Something that I usually do after attending conferences is to take a few days to blow off the steam and let my thoughts settle down. Once I feel more focused, I go back to my notes with impressions, jokes, keywords, sketches (lots of them), and flowcharts.
I recently attended the Legal Innovators UK 3.0 conference in London, which was organized by Artificial Lawyer and Cosmonauts. With a focus on the in-house day event, the concept that most struck my interest was a response I got from one of my favorite questions:
Question: How do you deal with resistance to change and innovation with in-house legal teams?
The issue: Why that feeling to solve the problem quickly is going to cost you hard
You will not find a straightforward response to such a question. There are multiple factors to consider when you are assessing your team’s needs to embrace innovation and eventually seek help from legal tech tools.
As recently pointed out in a great article written by Nicola Shaver (How to Dig Into a Problem), it is so important to get digging into a problem before jumping to the solution. Also, from what I heard at the conference, it seems that most professionals in the legal industry are still tempted to adopt fast solutions, clean their ‘professional souls’ with expensive legal tech tools, and convince their IT departments to adopt changes. But not many are focusing on the uncomfortable nutshell: falling in love with the problem, not the solution!
Opening the closet of your team’s workflow issues is not easy. You need to ask yourself: would you blame anyone for treating that topic with care? I personally would not! On the positive side, there are many efficient ways to tackle the problem, as long you commit to a more structured strategy.
What has also been discussed (finally!) and presented as a powerful technique to tackle change management in legal tech is the design thinking process. More specifically, design thinking consists of five distinct but interconnected phases: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test. Trust me, you will understand it better if you see it visually! So, check out the below visual representation:
I have not heard or read enough about this combination (design thinking + legal tech), but I suggest that we watch this space very carefully, as this combo is probably one of the smartest and most long-term success-focused strategies for your in-house legal team.
A practical experience: Nurturing feedback and embracing an agile approach to your team workflow
With a more practical approach, I received one of the best and most reasonable responses to my question not from the speakers this time, but from one of the attendees. She was an experienced General Counsel, now becoming a professional business coach while having a chat together between panels.
After our friendly chat, we reached the following list as the most applicable and interactive approach to deal with change management with in-house teams in just three steps:
1) Purpose and Vision
It is essential to spend some proper time on this step. Purpose and Vision cannot be just presented once and left to take dust on a cupboard. They must be fed, nurtured, and constantly reminded to your team to ensure you stick to a mission, all together.
2) Reliable Support
Be reliable. You need to be there and provide support to your team members as requested. You probably will not be able to win over the sceptics or the so-called “haters”, but you may exercise some positive leverage in convincing the ones that are still doubtful about innovation and share any concerns. Focus on the long run.
If you reach a deadlock, this is your poker card! Have you ever thought to play a game with your team members during internal knowledge sessions where everyone, from the director down to junior assistants, can share alternatively the role of innovators and traditional lawyers in a simulated scenario? This strategy could help your team to strike a better balance, being more objective and so challenging each other assumptions.
What is the solution, then?
In the end, I realise there is no magic formula to answer my question. There are many different scenarios to consider, but one thing is certain: do not make assumptions, do not jump to conclusions, and put feedback and collaboration at the centre of your team’s discussions.
Some people might say “you need to be a doer, and not too much of a thinker with legal tech and innovation”, which is why keeping a practical approach and accepting failure as part of the iterative process is so fundamental to increasing your chances to succeed. That is exactly the approach we have been taught at the Legal Technology & Innovation Institute. I can tell from personal experience that there is nothing better than using, failing (sometimes messing all it up) and delivering legal tech tools to boost your skills on the subject.