As a law firm administrator, you’re likely involved in all phases of your firm’s administration, personnel, finances, facilities, and business systems. That might include managing equipment and facilities, drafting operational and HR policies, or overseeing payroll. In other words, you have a lot on your plate.
One of a law firm administrator’s most critical roles is managing the firm’s processes, systems, and technology. This 360-degree view of operations gives law firm administrators and managers invaluable insight into the operational challenges of the firm—challenges that legal technology solutions can help resolve.
Indeed, the right legal software is the great equalizer for many law firms, helping them run more efficiently, satisfy clients better, and maintain an output that’s competitive with larger firms. But evaluating new technology—and getting executive buy-in—can be a complex process.
In this blog post, we’ll walk you through how law firm administrators and office managers like you can convince firm partners to implement new legal technology that will automate, streamline, and simplify processes at your law office. We’ve also included best practices for researching tech solutions and creating a transition and implementation plan to communicate your proposal. Let’s start with the steps law firm administrators should take when adopting new legal technology.
Focus on challenges and pain points first
As our guide to law firm management explains, it’s best practice to have a clear idea of what problems need solving when considering implementing new technology. To determine if a tech solution is right for your law firm, start by defining the existing pain points that negatively impact the business. Then you can better assess if a tech solution will alleviate those issues.
For example, you may notice that your existing legal billing system is inefficient, time-consuming, and/or prone to error. In this instance, technology like Clio Manage could be a winning choice for your firm. Clio Manage can streamline billing with features like automated payment plans, online payments, and time and expense tracking.
Other challenges your law practice may be facing include:
- The shift to distributed, remote practice models
- The transition to client-centered lawyering
- Privacy, compliance, and data security issues
- Document organization and management, and data access complexity
While there are many tech options available to law firms, it’s important to remember that your firm may not benefit from adopting every new technology that you come across. Focus on the quality of benefits (tangible and intangible) and how they fit your firm’s unique needs.
Do your research
If you’re a law firm administrator and you want to look into a legal software solution for your firm, you need to do thorough research. Document your findings as you go—this will save you time later if you decide to create a proposal.
- Learn how it works. You don’t have to become an expert spokesperson for the technology. But taking the time to understand how the software works is key. Look for resources to help you with this. For example, Clio offers a free intro webinar to demonstrate how the software can help your firm. In addition to a basic understanding of how the technology works, consider factors like security, useful integrations, and support.
- Make a pros and cons list. Make sure you thoroughly understand the pros and cons of the new software. Consider factors like cost, ease of use, benefits, updates, and data migration.
- Check out the competition. Armed with your pros and cons lists, compare the technology with other similar tech options to see which solution is the best fit for your firm.
- Get a free demo. Many legal technology solutions offer a free demo of the software. A personalized demonstration can help answer specific questions you may have for the technology vendor.
Conduct a SWOT analysis
Analyzing the legal software’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) can help you decide if you should move forward with the new tech solution.
The SWOT analysis process asks essential questions related to each of the four categories. These questions help create a clear picture of a solution’s potential and how it can benefit your law firm. A completed SWOT analysis will better inform you of the risks and benefits of the proposed software.
Additionally, a SWOT analysis is an excellent way to collect data—a useful tool when presenting a new legal technology option to management. After all, nothing speaks louder than concrete numbers. Also, your law firm’s partner(s) will likely be interested in the following when making their decision:
- How much money and time will the new software save? (Strength)
- How difficult and time-consuming will it be to implement the new technology? (Weakness)
- How much potential increase in profits and/or revenue will the new software generate? (Opportunity)
- What risks are involved if we adopt the new software? (Threat)
Learn more about how to conduct a SWOT analysis.
Document your findings
Thoroughly analyzing a potential new technology is only half of the preparation required if you are a law firm administrator who wants to recommend new software to your law firm. To present your technology solution more effectively, you need to record your findings in a formal document.
Your formal proposal for adopting a new legal software at your firm should could include:
- Summaries and findings from your research (including costs and competitive data)
- Your SWOT analysis
- Where possible, an a
- Your transition and implementation plan
- If possible, include an assessment of the potential ROI of the new software in your proposal.
Once you’ve identified a solution that meets your firm’s needs, it’s time to think about how to implement it.
