As advisers and experts, having drunk the "LegalTech Kool-Aid" (and seen some amazing results), we have a strong innate belief in the benefits of Legal process re-engineering and technology. 

Too often we want to see our customers jump to the “Show & Tell” or even the “Think Ahead” stage (see Part 1–stages of readiness include: Below the Line, Baseline, Wait & See, Show & Tell and Think Ahead).  

We would love each customer to be deploying the latest and greatest technology, but in reality, few organizations are genuinely ready to jump to these advanced stages. Either the internal pressure is inadequate, the technology landscape does not yet meet their requirements, or the views of stakeholders are not aligned.

Often, we find that one constituent (for example, the General Counsel or the head of Legal Operations), has a "Think Ahead" view.  While the rest of the stakeholders (for example, internal customers, external customers, the bulk of the legal team) have more of a Baseline approach ("if it's not broke, don't fix it").

When divergent views as to what needs to occur persist, initiatives are bound to fail; either they stall and are never fully implemented, or fail outright when users balk at adopting a given initiative.

Too often, customers tend to jump to the solutioning step, without doing all that critical groundwork. When that happens, we typically see a disconnect, resulting in failed initiatives. It is critical to identify the reasons for the disconnect as true reasons for failure.

Once the reasons for the disconnect have been identified, only then can a proper approach be defined:

Revert: Roll-back and settle for the lowest common denominator of what is required. At Elevate, we help Legal Leadership with the roll-back, and in extracting, lessons learned, and gauging the overall appetite for change. Other times, we assist with the “See” element of the “Wait & See” approach, to see if stakeholders are now ready for a change, or technology has progressed–a process that is critical to avoid falling from a “Baseline” to a “Below the Line” position.

Pause: Put the project on hold, take stock, and possibly instigate a change management initiative to win the hearts and minds of all stakeholders. A pause requires defining a communication plan, monitoring changes in attitudes and market dynamics, and identifying when to resume.

Carry on: Sometimes a project falters, yet pushing on is necessary. The steps are: pause, assess, identify why the change is not taking hold, and design mitigating activities and a different approach. When a change is forced upon the Legal team or business users without doing the homework described in Part 1 and above, the change implementation can not roll out at scale. Our role is to apply our experience and knowledge to outline what is required to make this initiative successful and raise the alarm if we believe it cannot (or should not) proceed.

The legal community’s conservative, “look back” mentality means that most legal departments–probably 75%–are at the Baseline or Wait & See stages, with perhaps 20% in Show & Tell, and very few (5% worldwide) at Think Ahead.

Why?

  • Limited support from internal and external stakeholders, limited budgets, and limited appetite for pushing change, resulting in a Wait & See stance that is stuck on assessing whether the technology delivers benefits and can deploy without negative impacts.
  • Few inspirational examples of Show & Tell exist. Legal departments stay content remaining in Wait & See–particularly given the “horror stories” from the Think Ahead space (a new model imploding, “technology incubators” not meeting expectations, large scale technology projects faltering).
  • A belief that Legal Tech is mostly hype, especially with far more Legal Tech providers than potential buyers.

Numerous “untapped” opportunities for transformation exist, but not all organizations are ready. They remain in the "Wait & See" mode. But, changes are afoot. We are currently working on around 20 legal tech initiatives, part of an “incremental revolution” rather than a Legal Tech instant miracle upending the entire industry.

We urge customers to go back to basics. Begin by determining whether you need new solutions, and if so, in what way, and using which Legal Technology? Impulsively buying technology, hoping it will fix some general issue, is bound to fail. Instead, clarify the fundamental reasons for the change to guide a sustainable approach and foster genuine effort.

Aspects to consider:

  • What level of change is needed? Are you aiming for Below-the-Line, Baseline, Wait & See, Show & Tell or Think Ahead?
  • What will genuinely improve efficiency?
  • What is realistic, given your internal and external constraints?

Taking a step back and with a holistic view of change, I am confident that 2020 will see more companies Show & Tell their progress and inspire others to start optimizing their processes and adopting new technology.