this is the case? Is it the product’s limitations, your lack of change management efforts, or the vendor’s poor communication? Or, maybe the problem was stated incorrectly in the first place?
That’s why trials are so important — they lower the cost of making the wrong choice. Be eager to take notes and learn lessons from them.
We hope that following every step of this guide will help you make the right choice of your next legal tech tool and thrive both as a business and a team.