How to Sow the Seeds of Change with Decision-makers

This is Part II in a 3-Part Series on how law firm staff can influence positive technological change at a law firm. Read Part I here.

Once you know your law firm’s tech stack inside and out, and can accurately identify what needs to change, the next step is to build your army.  You can’t do this alone, so it’s time to acquire some tactical troops because, not everybody is going to be on your side.  I’ve been working with law firms long enough to know that Helen from accounting is going to tell you where to stick your proposals, and that Gerry on the executive board loves his WordPerfect, thank you very much.  You’ll need to win over supporters, including the lawyers who can effectuate change in the law firm environment. Here’s how:

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Find the Partners Who Are Into Tech

Yes, many attorneys are hopeless when it comes to technology.  And that’s maybe because lawyers are an older profession, demographically-speaking.  Go to a lawyer networking event, and try to find someone under 45, and you’ll see what I mean.  So, your best bet is to find the young whippersnapper attorneys, who are willing to go to the wall with you on the tech question, and who are equally frustrated.  That’s not to say it’s always the young attorneys. I know a number of older attorneys who are very into technology, and understand it from a business process level which is the part that many younger attorneys miss.  And, your standards may need to be lowered, depending on the structure of your law firm.  It may be that you don’t actually have access to tech-savvy lawyers just those who won’t argue, delay or obfuscate against your pitch for new tech.

Be Specific

Remember that decision-making lawyers love details.  Lawyers luxuriate in details. They love obscure things.  So, give the people want they want! Talk to them about highly specific issues that are problematic with respect to the law firm’s current technology infrastructure.  If you can find some arcane use of a specific technology that’s not functioning the way it should, that will pique an attorney’s interest like nothing else.  This is how you open the crack that creates the chasm. This is how you build rapport with the lawyers you need on your side. Then, you have your opening to expand the conversation.

Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except for You and Your Agenda  

You know what else lawyers love: meetings.  You know what else: formal agendas. (Really, this is like shooting fish in a barrel.)  Once you get to talking over some specific issues with the attorney you want on your side, the next step is to get those issues on a meeting agenda.  Preferably, this will be an all-staff meeting, where you can make the case yourself; but, maybe it starts with a partners meeting, where your valiant attorney will begin to advance your case for you.  (That latter option may not necessarily seem ideal; but, it may be a quicker way to gain traction, because of the mouthpiece by which it is delivered.) The other thing about meeting agenda items: they never die.  So, once you can get the technology conversation started, it won’t stop.

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is  

If you want things to change, you’re going to have to continue to push, once the conversation has started.  In fact, that’s when the real work begins. Now’s your chance to bring it on home.  Offer to draft and present an analysis of your law firm’s technology situation (the whole thing, even if you end up working out piecemeal solutions over time), along with one of your attorney sponsors.  If you follow the steps in Part 1 of this series, you’ve already laid the groundwork for this discussion now, it’s just a matter of nailing the landing.

You Vetter, You Vet

Putting your money where your mouth is, Part 2.  When the time comes to test out software, you need to be on the front lines for vetting those tools.  You then need to aggressively put those systems through their paces. Lastly, you need to make a killer presentation about pros and cons.  Remember, you’re the legal tech software All-Star: now, prove it.

. . .

In Part 3 of this series, we’ll discuss how to pitch law firm decisionmakers, with the help of software vendors.

About the author

Jared D. Correia, Esq. is the CEO of Red Cave Law Firm Consulting, which offers subscription-based law firm business management consulting and technology services for solo and small law firms. Red Cave also works with legal institutions and legal-facing corporations to develop programming and content. A former practicing attorney, Jared has been advising lawyers and law firms for over a decade. He is a regular presenter at local, regional and national events, including ABA TECHSHOW. He regularly contributes to legal publications, including his column, ‘Managing,’ for Attorney at Work, and his ‘Law Practice Confidential’ advice column for Lawyerist. Jared is the author of the American Bar Association publication ‘Twitter in One Hour for Lawyers’. He is the host of the Legal Toolkit podcast on Legal Talk Network. Jared also teaches for Concord Law School, Suffolk University Law School and Solo Practice University. He loves James Taylor, but respects Ron Swanson; and, he tries to sneak Rolos when no one is looking.

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