Create a legal technology transition and implementation plan
Change is hard. You may also face resistance when implementing new software at your firm. To make it easier for staff to adapt, begin by presenting a clear picture of the current situation. Include the pain points, potential solution, how to implement that solution, and what to expect once your firm switches to the new legal software. Map out a comprehensive transition and implementation plan. Having a plan will help ensure your firm will enjoy a smooth rollout and onboarding process.
Your plan should present answers to questions staff may have about how you will implement the new solution, such as:
1. What will the transition/migration period look like?
If you’re planning to transfer your law firm’s data to new legal software, you need to have a plan and a supporting team to accomplish this quickly, securely, and efficiently.
For example, Clio offers comprehensive migration services and data migration support. Whether you’re moving to Clio from a manual spreadsheet system, a server-based solution, or another cloud-based solution, a dedicated Migration Specialist will work with your firm to help transfer your data securely and quickly. You can also work with a Clio Certified Consultant (more on this below).
2. How will you encourage your law firm’s staff and partners to adopt the new legal software?
As Matt Homann, former lawyer-turned-CEO of a design firm, discusses change management for law firms in an interview, change can be a paradox for many law firms.
As Matt says, “People don’t want to change because they lose something. They lose knowledge with an old way of doing things. They lose power. They lose status. They lose comfort. They lose the ability to do something in a simple way, even if it fundamentally is more complicated.”
With this in mind, find ways to remove the barriers to adoption and motivate staff to embrace the new tech solution. A few helpful tactics outlined by the Forbes Human Resources Council include:
- Help employees see the value for themselves and the law firm. If staff fully understand how the new software will make their work easier, more efficient, and/or less stressful—plus help the firm be more successful—they may be less resistant to change.
- Provide multiple training options. Offer training content in different formats to accommodate different learning styles and preferences. Consider a strategy that uses online and in-person training, on-demand how-to videos, a help center, and skilled employees acting as tutors for other staff.
- Reward employees. Encourage adoption by rewarding employees in ways that are most meaningful to them, such as coffee gift cards for completing the training. A team lunch when all members have reached a designated implementation milestone also helps.
- Try fun and experiential learning platforms. Making learning fun and rewarding for employees helps promote software adoption. To boost engagement, consider incorporating gaming features (i.e., earning badges or micro-credentials) into the training process.
3. Who will be responsible for what?
Be clear about who will be responsible for each aspect of the transition to avoid miscommunication and implementation gaps. But don’t surprise anyone—be sure to communicate clearly and early with everyone involved.
4. What would a realistic timeline look like?
During your research into the new legal technology, you should establish how long the transition will take. Consider the time your firm will need—from the decision to adopt the new legal software to the point when your firm will be fully up and running. Remember to factor in considerations like data migration and staff training.
Present your proposal
Once you thoroughly research, plan, and document your proposal, the next step is to present your proposal formally.
Set a meeting with the managing partners, CTO, or other decision makers. If possible, invite other law firm staff to listen to your proposal. Engaging other staff members can be useful since the new software will address pain points they may currently be experiencing.
Come prepared with your plan and documentation. Also, be prepared to discuss potential questions about your proposal and the new legal tech software.
Consider working with a legal technology consultant
If your proposal is successful and you get buy-in for your proposed tech solution, congratulations! It’s time to put your implementation plan into action. While there is an inevitable learning curve and transition period when implementing new technology, if you’ve done the prep and have the right support, the rollout and adoption should be a smooth process.
For an even smoother transition, you may consider working with a technology consultant. For example, suppose you’ve decided to adopt Clio at your law firm. In that case, Clio’s Certified Consultant Program can connect your firm with consultants and professionals who can help get your practice up and running.
Law firm administrators can spearhead change at law firms
Law firm administrators can play an integral role in supporting their firms—and driving change that boosts the bottom line. You may be a law firm administrator tasked with evaluating potential legal tech solutions for your law firm. Or maybe you believe a new legal software will help your law firm streamline workflows and improve revenue. Either way, you can make a difference in your firm’s future success by upgrading its tech stack.
While conducting in-depth research, preparing a plan, and presenting a proposal about new technology to key decision-makers takes time and effort, it can pay off in the long run—for both you and the fiscal health of your firm.
For additional tips, be sure to read our post on how law firm administrators can help manage legal technology.
We published this blog post in June 2021. Last updated: .
Categorized in: Technology
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