Digital transformation projects are proving a challenge for the legal sector. While attending the British Legal Technology Forum in London and the Legal Leaders IT forum at Gleneagles in Scotland recently, we were struck by the difficulties that law firms admitted to facing when trying to implement new technologies and cloud solutions that would help them perform better as businesses.
Among the most significant challenges faced were:
- Getting buy-in from senior management
- Difficulty in explaining the benefits to users
- Lack of internal collaboration to make change happen
Interestingly, these blockers have very little to do with the technology but a lot to do with people. How we explain change, how we engage the human beings who are going to be affected by that change, and how we implement the change – these are critical factors in any transformation project.
The technology chosen is almost secondary to ensuring that your management team and users are on board with what you plan to do. Just as lawyers want to understand the finances of the deals they do, so they need to understand and justify why the business should make a financial investment in the IT transformation being proposed. And the users of the technology that is being introduced also need to understand what business processes will have to change in order to leverage its benefits.
When we work with any type of organisation to consult on, design and build a new IT environment, part of the process is to help engage its management and staff to understand why the change is happening and how they will benefit from it in their working life. We also focus on explaining the financials of what is being proposed and how these can be presented to the business. Simply adding cloud into the equation doesn’t work. To achieve real gains, the transformation approach has to be strategic.
The IT Director of Farrer & Co, a law firm using Microsoft Azure to transform the way it works, added to this during his joint presentation with our cloud consultancy SystemsUp at the British Legal Technology Forum. Neil Davison highlighted three things he believes every law firm should do when approaching a digital transformation:
- Engage the business early
- Re-evaluate the skills of your IT team and re-deploy them where necessary
- Do detailed application analysis up front
In its most recent survey, PwC revealed that UK law firms were struggling to keep up with client expectations and new technologies. It pointed out that only 11% were using big data and analytics and said they needed to be more agile in embracing emerging technologies.
The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) offers this traditionally risk-averse sector the chance to use automation to improve service delivery to clients. Many firms that are trying to move to a digital workplace find it difficult because they’re not sure where to start however, where law firms do innovate, they will find this helps to strengthen the relationships they have with clients. As Gartner Research Director and AI specialist Jie Zhang explained at the Legal Leaders IT event in Scotland, lawyers today must speak three languages: law, finance and technology.