Adapting to new legal technology can be difficult for legal professionals. Technology changes at the speed of light, making it confusing and unsettling to continually change the way a practice operates. Add to that fact that some technology displaces or changes the nature of a job, and you have a recipe for resistance to change. Adapting the change management process is key to ensuring a smooth transition from one phase to the next.
Even though general agreement exists regarding the best change management principles, the most important one is to remain flexible. Lawyers are overwhelmingly INTJs (Introversion, Intuition, Thinking and Judgment) on the Meyers-Briggs personality scale at a rate of five times that of the general population. So the usual “team building” exercises that one might conduct as part of change management will not work very well with a group of introverts.
Always remember that you can change a person’s behavior, but you cannot change his or her personality. Trying to force people to be other than who they are is like trying to teach a fish to walk. Personality is what we are. It is hardwired into people by the age of 5. Behavior is what we do. You will have greater success working with the fact that your lawyers are a group of introverts and modifying their behavior to accept your proposed change than trying to change them into extroverts who love chaos.
One downside of working with a large number of INTJ personality types is that they tend to be arrogant, believing that their conclusions are the only correct answers. They are judgmental, especially in relationships with others. They do not blindly follow rules for the sake of following them. All of these factors make it difficult to teach them new behaviors. The upside is that they are intellectually curious, hardworking, efficient and receptive to new, logical ideas.
While the legal realm is has been slower to adopt technology than most other industries, the truth of the matter is that technology will catch up to lawyers. You can drive adoption of new legal technology through a sound change management strategy by introducing today’s technology incrementally. Lawyers respond better to layers of change rather than plunging headlong into a new business model. Have a process in place by which the lawyers can buy into each logical, efficient, incremental change.
Set specific goals based on actual metrics and stick to specifics for each layer. Define the parameters behind choosing the goals. One low-layered goal could be lowering overhead through the reduction of printing by allowing electronic document sharing and signing. Already familiar with the technology, lawyers will embrace this easy stepping stone to increased technology.
Incorporate gamification into your change management strategy. At each layer of change, challenge the lawyers to come up with the most efficient means of reaching the next stepping stone. Naturally competitive, inquisitive and interested in problem-solving, they will appreciate the challenge. Additionally, the competition adds an ownership component to the change process. Ownership requires active participation as opposed to passive acceptance of the change.
Lack of communication leads to misunderstanding regarding the importance of technological change. As the change manager, you cannot over communicate the significance of each step in the process. Use email blasts, targeted emails, weekly or monthly meetings, individual meetings or whatever means necessary to ensure that the entire team is on the same page regarding the current step. Make sure that the managers support the new technology as they are the best messengers to rank-and-file staff.
Managers understand their employees, and workers prefer to hear about upcoming changes from their immediate supervisor rather than a stranger.
Always remember, though, that communications work both ways. While you are meeting with managers, lawyers and staff, remember to listen and watch for nonverbal cues. Active listening plays a vital role in clear communications. It enables you to better tailor your message to ensure that you address the concerns of all stakeholders and that they are still committed to the new technology.
Training reinforces the change’s intrinsic value. You cannot expect the entire legal team to effectively utilize technology that they cannot operate. Remember that everyone learns at his or her own pace and in his or her own manner. While training, slowly remove the legacy systems. People are prone to fall back into their comfort zone. With the legacy systems in place, employees will likely use them as a crutch or abandon the change altogether in favor of returning to the familiar.
As Eleanor Brown, author and entrepreneur, writes, “Change is hard. Resisting change, a lot harder.” Your job as a legal change management catalyst is to ensure that everyone realizes that, while the transition may be difficult, the price of resisting change is too high to ignore. The new technology will increase their efficiency, profitability and future growth.
Flexibility, small steps, communication and training provide the tools you need to implement a successful technology change management process in any law firm.
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