Panel at 2023 LegalTech Summit discussed best practices for change management
During the panel, “The strategic use of legal tech: Adopting a client-focused transformation strategy,” Osler partner Gillian Scott analogized the experience of adopting technology in the notoriously conservative legal-services environment to a popular cartoon that often makes the rounds on LinkedIn.
Two cavemen are pushing a wheelbarrow filled with rocks, but the wheelbarrow has square wheels that are digging into the ground. Another caveman follows behind, offering the pair two round wheels. “No thanks!” says one. “We are too busy,” says the other.
“I think that that explains, in a nutshell, where we often are when we're working in the field of digital technology with lawyers,” said Scott. Her role at Osler involves strategic leadership in the “assessment, development, staffing, pricing, launch, sale, and scale” of the firm’s innovative legal products and service offerings.
She asked the panellists to detail some successful strategies around change management that they had either used, seen, or look forward to adopting.
Sondra Rebenchuk, senior innovation counsel at Blake Cassels & Graydon, responded that a main consideration can often be whether one of the cavemen pushing the square wheels thinks that the round wheel was their idea. “For us, it's really, truly understanding our stakeholders, and what motivates them. What are their pain points? What do they need to get out of this?”
Reticence may not relate to the technology or the work, she said. They may be overburdened, under-resourced, and there may be a broken stage in their process. It is important to understand their workflow. Not comprehending “every single piece of background” on stakeholders can cause “huge issues” down the road. “That seems like a really simple task – ask them what work they're doing and then write it down – but it's actually very challenging.”
Dan Dagan, general counsel at Siemens Energy Canada, recommends a “carrot and stick” approach. As to the carrot, present the technology, not as a new task to learn, but as a solution to a problem they have, he said.
“Nobody likes pushing the square wheels up the hill, so speak in terms of their pain points.”
The stick involves some ruthlessness, said Dagan. “You take the square wheels, you hide them away, and you say, ‘This is what you have to use.’”
For lawyers, the demands of the job can create “change fatigue,” said Sukesh Kamra, chief knowledge and innovation officer at Torys. Not only must they practise law, but they must also bill, execute administrative tasks, perform business development, join committees, and adopt new legal tech – much of which they were never taught in law school. “Add the pandemic and everything else around the world, and that’s a lot for lawyers to come to grips with,” he said.
Kamra developed nine ways that law firm innovation leaders can make change management easier:
- Have a clear business case right at the outset.
- Accept, understand, empathize with, and talk through the resistance.
- Develop a communication plan. Kamra is a fan of the rule of seven: “Get in front of your people at least seven different times,” he said.
- Engage with key stakeholders and make them champions.
- Break up the change into smaller phases to make it more manageable. “If the change is really big, see if you can break It into bit-sized, digestible pieces,” said Kamra.
- Provide support.
- Foster a culture of resiliency.
- Be patient.
- Answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” Explain how the change will make lawyers’ jobs – and lives – easier. Tell them a story.
The panel took place June 15 at Canadian Lawyer’s LegalTech Summit. This year’s conference was called “Innovation in law: Accelerating your digital transformation journey.”
LEAP Canada sponsored the panel.