Colin Macleod
Colin Macleod

As part of The Lawyer’s In-House Financial Services Conference, Apperio hosted a digital roundtable on the topic of legal tech, and specifically how in-house lawyers can encourage the use of tech in their companies. There has been a rise in the prominence of legal tech in recent years, and there is now a growing number or providers, such as Apperio, offering services from legal spend analytics to document management software.

However, some in-house lawyers have had issues encouraging adoptions in their companies, either because their finance teams are unwilling to spend or once they have purchased the technology, their team has been slow or unwilling to adopt it.

Colin Macleod, the operations director at Apperio, broke down the discussion into the specific challenges faced by legal teams in adopting new technologies and practical steps to ensure users understand the technology to generate maximum returns on their investments.

The hallmarks of any successful digital transformation 

Macleod laid out five hallmarks of any successful digital transformation. The first is the need for a digital savy leader. The second, is to make sure that the technology is easy to use. The third, is to empower people to integrate the tool into their work. The fourth, is to encourage day-to-day use and the final hallmark is communicating regularly with your employees and guiding them through the learning process.

Encouraging management to invest

A lot of panellists commented that in-house legal teams usually only make up a small part of the business and require bespoke products. As legal is seen as a cost centre, it can be difficult to encourage management to investment in a product that may only benefit the legal team.

One recommended solution to this was to find another department that could be “buddied” up to. If you can find another department that will also benefit from a product, then it gives you more bargaining power and makes it more likely for management to invest. It also enables you to split the cost across the budgets of more than one team.

“We decided to buddy up with another department to give it a bit more gravitas,” one lawyer said.

The specific example given was a contract supplier management system. In this case the legal team had only around ten employees, so they buddied up to the procurement team and the operational team, who also had use for the product. In the end they had quite a lot of people in the business who needed to interact with this system to get a supplier off the ground. This widespread adoption gave them a “critical mass” of users to enable a successful adoption.

As well as finding a critical mass of users, it is also essential to put together a compelling business case to management. Macleod recommended that the product should be linked back to what the business cares about, so it must either generate more returns or increase cost savings.

Macleod said that you should start by making a case for what the organisation would look like without the tech and then work backwards from there. Apperio recommends that you should aim to get 5-10x returns on the cost of the product. If there is evidence that can support these kinds of returns, such as not having to make an extra hire, then it should be made clear in the business case.

Easy to use design is crucial

Once the business case has been made and the technology has been purchased, the next step is to ensure widespread adoption within the team. From the experiences shared, it is often that a very powerful and functional tool won’t be universally used because it is not user friendly. In these cases, there ends up being one or two “power users” that use the technology on behalf of everyone else.

One example of this was a tool that one of the panellist’s teams used to review and track invoices. The technology was functional, but its design meant that it wasn’t immediately easy to use. A couple of employees adopted it and became “power users”. They were then required to do all the invoice processing for the rest of the team. So, although they had a tool that could be very useful it ended up not providing the maximum level of efficiency.

“If you want the front office involved, in needs to be a simple interface”, said one of the lawyers.

People have become comfortable with very simple technology in their personal lives, such as iPhones, therefore it is good to find work tech that mimics what they use in their day-to-day life.

Internal Champions

The lawyers agreed that it is critical to have “internal champions” that can promote the new technology. If a few people pick it up quickly then they need to encourage and teach others to adopt as well.

“Champions throughout the business will make the transition period seamless,” said one lawyer.

Internal champions don’t only need to be in the legal department. If other departments use the same technology, then communicate with them and ask for support. And likewise, if members of your team are comfortable using a tool, they should help people in other parts of the business adopt it.

Legal tech has an important role to play in improving efficiencies across the industry but in the case of in-house lawyers it is difficult to encourage management to invest and to then create widespread adoption. Thankfully there are a few steps to ease this process.

Request the full report: “The successful adoption of technology in legal teams”.

Sponsor’s comment

Apperio was delighted to lead two roundtables on the successful adoption of technology in legal teams. Many thanks to all of the attendees from the in-house financial services community for sharing their user experiences of legal technology and participating in lively discussions.

The sessions began with an emphasis on the importance of research, particularly when embarking on the discovery process. Attendees across both roundtables expressed their uncertainty on where to begin in their search for legal technology.

There was general consensus that dialogue with colleagues in other departments is increasing, especially with regards to what technologies have been adopted, as well as best practices that can be emulated in legal departments.

It was highlighted that vendors such as Apperio, have dedicated resources that can also support legal departments on their discovery journey. Vendors should also be able to refer clients in a similar sector, enabling decision makers to get a broader view on whether a piece of technology is a good fit for their legal departments.

The discussion moved onto the importance of design and the role it can play in successful adoption in departments. There was agreement amongst attendees that complex software design will result in resistance amongst users, who will be unwilling to incorporate it into their day to day activities.

And last but not least, attendees were advised to utilise vendor Customer Success (CS) teams. These teams have been specifically built to support product users and ensure they have the best experience possible. CS teams will take onboard any feedback and pass this onto development teams to ensure user experiences are seamless.

As the roundtables concluded attendees were informed that Apperio will be releasing a guide on “the successful adoption of technology in legal teams” which is available to download now.